Asterix et Obelix: Deux Gaulois gourmands…

Fact: Les Français sont gourmands.

Gourmand (goor-mahnd,)
a person who is fond of good eating, often indiscriminately and to excess.
a gourmet, epicure.
a person with a sweet tooth.
(source: and French Girl in Seattle)


Asterix and Obelix, (our ancestors the Gauls,) many French leaders, le Français moyen (the average Jean/Joe,) could be described as gourmands. Who started the trend? Je ne sais pas. I do not know. But somewhere along the way, a national obsession with food – and good eating (a.k.a. gastronomy,) took over the whole nation. It has become a cliché of sorts. For millions of people around the world, France = good food (and wine.) 



Louis XIV – the Sun King – “un bon vivant…”
Napoleon I (pictured on the right,)
had an insatiable appetite for… battle 

(James Gillray, 1805)


Le bon Roi Henri IV, (the good king Henri IV, a.k.a. Henri of Navarre) is remembered fondly in French history books as the monarch who insisted his people should enjoy “la poule au pot” (a rich chicken stew,) every Sunday. Sadly, he was not rewarded for his good deeds (he also advocated religious tolerance,) and was murdered by a fanatical Catholic (and chicken-rights advocate?) Ravaillac. R.I.P. Henri.



(artist unknown)

No matter how successful or competent, French leaders have always been more popular when they openly display a sound knowledge of  – and genuine appreciation for – good food. A famous example: 


Former French President Jacques Chirac has never met an appetizer he did not like…
(photographer unknown)

Notoriously unpopular President Nicolas Sarkozy was seldom photographed à table (while eating.) Instead, he admitted to watching his weight  and was followed by an army of paparazzi on his weekly jogging sessions while millions of French people shook their heads…


“Sarko” – the “Hyper-President” stops by a neighborhood café
(Did he really need the caffeine boost?)

(photographer unknown)


President François Hollande is a notorious gourmand who followed a strict diet before launching into a fierce presidential campaign in 2012. The self-appointed “normal president,” quickly saw his approval ratings plummet. Nobody asked me, but I’d urge him to engineer an image makeover pronto. People have had enough of seeing him shake hands at outdoor markets! They want to see him EAT and DRINK! Then they will know they can trust him.


Hollande meets a French apiculteur and does not even sample honey products!
(photographer unknown)
François et (then) First Girlfriend, on their summer vacation, drink… Perrier?
(Call back Chirac tout de suite!)

(photographer unknown)


Truth be told, Monsieur Hollande will always be forgiven for going on a diet. This might even earn him points as many French people (men and women) follow draconian régimes (diets,) and lead a life-long struggle against la surcharge pondérale, (excess weight,) et les petits kilos (extra pounds.)


“French Women Don’t Get Fat,” claims a well-known non-diet book. Right. If you believe that, you still believe that les poules ont des dents, (mais non, I assure you, good king Henri IV’s chickens did not have teeth!)

Oui, les Français, ces gourmands, watch their waistline. And this brings me to today’s story… 

A few years ago, during my annual visit to France, I started noticing a new trend in many Parisian bistros and restaurants. It seems the trend has now reached other regions of France, but it is prevalent in the French capital. 


I give you: Le café gourmand


“Qu’est-ce-que-c’est?,” you ask.


A very clever invention launched by French restaurateurs. Take a look:


Café gourmand, Paris

In French restaurants, l’express (shot of espresso,) has traditionally followed dessert and capped the meal; the last step in a time-tested ritual before the waiter finally presents la douloureuse (the painful one,) a.k.a. l’addition (the check.)


This is demonstrated below with the (fancy) dessert a girlfriend and I enjoyed at the prestigious Café de la Paix in Paris, a few summers ago. A traditional French pastry – le Millefeuille – was followed by an express. 


Total cost: 18 Euros (about $23.)


Dessert au Café de la Paix: A decadent (and costly!) experience


Good times. 


Drawbacks: 1.Cost 2. Calorie intake 3.Portion size


Now take a look at le Café gourmand, in the first photo. 


A shot of espresso. Three or four mignardisesmini-desserts (as pictured here, a perfect balance of textures and flavors, with a refreshing fruit salad, a crème brûlée, and a scoop of ice cream.) 


Total cost: 8 Euros (about 14 dollars.) Not cheap, but cheaper than dessert + coffee, n’est-ce-pas?


