Kitchen Talk - The French Lunch Blog
Enriching the Western Diet, French Style
If you’ve been to French Lunch’s “About” page, you’ll see that we’re very interested in helping people emulate French eating habits — our goal is to leave our customers with better food knowledge, and we aim to do this by providing everyone with fresh lunches and dinners that can be prepared any time of the week. Hence, our food is frozen, because freezing meals is the best way to retain their nutritional value.
We could have chosen any type of cuisine for our project. But we stuck with French and European foods because we want to promote a healthy Western diet. These days, people tend to scorn Western foods. They’re all seen as high in fat, sodium, sugar, carbs, and cholesterol, and sometimes, rightfully so. But nowadays, even traditional European foods get lumped in with modern day junk foods, and you’re often warned by the media to avoid them or face obesity, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and other horrors. But if Western dishes are so dangerous for the body, how do those who eat them for every meal manage their health?
As with all things, moderation is key.
In the U.S. and Canada, obesity rates are steadily increasing. We human beings (especially us North Americans) have access to more food than ever before, and just don’t know how, or just don’t have the time to wade through the plethora of choices we’re presented with. This is no surprise, considering that, on average, Americans work 316 more hours than their French counterparts.
Sadly, we can’t offer a solution for the disparity in work hours, but we can explore ways to be healthy when leading a busy lifestyle. As well, the fact that nearly 7 in 10 Americans are overmedicated and overdiagnosed means that nutrition is something that needs to be taken a lot more seriously than it currently is. We feel that good nutrition may help offset the trend of overmedication in North America, and relieve some ailments permanently. A well-moderated diet can minimize vitamin deficiencies, blood pressure issues, type II diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and other common health problems that our ancestors rarely faced.
So what are the keys to good health? As mentioned above, moderation and portion size. We need to start paying attention to what we eat, and how much we eat. Like any fitness magazine will tell you, cut down your intake of processed foods. Eat them occasionally, and if you are going to eat them on a regular basis, choose something with as little salt and sugar and with as many fresh ingredients as possible.
For example, instead of eating chocolate chip cookies, eat almond and nut cookies. Or have coconut macaroons sweetened with maple syrup. Even though macaroons are typically considered unhealthy, they’re still healthier than chocolate chip cookies with nothing but bleached flour, chocolate chips, and high fructose corn syrup — and virtually no fibre. However, having a couple of cookies after dinner or for a light snack (if you’re not planning to eat anything for a while) is fine. What we advise is for you to choose products made with whole ingredients, including vegetables, fruits, saps, syrups, eggs, and meats, rather than ones with preservatives and overly refined ingredients. The more whole ingredients, the more nutritional value.
Tied to whole ingredients is the consumption of more produce. The majority of North Americans simply don’t eat enough vegetables. We love our meat and dairy, but not our vegetables! If you look at French Lunch’s lunch and dinner menu, you’ll see that almost all of our dishes involve a common group of produce: onions, celery, potatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes. We cook produce with olive oil and wines for more flavour, and both have various health benefits. Altogether, these ingredients, when paired with herbs and spices, create a smorgasbord of flavour and nutrition.
It seems rather strange that the French have no qualms about the fattiness of their foods. They also don’t eat as many vegetables as you’d expect, and love their wine and chocolate. To foreigners, the French seem downright sloppy with their food habits. Yet the French have some of the strictest food traditions in the world, and can be inflexible when it comes to food. This inflexibility often works out in their favour.
When it comes to breakfast, the French eat very little. Black coffee and a croissant. That’s it. Compare this to the traditional English breakfast of sausages, eggs, toast, orange juice, and coffee. Animal products aren’t healthy by themselves in large quantities, and Americans tend to overeat them. Plus the strict French diet is enforced across society, from schools to workplaces.
When it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat, no buts and no distractions. You’re not allowed to snack from childhood onwards, and the three meals you do eat cover a range of different food groups. Pizza isn’t a vegetable in France, but it can be a healthy way to cover a few food groups at once: add on broccoli, asparagus, black olives, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and perhaps, a bit of pepper to a pan pizza and pair it with roasted zucchini, and it turns into a nutritious lunch. Sides. Sides are what make French meals healthy.
