A Taste of France
A French culinary journey in Chicago

by Lynn Millspaugh

Imagine stepping out of the hustle and bustle of city living and onto the foothills of the Midi-Pyrenees mountain range. There, you spend your days following raw ingredients from farm to plate on a culinary tour through Southwestern France. Food Pyrenees is a Chicago-based boutique culinary travel company that makes this dream a reality, taking intimate groups of curious foodies on the journey of a lifetime.

Aurélie Brown, hailing from four generations of chefs and bakers, is a culinary travel expert and tour curator for Food Pyrenees. The trips she organizes begin with a night staying in the heart of the richly historic, dynamic city of Toulouse. At Marché Victor Hugo, one of the largest indoor food markets in France, tour guests peruse hundreds of shops and farm-fresh produce as far as their eyes can see. After walking the massive market, guests have lunch options at quaint restaurants with the freshest food in Toulouse.

Aurélie says that her mantra for Food Pyrenees is “to infuse taste into life.”

The stimulating adventure continues as guests travel through the countryside to meet bread makers, winemakers, goat cheese farmers, keepers of a fromagerie, and chefs along the way before ultimately laying their heads to rest at a lush Chateau in a hilltop village in Ariège. Once settled in the cozy countryside, Aurélie introduces the tour to Jean-François Martin, Owner and Chef de Cuisine, Auberge de Fountescut, since 2004. Chef Martin is locally loved and respected as a culinary legend with thirty years of experience. This is why, Aurélie explains, he has “a strong network of artisan small suppliers. All of their food is organic, never processed.” Chef Martin warmly opens up his restaurant’s kitchen to the tour for a lesson in exquisitely healthy market cuisine during hands-on classes.

Outside of the tour guidelines are endless opportunities for travelers to indulge and enjoy their time in France. Imagine a gourmet picnic in a picturesque vineyard or a visit to the Roman-built medieval fortress city of Carcassonne.

Rooted in Chicago, Aurélie is an active educator of French Cuisine—abroad and right here in the Windy City. “Once a month on Saturdays, I lead the French Market Tour and walk people through tastings. It’s another way to share a little bit of the French culture.” Food Pyrenees is about the Slow Food movement, the study of gastronomy and rediscovering the pleasure of food. It is a play on words, divergent from “The Food Pyramid” and the effects of consuming bland, standardized, unhealthy foods. Diametrically opposed to this industrial approach, Food Pyrenees offers guests unprecedented access to refined culinary products, techniques, and knowledge.

For a literal taste of Food Pyrenees, we hopped on our bikes to follow Aurelie on a miniature Tour de France in Chicago. If you’ve ever travelled to France, you’ve surely noticed the endless parades of chic natives pedalling about their cities. As Aurelie notes, “A French woman wouldn’t be caught wearing spandex,” which is just one of the reason’s why Chicago’s Divvy Bikes—with their built-in chain and dress guards—make a perfect fit for this little Tour de France.

Aurelie’s tour is especially designed around Divvy—the bike sharing system with thousands of bicycles available 24/7 for adventures in the city. So grab your sweetheart (Aurelie did!) and pick up your 24-hour pass (just $7!). All told, this tour’s riding time amounts to two hours, including your bike check-in and check-out. So, what are you waiting for? France a la Chicago awaits… Bon apetit!

All the details...
Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter
100 E. Walton St

For breakfast, croissants, and European-style bread. Perfect for carbo-loading.
53 E. Lake St

A European-inspired cheese, specialty food, and wine shop.
Buckingham Fountain
S Columbus Dr & E Congress Pkwy

Reminiscent of Europe’s grand architecture, this Chicago landmark makes the perfect picnic spot.
La Colombe
955 W. Randolph St

Understated and classic, like the best shops across the pond, La Colombe is for those in need of a serious coffee fix.
613 N. State

Park your bike and pop into this little boutique to browse French flea market finds.
11 E. Walton

What better way to end a ride than with a cocktail at the Coco Chanel-inspired Waldorf Astoria?
Van Buren St
Pedal past and you’ll catch sight of an Art Nouveau-style Paris subway entrance, gifted from the city to Chicago in 2001.
Extra Credit
Want to ride even further? Pedal past these Chicago favorites for European-inspired architecture, art, and sweets.
  • Chicago Theatre: 175 N. State

  • Alliance Française de Chicago: 810 N. Dearborn

  • Ferris Wheel: 600 E. Grand

  • Publican Quality Meats: 825 W. Fulton Market

  • McCormick Bridgehouse: 376 N. Michigan

  • Chicago French Market: 131 N. Clinton

  • The Art Institute: 111 S. Michigan