The region where I am now is the Aquitaine...remember it from high school history...Eleanor of Aquitaine married to Henry II, King of England? Very beautiful region of woodlands, rolling green hills, farmland, medieval villages.
The Aquitaine holds cultural treasures, surprising both your eyes and palate! This French South-Western area can indeed boast, offering a wide range of local specialities such as the Bayonne ham or Perigord truffles, and the mouth-watering dishes renowned worldwide - Foie Gras and Duck Confit. Sharing borders with Spain, including its renowned vineyards in the area of Bordeaux to the Basque country beaches and Bearn mountains, Aquitaine offers some gems of the traditional French gastronomy.
France is Cheese Heaven! So I will focus on some ...they have been quite divine! I have tried about 15 different types, only 985+ to go....that's not a typo error!!
Of course we all know the popular and delicious Camembert, and my personal favourite, Brie. I have tried them both here and they are sublime. Nothing to beat either with a fresh flute (large baguette) and a bottle of great red. But there are so many others to savour, I decided to be adventurous, no matter how weird it looks and smells!
So here is one which I must still find - Brie Noir
This is usual Brie, left to mature for longer, typically several months to a year; the cheese becomes stronger in flavor and taste, the pâte drier and darker, and the rind also darker and crumbly. Over-ripe Brie contains an unpleasant, excessive amount of ammonia, which is produced by the same microorganisms as required for ripening. Around the Île-de-France, where Brie is made, people enjoy soaking this in café au lait and eating it for breakfast....now that just doesn't work for me!!! I DO NOT adulterate my latté and, by the sounds of things, this cheese smells of pee
Last week at the fresh market in Monsempron-Libos.....
I was brave and bought 3 little cheeses to try. The 2 small wheels are goats cheeses, 1 Euro each...good buy in Euro terms! Don't convert - it just makes one choke. One is called Rocamadour and the other I can remember!! And then there is the scary one which really looks like an old bread roll that rolled under the dining room table and has been hiding there for 15 years!! It looks like one that would move, but it is firm inside. I was very brave and ate the outer rind as well!! It is scrummy...much like a parmiggiano but with the mouldy taste of a blue. I also can't remember its name but will be back at market this week and will write it down this time.
One of those cheeses that seems to mysteriously move on its own is Les Paulinetoises.. a "fromage de brebis au lait cru", which loosely translated is cheese of ewe's milk that has not been heated beyond a certain temperature. It is creamy and very runny at its best.
At the fresh market there was a huge stall selling only offal. There were some pieces of animal there that I can remember from science class dissections !! I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of the lamb brains, they were sold in a shot!! Will try this week...get there early. There was an array of liver, kidneys, tripe (it did look beautifully clean I must say!!), tongue and many I couldn't identify. Each to his own, I guess...as Mark Twain says "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness"!!
This region is also renowned for its truffles. They are extremely expensive but do go a long way and, because it's a once in a life time experience, I think I might forego a 4 or 5 meals just to try them. There are a few farmers that still use pigs to snuffle out truffle...apparently many of them are missing a few fingers!! The others now use dogs. I am hoping to visit a truffle farm before I leave France.
The duck dishes are also fantastic...and part of a very healthy European diet. Much like ostrich in SA they have very little or no cholestrol, despite being so fatty. Roast potatoes done in duck fat is quite divine! When I first visited a French supermarket, I saw many tins of meat. Now for me canned meat smacks of bully beef and spaghetti and meatballs...uuuugh and just plain unappetising. But not so here...the French have perfected the process and the duck legs in their own fat are great!!
thanks to Wikipedia for some pics and info