It is a debate that has raged across France for decades, if not centuries… what do you call the chocolate-filled
pastries so common in the country’s bakeries? Most expats will probably answer pain au chocolat, the term we tend to hear when first learning the language. Much of the country would disagree, however, and vocally insist that the pastry is in fact a chocolatine. A website has even been created to try to settle the argument once and for all and the results are in: of the 110,000 people surveyed 59.8% say pain au chocolat and 40.2% say chocolatine, but which you choose will most likely be decided by where you live. Those in the south-west of France almost all use chocolatine, with the remainder of the country opting for pain au chocolat
The chocolatine camp feel they should no longer be overlooked and one group of pupils from the southwestern town of Montauban recently penned a letter to France’s president in a bid to get the word chocolatine added to the French dictionary. “It’s a word of our region, where a lot of people live, and there’s no reason why the rest of the country shouldn’t know it. We’re proud to be from the south,” one pupil told La Dépêche du Midi newspaper. With linguistic battle lines drawn up, Bugle readers find themselves on the front line. In the Dordogne it is most definitely a chocolatine, a fact that pastry lovers in neighbouring Charente and Corrèze would agree with. Travel a short distance to the north, however, and your request may be met with blank stares in other departments of Nouvelle Aquitaine (see
table below). ■
Ready to indulge yourself with some of the finest food Europe has to offer? It has to be Destination Dordogne!
Think of fine cuisine, mouthwatering dishes and Michelin star creations, and it’s hard to imagine a menu thatdoesn’t include a taste of France. French cuisine is famed the world over. But it’s one particular area of France – Dordogne – which is at the heart of the finest food on the planet. A food lovers’ paradise, it’s the home of the rich, dark, musky Perigord truffle. That alone puts Dordogne at the top of the food chain. From foie gras to morel mushrooms, dozens of local cheeses, the finest wines and traditional rustic duck and goose dishes washed down with local walnut laced liquour – plus romantic Michelin star restaurants – Dordogne is a food lovers’ heaven. And its stunning scenery means there are plenty of opportunities to work it off, with a cycle ride or romantic stroll alongside chateaux that look like they’ve come straight from a child’s storybook. Feeling tempted?
Here’s our foodie guide to enjoying one of the world’s most mouthwatering destinations.
Head to market
Usually in the middle of town, among cobbled lanes and pretty plazas, Dordogne’s markets are a sensory delight. Visit Sarlat-la-Canéda, one of the busiest markets in Dordogne or the pretty medieval village of Issigeac. Head undercover to the market hall at the historic fortified village of Monpazier, voted one of France’s most beautiful village. Buy some Cabecou de Rocamadour – a small local goat’s cheese – a freshly baked loaf and find a spot to sit back and watch.
Dine at the top tables
All that wonderful produce means Dordogne has some of the world’s best and most romantic restaurants. There’s the finest Michelin star dining, to quaint corner bistros and chefs who are pushing the foodie boundaries. Indulge at the beautiful chateau at the Michelin starred Chateau des Vigiers which also boasts a golf course and a spa, or nip into Les Petit Paris in Daglan which specialises in seasonal local produce. The choices are endless.
Top up your glass
Some areas of France might be better known, but there’s no mistaking the quality of wine produced in
Dordogne. The Bergerac area has more than 1200 wine-growers, producing excellent reds, whites and rosés to wash down all that gourmet food. Visiting a vineyard is a ‘must’. Head to Château de Tiregand and explore its Pécharmant wines. Or visit Château Montdoyen, where the art of winemaking has been passed through generations.
Tuck into truffles
Dordogne is famed for its black Périgord truffle, or black diamond. You’ll discover truffles on the menus and even special truffle markets in Périgueux, Brantôme and Sarlat-la-Canéda. Or hunt for your own – join a truffle hunting tour and at Truffière de Péchalifour.
Take it outside
A picnic amid stunning scenery is hard to beat. Just stock up at the market and head to La Roque Gageac, one of the country’s prettiest villages or in the grounds of the Walnut Museum near Castlenaud. The chateau there is a national monument.