Benefits: Lower cost. No decision-making involved (desserts often change daily and are selected by the Chef.) Surprise element. Fun and sophisticated. Guilt-free (after all, these are mini-desserts, oui ?) Time saver (dessert and coffee come to the table at once.) 


Café gourmand, Paris

Before I moved to the United States, many years ago, it was customary for Parisian cafés and restaurants to serve a small square of quality dark chocolate with a cup of espresso. We all felt the chocolate was the perfect way of wrapping up the meal. This was an opportunity to pass up dessert altogether, whatever our reason may have been (a way to save money and time, while controlling the calorie intake.) Sometimes, the square of chocolate would be replaced by a small macaron or a biscuit (Speculos, anyone?,) and they were equally satisfying. 


At some point, the recession-plagued restaurant industry saw an opportunity to seduce customers who, like us, would often skip dessert, especially at lunch time. The day of le Café gourmand had come! And what a clever concept, it is, so in tune with the French psyche. When food is concerned, the French are said to “manger de tout, avec modération.” Eat everything, in moderation. Small portions are the ultimate goal, and the best way for les gourmands to control their weight. 


In societies where abundance and a plethora of options make decisions an arduous process for some, being offered a chance to try several iconic French desserts at once, crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, apple tart, fruit salad, macarons, is a dream come true. 


Traditional (and full size!) crème brûlée
Restaurant Beau Séjour,  Gorbio


One question remains: Does this mean traditional desserts will eventually disappear from menus in France? Not so fast. I don’t know about you, but there are classics I will never be able to pass up when I go out with friends in my homeland – calories be dammed. After all, dessert or no dessert, sometimes, there just is no question.


Salted caramel crêpe with Normandy hard cider


Bon appétit, et à bientôt.






Véronique - France with Véro
Véronique of France with Véro

Véronique of France with Véro

Vero shares her homeland weekly on social media with virtual tours, photo essays, live events and other publications at France with Vero. Learn more.

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  1. Jennifer Fabulous on September 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    It seems like everything in France, from the culture to the food, is a class act.For years I have heard about French food being the most exquisite cuisine. I mean, it’s a known fact the French are complete geniuses when it comes to the culinary arts. But it wasn’t until I went to a French restaurant for the first time (for my mom’s 50th b-day) that I actually understood what all the fuss is about. It’s a real art.When I see French pastries and desserts, such as the ones you’ve pictured here, it makes me really sad and annoyed that so many Americans spend their calories on Little Debbies and Chips Ahoy. Personally, I’d rather gain a little weight eating hand-crafted French pastries than processed garbage. Because I wouldn’t regret a bite! ;)Fabulous post!

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:11 am

      Welcome back chère Jenny. Little Debbies and Chips Ahoy, eh? You forgot to mention Hershey chocolate 🙂 Whatever rocks your boat I guess, but I am afraid Little Debbies do not stand a chance when placed next to the Millefeuille pictured in the post. See, I told you… One more reason for you to visit France one day: Desserts!

  2. Sandy on September 11, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Ah c’est pas possible! Your pictures of desserts always hurts my feelings! I cant just get into my truck and find these desserts French girl! Thank you. You actually have inspired me to make some at home avec un cafe. Hey it might not taste the same but I can dream. =) Fun post.

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:14 am

      I would imagine that le Millefeuille would be hard to find in your new corner of the world, Sandy. Let me know how your attempt at French baking turn out. I am a lousy baker (that’s why I have to fly to France every year…)

    • Sandy on September 12, 2012 at 8:34 am

      There is always Vegas for me but not quite The same… I guess you’re right, you will just have to go to France. Poor thing.;)

  3. Une Femme on September 11, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    As someone who often doesn’t have room for a full dessert but enjoys just a taste of sweet after a meal, I applaud the new tradition of café gourmand. We enjoyed this on several occasions on our recent trip to France. And it’s true, never trust a politician who doesn’t eat! ;-p

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:09 am

      I am with you on this one. I love to be able to have a couple of bites of dessert and then move on…

    • Marie-Hedwige Livet on April 23, 2015 at 2:19 am

      Je suis française et gourmande.
      Tout cela est bon, en général trop sucré.

      Pour la santé,

      Ma préférence va maintenant à un dessert oriental : le malabi à la confiture de pétales de Rose, hyper léger. Très apprécié après un repas copieux !

