Narbonne ~ The Belly

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From sud de france:240x245-Halles-Narbonne-N125_focus_events

Much more than a market, Les Halles of Narbonne is one of the nerve centers of the city. Built in 1901, this vast market hall is still active and more animated than ever before. Its metal framework shelters nearly seventy food businesses: charcutiers, butchers, pastry-makers, bars, greengrocers, and restaurants, including the storied “Chez Bébelle.” This unique gathering place is completely a part of local culture. In the aisles between the stalls, they say that the market has a soul. A warm, bustling spirit. And 2,800 square metres of enticing fragrances – spices, olives, fresh vegetables, sausage, even – at the right moment, bien sûr –pastis. The people of Narbonne come to Les Halles to do their marketing, of course, but also to stroll and get together with friends. A delightful place, open 365 days a year, where you’ll enjoy letting time go by …
• Every day, 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Les halles, 1 bd du Docteur-Ferroul, Narbonne. www.narbonne.halles.fr

Dining With Stars in Languedoc Roussillon ~

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gastro-pourcel

With 22 Michelin stars, Languedoc-Roussillon is a respected region of gastronomy. Here are the “chosen” restaurants from the 2013 Michelin guide for one of our favorite regions in France:

3 stars
Auberge du Vieux Puits in Fontjoncouse (Aude)

goujon-150x150 michelin

2 stars
Alexandre in Garons (Gard)
Michel Kayser chef du Restaurant: Alexandre, Nimes
Hostellerie le Castellas in Collias (Gard)
Le Parc Franck Putelat in Carcassonne (Aude)

1 star
Michel Del Burgo in Carcassonne (Aude)
Domaine d’Auriac in Carcassonne (Aude)
La Barbacane in Carcassonne (Aude)
L’Ambrosia in Pézens (Aude)
La Bergerie in Aragon (Aude)
Le Puits du Trésor in Lastours (Aude)
L’Hostellerie du Château in La Pomarède (Aude)
La Table Saint Crescent in Narbonne (Aude)
Entre Vigne et Garrigue in Pujaut (Gard)
Le Prieuré in Villeneuve-les-Avignon (Gard)
La Réserve Rimbaud in Montpellier (Hérault)

pourcel michelin

Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier (Hérault)

De Lauzun in Gignac (Hérault)
La Coquerie in Sète (Hérault)
L’Octopus in Béziers (Hérault)
La Galinette in Perpignan (Pyrénées-Orientales)
Le relais des 3 mats in Collioure (Pyrénées-Orientales)
Chez Camillou (Cyril Attrazic) in Aumont-Aubrac (Lozère).

from the 2013 Michelin Guide

An Escorted Tour of Languedoc-Roussillon

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Languedoc-Roussillon: An 8 day/7 Night Escorted Tour – May 11-16, 2014

Nice is nice and Provence is pretty. But the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France is a treasure trove of culinary delights, an exciting new destination. From the Mediterranean Sea to the Pyrenees, you’ll find charming covered markets, traditional French cuisine and the world’s oldest sparkling wine.

Over eight days and seven nights, join Debra as she guides you through ancient Roman roads, medieval castles and rambling ramparts and includes stops in the country’s capital ofcassoulet, where you will not only feast on the hearty regional dish, but learn from an expert how to make it. You’ll be thrilled by the world’s oldest bubbly and delight in a once-in-a-lifetime olive oil tasting and an insider’s artisanal anchovy tour. All will have time to smell the roses in the region’s largest rose garden, a visually and aromatically stunning experience.

 For details, please visit  http://www.tourdeforks.com/culinary_travel_France_Languedoc.shtml

The Perfect Pot for Cassoulet

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cassole_cassoulet_potWe all know that having the right tool for the job, especially in the kitchen, makes the job easier and usually successful.

This is certainly true if you want to make a cassoulet…it’s the pot, or cassole, that makes the dish.