Take a boat trip on the river Dordogne at La Roque-Gageac, picnic by the banks and round it off with a walk to Chateau de la Malartie. Wherever your tastebuds take you, a break in Dordogne is bound to leave you hungry for more. Discover delightful Dordogne for yourself.
Source/Credit: written by Sandra Dick for The Scotsman
For anyone dreaming of meandering amongst the chateaus and ancient villages of pastoral Southwest France, the valleys of the Dordogne River and its tributaries provide the perfect destination.
There is almost a surreal feeling as you drive along the winding roads and lanes, past the rolling fields and vineyards that stretch to the horizon. Then, almost magically, you find yourself passing through an ancient gateway into one of the quaint gray stone villages that have remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years.
En route to a chosen destination, your GPS might send you down a delightful one-way country lane, just wide enough for one car. However, that does not preclude the possibility of encountering a farm tractor happily coming towards you, as the driver heads back to one of his fields. He will no doubt wave you back, and sure enough, after you have reversed for a short distance, there will be a section with a grass bank where the two vehicles can squeeze past.
The French are mad about cycling – particularly on holidays (of which the French have plenty). It is always wise, whenever you round a corner, to be prepared for a group of spandex clad figures bent over their bikes as they hurtle along with dreams of the Tour de France peloton.
Give a good-natured wave for those that you meet and perhaps you will see them again at the market, or bistro in the next village.
Getting around is pretty straightforward, since main roads and back roads are all well signposted, and it is difficult to get lost, even without a GPS. The towns and villages that have been identified as tourist destinations have nearly all adjusted to their newfound popularity, by providing spacious car parks on the edge of town. Since the towns are quite compact, this is convenient starting point to start exploring their amazing historic squares, buildings, and quiet back lanes.
The Medieval Bastide towns of the Dordogne region are unique for having been built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to a specific pattern. They all have a central market square, with an adjacent church, and with the streets set out in a grid format from that central square. To simplify access from one street to the next, the builders connected them with inviting alleys and passageways interspersed with small courtyards just waiting to be explored.
Many Dordogne villages have been formally recognized in France’s listing of its most Beautiful Villages. To be recorded as a Beautiful Village, a village must also have a population of less than two thousand, plus have some historical significance. The selected villages all proudly display a sign at their entrance to inform visitors of their inclusion in the prestigious list.
Although there are regional similarities, each town and village in the Dordogne has developed its own unique personality and charm. Indeed some differences are quite striking. The beautiful village of La Roque Gageac is nestled beside the Dordogne River with houses built way up and carved into the side of the cliff, as a measure of protection from enemies.
It is quite distinct from that of its picturesque Bastide neighbour, Domme, perched on a hilltop, a mere ten minutes drive away.
Each town in the Dordogne valleys has wonderful, colourful market days, with stalls selling an extensive range of local produce and crafts. Market Day is a social event, and its party atmosphere certainly transcends the mundane chore of purchasing supplies. Visitors mingle with locals as they check out what the local farms, cheese makers and wineries are offering, and strike up conversations with neighbours and friends who have all come to the weekly gathering.
If the atmosphere of the market becomes a little overwhelming, the market square is ringed with small cafes, bistros and boulangeries, all offering the opportunity to sit back and watch the show over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and an amazing pastry.
For the more active, there are numerous identified paths for hiking and cycling, and places for swimming, and horseback riding. If you fancy taking to the river, when it is low in the summer, just look for one of the clusters of colourful kayaks for rent on the riverbanks.
If your interest is attuned to the really ancient, you will discover that the valleys of the Dordogne river and its tributary, the Vezere, have been home to humans for over half a million years. With its temperate climate and lush vegetation, it is not that surprising that some of the very earliest humans migrated to this region to settle amongst its abundance of food, and the readily available shelter in the caves of the limestone hills.
The natural composition of the rock eventually resulted in slides that completely sealed those prehistoric cave homes, until they were discovered during the past century. Resulting in amazing dwellings with incredibly preserved artifacts and paintings that date back to the dawn of prehistory. Visitors are no longer permitted to enter the original caves themselves, because of the damage their expelled carbon dioxide would do to the rock faces with its paintings. However, there is a remarkable prehistory museum built right into the cliffs at Les Eyzies in the dramatic Vezere valley, with the troglodyte village of La Madeleine just to the North.
