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Tour de Gourmandise: A Food Lover’s Guide to the Tour de France

By Martin Atanasov

With the Tour almost here, it’s time to talk about the important stuff surrounding the grandest cycling event of the year. Sure, we can talk about the schedule, the training routines of the different teams, and their gear. Instead, we want to focus on you and your experience. And is there a better way to supplement your Tour de France experience than by having a mouthful of delicious food? Of course not. So, let’s talk about your Tour de Gluttony and discuss what and where to eat during the Tour de France.

Italy (Stages 1-4)

Lasgne bolognese
You can’t leave Italy without having the Lasagna Bolognese. © Profimedia

If you are going to make a tour that your stomach will remember, you’ve chosen a great year. Indeed, what better opportunity to indulge in your deepest culinary desires than starting off the Tour in Italy? Florence will host the Grand Depart, and as much as we want to discuss Tuscan wine, we will focus on what Florence has to offer.

Since we’re in Italy, it’s hard to pick just a few dishes, but when in Florence, we urge you to try Bistecca alla Fiorentina. We’re talking about more than a kilo of 4 cm.-thick T-bone steak from the local Chianina cattle. Chianina cattle is an ancient Tuscan breed known for its prized and tasty meat. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is traditionally served on a hot plate with a side of grilled vegetables.

If you are up for some soup, Florence has you covered. The Ribollita is a Tuscan soup made with bread and vegetables, often incorporating leftovers. Its name translates from Italian to “reboiled” because traditionally, it was cooked in large batches and then reheated the next day for an even deeper flavour. Still, if you sit in a restaurant, they might deviate from using what other people left on their plates and instead use fresh ingredients.

After the start, the peloton will make its way to Rimini in Emilia-Romagna. Still, on the way, the riders will cross one of the smallest countries in the world, San Marino. So, if you decide to check out the riders while they are conquering one of the steepest hills of the day, you might as well enjoy some specialities of this small but picturesque country. The Fagioli con le cotiche is without a doubt among the favourites, but it may prove hard to find. This bacon and bean soup is actually a Christmas delight, and well, Christmas is six months away. So, instead, go for the Nidi di Rondine. This is everything you could wish from a dish: smoked ham – check, beef – check, cheese – check, tomato sauce – check.

If you’re not that into meat, the locals make an outstanding vegetarian dish called Erbazzone. It’s a delicious mix of spinach, cheese and onions.

Next, the peloton will enter Emilia-Romagna, which is excellent news for your taste buds. Emilia-Romagna specialises in all those Italian foods that took over the world – Mortadella, Prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Lasagne alla bolognese. Luckily, you will have at least three days to enjoy Emilia-Romagna’s cuisine. To make a memorable finale, you should stuff your face with as much Pisarei and Fasö as possible. This tasty gnocchi made from stale bread is Piacenza’s main event… well, after the start of Day Three of the Tour. This tasty treat is actually a peasant’s dish. Of course, that makes it incredibly delicious. It consists of boiled dumplings, borlotti beans, tomato sauce and bacon.

To be honest, Piemonte, which will host the final stage of the Italian part of the Tour, is not particularly interesting when it comes to food. You can try the Tajarin al Tartufo di Alba – a particular egg pasta typical to the Alba area, which the peloton will briefly visit on their way to Turin. So, instead, focus on the sweets. Piemontese cookies are tasty treats with over 1,200 years of history. They contain a thin layer of chocolate cream between two hazelnut flour cookies. The next day, when the peloton finally leaves Pinerolo for France, make sure to take a bite of their famous Torta Zurich.

Savoie (Stages 4 and 5)

The fourth stage will finish in the small mountainous town of Valloire in the Savoie Alps. Though the place is mostly known as a ski resort, the locals have created their own cuisine. The Diots de Valloire is a stew consisting of precisely what you can find in this rugged terrain: beef, carrots and beetroot. The Farçons valloirins is no different. Though it’s made of cabbage sultanas, prunes and apples, it’s still finger-licking good. However, if there is something you should definitely taste in Valloire, it is their local beer. The small town is home to La Galibier, hands-down the best French craft beer you will ever taste. There’s no surprise that it has won numerous international awards for its quality.

Otherwise, if you are up for some traditional Savoie dishes, you can try the Crozets de Savoie with diots and pormoniers. Crozets are a little square pasta made from buckwheat and served with local sausages like diots and pormoniers. While in Savoi, make sure to taste their Persan red wine. It’s divine.

