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Reminiscing about Lyon

/ 05:10 AM January 23, 2022

LOVING LYON Pates and pastries from Pignol (top). Foie gras and salad Lyonnaise at Le Nord by Paul Bocuse (bottom). —PHOTOS BY MARGAUX SALCEDO

Just this Friday, Pope Francis declared St. Irenaeus of Lyon a Doctor of the Church. This is a title given to saints recognized as having made a significant contribution to theology or doctrine through their research, study or writing. There were only 36 of them in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Irenaeus now becomes the 37th.

Hearing this news brought back memories of Lyon, my favorite city in France. It is known as the ‘gastronomic capital of France’ and rightly so.

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I remember very vividly their palengke, called Les Halles de Lyon—Paul Bocuse. This is a spacious indoor food market with around 50 stalls that is literally a gourmet’s dreamscape. It has rows of the finest cheeses, chocolates, the best butchers, fruits and vegetables, truffles, you name it. It is heaven and though it is not in the city center, you must make your way.

It was named after Paul Bocuse as he is considered the “Pope of French cuisine.” He was behind the Nouvelle Cuisine revolution, doing away with rich and heavy sauces in favor of fresh ingredients and sleek aesthetics. His restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, also known simply as Bocuse, has been considered “the temple of French gastronomy” and consistently had three Michelin stars for 55 years.

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Unfortunately, he passed away on Jan. 20, 2018, (Let us say a prayer for the eternal repose of his soul on his fourth death anniversary!) and the Interior Minister of France Gerard Collomb cried, “The Pope of gourmets has left us.” The lights did dim a little with his passing as Bocuse, the fine dining restaurant, lost its three-Michelin star status—the only restaurant to hold three stars for more than four decades—after he died. In spite of having three stars for 55 years, in 2020 it was given only two Michelin stars by the guide.

Savor traditional cuisine

For a Bocuse experience that is not as fancy yet equally as authentic, visit instead Brasserie Le Nord, the first brasserie opened in Lyon by Chef Paul Bocuse in 1994. Make this your first dinner if you ever make your way to Lyon for an excellent experience of traditional Lyon cuisine. The menu has items that are relatable, such as French onion soup, escargot, salad, beef tartare, foie gras. But it’s like hearing Adele or Rihanna sing in person: anyone can do covers of their songs and you can also listen to recordings, but there’s nothing like hearing them live. It’s the same with Le Nord: the items on the menu may sound familiar, yet there is an excellence in its execution here that is incomparable.

Another great thing about Lyon cuisine is how they have always been doing nose-to-tail dining. Their sausage, the andouillette, for instance, is made of ‘chitterlings’ or intestines and one food writer described it as having “an easily identifiable aroma of decay.” Less adventurous eaters would pass, as my sister did when we dined here, but what a delight for those who dare!

Another must try is Pignol. This is a tiny shop but big on flavor. Have a Pate Richelieu (pork pate with duck liver mousse, smoked duck breast and figs baked in an all-butter pastry) and “make turo turo” the pastries on the shelves—they’re all good. Since we can’t travel just yet, the good news is that Chef Cyrille Soenen occasionally makes these kinds of pates and they are authentically French. After all, he is a Maîtres Cuisinier de France (French Master Chef).

For dining with an aerial view of Lyon, visit any of the restaurants of Chef Christian Tetedoie, who trained under Chef Paul Bocuse and is president of the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France (Master Chefs of France). But you must also make your way to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, an enchanting basilica with its byzantine, gothic and romanesque inspiration (my personal favorite among all the Notre Dames I have been too, including Lourdes and Paris!). You will need to ride a tiny cable car to go up to the basilica. Try to go in the morning for the view because if you go late, especially if you are a lone traveler as I was, the expanse of the environment might be overwhelming and it might feel like Count Dracula would appear out of nowhere!

If you can make it this May, you might be able to witness Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle lead the beatification ceremony for Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, foundress of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and of the Living Rosary Movement. This will be held in Lyon on May 22. Follow Dominus Est PH on Facebook for updates. Thank you for joining me on this quick “trip” to Lyon! Let’s pray we can confidently do gourmet traveling again soon!

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