      • French Girl in Seattle on April 23, 2015 at 6:16 am

        Bienvenue, Marie-Hedwige. Le malabi, je ne connais pas encore, mais au vu de votre description, j’essaierais volontiers!

  4. Mary on September 11, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Bonjour Veronique.. 🙂 What a scrumptious post this is. I have to say, the new tradition of the cafe gourmand sounds delicious and full of variety, (and better for my waist and thighs..) but i don’t think i could resist that final dessert either! There is just something about salted caramel. And with delicious hard cider?! My mouth is watering. It would be a struggle to forgo a grand dessert in favor of a small serving. Could i be sensible enough? LOL. Someday, we will see!

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:13 am

      Well, Mary, I guess we will rename this post: “Le billet gourmand de Veronique” 🙂 I have never been able to resist salted caramel (or dulce de leche here in the US.) I do not have that many sweets – well, if you exclude the occasional spoon dipping in the Nutella jar that is – but caramel… Ahhhhh…

  5. Sarah on September 11, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    I abide by the saying, Life is short. Eat dessert first! Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this post! 😉

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:14 am

      Amen, Sarah, Amen.

  6. Richard Moisan on September 11, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Bon! Il faut se faire une raison. On doit se préparer à grossir, car comment résister à l’appel que tu nous lances?!…

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:14 am

      Ce n’est pas de ma faute, Richard, ce sont les desserts…

  7. Malyss on September 11, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Le Normal Prez, avant de le voir manger ou boire, on voudrait surtout le voir faire quelque chose d ‘intelligent, voire quelque chose tout court.:o)
    Je suis surprise par l’allure de ton mille-feuilles:dans le midi, le dessus est un glaçage blanc; C’est vrai, ton regard aiguisé a surpris une nouvelle tendance: bien vu le café gourmand!
    Je viens de finir “Une année en provence” (quel regal) et l’auteur partage ce point de vue ,sur les Français passionnés de nourriture.J’y ai réfléchi , et je me tourne vers l’histoire: des années de disette et de famine , peu de produits disponibles, ont peut-être généré un besoin de bien manger et une habileté à bien préparer tout ce qui nous tombait sous la main. C’est juste une hypothèse!
    A bientôt !

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:17 am

      Pôvre Flamby. Il n’a pas la côte chez toi, on dirait, Marie? :-)Pour le millefeuille, tu as raison, le glaçage est souvent blanc (c’est une de mes pâtisseries préférées avec le Baba au Rhum et la tarte au fruits.) Celui que nous avons dégusté ensemble place Gallieni était délicieux d’ailleurs…J’aime bien ton explication “historique” pour les origines de la gastronomie française. It makes sense, comme disent les Américains!

  8. Parisbreakfasts on September 12, 2012 at 12:56 am

    what you pay at Cafe de la Paix is for ambience, atmosphere..
    who cares what’s on the plate?
    So what does ‘gourmandise’ mean then?
    if only Sarko had eaten a little in public he would have won…

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:19 am

      You are correct, Carol, and my friend and I did get plenty of atmosphere – and excellent service – au Café de la Paix. It did not hurt that the food was delicious too, but “le cadre” alone is worth a visit. La gourmandise describes the guilty pleasure of les gourmands (see definition in the post.) A famous French saying: “La gourmandise est un vilain défaut…” (not that it stops most French people from indulging in it…)

  9. Michel on September 12, 2012 at 6:27 am

    I love the post. I am a big fan of the café gourmand and order it without fail if it appears on the dessert menu. I keep trying to convince the chefs at our Bistro Des Copains that we should offer a café gourmand on our menu too. So far no luck. Have a good day.

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:20 am

      Bonjour Michel. You should definitely offer your version of le Café Gourmand. It bet it would be a hit in the US! Thank you for stopping by…

  10. Alison on September 12, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Ah, the French version of high tea, n’est-ce pas? Yes, it’s about time–and so perfect.

    But the last couple of paragraphs of your post remind me of something I noticed in Paris last summer. It seemed to me that portion sizes had grown in the past dozen years since I’d spent time in France, approaching American-size “entrees” (not les entrées). I remember walking out of Parisian restaurants in the late 90s feeling satisfied, but not stuffed. Last summer les assiettes were so débordées, I frequently could not finish my meals! Is it age, my imagination, or have portion sizes in France really grown?

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 8:22 am

      Alison, you may very well be right about portion size in France. It does not make any sense culturally (as explained in the post,) or even because of the recession that has been hard on restaurateurs, but I would have to agree with you. Portion size has definitely increased in some places. Come to think of it, the average Frenchman’s waistline has as well, according to recent statistics… Hmmmmm….

