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The food and wine of Périgord

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The two great stars of Périgord cuisine are foie gras and truffles (truffes). Foie gras is best eaten either chilled in succulent, buttery slabs, or lightly fried and served with a fruit compote to provide contrasting sweetness and acidity. Truffle is often dished up in omelettes and the rich périgourdin sauces which accompany many local meat dishes, but to appreciate the delicate earthy flavour to the full, you really need to eat truffle on its own, with just a salad and some coarse, country bread.

The other mainstay of Périgord cuisine is the grey Toulouse goose, whose fat is used in the cooking of everything, including the flavourful potato dish, pommes sarladaises. The goose fattens well: gavé or crammed with corn, it goes from six to ten kilos in weight in three weeks, with its liver alone weighing nearly a kilo. Some may find the process off-putting, but small local producers are very careful not to harm their birds, if for no other reason than that stress ruins the liver. Geese are also raised for their meat alone, which is cooked and preserved in its own thick yellow grease as confits d’oie, which you can either eat on its own or use in the preparation of other dishes, like cassoulet. Duck is used in the same way, both for foie gras and confits. Magret de canard, or duck-breast fillet, is one of the favourite ways of eating duck and appears on practically every restaurant menu.

Another goose delicacy is cou d’oie farci – goose neck stuffed with sausage meat, duck liver and truffles, while a favourite salad throughout the region is made with warm gésiers or goose gizzards. Try not to be apprehensive, or your palate will miss out on some delicious experiences – like tripoux, sheep’s stomach stuffed with tripe, trotters, pork and garlic, which is really an Auvergnat dish but is quite often served in neighbouring areas like the Rouergue. Other less challenging specialities include stuffed cèpes, or wild mushrooms; ballottines, fillets of poultry stuffed, rolled and poached; the little flat discs of goat’s cheese known as cabécou or rocamadour; and for dessert there’s pastis, a light apple tart topped with crinkled, wafer-thin pastry laced with armagnac.

The wines should not be scorned, either. There are the fine, dark, almost peppery reds from Cahors, and both reds and whites from the vineyards of Bergerac, of which the sweet, white Monbazillac is the most famous. Pécharmant is the fanciest of the reds, but there are some very drinkable Côtes de Bergerac, much like the neighbouring Bordeaux and far cheaper. The same goes for the wines of Duras, Marmande and Buzet. If you’re thinking of taking a stock of wine home, you could do much worse than make some enquiries in Bergerac itself, Ste-Foy, or any of the villages in the vineyard areas.

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