The material and the shape of the pot allows for the slow cooking demanded by cassoulet. The shape, almost cone-like, gives maximum exposure to the top of the cassoulet, allowing the crust to form. It is also only glazed on the inside, which means that the outside of the pot doesn’t get super hot and makes it easier to handle.

The real cassole, from which cassoulet derives its name, is only made around the town of  Issel located about 8 kilometers from Castelnaudary.

Issel has a long tradition of making pottery, dating back to the 12th century. The first potters found that the clay around the town had special properties that made it perfect for making the pots.

Today, there is one remaining artisanal potter still producing authentic cassoles using ancient methods. Poterie Not, located in Mas Saintes Puelles is a family run pottery worth a visit.

Be sure to buy one for your return home, this perfect pot can’t be found in the U.S.

Bonne continuation!

All the right ingredients for… An Epicurean Adventure in France’s Other South

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When most people think of the south of France they think, “Provence.” But there is another south of France just waiting for you to discover. From the Mediterranean Sea to the Pyrenées Mountains, the diverse region of Languedoc-Roussillon is a rich garden of contrasts and cuisine. On this culinary adventure, enjoy local award-winning products from the source. Sip the original “sparkling” wine in the world’s largest wine producing region. Walk along Roman roads and discover medieval fortresses and castles. Spend time in hillside vineyards beside the blue sea and meet the local people. Uncover some of the secrets of Languedoc Roussillon, its traditions, culinary wealth and breathtaking scenery!

7 days 8 nights                                                 

mapDAY 1: TOULOUSE
Arrival and overnight in Toulouse. Optional guided tour of the city.

DAY 2: CASTELNAUDARY ~ CARCASSONNE
Breakfast at your hotel. On the way to Carcassonne, visit an authentic pottery workshop -one of the few remaining workshops that makes the cassole, a dish used in cooking and serving of cassoulet. Hint: Buy one to take home for your kitchen…you can’t find them in the States!
Continue to Castelnaudary for a short guided tour to discover the world capital of cassoulet. We suggest lunch in Castelnaudary to try the cassoulet – your first taste of the delicious and hearty specialty. After lunch, drive to the fortified hilltop city of Carcassonne, a maze of narrow cobbled streets, ramparts of thick walls, turreted towers. Learn about the history of the city with your guide. Check into your hotel inside the city walls. In the evening enjoy your fantastic surroundings.
Overnight in Carcassonne

DAY 3: LIMOUX ~ ST. HILAIRE
Breakfast at your hotel. Depart for St. Hilaire and Limoux to learn about the oldest sparkling wine in the world (and you thought it was champagne!) A visit to the St. Hilaire Abbaye reveals the actual cellars where sparkling wine was first discovered in 1531. Sip the famous Blanquette de Limoux and several other wines of the area during an explanation from a wine master. If you’re hungry, this afternoon is remarkable: Take a cooking course with a local chef and get the knack of making your own cassoulet – compare yours to the one you dined on in Castelnaudary. After enjoying the fruits of your labor for dinner, you’ll have the traditional recipe, a souvenir apron and your new-found skill to share with family and friends.
Overnight in Carcassonne.

DAY 4: NARBONNE
Breakfast at your hotel. Drive to Narbonne, city of “art and history.” Discover the old town, its gothic cathedral and parts of the Roman road, the via domitia, with your guide. The tour ends in Les Halles – the famous covered market of Narbonne. Indulge in some of the regional specialties before making your purchases for a picnic lunch. You’ll have free time before a late afternoon tasting of Minervois and Corbières wine at your hotel.
Overnight in Narbonne.