  11. Jewel yet to find on September 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

    What a delicious post Veronique with very funny intro about correlation president-meal-trust. That’s the spirit!
    This last visit in July we splurged on patisseries (and baguettes by meters). Y-yes costly, but happiness is priceless, non? Just less spaghetti Bolognese and choucroute. Cafe Pouchkine was the best.
    Please visit the sweetest .
    This guy will flood you with inspirations for your next homeland pilgrimage.

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      Ha! Well, thanks to you, Natalie, it seems I will be fighting “les petits kilos” again after my next trip to Paris! Cool link, merci beaucoup.

  12. Suman on September 12, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Bonjour Veronique! Such a delightful and delicious post, thoroughly enjoyed it. Why care for calories when there’s crème brûlée, eh?!

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      Bonjour Suman. Calories? What’s that? 🙂

  13. miss b on September 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    As someone who is known for having a sweet tooth, this was the perfect post for me! I’m a fan of these mini desserts and I’ve enjoyed them in a number of restaurants – ideal when I can’t decide what to choose. However, one of my favourite occupations in France is to visit a salon de thé and have a full size millefeuille – the French certainly know how to make delicious pastries!

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 15, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      You and I think alike, Miss b. Nothing replaces a delicious [full-size] Millefeuille…

  14. Katelyn @ Pure Panache on September 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Delicious post, Veronique! I will certainly miss your comments, but I will be sure to stop by Le Blog from time to time and see how things are going!! Let me know if you are ever in Philadelphia; likewise I will look you up if I ever venture to Seattle! (which I hope to do!) xo

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 15, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      And I will miss you too, Katelyn. I love Philadelphia, and hope to meet you there one day!

  15. I Dream Of on September 12, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Veronique, this post is bringing back memories of my years with a French boyfriend with Parisian parents… the saying around the table every night was “demain régime”… but tomorrow never, ever came. The mother, though, was always as thin as can be.

    I always loved that little bit of dark chocolate with my coffee… I guess I’ll have to bring my own in my purse the next time I visit…

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      I, too, miss the square of dark chocolate. It’s still around, though, just not served as often as it used to. Thank you for stopping by, Jeanne.

  16. Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder on September 13, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Dearest Véronique,

    Great read and I LOVED to once more see the delicious (BIG) Tom Pouce dessert that we always used for treating colleagues. As said before, my Province of Limburg is known to be very bourgundian, something that remained after the French left…
    Hugs to you,

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 15, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Tom Pouce dessert? I love that name for le Millefeuille! One day, I will have to visit the Netherlands again and if I do, I would love to see that French-flavored province of Limburg…

  17. 'Tsuki on September 15, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Appétissant ce billet… Mais puisque tu l’as ouvert sur Astérix et Obélix, je me permets de te proposer un lien :

    Enjoy !

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      Bienvenue… Mais alors, Asterix et Obelix auraient acheté leurs pâtisseries “Place du Marchix?!” 🙂

  18. playingwithscarves on September 15, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Dear Véronique,

    This post is absolutely “délicieux”. Which I would translate both by delightful… and – if you allow me this approximate translation – delicious 😉
    My mouth is watering just looking at all these photos. J’AI ENVIE DE TOUT!!! QUELLE TORTURE !!!

    About François Hollande: not sure his rating approval would go up even if he was eating and drinking like Chirac used to do when visiting street markets…
    About “French women don’t get fat”. What a great marketing success! No further comments…

    Have a great weekend,

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Bonjour Anne. Merci beaucoup. Virtual dessert eating: that’s what this post is about! Dessert without the calories:-) Good luck to Monsieur Hollande. He has been nicknamed after a famous French dessert, after all. Bonne chance, “Flamby!” 🙂

  19. Miss Laia on September 17, 2012 at 4:50 am

    Great pics, I absolutely loved the caffe and those desserts, I love cooking and french cuisine it’s always an inspiration.
    I’m hosting a great INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY you may want to enter.

