See, there is this place in the world I call home. It is a small village lying in the mountains in the French Pyrénées, at the foot of Mount Canigou. Wherever I may roam (yes yes, I know I know) I always long for this place and always end up there at some point or another. I grew up there even if only for the holidays (Easter and summer as a kid and then whenever I felt like going as my parents felt I was responsible enough to have my own set of keys, fools…) So now, as my life is pretty much quasi-nomadic I sort of consider this village my headquarters. Suffice it to say, the food around there is part of the deal.
French Food Roadtrip 3 – Small House in the Pyrénées
There is nothing in the village in term of stores, not even the über-ubiquitous bakery. One has to hike one’s way to find food in the nearby villages, in adjacent valleys. And in one of these villages there is… the Butcher, capital b. The man is a character, e un personaggio superiore! His shop is famous all over the area and increasingly farther away as tourists come to know about it, year after year. Around the end of the summer holidays, the line to bring some goods home can become quite impressive. What’s even more impressive is the slowness with which, no matter the length of said line, the man asks, “And what about your grandson, madam Bronchu? How is he doing? Has got himself a nice job, I hear… good good… A little more of sausage maybe? Some liver for the cat?” And if anyone in the line-up manifests any sign of restlessness (usually Parisians, ahah) he smirks and winks at a local while slowly cutting a nice piece of meat and detailing how, in his humble opinion, this particular one should be cooked… A delight. It took us about three quarters of an hour of something closer to street theatre than to trading, to buy our share of charcuterie. It could have taken longer, but I don’t care. I enjoy watching the man and there was no way I wasn’t going to leave with some of his saucisse anyhow. For this is what he is really famous for: the Catalan sausage, to be grilled on a bundle of sarments (dried vines) with a side of roustes (or ventrèches, sort of grilled lard). Of course we also stocked up on some fouet (literally the whip, a very dry and very thin sausage, pork of course… almost everything is made out of pork), boutifare (blood pudding, white and red, can be enjoyed cooked, grilled or as cold cuts) and various pâtés (it ranges from rabbit flavoured with Banyuls sweet wine to traditional no-thrill pork or pork with some Armagnac thrown in for good measure).
As it was too late to then return home and cook all that immediately (I’d have to chop some wood to feed the fireplace…) we decided to go to a bistro de village and enjoy some local stuff. There are a number of places all around Rousillon which provide cheap accommodation and food, only from local suppliers. We failed to call in advance so got a bit chastized but the cook still had some estofat on the stove. Saved! Estofat is a special way of cooking a stew very slowly. This one was made precisely with the same sausage and blood pudding from the Butcher. Well, I did tell you it was the place to go. We even managed to taste locally-brewed beers (though we failed to actually visit the brewery as the owner was away delivering his beer to a famous photo festival, it is a one-man operation). The cook also made a starter especially for us: a salad with goat cheese melted on some toasts accompanied with local honey. Fresh and delicious. The estofat was tasty and good-looking, presented with sweet potatoes and purple ones as well. We finished the meal with homemade sorbet, apple and blackberry. All that with a view on Mount Canigou. A treat.
Of course three days in the village cannot go without having one of the neighbour’s mandatory apéritif that you never know when is going to end and what you are going to eat and/or drink… We showed up with a selection of boutifare, pâté on toasts, local cheeses and Cotes du Roussillon wine (close to Perpignan, roughly) to a nearby house and were welcomed with some southwest wines (close to Toulouse, roughly) and a savoury cake with olives and cheeses (comté and parmeggiano) amongst other things… The evening ended quite a few hours later with a tasting of Bas-Armagnac (also from around Toulouse) and we almost had to crawl back home even if it was served in des verres à goutte. This literally means “glasses for drops” as they are very small and the urban legend goes that if you put a drop of liquor outside of your glass while serving yourself you are too drunk and have to go home. A regular occurrence.
Read the Entire French Food Roadtrip
After a couple of train rides we will arrive at our second stop: Txot Sidreria in Figueras, city of Salvator Dalí for the ones amongst you readership with a fancy for psychedelic painting. To be noted that this rather small Catalan town sports the world famous Dalí museum (yes, the one with the bathroom sculpted on the ceiling of some room, go figure…) However we were there to catch a car ride to the South of France but not before stopping for some new-school tapas and Basque Cider! Basque Country cider in Catalunya, you got to be kidding me!
What could be better than that – A small house in the mountains? Oh yes, stop 4 on the French Food Roadtrip: Roussillon and the Sea.
After refreshing ourselves at Roussillon and the seaside, now it is time to move on and jump in the mix of French Food Roadtrip 5 – Center of la France!
Once you have a taste of the city, nothing but the best will do. This is where we take the French Food Roadtrip 6 – to Lyon & Grenoble.
This is getting intense people & I think you can feel it. Now that we survived Lyon by protecting ourselves with some of the best local cuisine, wine and beer we venture to French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget and Montbéliard in le Jura.
What is Choucroute? Come with us and find out on the French Food Roadtrip 8 – La Maison de la Choucroute in Strasbourg
And finally–though this is not the end–we must finish our French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine.