When the prestigious James Beard Foundation predicted the resurgence of French cuisine in 2017, we thought it was an ideal time to visit Lyon, France’s capital of gastronomy, to stop at our favorite food markets and get an update on what’s new in town. To understand Lyon, you have to know this is a city that takes food – and everything related to food – very seriously.
Our first stop was the Presqu’île, the heart of Lyon that extends from the foot of the Croix Rousse hill to the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône rivers. In the middle of the peninsula, long tree-lined pedestrian streets Rue de la République and Rue du Président Édouard Herriot are dotted with charming boutique shops selling clothing, fashion accessories, home furnishings and of course, food. On every street, you’ll find chefs preparing delicious treats made fresh like praline whipped cream meringue coated with almond chips and caramelized hazelnuts at Aux Merveilleux de Fred.
Along the western edge of the Presqu’île, Marché Saint-Antoine outdoor market attracts locals and tourists alike, starting early in the morning until just after lunch. This is where you’ll find mouthwatering rotisserie chicken and roast potatoes, slow-smoked meat and sausages, fishmongers, seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade jams and condiments, flavored oils and vinegars, dried fruit and nuts, cheese, flowers, wine and much more. We couldn’t resist the slabs of soft honey nougat studded with pistachio and almond.
Cross over Pont Alphonse Juin bridge into the 5th arrondissement and you’ll be in Vieux Lyon, the old town and main tourist spot marked by cobblestone streets and quaint shops including Le Comptoir de Mathilde, famous for their array of fruit and nut-flavored chocolate spreads and gourmet food products – with plenty of free samples. They also have a shop in the Presqu’île as well as other locations throughout France.
On the other side of the Presqu’île, we head into the 3rd arrondissement to the popular Les Halles de Lyon market where a mural of legendary Chef Paul Bocuse adorns the entire side of a building across the street. Inside Les Halles, there are aisles of top-quality meat, fish, charcuterie, cheeses and jarred goods perfect for a gourmet picnic or to take home as souvenirs.
This is also the best area to shop for cooking equipment and supplies as there are several shops that cater to both professional chefs and home cooks. Just across the street from Les Halles is Thevenon Cuisine & Passion’s retail store offering high-end cookware, utensils and serving items. We couldn’t pass up a set of six tiny, adorable Durobor “Ellipse” oval-shaped glasses, perfect for an amuse bouche or mini-dessert.
Within a 5-minute walk, we stopped in at Michel et Cie on Rue Vendôme to browse their three floors of kitchen equipment, utensils and supplies. Like most shops in Lyon, the store is only a small sampling of the many products they offer in their online catalog. The proprietors speak excellent English and are always available to help you find just the right products.
Next, we walked down Rue Servient to Centre Commercial Lyon Part-Dieu shopping mall and stopped in at Cookme, a modern version of an indoor “spice bazaar” that sells spices, sweets and dried fruit from all over the world, both in bulk and gift packages. Cookme has two locations in Lyon at Centre Commercial Lyon Part-Dieu and on Rue de Brest in the Presqu’île.
Our last stop was in the 6th arrondissement at Maison Godard on Rue de la Tête d’Or, the place for everything foie gras and truffle. While we couldn’t afford their fragrant fresh truffles (though we indulged in a longer-than-appropriate whiff), we did splurge on travel-sized jars of truffle-infused oil tucked inside a rich chocolate brown leather gift box.
And Lyon’s reputation as the mecca for chefs and food enthusiasts continues to grow. The city was recently named an “International City of Gastronomy” and plans to refurbish the historic Grand Hôtel-Dieu building as a venue for exhibitions and cultural events, where the spotlight will be on demonstrating know-how and talent. The City of Gastronomy will also be a place of research and innovation under the culinary theme of 'food and health', allowing the general public to explore a new field of well-being lifestyle research and knowledge to convey a modern vision of gastronomy. Lyon’s International City of Gastronomy (Rhône) is scheduled to open December 2018.
We know we’ll come back to Lyon before then. La joie de vivre à Lyon!
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