The Very Gastronomic Midi-Pyrenees
Relaxing on the sunny terrace of a local restaurant, enjoying a delightful lunch of speciality cheeses, duck breasts and a bottle of Cahors-Malbec (a must when visiting the Lot Region and one that you will remember for its distinctive ‘black’ colouring and its robust, powerful flavours), we marvel at the eye-catching vista of Rocamadour in front of us. It is easy to see why people flock to this region each year. Not only are the towns and villages of this area all of picture-postcard quality, but the food and locally produced wines are something we will never forget.
The Midi-Pyrenees, the largest region in France, is home to some of the best farming conditions in the country and therefore the quality of their produce is exceptional. Whether you would like to experience a traditional foie gras dish, a succulent steak or a simple dish of fine cheeses, the choice is plentiful.
This region is awash with foodies trying the local delicacies, and during our trip we were no different; attempting to discover newfound recipes that would send our taste-buds into overdrive. Wandering around the local village markets we were able to sample the numerous homemade preserves and the bountiful amounts of strong cheese.
Sitting in restaurants we would be spoilt for choose not knowing whether to try one of the fine foie gras dishes gracing most menus or one of the many rich game delights that were rumoured to be of the highest standards. Add to this the exceptionally talented Michelin-starred chefs that now call the Midi-Pyrenees home and it becomes easy to see why many opt to travel to this area purely to explore the culinary pleasures.
The rich cuisine is delicately flavoured to complement the strong flavours of the region’s signature dishes, with some of the world’s finest foie gras being served alongside truffles and pate, which have all been expertly produced by local specialists. In more recent times, other dishes have also attracted the eye of the discerned palate including the famous Toulousain cassoulet - a rich stew of pork, duck, sausages, white beans and vegetables.
Don’t assume however, that good food can only be found in well established restaurants. Take the time to wander the local markets, as we did, and you will find several more regional specialities, including ‘gateau a la broche’ - a delicious cake on a stick, ‘fouace’ - a yeast baked cake similar to a brioche and ‘aligot’ - a dish of mashed potato mixed with cream, garlic and local cheeses. For fruit lovers everywhere it is also worth mentioning the plentiful supply of fresh local produce available on a daily basis which includes chasselas grapes and quercy melon. For cheese fanatics, leaving this region without tasting the local Roquefort and Rocamadour cheeses would be unforgiveable.
If you enjoy spending warm summer days exploring the maze of inland canal routes on offer perhaps a stop-off at ‘Le Bistrot Constant’ in Montech would appeal. Standing in a prominent position beside the Canal des Deux Mers, the distinctive creamy facade with its bright shamrock green shutters and veranda overlooking the waters is an ideal place for lunch or dinner, where local produce can always be found on the menu. Here dessert is always recommended and, whether you prefer something sweet or savoury, there is something to tempt even the most resilient diner.
To accompany the many mouth-watering dishes we sampled some of the many renowned local wines. Whether you are a fan of red, white or rose wines, this region has something for everyone, many having subtle flavours that are best drunk young in order to gain from the fullness of their fruity aftertastes. From Toulouse to Saint Sardos, Millau to Cahors there are many fine wines that need to be explored in order to understand the full diversity of this area’s vineyards. For many visiting to explore the gastronomic merits of the region another must is to visit the vineyards of not only Cahors but also Gaillac, Fronton and Madiran.
If you would prefer to simply enjoy these at your dinner table each local wine can be found in abundance on every wine list. After a hearty meal why not also try savouring the tastes of an Armagnac brandy to help digest your meal?
Guided vineyard tours are often the best way to explore, sampling the wines as you go and what better way to do so than with your very own traditional solex bike. This way, not only are you sampling a piece of France, you are actually immersing yourself classically into the French way of life. Whether you are after a day trip out or a week’s worth of relaxing wine tasting adventures, seek out Solex Balades in Gaillac (Tarn area) (http://solexbalades.com) who offer this unique experience. Not only will you be travelling around the countryside on your very own solex, but you will also get the opportunity to explore charming, quintessentially French Gaillac vineyards and wine producers.
Ultimately when it comes to gastronomy, the Midi-Pyrenees has perfected it, welcoming guests from around the world each year in search of their own slice of foodie heaven. This is one region in France that can guarantee to satisfy even the pickiest of palates.