Dordogne foie gras, truffles and Monbazillac31-08-2018
Dordogne is a region of great historic interest, with a wealth of long-established traditions and stunning scenery. With ten of its villages featuring among France’s finest, other highlights include the stunning capital of Perigord, the river Perigeux, navigated annually by canoes in their thousands, vineyards a-go-go, delicious local gastronomy and of course, the Lascaux caves.
The Dordogne region is famed far and wide for its strawberries, and the department is responsible for almost a quarter of France’s annual production. Perigord strawberries, aka “fraises de Perigord” carry PGI status (protected geographical origin) and are grown in open fields in the heart of a triangular area formed by the towns of Sarlat, Bergerac and Riberac. Next up, are the region’s chestnuts, grown by the tonne each year and available in abundance at local market stalls in Perigord Noir. Ceps, too, freshly picked in the spring, and dried or preserved to be savoured all year round, serve as the inspiration for an infinite number of recipes spanning the entire south-west region of France. It would be impossible to mention the Dordogne region without a nod to the famed “black diamond” truffles. Perigord, a historical region covering a significant area of the current Dordogne region, is one of France’s richest truffle troves. Truffle aficionados come from all over the world to savour the “Tuber”, also known as the “queen of truffles” or the “Perigord truffle”. Truffles can be enjoyed fresh or accompanying local specialities such as truffle omelette, one of life’s great gourmet moments. And finally, we close our furtive food wanderings through Dordogne with the walnut, of which three varieties have been awarded AC status. If you happen to venture near the magnificent bijou village of Sarlat-la-Canada, it’s impossible not to stop off to sample some of the local specialities…walnuts still nestling in their shells, delicious, highly-scented oils or even walnut cakes.
Local specialities: Foie gras and Perigord Cabecou
With so much to discover, listing Dordogne’s great gastronomic bounty is no mean feat. Tourists flock to the region not only to sample foie gras and liver paté, but also other local duck and goose-based specialities. The appellations « bloc de foie gras » and « foie gras entier », ie. fattened duck or goose liver in bloc or whole form, define and regulate product specification. For foie gras in bloc form, several livers are mixed together, forming a perfectly smooth paste, delicious spread on toasts and served as a preprandial appetiser. Invariably sold in cans, it it still 100% foie gras, though no longer resembles the whole lobe. Foie gras de canard entier is the crème de la crème of the foie gras world. It comprises a whole duck liver, is fresher than fresh, seasoned and veins removed. The local canard à foie gras du Sud-Ouest Perigord is the guarantee of a quality product. Whole or in bloc format, this regional hero is a true delicacy.
And finally, no trip to Dordogne is complete without tasting Perigord Cabecou, a soft, creamy goats’ cheese, delicious on its own or served warm with a range of accompaniments such as asparagus. Look out for this speciality sold by local producers directly from the farm or at local markets.
Perigord is renowned for its gourmet, refined and resolutely local cuisine. Perigord paté, either encased in pastry or in its classic, spreadable form, can be made from duck or goose foie gras, truffles, or even alcohol-flavoured pork, and is delicious served as an aperitif to kickstart the tastebuds into action. For starters, try a delicious “Salardaise” salad of potatoes toasted in duck fat, with cured ham, duck foie gras, magret de canard, salad frisée, duck gesiers (gizzards) and tomatoes. For mains, choose from two regional classics, magret de canard or confit, both delicious served with salardaise potatoes and ceps. Both dishes can be made from turkey, pork rabbit and chicken, but goose and duck are considered the most refined. Magret is breast fillet of duck or geese reared specifically for foie gras. In the Perigord, it is best enjoyed simply pan-fried.
Wines and spirits
Bergerac is the main wine region, and is well known for its great value for money wines. It is often known as Perigord pourpre or purple Perigord, on account of its extensive vineyards. With 13 AOC wines, and something for every palate, you’ll find red, rosé, dry white and sweet wines. In Montravel, dry white wines are made from Sauvignon blanc, while delicious sweet wines are found in Cotes-de-Bergerac and Monbazillac is a sweet wine commanding a global reputation. Also, in Sarlat expect to find vin de noix made from walnuts, liqueur de chataigne (chestnut liqueur), truffle based alcohol ideal as an aperitif and even pastis.
Michelin-starred restaurants in the Dordogne region
It’s not easy to hone a handy selection from such vast culinary talent, but here are 9 Michelin-starred restaurants worth their salt, by region:
En Périgord noir / Black Perigord
The “noir” refers to the vast array of cork oak trees cultivated in the south eastern part of the department:
Au vieux logis à Trémolat – Chef : Vincent Arnould
Le Grand Bleu à Sarlat – Chef : Maxime Lebrun
En Périgord vert / Green Perigord
Taking its name from the verdant landscape of the north of the department :
Au Moulin du Roc à Champagnac-de-Belair – Chef : Alain Gardillou
Le Moulin de l’Abbaye à Brantôme – Chef : Loïc Lecoin
En Périgord blanc / White Perigord
L’Essentiel à Périgueux – Chef : Eric Vidal
L’Oison du château des Reynats à Chancelade – Chef : Florian Grundeler
En Périgord pourpre / Purple Perigord
Étincelles à Sainte-Sabine – Chef : Vincent Lucas
La Tour des vents à Monbazillac – Chef Damien Fagette
Les Fresques au château des Vigiers à Monestier – Chef : Didier Casaguana