Of course, no Dordogne town or village would consider itself respectably French, if it did not offer a selection of small restaurants and bistros, where one can soak up the local atmosphere at an outdoor table overlooking the main square.
French meals are an integral part of their culture, and establishments offer a daily set meal, posted on a board outside. With lunch in the Dordogne being a leisurely two-hour affair, there is no pressure to eat and leave, and some of the most enduring memories are of sitting at a table finishing a glass of wine, and soaking up the local ambience.
NOUVELLE-AQUITANE, FRANCE – This region might be best known for its quality Bordeaux wines, but its food is an epicurean’s paradise. To the east of Bordeaux, the department of Dordogne (historically known as Périgord) is best known for its gourmet foods. With more than 2,000 years of history and numerous regionally protected products, there’s a plethora of choices to keep any food lover happy.
Truffles: Native to the Dordogne, the black Périgord truffle is coveted by gourmands worldwide for its complex aroma. From November to March, the expensive delicacy can be purchased for a fair price from Perigueux’s Place St-Louis market and Sarlat’s Saturday market. Connoisseurs of the black diamond are known to visit Sorges, about 19 kilometres northeast of Perigueux, to learn about the fungus at its charming truffle ecomuseum and area truffle farms. Or attend Sarlat’s truffle festival on the third weekend of January.
Foie gras: Despite its controversy, the traditional skill of force-feeding geese and ducks is still practised in Périgord and remains part of the department’s identity. Foie gras, a.k.a., fattened goose or duck liver, is served at most restaurants and found in specialty shops in Sarlat. There’s even a Route de Foie Gras for those wishing to meet the more than 60 producers of the specialty. Look for products labelled “Indication géographique protégée” (IGP) which guarantees the high quality product is strictly from Périgord.
Dordogne strawberries: Delicate, candy-sweet and a treasure of the region, the excellent, large-fleshed Dordogne strawberries are the only strawberries protected by the IGP geographic status. Thanks to ideal temperatures and soils, the region enjoys a long season that lasts from April to October. The main strawberry varieties, including Gariguette and Darselect in the spring, and Mara des Bois and Charlotte in the fall, can be found at most markets.
Traditional macarons: Ursuline nuns brought the traditional macaron to Saint-Émilion in the early 17th century. Although they’re made with the same ingredients — egg whites, sugar and almond flour — as their gussied-up sandwiched Parisian cousins, the rustic confection is chewier, straddling a soft biscotti and almond cake. Many shops sell traditional macarons, but the original recipe (a carefully guarded secret that’s only passed down to the business’ successor) is only available at Les Macarons de Saint-Emilion.
Caviar: A pioneer in river sturgeon breeding in Aquitaine, Domaine Huso in Neuvic sur I’Isle is one of three production sites in the Dordogne that specialize in high-quality caviar. Using methods that create minimal environmental impact, the prestigious products are processed and packaged, then marketed as Caviar de Neuvic. The 7.6-hecatre farm is open to visitors seven days a week. Tours of the facilities (that concludes with a caviar tasting) are available, but pre-booking is required.
Walnuts: Since the Paleolithic era (with evidence found in Cro-Magnon habitations from 17,000 years ago), walnuts have been widely celebrated for its many uses. At area ecomuseums or walnut-oil mills including Moulin de la Veyssière, you’ll find products such as vin de noix, a sweet and rich liqueur made from the green nuts, walnut flour, and walnut oil that’s been pressed from cooked nutmeal. For quality and authenticity, look for appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC)-certified Périgord walnuts.
French school dinners hailed, as restaurant quality Oscar-winning documentary maker Michael Moore has
heaped praise on French school dinners in his most recent film, “Where to Invade Next”. In the documentary, which came out in September, Moore visits countries around the world to investigate aspects of life and culture and to see where America can learn to do things better.
In the light-hearted film, Moore sits down with children at a primary school in northern France to enjoy a meal of scallops, followed by lamb and a cheese course, a menu he says would not be out of place at an upmarket American restaurant. “I entered a small village in rural Normandy and went to one of the finest kitchens in the country,” explained the film-maker during the documentary. “By my standards, it was a 3, maybe a 4-star kitchen. It was definitely the bestplace to eat in town… it was the school cafeteria!”
