France to lure gourmands with week-long food fest

Tue Aug 21, 2012 5:34am EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - A week-long celebration of gastronomy aims to tempt would-be gourmands on tight budgets into the world of fine French dining next month with two-for-one fixed-price meals at more than a thousand restaurants across the country.

In its third year, "Tous au Restaurant," or "Everyone to the Restaurant" has signed up 1,200 eateries, both Michelin-starred and more modest establishments, to offer diners a set three-course meal at a reduced price from September 17-23.

"It's about democratizing gastronomy, which is thought of as expensive," Jean-Bernard Bros, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of tourism, told Reuters. "It attracts clients who aren't necessarily in the habit of going to new restaurants."

France has a long and rich culinary heritage, at the apogee of which sits the "gastronomic meal," a ritual-laden social tradition added to UNESCO's cultural heritage list in 2010.

But French cuisine - frequently infused with butter and cream - is often perceived as fussy and out of touch with modern appetites for simpler, healthier food.

With a looming recession also weighing on diners' choices, a new generation of chefs has sought to combat that image with lighter menus and more casual eateries offering quality meals at affordable prices.

Online bookings open for Tous au Restaurant on September 5.

At a lunch to promote the event, organizers and members of the press convened 125 meters (410 feet) in the air at the Jules Verne, the Eiffel Tower restaurant of celebrity chef Alain Ducasse who dreamt up the idea three years ago.   Continued...