France Culinary Travel Diary – La Dordogne (Part 2)

Le Fermier

France Culinary Travel Diary – La Dordogne (Part 2)

There’s so much so say about this department of France that I simply couldn’t squeeze it all into one installment. If you’re not the market faring kind but want to sample the Dordogne’s bounty of famous produce, then visiting one of its countless restaurants is a must.

By no means do you need to dine in the most fancy establishments to eat well either, as when the produce is local and seasonal even the more humble restaurants can serve a quality meal without breaking your budget.

That being said, if you are in the Trémolat area and can justify treating yourself to a Michelin star meal (you only live once!), then I highly, highly recommend you making a booking at Le Vieux Logis. A boutique hotel and gourmet restaurant belonging to the acclaimed Relais-Châteaux group, you can enjoy a degustation dinner with matching wine for €115 or there’s an à la carte menu to choose from. The food is beautifully presented and tastes exquisite, and the service is faultless but personable.

20150502_200831   Confit Salmon in walnut oil

20150502_201833Green asparagus topped with Crab and Fennel

20150502_211922Quercy lamb with broad beans, “ail des ours”  and Pistou

20150502_204921Grilled Turbo, oyster “Meunière” and Foie Gras

20150502_222644“Gariguettes” strawberries, meringue and violette chantilly

20150502_225029Amuse Bouche with our coffees

As delicious as the dining is at Le Vieux Logis, my favourite place to eat in the Dordogne doesn’t have a Michelin star, nor is it fine dining. It’s a rustic, family run restaurant in the charming town of Cadouin, called Le Restaurant de L’Abbaye, and I know the food is great because this happens to be where I completed my cooking apprenticeship! Every meal starts with their house specialty Tourin à l’ail (garlic soup), their menu is full of country classics like magret de canard, foie gras, and salade perigourdine and their mousse au chocolat is a guilty pleasure I treat myself to every time I visit. If you’re travelling in the summer months, a booking is essential.

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As a special treat, the head chef of the Restaurant de L’Abbaye has kindly agreed to share the recipes for both his garlic soup and chocolate mousse. Look out for them on the blog in the coming days!

My top Dordogne picks:

  • Le Vieux Logis -Le Bourg 24510 Trémolat 1 Michelin star
  • Restaurant de L’Abbaye – Place de L’Abbaye 24480 Cadouin
  • Chez Julien 24510 Paunat
  • Chez le Gaulois 9 rue Tourny 24200 Sarlat-la-Canéda

France Culinary Travel Diary – La Dordogne (Part 1)

Le Fermier

France Culinary Travel Diary – La Dordogne (Part 1)

The Dordogne will always have a special place in my heart. It’s where I grew up, where my family still lives and where I completed my cooking apprenticeship. It’s also a stunning area of France, with green undulating fields, fairytale woods, and more chateaus than you can poke a baguette at. It’s not a centre by any means for big Industry but it is the gastronomique centre of black Périgord truffles, Foie Gras, and other duck-related goodness in France.

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The ethics surrounding Foie Gras are much debated in the wider world, as the process to create it is the force feeding of corn to ducks or Geese to give them a super fatty liver which is then harvested, sliced and eaten (best raw) for the enjoyment of humans. It’s necessary in these situations to be informed about the realities of production and then make up your own mind about how you feel about it. What I will say is that I would prefer to only buy foie gras from the smaller producers, as these are the ones more likely to use traditional, and more gentle practices and take better care of their animals.

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Speaking from a purely culinary perspective, I love eating foie gras. The texture is almost like a dense mousse and though it’s very rich, the flavour is subtle. You don’t need to eat a lot to be satisfied and so it’s often enjoyed at aperitif on a thin slice of baguette accompanied by a glass of pastis or sweet white wine.

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The Black or Périgord truffle is the second most highly prized truffle after the white truffle. They are found growing among the roots of oak or hazelnut trees and are harvested with the use of sows or specially trained dogs to detect them beneath the soil. They’re an acquired taste and, as they are quite strong and very expensive, are often simply grated into things like omelets or crispy potatoes, or added to Foie Gras for an extra touch of luxury. They are a kind of fungi and have been eaten by man since pre-Roman times.

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The other culinary delight found throughout the region is confit de canard or Duck confit, which makes sense, as there are a lot of duck around thanks to the foie gras. Confit duck is made by salting a duck leg overnight to preserve it, before its rinsed and then slowly poaching it in its own fat. This is then left to cool before it’s put into a glass jar or tin, fat and all, which can last for weeks to months. Duck confit can then be heated and eaten as a main meal of it’s own or used in the famous Cassoulet dish.

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All these amazing products can be found in specialty stores or at the amazing farmers markets, and the best part is that often, the person selling the products is also the person who’s made it.

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My top Dordogne Region picks:

  • Sarlat-la-Caneda – every Wednesday and Saturday: regional specialties, cheese, saucisson and artists wares
  • A La Truffe du Périgord 6 route de Périgueux 24420 Sarliac sur L’Isle (also available at the market)
  • Vidal Foie Gras Pech Mercier 24250 Cénac (also available at the market)
  • Maison Arvouet Avenue des Sycomores 24480 le Buisson de Cadouin