The Midi Pyrenees is the biggest region in France, comprising the departments:
Tarn (81), Aveyron(12), Haute Garonne (31), AriÃ¨ge (09), Tarn et Garonne (82), Lot (46), Haute PyrÃ©nÃ©es (65), and the Gers (32).
The countryside is varied and contrasting, which is why the gastronomy is so diverse and typical to the region.
Here are ten suggestions especially for gourmets and foodies, which will not only tantalise the tastebuds, but will also Â take you to some magnificent countryside and breath-taking tourist spots:
Â 1. AVEYRON (12) – Les Caves de Roquefort – I guess everyone knows the cheese, Roquefort. But for those that don’t, it is a green-veined cheese made from ewe’s milk, which is then matured in naturally formed chalk caves in the sparsely populated department of Aveyron (12). The 2 kilometers of caves are in the chalk promentary that rises above the flat plain, under the plateau de Combalou – while you are here, there are lovely views all around, across to the Plateau de Larzac and beyond the neighboring Causses, from the 6 kilometer long “sentier des Ã©chelles” footpath.
Legend tells us that the cheese was discovered, when a shepherd, who was in love with a local girl, whilst meeting his lover, forgot his cheese and bread in the caves at Roquefort, when he returned days later, the mould, formed by the cool, humid air “Les Fleurons”, produced, what we now know as Roquefort – true or false, it’s a nice story.
The cheese has been an AOC (appÃ©lation d’origine ContrÃ´lÃ©e) since 1925, although it has been made for much longer, particularly appreciated by Casanova, Rabelais and Voltaire. Charles VI decreed that the villagers of Roquefort-sur-Solzon had the exclusive right to produce, mature and sell the cheese the cheese in 1660.
The visit includes cheese tasting and information about the cheese making – and you can buy the cheese at the end of the visit – but it is much more expensive that the cheese that you can buy in the supermarket, although they state that the quality here is better than in the supermarket, which is a little difficult to defend … The visits are open all year round except for Christmas and New Year, and in summer fromÂ 9h30 to 18h30. Roquefort cheese is ONLY made in Roquefort. There are many visits, including the bigger names, such as Papillon and SociÃ©tÃ© (below are details of the visits in the Roquefort SociÃ©tÃ© caves).
Adults : 5 â‚¬
Children younger than 10 : go free
Children between 11 and 16 : 3,5 â‚¬
Groups of more than 20 – per person : 3,5 â‚¬
Â 2. LOT (46) – Le Rocamadour – This small honey / cream-coloured cheese is made from unpasteurised goat’s milk, which forms small flat, round cheeses weighing 35 grammes each, known as Cabecou, after the race of goat from which the cheese is made. There are many farms which produce the Rocamadour, which has been an AOC since 1965, as the area of production covers a large part of the Causees du QuÃ©rcy. You must visit Rocamadour, which is classed as one of the most beautiful villages, rightly so, in France and why not go on a boat trip at the amazing underground river at the deep cave at the Gouffre de Padirac (another beautiful village of France). Near Padirac (3 kms from the village) is the farm of the Cazal family, where visitors can visit the goats and see the milking and cheese production, before buying some cheese for lunch or dinner.
Open from 09h00 to 19h00 in summer, with milking at 18h30.
Â 3. Fronton (31) – Route des Vins de Fronton – the vineyards of Fronton are situated between Toulouse and Montauban, covering an area of 2,400 hectares, shaped like a rugby ball, which is quite fitting given that the area is a Mecca for rugby. Le grape used in Fronton wines is unique in the world, using the NÃ©grette variety, producing full-bodied reds that can stand up to the most robust of cassoulets, with a complex blend of blackcurrant, raspberry, violet and blackberry with flowery rosÃ©s full of freshness and fruity flavour.
A good starting point is la maison du Vin at Fronton, situated in a newly renovated chÃ¢teau and the rest, well just follow the signs an taste what is on offer – the chÃ¢teaux and producers in the region are well indicated, with over 200 signs that help the visitor discover the countryside and the excellent wines therein. Probably the best places to visit for the wine are, Vacquiers, Villemur sur Tarn, Campsas, Fronton and Labastide St Pierre. While in the region, you must visit Toulouse – it is a magnificent city, crossed by the Garonne river and the Canal du Midi.Â
Â Â 4. Les Petits Fruits at LiÃ¨s in the Haute PyrÃ©nÃ©es (65) in the beautiful BÃ©arne, is where you can taste delicious jams – over 30 different varieties, liqueurs and apÃ©ritifs all made from the fruit production of the farm. They are probably most famous for the GÃ©nÃ©pi – (Wormwood) an alpine plant with which they produce liqueurs, Pastis and apÃ©ritifs. The traditional recipe for GÃ©nÃ©pi is 40 stalks, 40 sugar lumps, 40 days of maceration in alcohol of 40Â° strength. They produce a range of jams to accompany, to perfection, the local cheeses, grilled meats and foie gras, including black cherry with licorice – superb with a ewe’s-milk cheese. On a similar theme, their black cherry aperitif, flavoured with the traditional Basque, piment d’Espelette is both delicious and highly original. Visitors can pick their own blueberries (Myrtilles) in summer. Visits are free, from 09h00 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 18h30. If in the region, there are lots of things to do and see, including the Cirque de Gavarnie, Lourdes, Pau and the chain of the PyrÃ©nÃ©es up to the Pic du Midi.
We will be following this up with a series of posts based around the food culture of France – if you would like to share some of the delicacies and specialities of your region, please contact us so we can post the information for our readers and visitors. Bon ballade et bon appÃ©tit!