Burgundy and Dijon (Stages 6-8) 

Beef Bourguignon
Beef bourguignon is a must. © Profimedia

The peloton will continue northwest and enter the flavour-rich region of Burgundy. Stage Six, particularly, will start in the small town of Mâcon, where you should definitely try La Gaufrette mâconnaise and Idéal mâconnaise. These sweets will be a great start to the day, for sure. Make sure you’ve eaten well by the time you reach the Gevrey Chambertin, as tasting at least a couple of dozen wines there is a must. The small area consists of 149 vineyards, famous for their world-class wines. So, make sure you’ve stuffed yourself with Coq au vin (chicken braised in red wine), Beef bourguignon, Fondue bourguignonne and if you are brave enough, the local specialty – La matelote d’anguille à la bourguignonne. This last one is eels stewed in wine sauce, so it’s not for everyone.

Finally, you will reach Dijon, where Stage Six will finish. Now, Dijon definitely deserves your time and a dedicated trolley bag, as this town offers the best mustard in the world. It’s actually most famous for this particular blend, and it would be a capital crime if you missed filling your car with tons of tasty mustard. Still, while you’re shopping for mustard, enjoy as much Pain d’epices (gingerbread with a local twist) and Crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) as possible. This is what Dijon is all about… oh, and the wine.

Definitely drink some wine there… and leave your car and bike at your hotel for the night. Don’t worry, you will have three days to enjoy Burgundy, so make the best of it. Just make sure the last night is a sober one, as France has many more flavours to offer, and Troyes is awaiting you for Stage 9.

Troyes (Stage 9)

Andouillette de Troyes
If you are on the Tour de Gourmandise, you need to try the famous Andouillette de Troyes. © Profimedia

This year, the Tour will be predominantly in the South. The cyclists will ride in northern France only one day during Stage 9. The gorgeous city of Troyes will host the start and the finish. Thus, you will have the chance to enjoy the flavours of Champagne-Ardenne, which is now part of the Grand Est department. So, as you can guess, there is a lot of first-class Champagne there. Combined with the local Chaource cheese and the famous Andouillette de Troyes, of course.

The latter is made from only the best pork intestines and stomachs. The original recipe dates back to the Middle Ages, and the taste is, honestly, not ideal for everyone. But if you are on the Tour de Gourmandise, you should try it before you make up your mind. Still, even if you don’t like the andouillette, you can always wash it down with a ton of world-class wine. After all, Champagne is not only the capital of bubblies but also home to Rosé des Riceys.

Drink up, as we will leave this wine-rich area a day later. Stage 10 will take us through three distinct regions, each with a lot to offer.

Loiret, Indre, and Cher (Stage 10)

Potato Galette
Try the Potato galette. © Profimedia

Now we are at the flat stages, and the peloton will be covering nearly 200 kilometres daily. That’s good news, as you can pick and choose where to settle your camp and what foods to eat. On Stage 10, the riders will parade through the streets of the capital of Loiret, Orleans, before they take off to the distant Saint-Amand-Montrond in Cher.

While in Orleans, make sure to taste their famous Cotignac d’Orléans. It’s a thick and flavourful paste made with quince, a fruit similar to a pear but less sweet. A pastry chef from Var invented it in the Middle Ages. This thick quince jelly was a favourite of several French kings, among whom was the Sun King of France, Louis XIV. Pope Francis I also had a taste for this delicious snack. Though most people prefer it on its own, we suggest trying it with coffee. It will definitely hit the spot.

If you’re not that into sweets, you can always try the locally made Jargeau andouille. It’s a delicious sausage made from tripe and pork, blended with onions, shallots and parsley. It’s to die for.

But let’s get going.

The peloton will cross through the lesser-known but still very flavour-rich Indre region next. If you decide to position yourself to watch the riders somewhere in this area, you definitely should try the pâté berrichon. This dish is traditionally served for Easter, but if you are lucky, you will get the chance to taste it. It’s a pie filled with minced pork and veal meat, a hard-boiled egg, parsley, salt, and nutmeg. The taste is simply divine.

If you’re not into meat, try the Potato galette, a tasty pastry filled with potato puree. And since the peloton will only fly through this area, let’s go to the finish in Cher.

