The Dordogne Feature
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Eating and Drinking Well in the Dordogne
The Dordogne, or as the French like to call it, the Périgord, is considered by those in the know to have one of the best regional cuisines in the country. Local chefs celebrate the area's abundant natural bounty in epicurean preparations and simple peasant dishes alike.
The rich natural resources of the Périgord are legendary: forests and fields are alive with wild game feasting on the nuts and leaves of chestnut, walnut, and oak trees, which encourage the growth of rare mushrooms and coveted truffles. The picturesque, winding rivers are home to trout and crayfish. Rolling fields are filled with grains and vegetables, running alongside orchards of stone fruit.
Few regions in France can boast such a wide selection of local meats (especially the famed Dordogne foie gras and equally famous pork, duck, and goose dishes); cheeses like Cabécou, Cujassous, Dubjac, Thieviers, and Échougnac; and distinctive wines, liqueurs, and brandies. This amazing variety of ingredients enables chefs here to create nearly everything from local products.
Many well-known French meat dishes are named after surrounding villages and towns. Don't miss steak à la Sarladaise (stuffed with pâté de foie gras) or chicken à la mode de Sorges (stuffed with a mixture of chicken liver, mustard, bacon, and herbs). And for a sure dose of truffles, try any dish with sauce Périgueux or à la périgourdine in its name.
Goose liver may not sound too enticing, but once you've had it there's no denying this delicious delicacy. The region has numerous farms with advertisements for foie gras everywhere you go, in shop windows and on road signs, portraying plump geese and ducks happily meandering toward you. At any food shop, you'll find containers of fresh and frozen foie gras, and it is an ever-present restaurant offering, prepared pôelé (pan fried, usually accompanied by a sweet side), in a terrine (pâté), or otherwise incorporated into your salads and main courses.
Walnuts, or noix in French, are everywhere. Nuts mature throughout the summer and usually start falling from the trees in October. The importance of walnuts in the Dordogne—and the rest of France—cannot be overstated. To the French the walnut is the nut (in fact, the translation of noix is simply "nut"). The French make walnut oil for cooking and drizzling on salads, incorporate walnut meat into savory and sweet dishes, and even make alcoholic beverages infused with walnut flavor. In fact, the aperitif of choice in the Dordogne is a sweet dark wine made from green walnuts picked in summer. The immature nuts impart a unique flavor to the wine.
During the months of October and November, and sometimes into December, the region's black gold—a fungus called tuber melanosporum—is unearthed and sold for exorbitant prices.
Found at the roots of oak trees by trained dogs and pigs, truffles contribute to the local economy, and to the region's celebrated cuisine. Their earthy perfume and delicate flavor have inspired countless dishes prepared by home cooks and restaurant chefs alike.
Wine and Liquor
If you are dining on the region's fabulous bounty, the best accompaniment is a local wine, liqueur, or brandy.
Bergerac is known for its white wines made from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and for its reds made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc varieties. The area also produces excellent white dessert wines from the Sémillon grape.
The fait maison, or homemade, liqueurs are made from many fruits, including plum, quince, and blackcurrant.
Fruit is also favored here for distilling brandies, with some of the best-known made from cherries, grapes, pears, and plums.
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