At French Lunch, we do sides, and we encourage customers to consider pairing our dishes with vegetable sides. We understand that French food isn’t perfect. Some main courses certainly aren’t nutrient-rich on their own. So whatever you pick, eat it with stir-fried or grilled vegetables. You can enrich your diet, one veggie at a time. Don’t worry about ruining the dish’s taste, either — French meals are meant to be complemented by other foods, which are often side dishes that highlight sauces, broths, stock, and gravy.
You can have your cake and eat it too — as long as you eat it in moderate portions within a diverse diet. After all, why limit yourself? Traditional western diets are healthy when fresh, whole ingredients are thrown into the mix.
French Lunch Gourmet: Choosing The Perfect Dessert
After a lavish coq au vin, it’s always delightful to end with an equally lavish dessert —perhaps one or two petit fours, an éclair, or crème brulée. French Lunch has almost as many desserts as it does main courses, and you’re bound to find something you like among our selection of gourmet European pastries, chocolates, cakes, tarts, and more. All of our desserts are imported from Europe, mainly France, and are mostly French in origin. Let’s go over them briefly.
Chocolate éclairs. A good old éclair can’t do you wrong if you’re not big on European treats, as you can get them at any grocery store, coffee shop, or restaurant these days across Canada. How do our éclairs differ? For one, we’re completely transparent about what’s inside them, all the way down to the preservatives (some are required for the éclair to keep while shipping). Main ingredients include water, sugar, eggs, and flour.
Chocolate lava cake. Warm it in the oven, slice it in half, and watch the chocolate syrup within ooze out like a mini waterfall. This is a dark chocolate-flavoured lava cake (24%) with sugar, butter, crème fraiche (a fattier version of sour cream used in France), eggs, flour, and cocoa powder. Perfect for a cold, rainy day in spring.
Lemon meringue tartlets. A tangy, yet sugary dessert that will cool you down on a hot day. The tartlet portion forms a slight crust around the cream, preventing it from sliding downwards and giving the tiny pie a neat form factor. Take one to work with you and leave it in the fridge for three hours before lunch or maybe just before your shift ends, and it’s ready to eat. Remember to put your name on it so no one steals it! Made from sugar, eggs, wheat, butter, lemon juice and almond powder.
Crème brulée. A dessert native to France, our crème brulée is from Québec, which is close enough culturally. It comes in a pack of two. This brulée is a blend of cream, egg yolks, partially skimmed milk, sugar, starch, and a packet of caramelized sugar (that red stuff on the top of the brulée). This dessert requires at least 8 hours of defrosting time in your fridge, but the wait is oh so worth it. It’s like ice cream custard. If warmed, it melts on your tongue, along with the caramelized sugar topping, and produces a heavenly taste. You will want more.
Hot chocolate soufflés. Another pack of two from Quebec, the soufflé has white chocolate and cookie crumbs inside. Defrost it in the fridge for 8 hours and warm it in the microwave. Grab a bit of vanilla ice cream to go with it and you’ll have a mouthwatering hot and cold dessert: an ice cream soufflé!
Key lime cheesecake. Separated into three lovely colours indicating cream cheese (white), key lime cream (yellow), or graham crumbs (brown), this is a rather picturesque dessert. Defrost it, grab a spoonful and see if you’ve created a neat division of layers. Try the cream cheese layer first, then the key lime, and finally, the graham. It’s more fun to eat each layer one by one so you can discover for yourself how the ingredients complement one another!
Caramel flan. In France, this dessert is also known as crème caramel, but both terms are used interchangeably. This is a soft, spongy caramel custard from Quebec in a pack of two. This is a plain dessert, as its main ingredients are cream, eggs, and caramel, but there’s a hint of coconut in there too. If you’ve eaten a spicy dish and want a light dessert to alleviate your tongue, look no further than caramel flan.
Red velvet cheesecake. Mmmm, red velvet! In cheesecake form, no less. Vibrant strawberry pureé over red velvet, with white stripes of vanilla and a little dollop of cream cheese on top. It’s a great gift to give someone (or yourself). Give it to Mom for Mother’s Day, or eat it just because. Who needs an excuse to eat a perfectly good cheesecake?
Exotic petit fours and chocolate petit fours. Petit fours are small and often, cute-looking individualized confections topped with a variety of sweet ingredients. They’re often sold in large sets, and tend to offer diners a bit of every dessert out there. Both of our petit four sets are from France, so you know you’re getting quality chocolates.
Petit fours (eight) – names and ingredients you might not know
- Far Breton: a miniature Far Breton cake, this petit four combines flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and butter with floured prunes and powdered sugar.