DAY 5: FONTFROIDE ~ GRUISSAN
Breakfast at your hotel. Leisurely morning to enjoy the hotel’s surroundings before going to the beautiful Abbaye de Fontfroide. Take time to smell the roses (and herbs) in the largest rose garden of the south of France. After lunch take in the beauty of La Clape, the oldest wine growing area in the world. Here, learn about and taste the wine with an in-depth explanation at a local vineyard. Next, marvel at the unique, charming maritime city of Gruissan to see the Barberousse Tower, part of the 11th century castle found in the quaint circular village. Take time for shopping and dinner in Gruissan.
Overnight in Narbonne

DAY 6: PERPIGNAN ~ COLLIOURE
Breakfast at your hotel. Depart for the charming town of Thuir for a tour of the unique caves of Byrrh. You may think you’ve never heard of it, but you’re sure to recognize the label when you visit the cellars…and you’ve seen the posters in Pottery Barn catalogues! Byrrh is a fortified wine made from grapes grown on the hillsides of Roussillon. If you love the seaside, you’ll love your next visit to the picturesque village of Collioure. This small Mediterranean port on the Vermillion coast has inspired several famous artists. What else is Collioure known for? Anchovies! Want to try these local delicacies? After lunch, you’ll see how they are prepared and preserved at a local factory. Explore the quaint fishing town and take lots of photos. Near the town of Argelès-sur-mer, visit a local olive oil mill. You’ll learn the secret behind extra virgin olive oil and have the opportunity to savor some yourself. You’ll want to take a bottle or two of this mild, velvety olive oil home as a great souvenir of your visit here!
Overnight in Perpignan.

DAY 7: MARKET VISIT AND COOKING CLASS
Breakfast at your hotel. Today affords the opportunity to learn more about Catalan cuisine. The chef will guide you through the market as he purchases and points out regional products for you to prepare during your cooking class. Dine on your own creations for lunch, paired with regional wines, of course! Then shop for more French goodies for your suitcase before prepare for your trip home.
Overnight in Perpignan.

DAY 8: TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
Breakfast and check out from hotel.

Package starts at $1540 and includes:
7 nights in 3* and 4* hotels (optional upgrade to 4*-5* hotels)
Breakfast daily
2 cooking classes
Market visits
1 dinner
2 lunches
Wine tastings
Olive oil tasting
Visits to artisanal shops and factories
Guided walking tours as specified
Entrance fees according to the program
Lunch and dinner suggestions
Prepared itinerary

Package does not include:
Rental Car (can be included upon request)
Airfare
Meals unless specified
Parking fees

      Let us customize this for you…

contact:
Kathy@tourdeforks.com
debra@tourdeforks.com
http://www.tourdeforks.com
336 253 5862

Tour de Forks and French Food Travels maintain sole rights to this itinerary

Department of The Aude ~ 5 Diverse Landscapes to Explore in Cathar Country

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Discover this part of Languedoc Roussillon’s cornucopia of wonders: perfect climate, lots of sun, sandy beaches, great gastronomy and wine, extensive medieval and Roman history. As in other parts of the region, the locals have a passion for good wine and food.  Proud of their art de vivre, they are attached to their land and traditions – a way of life that began with the Romans when they planted vines and olive trees!

The department of Aude comprises 5 different pays or “landscapes:”

Pays CarcassonnePays Carcassonnais: known for its deep caves, castles, fortified medieval city of Carcassonne and the Canal du Midi.

Pays Corbieres MinervoisPays Corbières Minervois: Famous for vineyards on rocky slopes that descend to the Mediterranean Sea producing great wine, scented scrublands, the Canal du Midi, caves, Romanesque churches.

Pays Haute Vallee de l'AudePays de la Haute-Vallée de L’Aude: Following the path of the River Aude, this authentic and enticing area is home to Limoux sparkling wine – the oldest in world. The diverse mountain climate of the Pyrenées offers winter sports and beautiful ski resorts.

Pays de la NarbonnaisePays Lauragais: A plentiful land dotted with windmills, vineyards, fields of grain and the Route du du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary along with the continuation of the Canal du Midi.

Pays LauragaisPays Narbonnaise en Méditerranée: Narbonne is the ancient Roman capital of extraordinary architecture, miles of sandy beaches, resort towns, parks and the wine of the Massif of La Clape.