Cher is not that far away, actually, and if you are lucky, you will have the chance to taste a bit of Indre there as well. Many families still make the pâté berrichon. Still, if you are in Cher, try some of the local sweets. The local delight is the Sablés de Nançay. These biscuits will get you hooked, especially if combined with a nice glass of local wine or some ice cream.

Try not to overeat during this stage, as Stage 11 will take you through another two regions known for their tasty delights.

Correze and Puy-De-Dome (Stage 11)

Start your day with a nice cup of coffee and a piece of Clafoutis. © Profimedia

The longest stage in France (and the second longest of the Tour) will take us 211 km through the picturesque Correze and Puy-De-Dome regions. Both have a lot of delicious foods for you to look forward to, so don’t wait for the peloton, they will get to you eventually. A bit more tired and with a lot less calorie intake.

Start your day with a nice cup of coffee and a piece of Clafoutis. If you are in Limousin and Auvergne, you may also find it under the name Milliard. This delicious pastry is made from cherries, sugar, flour, egg and milk and will make you want to eat the whole cake. Still, leave some space for other delights, like the Limousin Stew. It’s a traditional grandma’s dish that includes everything you might find in the fridge. Still, most families try to add at least some lard, bacon, salt pork, cabbage, leeks, turnips, carrots and potatoes. It sounds like a mishmash of leftovers, but you will fall in love with it once you taste it.

But of course, you can’t depart towards Puy-De-Dome before you’ve had at least one piece of the famous Flognarde. We’re talking about a creamy delight covered with local apples backed to a delicious crisp. My mouth is watering just writing about this delicious apple pie.

However, you still have a whole new cuisine to explore. Puy-De-Dome dishes are definitely worth trying. Pompe aux pommes should be at the top of your list. Once again, we’re talking about a delicious apple pie, but this time, the apples are inside the crispy pastry, mixed with vanilla sugar and cinnamon.

If you are sick of sweets, which I can’t imagine ever being the case, you may try the plethora of local top-class cheeses. Saint-Nectaire, Bleu d’Auvergne, and Fourme d’Ambert are excellent snacks, especially with a glass of local white wine.

But let’s get moving, we still have 10 more stages to gorge on. Let the professionals ride. We can cheer them while stuffing our faces with all sorts of pastries, delicious cheeses, and outstanding wine. And yeah, we can ride a bit as well.

Cantal, Lot, Landes (Stages 12 and 13)

The Truffade is a true delight. © Profimedia

We’re getting closer to the Atlantic, and naturally, some of the ingredients have changed. Potatoes have become far more popular, as is the case with Cantal’s most famous dish – the Truffade. This dish of potatoes mixed with fresh vegetables and ham is a true delight, especially when covered with small slices of melted cheese. As you can guess, it’s a heavy dish. If you are looking for something a bit lighter, the Soupe au Chouis a good option. This rustic dish made with cabbage, carrots and onions, combined with bacon, sausage or ham, will make for a far lighter meal. And since we are just heading out toward Lot, that’s not a bad thing.

Lot has a lot to offer. Let’s start with the obvious – the Truffle omelette. Lot is one of the capitals of truffles in France, so even if you skip the omelette, make sure you get something that has truffles inside. The same goes for the saffron. This is one of the few places in Europe where saffron is produced, and the locals have integrated it into their cuisine. For example, Saffron crepes is an outstanding way to start your day.

Landes is among the greatest examples of the mix between central and south-western cuisines. While you are following the peloton there, make sure to get a taste of the Pastis Landais, a spongy cake that goes perfectly with tea and coffee. For lunch, try the Landaise salad. It combines hot and cold ingredients, like lettuce, sweet corn, tomatoes, gizzards, and duck breasts. While it’s called a salad, you won’t be able to take another bite after one of these.

The Pyrenees (Stages 14 and 15)

Poulet basquaise
We suggest trying the Poulet Basquaise. © Profimedia

If you have a particular hatred towards geese, you are in the right spot. The Pyrenees, however, have far more to offer than cruelty to these feathered nightmares. The Atlantic part is entirely dominated by Basque culture and cuisine. So, let’s eat some Basque delights.

We suggest trying the Poulet Basquaise, a spicy chicken dish with onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers and a little ham. Also, let’s not forget the mouthwatering Gâteau Basque, filled with cherry jam or cream for dessert.

