Dordogne is the gastronomic heart of France – a Goldilocks region that’s not-too-hot, and not-too-cold for food producing perfection. So, if you’re headed to the Dordogne on holiday this summer, allow us to get your tastebuds tingling…
The markets of the Dordogne are delightful and delicious all year round, but as spring turns to summer they’re especially rewarding, if you’re after the best of local produce. Try the markets of Sarlat – which spill out from a busy covered, indoor market into the town’s pretty cobbled streets. Look for truffles, duck, plumb garlic bulbs, strawberries and Rocamadour cheese. We love the Organic Might Market, which takes place on Thursday evenings throughout the summer. Head to Place du Juillet from 6pm – and be prepared to sharpen your elbows.
If you prefer early morning to evening, head to Souillac – just half an hour’s drive east from Sarlat. Every Friday morning, the old covered market hall is the place to be, for the freshest of local produce, preserves and honey, cheese and pate, mellons and olives. It’s wonderful. Grab a sticky and sweet walnut pastry – and ask yourself: why isn’t your local market this much fun?
If exclusively local and artisan are important to you look for the “Marchés des Producteurs de Pays” markets. This select band of summer pop-ups offer the freshest-of-fresh produce sold directly from the producer. Look for the red shopping basket logo.
You have to make your own call when it comes to another of the region’s specialities, the indulgent duck or goose liver paté known as foie gras. But a word on this: if you’re of the opinion it’s a cruel practice, you might want to avoid other duck delicacies too, such as magrets (plump duck breasts, also produced by force feeding the birds, a technique known as ‘gavage’). If you’re not, you’ll find farmers happy to show you their techniques: which, they claim, adhere to the strictest animal welfare standards. The jury is out, we’d say.
How can we have got this far into the feature without mentioning the local wines? The region sits at the heart of some of the finest vineyards in the world – Bordeaux, St Emilion and Bergerac amongst them.
Bergerac, especially, is an exciting appellation – quality is on the up, year after year. Make time for a visit to Chateau Monbazillac, just south of Bergerac for a taste of its stunning desert wine.
Then again, you could just as happily head straight to Bergerac itself. The medieval market town in the south west of the Dordogne holds its market on a Saturday, around the church. It’s a good one, drawing producers from near and far.
Elsewhere, there’s a museum dedicated to the history of Bergerac wines (Maison des Vins, Rue des Récollets) where you can taste your way through the region’s 13 registered designations of origin. Or, if you’re designated driver, it’s ok to sip and spit, like a true connoisseur. Then buy a bottle to take back to your parc! The town’s awash with fabulous restaurants, especially in the streets of the old town.
If, however, you’re looking to enjoy an al fresco lunch alongside the Dordogne river, keep an eye out for Guinguettes – impromptu, informal and thoroughly enchanting summer bistros, often set up on river banks, their tables spread out under canopies. Food is relaxed, and often served with a side order of accordionists and a little dance! How very civilised.
Our six favourite Dordogne tastes
Crumble this nutty, velvety goats’ cheese – introduced by the Romans – into a salad, or spread on a baguette. Heaven.
Confit de canard
Duck legs, slow cooked and then fried and served with potatoes cooked in duck fat. Rich, indulgent and probably not on Slimming World’s approved list.
Infused with fragrant mountain herbs, Quercy lamb is robust yet delicate – packed with flavour and incredibly tender.
The Dordogne’s highly sought-after truffles are called ‘Black Diamonds’ for a reason: they’re eye-wateringly expensive. But shaved into scrambled eggs, salads, scallops or cream sauces a little goes a long way.
You’ll see the trees everywhere. And whether marinated in a liqueur (Vin de noix), roasted, dipped in sugar or chocolate, made into ice-cream, oil or bread or simply crumbled onto cheese, the taste is pure Dordogne.
Sweet as sugar, the strawberries of the Dordogne are little crimson parcels of happiness. The region is responsible for 60% of France’s entire strawberry production. Juicy punnets can be picked up almost anywhere.
We’ve plenty of parcs in the Dordogne – all a whisker away from something delicious, be it a night market, vineyard tour or riverside bistro. Go and find your perfect spot, and prepare for one very tasty summer.