Pas­sion For Perig­ord

…We are deep among the vine­yards of Berg­erac…

Taste & Travel - - Contents - byCa ther­ine V

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.


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.

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