Food & Drink
Three vineyards stretch westward from Estaing across steeps slopes producing vins de terroir. Estaing sits on 50 acres of chalky limestone, Entraygues on granite and Le Fel on schist. The vineyards were regenerated by enthusiasts in the 1980s, and two have just been granted an appellation d’origine contrôlée—as of the 2011 harvest, there will be AOC Estaing and AOC Entraygues-Le Fel.
Today the restored vines and their chenin blanc grapes yield light, fruity, dry whites that are excellent companions to the local cabécou goats cheese. The combinat is an age-old symbiosis: the goats fed on chestnuts from the trees above the vineyards, and in turn supplied milk, cheese, fertilizer and goatskin wine flasks.
Le Fel is dramatically beautiful—its vineyards are said to be the steepest in France. Its wines are predominantly red, well-rounded and velvety, good accompaniment for the rustic regional fare.
Domaine de Méjanassère, a working vineyard with a fantastic B&B and restaurant. The fruity red wine is made from Mansois (Fer Servadou), Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon grapes. The rosé is a fruity carbernet franc and the dry white largely chenin blanc.
Marcillac vineyards sit equidistant from Conques, Decazeville and Rodez in clay soils rich in iron ore so the soil is dramatically red. The reds are rich and tannic made with 90% Mansois (Fer Servadou) grapes and the rest with Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon.
Cahors is famous for its “black” wine—AOC Cahors is made with at least 70% of Malbec grapes, which give it the dark color of its nickname.
REGIONAL SPECIALITY DRINKS
Gentian aperitif made from the gentian root found in the Cantal mountains. Lime green in colour and very bitter.
Prunes à l’eau de vie whole greengages preserved in sugar syrup and eau de vie. Delicious as a digestive with coffee.
The most striking thing about the area is the inexorable freshness of the produce this area offers. Everything is seasonal and locally grown and tastes just as it should.
Like wine, cheese is a serious subject for the French and similarly has its own classification ‘AOC’ showing recognized quality. There are of course many wonderful cheeses produced in the area, but these are the most famous. Please note that they are unpasturised.
Rocamadour AOC goat’s cheese. Part of the Cabecous family of cheese it takes about 12 -15 days to attain full maturity, but it can be ripened furthermore for several months to make it a bit stronger. (Link to info on Rocamadour above) or you can visit the farms that are easily identifiable along the road into the village anytime 9-12 and 2 – 6pm.
Cantal AOC cow’s milk cheese, among the oldest known type of French cheeses with a creamy nutty flavor and which equates with cheddar.
Doux/Jeune – mild
Entre-deux – medium
Vieux – strong
Salers AOC similar to Cantal. Made in the volcanic region above Aurillac. it is an un-pasturised cows milk cheese rich yellow interior is redolent of wild flowers, an overlying nutty taste and a strong, savory, raw-onion bite. Salers must be made only from the milk of cows that graze on mountain pastures in the summer. best eaten September to March after 9 months aging. Types as for Cantal.
Roquefort AOC a sheep’s milk blue cheese, which is white, tangy, crumbly and slightly moist, with distinctive veins of green mold. Initially mild, it then waxes sweet, then smoky, and fades to a salty finish. It has no rind; the exterior is edible and slightly salty. It has been produced for over 2000 years. Visit the caves to see how it is made http://www.tourisme-aveyron.com/en/discover/unmissables/roquefort.php
Bleu d’Auvergne AOC a blue cow’s milk cheese, only made since the mid 18th century. It is less salted than Roquefour, with a creamy, buttery taste and moist texture.
Tomme fraiche a white fresh cow’s milk cheese only used in cooking. Made by Cantal and Salers producers (as above).
Confit Confit de canard is salted and slow cooked legs or wings with herbs preserved in duck fat.
Fresh the breast especially (magret de canard) is sweet, succulent and delicious
Foie gras Duck liver made from specially fattened ducks, available fresh (foie gras frais) to be pan fried; foie gras pieces of liver pressed; bloc de foie gras
Cous farcis duck neck stuffed with minced duck – delicious.
Duck sausages are absolutely delicious on the barbeque. (Leclerc supermarket sell the best ones on their deli counter).
is seen on almost every menu. Tripoux is stuffed sheep’s tripe. Andouillettes are tripe sausages. It isn’t for everyone.
Quercy lamb is magnificently tender, sweet and rivals the best in the world. Rumour has it that the Sultan of Brunei will eat no other lamb and imports it!
Quercy melons are orange fleshed, incredibly sweet, delicious and in abundance over the summer months.
Grown in the north of the Lot: sweet and unctuous.
“Red Gold” The saffron flowers appear in October over a period of about three weeks. The flower has a short life, around 48 hours.
Each flower is cupped in the palm of the hand, the stem cut with the fingernails. It takes 200 flowers to produce just 1 gram of saffron. Quercy saffron is equal to the Iranian saffron with a price to match , about €30 per gram. Buy direct or from local delicatessens.
Find out more or visit a saffron farm http://www.tourism-figeac.com/web/EN/310-quercy-saffron.php
The “diamants noirs” are one of the gastronomic stars of the Lot Valley. The Tuesday afternoon truffle market (only in season) in Lalbenque is a strictly regulated affair; it demands know-how to participate, but it’s fascinating to watch.
Fresh trout raised on farms can be bought in the local markets fresh from the small tankers they are transported in.
Locally reared veal is tender pink and sweet. The calves are humanely raised “sous la mere” with their mothers and eaten widely in preference to beef in the region.
CHESTNUTS AND WALNUTS
are also in abundance in the autumn. You will see local people collecting them by the roadside and in the woods as with mushrooms; cepes being the most sought after.
Aligot Puréed potato with ’tomme’ cheese stirred in it is a hearty dish and often served with sausages.
Paella with the region’s Spanish influence paella is a big favourite, to be found in all the markets cooked on massive round plates; cooked onsite, ready to buy and takeaway.
Pounti A savoury cake often served as a starter studded with local prunes and sausagemeat.
Stockfish Norweigan dried cod traditionally brought in from Norway via Bordeaux, the fish were floated in the water fixed to the stern of the gabarres. By the end of its eight-day journey it was nicely rehydrated and ready to cook.
When potatoes were introduced in the late 18th century, they were wedded to the cod to make estofinado, which became the Lot Valley’s traditional Friday and Lenten dish. Consisting of potatoes and cod, mashed with a splash of walnut oil, hard boiled egg, parsley, garlic and a dash of cream estofinado is a delicious comfort dish. Try it at the riverside café-restaurant Chez Marie, at Le Grand-Vabre near Conques
Tartiflette Potatoes cooked with cream, onions, cheese and lardons. Delicious and good in the cold of winter to keep you warm. Not traditionally from this region, but has been adopted in the mountainous northern part of the Lot valley.
Tete de veau Veal’s head is exactly what it says. Boiled in stock with herbs for several hours. Sliced and served with a mustard cream sauce.
Truffade Thinly sliced potatoes cooked slowly in goose fat and layered with “tome fraîche” a white regional cow’s milk cheese only used in cooking.