Passion For Perigord
…We are deep among the vineyards of Bergerac…
CATHERINE VAN BRUNSCHOT spends an idyllic week in the French countryside.
IT'S 9:30 AM AND I'M ELBOW-DEEP IN foie gras in a château in southwest France. Not literally to the elbows, mind you, but I'm as upclose-and-personal as I'm likely to get, thrilled and terrified in equal measure as I tease vascular tissue free from the prized duck liver. Despite the cooling armour of the castle's thick walls, the foie gras seems to be melting under my fingers and I'm beginning to sweat. My mentor, Chef Thierry Meret, reassures me with his usual bonhomie — and a shot of plum brandy. Soon the cleaned-but-slightly-decimated liver is ready for pinches of salt, pepper and nutmeg, lashings of liqueur and firm wrapping in a torchon — a tea towel — soaked in white wine. Tied butcher-style with twine, I leave it to cure in the refrigerator for a day or two to become foie
gras au torchon — a traditional preparation in this region, whose foie gras is known throughout France.
The region is the Perigord — a patchwork of vineyards, croplands and forest anchored by the Dordogne River in northern Aquitaine — and the kitchen belongs to Château Montastruc, a 13th-century castle fortified and renovated through centuries of battle and glory. The castle's my home for a week as I attend a “gastronomic adventure” hosted annually by Calgary cooking school, Cuisine et Château.
When we first met in 2014, Meret was a guest chef at the Slow Food tent at the Calgary Folk Music Festival. He described the proffered meal passionately — of course — but it was his infectious humour and his genuine engagement with those around him that kept me in thrall at the booth — and later, in classes at the beautifully appointed cooking school he helms with his work-and-lifepartner, Chef Marnie Fudge.
Born in the Loire valley and Paris-trained, Meret has been a long-time visitor to, and fan of, the Perigord region.
PHOTOS THIS SPREAD CLOCKWISE FROM TOP
LEFT Bergerac vineyards; Comte François-Xavier de Saint-Exupéry of Château de Tiregand; Chefs Fudge & Meret depart Château Montastruc; Escargot samples; Escargot farmer Aurelie Binot De Vente with Chef Fudge; Cheese platter.