Franceagroalimentaire.com continues its journey of discovery around France’s regions. Here we introduce the very best of France; take a stroll through its picturesque towns and villages, savouring the finest gastronomy, culinary traditions and local specialities brimming with local heritage.
Lot-et-Garonne : what’s the deal ?
Nestling between Bordeaux and Toulouse, bordered by Périgord, Landes and Gascogne, the department of Lot-et-Garonne encapsulates the true spirit of South-West France. Shaped by its rivers and gently rolling countryside that Stendhal compared to Tuscany, the Agen region is a destination and a way of life. Its landscape scattered with castles and bastides, or ancient walled towns, French markets, boat excursions, the Lot valley and the breath-taking Canal des deux mers cycle route linking the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas, there is plenty more for visitors to discover than the delicious, sweet taste of pruneau d’Agen, the region’s famed prune delicacy.
Lot-et-Garonne is France’s leading department for the sheer diversity of the fruit and vegetable produce grown there. While pruneau d’Agen prunes have become an unwavering symbol of the region, Lot-et-Garonne is known as France’s no.1 region for Label Rouge strawberries – Garriguette, Charlotte and Ciflorette varieties – and walnuts. And with a rich winemaking tradition, the region’s vineyards produce four AOP wines definitely worth the detour: Brulhois, Buzet, Côtes de Duras and Côtes du Marmandais.
Pruneau d’Agen, the black prune treasure symbolic of the region
An undeniable part of its heritage, these prunes of world-renown, made by drying local Ente plums, have become a rich symbol of the region. Since 2002, pruneau d’Agen proudly carry PGI-status, and guarantee and protect their origin and quality. Interestingly, it takes 3kg of plums to produce 1kg of dried prunes. A culinary delight, in both sweet and savoury dishes, pruneau d’Agen are highly nutritious, and often misunderstood. With a whole range of health benefits, pruneau d’Agen can be enjoyed at any moment of the day as a natural snack to keep the hunger pangs at bay. Since September 2005, every year Agen has organised a celebration to champion the fruit responsible for the region’s fame around the world. Dates for the diary: 24, 25, and 26th August 2018.
Label Rouge Strawberries and Walnuts
Because it’s not just about the prunes! Lot-et-Garonne is also France’s leading producer of strawberries, responsible for 20% of the country’s production, with the emphasis firmly on quality. Founded in 1998, the Association Interprofessionnelle de la Fraise du Lot-et-Garonne, the national strawberry association, has secured the first coveted Label Rouge quality labels for three of its varieties – Garriguette, Charlotte and Ciflorette – which account for 65% of the region’s total strawberry production.
An ever expanding sector for the last thirty years, the walnut orchards make Lot-et-Garonne France’s leading walnut producer, with some 180 producers responsible for 70% of France’s production.
Star-turn : Michel Trama, l’Aubergade restaurant
Michel Trama has not pursued the most conventional route to the dizzy heights of Michel-starred status. Champion diver, former Art Deco student, wholly self-taught and with no formal gastro-training, Michel only turned to culinary pursuits on meeting his wife, Maryse. In 1978, they left Paris to settle in Puymirol, Lot-et-Garonne’s oldest bastide. Attaining his first Michelin star in 1981, swiftly followed by a second in 1984, he received his coveted third star in 2004, which he would retain until 2011. Named by Michelin as France’s chef of the year in 2004, a few iconic signature dishes have helped forge his reputation, including apple and truffle papillote, foie gras and wild mushroom hamburger and crystalline pomme verte, his wonderful sorbet invention. From late November to mid-March, chef offers l’Atelier des Sens, a programme of bespoke cookery workshops.
The Lot-et-Garonne 3-Michelin star club
Eric Mariottat, Restaurant Mariottat, Agen: contemporary local cuisine
Benjamin Toursel, Auberge Le Prieuré, Moirax: innovative, modern and savoury cuisine
Hervé Sauton, La Table des Sens, Villeneuve-sur-Lot: tradition meets innovation
Lot-et-Garonne in a nutshell :
French region: Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Prefecture (district): Agen
Population: 343,645 inhabitants
Agriculture and viticulture: France’s no.1 department for the diversity of its crops, including 4 AOP wines.
Getting there: By TGV (new high-speed train from Paris to Agen in 3h12); Agen Airport (Agen-Paris, 1h 30)