No matter which Pays you visit, no matter where you turn in the Aude Department, this part of France will inspire you with its rich history, warm people and unbeatable gourmet treasures.
Allons-y et bon appètit!

Diverse and Undiscovered ~ Wines of Languedoc Roussillon

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Map of wine region

Map of wine region

In the sun-dappled terrain of this little-known yet evolving wine region the vineyards seem endless. A plentiful land with untapped potential, there is a wine type for everyone. Unlike winemakers in the more famous wine regions or Bordeaux or Burgundy, the creative vintners of the Languedoc Roussillon region are making their mark by trying different blends of more than 100 grape varieties. They have over 700,000 acres of land with widely contrasting climates on which to use their know-how and cutting-edge techniques.

The region of Languedoc Roussillon is one of the oldest and largest vineyards in the world. The area stretches from the Mediterranean sea to the Pyrenées Mountains.  The soil is varied and some of the vineyards are laid upon ancient riverbed stones (similar to those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape) that go back as far as the 6th century BC, when the Greeks were the first to plant vines.

There are 40 AOC designations of red, white rosé and sparkling wines with often complex flavors, not to mention an array of fortified and sweet wines. This is the largest organically-farmed wine region in France.

When you think of “bubbly” you no doubt think of champagne. But it’s in this region that the world’s first “bubbly” was born. According to Sud de France, “In 1531, in a small Benedictine abbey in Saint-Hilaire (now Limoux), monks perfected the process of fermenting wine in glass flasks, making the world’s first sparkling wine more than one century before Dom Pérignon in Champagne.” Yes, the
sparkling wines of Limoux are surprisingly champagne-like…the bubbles come from a second fermentation in the bottle.

Corbières is Languedoc-Roussillon’s largest appellation with land that is rocky and dry. The intense, full-bodied rounded reds have spicy overtones and to well with red meat or game. Try a rosé that is refreshingly fruity and light. The dry whites have just a titch of floral flavor and go perfect with seafood.

Banyuls is a Mediterranean port that has kept its historic character and Catalan culture. The wine from this part of Languedoc Roussilon is a naturally sweet dark red that is perfect as an apéro with tapenade, or at the end of a meal with gateau chocolat for dessert.

Wines from Crostières de Nimes have been around since Roman times. The reds go well with meat and poultry. The rosé wines are deliciously pink served chilled on a summer (or any season!) afternoon and the whites go well with seafood.

So many different wines to talk about in Languedoc Roussillon, but I’ll save that for another blog.

Suffice it to say, here – influenced by the beauty of the coast, the hills and mountains, the plains and sun – creative cooks and chefs have ingredients at their fingertips for fabulous food and wonderful wine. What a combination! This must be the key to the secret of long life among the people of this area.

In the 2009 edition of Wine Enthusiast magazine, Lauren Buzzeo said, “With more than one third of France’s total wine production coming from this region, it is truly amazing that more people don’t know about the fantastic and widely varying wines of the Sud de France.”

Want to learn more? We’re offering an exclusive culinary tour of Languedoc Roussillon in May, 2014. Stay tuned for more details.

Santé!

Uncovering the gourmet secrets of Languedoc-Roussillon ~ the Gard, Camargue & Cévennes

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Brandade de Morue

Languedoc-Roussillon is as gastronomically diverse as its landscapes. To give you a comprehensive look at all the products would make this post a mile – well ok not that long – but way too long to get through. So, I’ve decided to make a few bite-sized posts that will concentrate on one départment at a time.

Pack up your appetite as we head to the Gard, Camargue and Cévennes:

Brandade de Nîmes
Brandade is basically mashed salted cod blended with olive oil. In some regions the cod is mixed with potatoes and garlic but not in Nîmes.