This rural southwestern département has made this year’s Lonely Planet list of top ten destinations in Europe for 2016.
Last year it was the mountainous Auvergne region that Lonely Planet shone a light on and now in the spotlight is an area in southwestern France that locals and expats have already cherished for quite some time: the Dordogne.
The area, often jokingly called Dordogneshire – given the huge number of British living there – came in fourth out of ten on Lonely Planet’s Best of Europe list.
Often referred to by its previous name, the Périgord, this département sits between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenées mountain range (highlighted in red below).
It takes its name from the stately Dordogne river that flows from the Auvergne mountains to the sea near Bordeaux.
“Nowhere does French art de vivre (art of living) quite like the Dordogne,” says Lonely Planet, going on to call it a “Garden of Eden… stitched from dreamy chateaux, market towns and walnut groves.”
Photo: Stephane Mignon/Flickr
You might know Lyon as the culinary capital of France, but Lonely Planet would beg to differ.
“For travellers following the increasingly hip ‘local produce, homemade’ mantra, this foodie region – without the crowds of Provence and 100 percent au naturel – has never been so alluring.”
Indeed, apart from its gorgeous countryside and flourishing British expat population, the area is famous for its cuisine, often based on duck or goose. Foie gras, confit de canard, truffles, and walnut cake are just a few of the local specialties.
Lonely Planet recommends that to take full advantage of this foodie region, you need to “dive into the markets”, “dine at the region’s top tables”, “quaff the local wines”, and “gorge on truffles”.
After that, the travel guide advises checking out the area’s abundance of castles which have earned it the nickname “The Other Chateau Country” (after the Loire Valley) as well as the multitude of prehistoric cave paintings, Lascaux being the most famous.
Photo: @lain G/Flickr
It’s not only Lonely Planet that has taken notice of the Dordogne; British Airways just started offering direct flights from London.
The Perigord walnut is an extremely healthy and versatile nut grown in southwestern France. Perigord is the old name for this region, which is now usually referred to in English as the Dordogne. Most of the Perigord walnut production area is located in the Dordogne department, but there are also significant amounts produced in the neighboring Corrèze and Lot departments and small areas of other neighboring ones.
It has benefited from a Protected Designation of Origin status since 2002, but the walnut has had a history in the region that dates back thousands of years. While the walnuts grown today aren’t quite the same, walnuts themselves have been found at 17,000-year-old prehistorical Cro-Magnon sites in the Périgord walnut-producing region.
The Périgord walnut production area is located in and around the départment of Dordogne in southwestern France.
Walnuts continued to play a major role in the culture of the area ever since then and are inextricably linked to the region’s history. During the early Middle Ages, peasants would often pay off their debts with Perigord walnuts and by the 13th century, tithes to local churches were paid in walnut oil. The oil was at one time considered to be worth its weight in gold and contributed greatly to the wealth of the region due to its widespread and many varied uses. In 1730, it was found that more than three fourths of the national peasant population used nothing but Perigord walnut oil for cooking. Besides culinary uses, the oil can also be used as body oil or in painting.
The Périgord walnut can be used in so many ways in cuisine that the list of culinary dishes it can’t be used in is probably a lot shorter than the list of dishes it is included in. The possibilities are almost endless: Salads, mousses, covered in chocolate, baked in breads, used in cheeses, roasted or used as oil – the Périgord walnut is a versatile nut that has thousands of applications. It’s even used to make a type of liqueur, Eau-de-vie de Noix du Périgord, and a type of wine in the region (vin de noix – “walnut wine”), bringing a subtle, nutty flavor to the drinks.
There are numerous health benefits of consuming this walnut. The Périgord region of France has one of the lowest rates of heart disease – by some estimates it has the second-lowest rate in the world. The cholesterol-lowering properties of the walnut, which play a large role in local cuisine, certainly help to play a part in this. The walnut is also rich in fiber and antioxidants, high in protein, and filled with healthy minerals like magnesium, iron, and potassium.