- Chocolate éclair: a miniature éclair!
- Praline choux: a petit four based off the Paris-Brest pastry with praline cream using choux pastry dough (the kind of dough used to make éclairs)
- Hazelnut ganache: ganache refers to icing or glaze used to fill chocolate pastries. It’s made by pouring hot cream over chocolate and then stirring it to remove all lumps.
- Fleur de sel: this literally translates to “flower of salt” and refers to sea salt. Fleur de sel is used to add more flavouring to foods, and is often sprinkled on chocolate to balance its taste.
Canelés de Bordeaux. Onto the rather noteworthy gourmet foods! Canelés de Bordeaux are round, rum-based pastries with vanilla and custard interiors and caramel exteriors. They have a unique flower-like indentation at their peaks and can be eaten during any meal of the day — including breakfast. Our French canelés are composed of sugar, wheat, rum, milk, and powdered eggs. If you want a sophisticated dessert, take these canelés home.
French macarons. Colorful and adorable, macarons are iconic these days. No French food shop is whole without them, including us — that’s why we went out of our way to import these macarons straight from France for you to enjoy. Each pack contains a dozen macarons: chocolate, lemon and vanilla.
French Lunch has more than 11 desserts for you to dig into — and we’ve only gone over the frozen ones in this article. We have more in our pantry, including chocolate fleur de salt, packaged Belgian macarons, and assorted biscuits. What’s your favourite?
As always, we look forward to feeding you,
Other Meals at French Lunch: Soups and Meats
The previous article explored French Lunch’s foundational dinner options: the ones that we think you’ll enjoy the most for your final meal of the day. But there are actually more dishes available for you to choose from, like a variety of soups, meat dishes, seafood dishes, and vegetarian meals, all of which are oven-ready and microwave-ready (just make sure you read the instructions on the labels so you know which appliance to use!). Our meals are easy enough for kids to prepare, so there’s really no way you can mess them up. Just pay attention to your cooking times, and you’re good to go.
To begin with, our offerings include an excellent bouillabaisse soup imported from France. Bouillabaisse is a classic Provençal fish stew that originated in Marseille’s fishing community. Bouillabaisse combines three or more fish with a broth of vegetables like tomatoes, onions, leeks, and herbs with rouille sauce on top. Although we don’t carry rouille, you can use aioli instead. Or you can experiment with other condiments in our pantry if you feel adventurous. In Marseille, each eatery has its own take on bouillabaisse. You can’t go wrong with this dish.
If you want something old-fashioned, have our French onion soup with baked cheese on bread. Ours is straightforward: just beef broth, onions, butter, olive oil, herbs and cheeses. A bit of red wine is added in during cooking to accentuate flavours.
Do you love beer? Then treat yourself to our cheddar beer soup, made with actual beer (yup, really). Like wine, beer can be a great cooking ingredient, and that’s why 16th century European monarchs ended up having beer soup for breakfast every day. We’ve added aged cheddar cheese to our beer soup for better taste, as well as traditional French Dijon mustard, carrots, onions, and garlic.
If you want a soup without animal products, try out our Borsch soup, which is only made with beetroot, potatoes, carrots, onions, kidney beans, tomatoes, herbs, and spices. It’s a strikingly beautiful dark red in colour and makes for a nice photograph (Instagram addicts, you know what I’m talking about!).
Feel homesick or just plain sick? Cheer up by wolfing down our very own chicken noodle soup. Maybe not just like mom makes it, but hopefully quite close. Ours is a blend of chicken breast, broth, celery, carrots, onions, herbs, and gluten-free pasta in case you’re allergic.
A wholesome alternative to chicken noodle soup is cream of mushroom soup, which lacks the meats but does have milk in it for creaminess. Add in a dash of white wine, Portobello mushrooms, onions and chives, and you’ll instantly warm up.
Our signature meat dishes are beef provençal and coq au vin, two extremely famous French stews that are eaten throughout the year. But we also have five other ready-to-eat fresh meals in our Meat & Poultry section.
Like our tiger shrimp and saffron paella cooked and packaged in-store. Paella is an ancient Spanish rice dish that is oftentimes served as a huge community feast — in fact, the largest paella ever recorded was 21 metres in diameter! Our paella is only fit for one or two people, but we think you’ll enjoy it just as much as a huge paella at your family’s next reunion. We use chicken thighs, basmati rice, red peppers, garlic, onion, and of course, tiger shrimps and saffron.
