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trufflelover

A week of study in Gascony

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I'm so excited to have applied for and received a two-week culinary writing residency at Kitchet-at-Camont, a culinary center run by Kate Hill in rural southwest France.

My first week I'll participate in a regularly scheduled program -- Camp Confit. My second week is entirely up to me in terms of what to do, where to visit, what to learn to cook.

It's an embarrassment of riches -- with France before me, how to I begin to narrow it down?

On one of the 7 days Kate and I will visit le Marché aux Truffes de Lalbenque, and if I can scrape up enough euros, maybe even purchase some for for dinner that night.

Other than this I have a week wide open to plan a program that will help me learn about the cuisine of southwestern France. Aside from simply learning some cooking techniques, my primary focus will be the connection people have with their food - with farms, food artisans, butchers, etc.

I would love suggestions for either particular dishes to study (foie, pate, cassoulet and confit are covered the first week), or excursions/experiences to work into the time. It's my first time to this region of France. Thanks!

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On one of the 7 days Kate and I will visit le Marché aux Truffes de Lalbenque, and if I can scrape up enough euros, maybe even purchase some for for dinner that night.

Trufflelover

A suggestion for you and Kate. Drive just a bit further, about 20KM, and go to the truffle market in Limogne. Why? Because you are very unlikely to be able to buy a truffle in Lalbenque. The big buyers swoop in and buy everything in about 30 seconds flat. Boom! Its all over. Unless Kate knows somebody its a hard place for the novice to buy. Still great fun to go to however.

In Limogne the market is much smaller and there is usually only one wholesaler. Everyone with truffles to sell goes to him and gets their findings weighed. Once all have been weighed the price/kilo will be announced by the wholesaler. If you want to buy look out for someone who only has one or two truffles to sell. Normally, they will be happy to sell to you at the same price. You can get a relative bargain.

Meanwhile, pray for rain in SW France. Its been very dry so far which has been bad for the truffles and the ceps. I've only seen the cap hunters out once this fall & I haven't found any field mushrooms to date. Its just too dry.

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I count on fellow eGers to give you all the starred recs.

Have you considered visiting some of the ferme-auberges?

They are farms that have a side business of a part-time restaurant. Most of them are open only on the weekend. They do not do sophisticated dishes and have a limited menu, using only ingredients from the farm itself or from neighboring farm assocaites. The freshness of the food is incomparable; the most common ingredients taste so different it's a revelation. In the Lot and Dordogne, many of the ferme-auberges make their own foie gras of course. It is insanely good.

Not knowing where you are based, I would guess it is near Lalbenque.

My 3 fave ferme-auberges down there are a bit north from Lalbenque, maybe about 1.25 hour to 1.5 hour drive.

- Ferme Auberge du Moulin à Huile de Noix. ROUTE DE SAINT DENIS, Martel. Tel 05.65.37.40.69. As the name indicates, it is a nut oil mill. The owner is happy to show you around the farm.

- Ferme auberge Calvel, Le Bougayrou, Lacave. Tel 05 65 37 87 20. Book way in advance as the place is always filled with regular locals.

- Auberge la Taulado, LA GENEBRe, Les Eyzies-de-tayac-sireuil. Tel : 05.53.29.67.63 - Fax : 05.53.59.64.42. This farm is also extremely near the prehistoric cave Font de Gaumes. Do try to visit it. You'll be so proud of humanity…

Sorriest allow me to repeat: the cusisine of these ferme-auberges is not sophisticated but is ridiculously fresh. Service is good but much more casual than a restaurant.Btw, this is my "virgin post".

Bon appétit.

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"Other than this I have a week wide open to plan a program that will help me learn about the cuisine of southwestern France. Aside from simply learning some cooking techniques, my primary focus will be the connection people have with their food - with farms, food artisans, butchers, etc."

A suggestion is that you buy & read a copy of "Goose Fat & Garlic" by Jeanne Strang before you come. This 'cookbook' will tell you more about the cooking and way of life in SW France than anything else I can think of. You should be able to get it in paperback via Amazon.

Kate might be able to arrange for you to 'do' a pig. This is where you participate in the preserving of a whole pig. These days the killing is mostly done in an abattoir so you don't have to go through the actually killing part. You do, however, help make all of the various sausages and pates that the country folk used to preserve the pig for the winter. Its a fabulous experience.

You could also take a special trip down to the home of the cassole. Lots to see and eat as well as being able to make your very own authentic casoulette.

Try to make estafinado. A classic SW dish.

There's so much you can try & do. Just enjoy.

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