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 17, 2012 at 8:17 am

      Thank you for your visit, Miss Laia. I will check out your Giveaway later on today…

  20. Owen on September 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    J’arrive bien tard, et en suis désolé… en fait, je viens de me faire opérer par laser les deux yeux, et j’ai dû passer un petit moment tranquil, avec moins de temps devant l’écran, je reprends petit à petit.Mais devant ces desserts j’ai les yeux gros comme des assiettes à soupe !!! 🙂 Ah, la mousse au chocolat, une bonne tarte au citron méringuée, des éclairs (café ou choco), et pourquoi pas un café liègois… j’aime tout cela ! La vie serait fade sans desserts de folie. Et en espérant que tu me pardonneras, je ne peux pas m’empecher de dire qu’à propos de M. Chirac, j’ai cru comprendre que oui, il adore manger, mais aussi il adore les poules, pas forcement au pot, et qu’elles aimaient le lapin chaud. 🙂 Mais bon, ce n’est sans doute que des bruits de couloir tout ça. Au moins il était plus discrèt que DSK, n’est-ce pas ? Sans parler de feu Mitterand, et ses appetits en dehors de la maison familiale… un gourmand lui aussi ! 🙂

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Alors la, Owen, bravo! Tu maitrises parfaitement les subilites de la langue francaise. J’en suis restee “baba” (mais pas au rhum.) 🙂 Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  21. French Heart on September 18, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Within a short walk from old historic downtown Monterey is a bakery, Parker-Lusseau and a crepes place at the entrance to the old wharf–both owned by men from Brittany…and very good. And a popular Paris Bakery…also enjoyable and festive. Am not that gung-ho on deserts and pasries….but appreciate something small, well done and French, of course!

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Well, there you go. All I need to do now is to fly back to Northern California and retrace your steps! Merci, Suzanne! 🙂

  22. ARA on September 18, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Oh man these all made me hungry, and while I do like mini dessert platters oh a creme brule full size always makes it on my list :))

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      I see what you mean. I do not know many people who would pass up on creme brulee… 🙂

  23. Genie -- Paris and Beyond on September 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    I would definitely go for the Café Gourmand as I am more of a tapas girl about food. I would rather have many small tastes than a whole serving of anything. I love caramel au beurre salé macarons and I am dying to try that last dessert. There is a stack of crepes in my freezer that I made about a month ago and they are begging for that salted caramel! I am not so sure about the cider but willing to try.Poor Flamby…Bises,Genie

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Well, too bad I don’t live closer to you. You have just pronounced/typed two favorite words of mine: crepe and salted caramel 🙂 Let me know how that works out for you Genie! (pretty well I am guessing…)

  24. Maria at on September 19, 2012 at 11:28 am

    GREAT POST:)I will go to Nice(france) next weekend, Im very happy for it.
    Your blog is so wonderful and Im following…I hope you follow me also:)

    If you want some cute swedish decor inspiration…check out my blog:)

    Have a great weekend dear

    LOVE Maria at

  25. helen tilston on September 20, 2012 at 1:37 am

    Hello Veronique

    A great post. I particularly love crepes and the last image has me wanting this.

    I am currently in Ireland and noticing how portion sizes have increased enormously. Is this the case in France too?

  26. PerthDailyPhoto on September 28, 2012 at 6:59 am

    J’adore the cafe gourmand idea Veronique, such wonderful and as you point out, less expensive way to experience BLISS! I also read somewhere that the French public are not unhappy if their President has a mistress, if of course it is tres discreet…so very civilized haha!

    • French Girl in Seattle on September 28, 2012 at 8:44 am

      I think French people have seen it all, bless them. They are pretty cynical about the personal lives of their leaders (and until recently,) weren’t really interested in them. Things are changing, though, and I fear there has been more and more scrutiny of politicians’ personal lives, especially with the last president and the current one… Dommage…

  27. Not Just Another Milla on October 1, 2012 at 2:59 am

    If there is only one thing I miss about living in France, it has to be the food. Mon Dieu, j’adore les pâtisseries et pain. C’est vrai – les français sont gourmands !

    • French Girl in Seattle on April 23, 2015 at 6:17 am

      Yes, some of them are. How could you not be when you are surrounded by all these goodies?

  28. sandy on April 18, 2015 at 10:00 am

    My favorite is the Tarte Tatin with Crème Fraiche! I have had it many times, in many different restaurants, and it is different in every one.


    • French Girl in Seattle on April 18, 2015 at 10:10 am

      Tarte Tatin is a classic. You have excellent taste, Sandy!

    • French Girl in Seattle on April 23, 2015 at 6:16 am

      Excellent choice Sandy!

  29. 24/7 in France on April 22, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Vive le cafe gourmand!

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