Looking for sandwich meats? Our cooked-in-store rôti de porc braised with garlic and herbs may excite you. We slow-cook the meat for 8 hours so it's very tender and excellent both warm, and cold.
Finally, we have two uncommon dishes that you might struggle to find elsewhere: hachis Parmentier and Toulouse sausage casserole.
Hachis Parmentier is essentially the French version of Shepherd’s pie. While Shepherd’s pie is a traditional English dish, Hachis Parmentier was actually named for the nutritionist (Parmentier) that invented it — Parmentier created it to urge the use of potatoes in France during the 18th century. Just like Parmentier desired, we also want to instill good eating habits in our community. Our Hachis Parmentier is made with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, potatoes, milk, and cheddar cheese. We encourage you to eat it bit by bit, in small portions, and to grab a forkful of a vegetable side with each bite of hachis. Your waist will thank you.
Before we end the article, let’s go over the Toulouse-style casserole, a lean pork casserole made with mild Italian sausages. Our recipe is based off the French cassoulet, a slow-cooked casserole composed of sausage, other meats, and some vegetables. Our casserole has eggplants, tomatoes, and red wine, in addition to the usual onions and garlic. If you often find yourself buying hot dogs from food stands on busy streets, give this gourmet sausage stew a shot.
In the next article, we’ll examine French Lunch’s seafood and vegetarian selections, alongside the cheeses and cheese spreads we’ve stocked our pantry with.
Stay tuned, and, as always, we look forward to feeding you,
Enjoying a French Lunch Dinner: Our Dinner Menu
As you probably know, the traditional European (particularly, French) meal has three or more courses with an appetizer, or hors d’oeuvres, before a major meal with a side dish, followed by a dessert.
For this article, we’ll concentrate on appetizers, main courses and side dishes, and leave desserts for another post — we have a wide variety of desserts; too many to cover in this article alone!
Although traditional thinking involves the strict separation of hors d’oeuvres from main courses, we’ve added some appetizers to our chief dinner menu here at French Lunch. Nowadays, a single hors d’oeuvres dish is more than enough for one meal.
One such example is our mini blini with red caviar and sour cream, a product of both France and Canada. It’s a microwaveable meal of French pancakes blanketed in chum salmon roe caviar and sour cream. This is an efficient way for you to enjoy caviar almost instantly.
Our full hors d’oeuvres menu has more examples. You can grab plain potatoes au gratin or potatoes au gratin with porcini mushrooms baked in — both dishes use four potatoes. Au gratin refers to a dish topped with toasted breadcrumbs that's browned in the oven.
Potato au gratin is a cheesy baked potato pie with egg yolk, cream, herbs, and spices. Ours are from France, and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to try them!
A French meal shop isn’t complete without escargot. We have Helix lucorum escargot in butter and cooked herbs, straight from France.
All four of those appetizers also work as full meals. That’s why we mentioned them in our dinner menu. But if you want your dinners to be a bit more extravagant, don’t worry, we have many other complete dinner menu selections for you to choose.
Other appetizers include tiny Mediterranean fillo quiches in a set of four, smoked salmon and dill fillo quiches, and brie and pear fillo rolls. You’ll notice that all three include “fillo”. Fillo is an unleavened and layered Greek pastry dough that gives a light, wafer-like texture to dishes. It’s a great choice for hors d’oeuvres items.
Our last two appetizers are a lobster- and shrimp-stuffed shell and a pacific salmon-stuffed shell. Both are from Quebec, and are relatively simple dishes that combine seafood with mozzarella, Swiss cheese, wheat, mushrooms, onions, and spices into a baked meal not unlike a small pie.
Perhaps the only course that matters to you, this is our dinner menu. You can substitute our dinner choices for lunch items, soups, seafood items, or even starters, as we discussed in the Appetizers section — you have the freedom to mix and match as you’d like, and that’s the beauty of a meal shop.
Our food is cooked or bought with convenience, storage, and portion size in mind. A single appetizer might be enough for one, while an appetizer and dinner dish combo is enough for two or three. Our meals are flexible enough to accommodate everyone.
Enjoy coq au vin, a popular French stew that we cook ourselves using chicken, bacon, and button mushrooms with pearl onions, red wine, herbs, and spices. We also do French casseroles, or cassoulets with lean Toulouse sausages from Italy in red wine, tomatoes, grilled eggplants, red bell peppers, onion, garlic, olive oil, and herbs and spices.
