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Nature’s Edible Treasures in Nice & Toulouse

15th August 2012 • Posted in Where2 Magazine

South-west France punches far above its weight in delectable food! Choose Nice or Toulouse as your gateway to discover and taste some of the world's most prized delicacies.

Beyond four legs and a tail, pigs and dogs have something else in common – a remarkable sense of smell. This has made them invaluable to truffle growers in the South West of France where in the warm, damp darkness of oak tree roots the famous truffes du Périgord grow – a buried treasure for which wealthy restaurateurs pay very big money.

Nice Toulouse image

French cochons truffiers (truffle hogs) have a rare talent for sniffing out truffles, even those buried well underground, so they have an important role in truffle hunts – although their owners need to be quick off the mark to stop them feasting on the priceless fungus. As a result many now prefer to use dogs (chiens truffiers), even though their sense of smell is not quite in the same league as that of their piggy peers!

The Land of the Duck and Goose

The South West of France has other delicacies on the menu. This is the land of the duck and goose and their products are major regional specialities. Foie gras de canard (literally fattened duck liver) is widely available while more expensive foie gras d’oie (goose liver) is a very special treat, particularly for Christmas and the New Year.

Other parts of the duck are equally delicious. There’s confit – a leg or wing, cooked twice so that the meat falls off the bone and the skin is wonderfully crisp. And gésiers or goose gizzards, which may not sound very nice, are absolutely delicious grilled. Closer to Toulouse you’ll find other regional specialities such as Toulouse sausage. Then there’s the famous cassoulet, an unctuous soft concoction of beans topped with confit, other meats and sausages. Castelnaudary is the cassoulet capital of the region. 

In every market you’ll find walnut and truffle oils, walnut and prune liqueurs, and the famous pruneaux d’Agen (plump, juicy prunes from Agen). Depending on the season there’ll be wild mushrooms, melons, figs, walnuts, and the renowned pink garlic from the village of Lautrec... Then there are the cheeses, their names reflecting their origins: soft creamy rounds of Rocamadour, a goat’s cheese eaten at different stages of the ageing process; tart, crumbly ewe’s milk Roquefort; Truffe du Périgord, a soft cheese made from unpasteurised goat cheese; Le Sarlet Chèvrefeuille, a pasteurised goat’s milk cheese aged to enhance flavour; and the Boule du Périgord, with truffle of course... sublime!

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