Once upon a time in France, hunting was a privilege reserved for nobility. Forbidden from la chasse, everyday people were powerless to procure the woodland creatures that scampered around them. Prohibition gave rise to a serious proclivity—a sort of national longing for tail.
This pent-up desire was unleashed in 1789, when the French Revolution granted hunting rights to all citizens. Chefs and family cooks alike were suddenly free to serve the sauvage. Centuries later, the consumption of wild things continues unabated.
To cater to this national obsession, most traditional restaurants serve game during the autumn-and-winter season. Some cheat with frozen supplies. But no shortcuts are taken in restaurants serving haute cuisine. Places like Taillevent and Guy Savoy take extreme pride in their selection and preparation of gibiers (wild game). But for those who don't have money to burn (the cheapest dinner menu here costs around €300/$385), here are some other addresses where you can taste this tradition at a bargain price.
Le P'tit Bougnat: One of the least expensive options, Le P'tit Bougnat has more game than Justin Timberlake. Menus start at €17 ($21) and feature partridge, pheasant, and wild boar, all served with classic sides like blueberries and chestnuts or pears cooked in wine. 118 boulevard de Courcelles, 17th arrondissement, 011-33/1-47-63-97-11.
Le Repaire de Cartouche: The name translates roughly as "hunter's hideaway," signalling Rodolphe Paquin's affinity for cooking the freshly caught. A reasonably good restaurant year-round, this place becomes a sure shot during game season. 8 boulevard des Filles-du-Calvaire, 11th arrondissement, 011-33/1-47-00-25-86.
Chez Michel: Thierry Breton is a master fish cook, but also likes to show off during game season. His good-value blackboard menu includes forest friends for a small supplement. Save room for dessert because his Paris-Brest is the best in the city. 10 rue de Belzunce, 10th arrondissement, 011-33/1-44-53-06-20.
La Régalade: Help yourself from the sideboard to a slice of game terrine with onion confit, then settle back to ponder your choice between partridge, wood pigeon and wild boar stew. This convivial and inexpensive bistro is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. 49 avenue Jean-Moulin, 14th arrondissement, 011-33/1-45-45-68-58.
Le Cerisaie: This restaurant is the size of a shoebox and always packed with dedicated diners. Specializing in the cooking of southwest France, Cyril Lalanne is also something of a game nut. Try his pâté of mixed game in a crust, served with sour cherry preserves. 70 boulevard Edgar Quinet, 14th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-20-98-98.
Selection of game at these, or any other Paris restaurant, will vary according to what's being hunted in the moment. Birds appear early in the fall and are followed by rabbit and later deer. Some of the most common gibier that feature on restaurant menus are translated for you here.
becasse - woodcock
caille – quail
canard - duck
caneton - young male duckling
canette - young female duckling
colvert –wild mallard duck
faisan - pheasant
grouse – grouse
palombe - wood pigeon
perdrix, perdreau - partridge
lievre - hare
lapin - rabbit
lapereau - young rabbit
biche - doe, young female deer
cerf - stag, older male deer
chevreuil - young male deer
bison - bison
caribou - caribou
sanglier - wild boar
marcassin - young wild boar
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Check out our handy one-page France Menu Decoder for 2008.