Then there’s our very own tartiflette, a somewhat uncommon dish in North America. A baked pie of potatoes, onions, white wine, double-créme brie cheese and mushrooms instead of bacon, our tartiflette recaptures the original recette in a healthier way. Bacon tastes great, but it doesn’t have to be in everything.
If you’re looking for more meals, we have other categories that specific dishes are grouped under on our website.
Our Meat & Poultry section has rôti de porc, or pork slices covered in garlic and herbs, paella with shrimp and chicken, and beef provençal, a beloved French stew of beef, red wine, carrots, celery, onions, herbs and spices. Also try the French Shepherd’s pie, or hachis Parmentier with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, cinnamon, potatoes, and cheddar cheese.
A good side complements a good dish. But consider our sides for one other reason — health. Some French Lunch dinners are quite meat- and cheese-heavy.
You can get some extra nutrition by pairing your dinner with grilled zucchini slices, mixed grilled vegetables, a mushroom mix, or beans and carrots. We also keep nut potatoes from Belgium and Parisian potatoes if you feel your meal is too light.
Did you spot a dish that interests you? Don’t hesitate to drop by, check it out and learn more about it from French Lunch’s employees in store.
We’ve done a lot of research on the healthiest, most affordable, and most convenient approach to gourmet foods, and all of this research culminated in our current menu. We encourage you to try a dish you’ve never heard of before, be it tartiflette, coq au vin, beef provençal, or something else. We guarantee you’ll love it!
As always, we look forward to feeding you,
Meal Preppers Unite! Exploring Our Lunch Menu
So, what's French Lunch about? First and foremost, we’re a healthy meal shop.
Every menu item that we cook in our kitchen or imported from Europe, is, in one word, FRESH. We've painstakingly hand-picked all of our items from a long list of European classics.
First, we look for healthy, fresh, preservative- and sodium-free ingredients. If a food item passes this test, we source it and sell it in our store.
We also look out for nostalgic, sentimental foods that you may have grown up with in France, Spain, Italy, or someplace else. To offer you even fresher, healthier and more convenient meals, we freeze the foods we cook in recyclable containers that are microwave or oven-ready.
Our specialty is the "French Lunch", which is... you guessed it, a lunch of fresh foods. But not just French foods: we throw a bit of Spanish and Italian in there too. All items come in 16 oz. or 400ml (school or office-sized) and 24 oz. or 650ml (hungry bear or share) sizes.
16 oz. is perfect for one adult or two school-aged kids. 24 oz. is great for two adults or one very hungry teenager.
If you order a starter, a main course, and a dessert together, you've ordered a French Lunch. You can also order an entire week of lunches, AKA our French Week special.
This includes 5 main courses starting at $33.50 (16 oz.). Save yourself a lot of time by ordering your lunch online. It'll be ready for pick up at our store promptly.
Online, we offer four starters that you can pair with any main course, including baby carrots, grape tomatoes, or celery sticks with alioli dip and cheese macaroni salad.
Aioli is a Mediterranean garlic and olive oil dip. It makes eating veggies fun and tasty, especially for fussy kids.
The macaroni salad combines pasta with dried veggies, including red bell peppers and celery with yummy cheddar cheese. It's definitely healthier than boxed, sodium-rich, bland, and artificially-flavoured mac and cheese.
Other in-store starters that we'll be introducing soon include brie with crackers and grapes (everyone’s favourite!), olive oil breadsticks with coppa di parma, and red potato salad.
See all of our main courses here. We've got:
This French-imported quiche blends zucchini, grilled eggplant, red peppers, onions, and olive oil. If you feel peckish and want some vegetables baked in cheese, definitely try it. One piece fills one person for one meal.
Dessert might just be everyone's favourite part of a meal. It's always nice to end a meal with something sweet, fruity, and/or chocolatey. For desserts, we have caramel dessert bars, chocolate dessert bars, and lemon dessert bars, if you want something similar to cake.
Or you can grab some packaged European desserts like nougat bars, a can of peach slices in syrup, dates, and apricots.
A Real French Lunch
So there you have it, a comprehensive listing of French Lunch's starters, main courses and desserts. You can combine all three for a solid French Lunch experience — it'll be like eating in France itself.
You can even buy 5 main courses for the French Week experience. We personally recommend the cordon bleu; it's our favourite!
As always, we look forward to feeding you,