Stage 15 will take us to the high Pyrenees, and although this year we won’t visit Andorra, we can at least enjoy some of the delicious food that’s served in the region, like the traditional Garbure soup. This delicious dish mixes the locally grown Tarbais beans with some cabbage, vegetables, and preserved goose. It’ll instantly replenish all your vitamins and still leave you some space for Foie gras – the renowned pate made from goose liver.

But if you think we will leave the geese alone now, well, we are just starting. In Agriege, where the final of the 15th stages will take place, almost every dish has geese as an ingredient. Try the Goose salad and get a L’aillade toulousaine sauce on the side. And if you’re not that into geese, try the Rouzoles. These meatballs will make you weep with joy.

Aude, Herault, Gard (Stage 16)

Tielle Setoise
One of the must-tries is La Tielle Sétoise. © Profimedia

Stage 16 will be the last flat stage of the Tour, so if you want to check out how fast the peloton can go, this will be your chance. Just jump on your bike, in your car or whatever vehicle you see fit and try to catch them in every region. And while you are waiting, you can also check out the local cuisine.

The stage will start in the Aude region, where oysters and truffles are the norm. Still, if you are more adventurous, you can try the Eel bourride. As the name suggests, eels are an integral part of this dish, so eat it at your own risk.

Snails are also part of the local cuisine, so if you prefer meat without feet, you have plenty of options.

If that’s not appealing enough, you can skip breakfast and go straight to Hérault; here, you’ll find Mediterranean cuisine at its finest. One of the must-tries is La Tielle Sétoise. We’re talking about a mouthwatering pie with a golden crust stuffed with little octopuses and spicy tomato sauce. And if it’s not octopus season, you will find the pie filled with squid, cuttlefish or sardines. It’s just as good.

After lunch, you can get a Petit Pâté de Pézenas. This cotton-reel-shaped pie, filled with sweet and savoury minced mutton filling, is traditional for Montpellier. People often eat it as a dessert or simply as a treat.

Stage 16 will end in the Gard region, where you can enjoy a particular mix of Aude and Hérault cuisines. If you are on a strict seafood diet, we suggest trying the Cod brandade. Still, if you want to try a mix of the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean, we recommend going for the Agriade saint-gilloise. This typical regional dish consists of chuck steak, onions, olive oil, capers, gherkins, anchovies, garlic and parsley, all seasoned with salt and pepper.

And with that, we are finally ready to go back to the Alps.

Hautes – Alpes (Stages 17-19)

These are the stages we’ve all been waiting for. Not only will they determine the winner, but they will also once more offer the unmistakable taste of the French Alps. Chestnut cakes all around, please.

But there is a lot more. Apples cooked with honey and wine, Alpine tart (once again with apples), and of course the famous Tourtons, small pastries filled with potatoes, Tomme cheese and onion. What a treat.

If you are after something more substantial, the Parmentier d’agneau is probably your best choice. It’s essentially a lamb stew but with a delicious local twist.

And with that, we are heading for the Grand Finale in Nice.

Nice and Monaco (Stages 20 and 21)

The creme de la creme in this region is Ratatouille. © Profimedia

Nice and Monaco are practically a stone’s throw away, so naturally, both share some culinary similarities. When in Nice, make sure to try the renowned Pissaladiere, which is essentially a pizza with a local twist. Still, if you are after something that’s not borrowed from their Italian neighbours, the Salad Niçoise is an outstanding starter, along with a Daube Niçoise – a tasty stew.

Still, the creme de la creme in this region are the Barbagiuan, Socca, and Ratatouille. The last one you probably know from the Disney movie, so make sure it’s not made by a rat.

If you want to taste the Barbagiuan, we suggest trusting the Monegasque with this task. After all, it’s a savoury, deep-fried pastry considered the national dish of Monaco. It’s a salty treat that features spinach, ricotta or another soft cheese, and whatever is in season—pumpkin, leek, rice, or something else. It’s mighty delicious.

Finally, we have the Socca, which, as you can guess, is once again borrowed from the Italians across the borders.

This is a Nice speciality and can be found in every market in town. This tasty treat consists of chickpea flour, olive oil, salt, and water. It’s simple but incredibly tasty.

Time to submit to your gluttony

It’s time for the Tour de Gluttony to start, and you already have all the information, the game plan and the gear to take the yellow jersey. Now, all you need to do is tell your boss you’ll follow the Tour on the road in France and enjoy all the savoury, delicious, mouthwatering treats and dishes we share. See you in the local restaurants.