Pastries of Nîmes
These were first served in the 1800’s. A mixture of veal and pork is covered with pastry and baked. They are served hot. Best place in Nîmes to try this delicacy? At Christoper Brunetti’s bakery in Les Halles.

Picholine Olive
This olive grown around Nîmes is harvested in September and has been granted an AOP.

Camargue bull stew

Gardianne de Taureau

Camargue Salt
“Fleur de Sel” of Camargue makes everything taste better! Be sure to pick up a few for yourself and as gifts.

Camargue Rice
This is the only region that produces rice in France. Be sure to be on the lookout for the red variety ~ riz rouge de Camargue.

Gardianne de Tareau
This is a rich stew made from the meat of the Camargue bulls. Many times it is served with the rice of the Camargue.

Other products worth tasting

Gariguette – strawberries from Nîmes

Sand asparagus – Look for them in the spring. Grown in the Petite Camargue and the Gard

Cévennes sweet onions – served in salads and along with meats

Cévennes chestnuts – Historically, these chestnuts were a main source of food for the inhabitants of the area. They are used to make flour, bread, in soups and roasted and grilled. Try to find some flour to bring home.

Bonne continuation et bon appétit!

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5 Reasons to Love Languedoc Roussillon

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Baie-de-Paulilles_slideshow_landscape From the Mediterranean Sea to the Pyrenees Mountains, the region of Languedoc-Roussillon is a garden of contrasts and rich terroir. This diverse land is beckoning you to uncover its treasures. Before we go into more detail, here’s a brief overview of the wealth of the region:

Wine
A wine-lover’s paradise! Between year round sunshine rich soil and winds that keep the vines healthy, Languedoc Roussillon has become the world’s largest wine producing region. With over 40 AOC labels of white, red, rosé and sparkling wines, small-scale vineyards produce wines of rich bouquets and complex flavors. Cultivated by Greeks and developed by Romans, the vineyards stretch from the Rhone River to the Pyrenees Mountains and extend all the way down to the beautiful sea of the Mediterranean.

Food
Just thinking about the cuisine of the regions makes our taste buds tingle. Here, gourmet chefs rival each other for talent in using fresh, local ingredients. The sea salt , the rice from the Camargue, fresh legumes for cassoulet, markets plentiful with fresh veggies and fruits, oysters and seafood fresh from the Mediterranean and local waters…we could go on and on. We love to meet producers, farmers, vintners and chefs…which means eating and drinking some of the most deliciously varied, best food in the world! The area is loaded with gastronomic restaurants at affordable prices.
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History
You’ll discover Greek and Roman wonders of architecture, fortresses, castles and abbeys that bear witness to a rich historic past. Many traces of prehistoric times are also found throughout Languedoc Roussillon. History is so rich in this region that there are 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the fortified town of Carcassonne, the iconic Pont du Gard Bridge, the engineering marvel of the Canal du Midi that links the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, the Vauban fortresses and the pilgrimage routes of Santiago de Compostella.
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Landscape
Languedoc Roussillon has over 350 miles of coast with vast stretches of fine sand, fishing ports and hillside terraces beside the blue sea. Salt water ponds and fresh water lakes are full of sea life. The intensity of the sunlight on vineyards, valleys and mountains has brought artists here for centuries. The aroma of lavender, wild herbs and flowers like juniper, rosemary, thyme, and savory scents the air. In the enchanting cities of art and history, streets are bustling with boutiques and markets where you can buy local, artisanal products and wares.

Culture

Because of the beauty and diversity of the landscape, along with a welcoming climate, the people have a certain joie and art de vivre and love to celebrate traditions with yearly festivals. The culture is steeped in history, and is a perfect blend of old and new that they love to share with travelers.  In enchanting cities of art and history, streets are bustling with boutiques and markets where you can chat with the local people and buy their artisanal products and wares.

Come with us as we go to Languedoc Roussillon to uncover some of the secrets of its traditions, culinary wealth and beautiful scenery! Stay tuned!