One of our regular holiday guests,
Debbie from California, wrote the following post,
showing her passion for the Périgord:
Every love affair has a story....
and mine began with the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
In a span of less than 3 minutes, my life was literally turned upside down
as my home and all of its contents shook to destruction.
With insurance and time the house was put back together,
but the tremors that persisted in my soul were harder to heal.
My neighbor in California had long maintained a vaction home
in the Périgord and that summer I inquired if I might come and stay there
while my home was being fixed.
Thus began my "AMOUR FOU", which has lasted now 17 years.
Friends ask "why do you always go back to the same place"?
instead of seeking new sites and environs.
And the answer is that when I am here, I am more at home that at home.
Over the time I have brought many of these friends to the Périgord with me,
and have made converts of them all; because when you are here,
every sense finds delight, and it never, never gets old or prosaic.
To be more specific, I return to an area in the Dordogne
that centers around the villages of Verteillac,
Visually the views are a patchwork of color; sometimes panoramic in scope,
with sunrise or sunset a spectacle of reds and orange and violet.
There are walks or drives through fern filled mini forests,
with the light filtered through leaves that cannot help but fill one with awe.
I come in the summer for the fields of sunflowers as far as the eye can see,
mixed with wheat and corn. I come in the winter for the quiet and peace,
the crisp air, the shorter days and cozy nights
Because I am a culinary instructor and caterer in Los Angeles, California,
I must confess to being a complete Francophile,
especially when discussing cuisine.
The Périgord, for me, is French food at its finest.
Because it is basically farmland, it is the source of the best
France has to offer in produce, wines, cheeses,
and local specialities such as truffles and fresh foie gras in winter.
I have traveled through the wine regions of Bordeaux,
drinking wonderful wines, at prices that are not to be believed back home.
Cognac is just one hour north-west, and the local Pineau de Charentes
is so memorable that back in California we have to search for someone
who sold it because in the sipping, it can transport one back
just as music can set a time or place in the memory.
Over the years I have made many acquaintances and new friends here.
One such couple, Ron and Karin, were introduced to me through
an American friend from New York when they were restoring
and extending one of their old outbuildings into a holiday house,
with pool and garden, adjacent to their home.
Ron supervised as well as doing much of the building
and Karin was responsible for the design of the rooms and the interiors
as she has long been in the design profession.
The result is a little piece of heaven called La Pouyette,
(I almost hate to name the location for fear too many others will come
and my special place will suddenly have a long wait list......)
The holiday house, restored and built in the same architectural style
as the main house and traditional for the area,
has a completely functional kitchen where my favorite pastime on holiday
is to cook for the sheer pleasure of it.
The garden in the spring and summer is full of herbs and flowers
that Karin encourages guests to make use of for the meal and table decoration
The property includes trees such as the giant fig, pomegranate and walnut
which at the right season are wonderful to incorporate into a menu.
Every Friday there is a large farmers market or Marché in Ribérac
that is well attended by locals from quite a distance.
The early riser can get the true gems: such as the farm fresh eggs,
Ron is an early riser, and is a source for these products even if you
are not ready to roll out of bed so early on a vacation.
Walking up and down past the various vendors
is when the reality of how different this region is from California.
(which is a bit ironic as California is considered the "salad bowl" of America
with its farms and produce that supply the rest of the country)
There are products that you simply cannot get back in America
even living in a large city with a multitude of shopping possibilities.
I cannot find foie gras
or truffles locally even if price were no obstacle.
Duck.....are you kidding???
Here you find every part of the duck, the goose, and 5 other poultry to boot.
There are varieties of items we have just one of.......
...like shallots for example. Here you might find 6 different types.
Or olives, or sausage....and don't even get me started on cheese!
Here one buys bread everyday, and when you leave the boulangerie
with your package, it makes a crunch sound and says
"eat me now, I was just pulled from the oven......."
Locally made sausage and 'jambon' at the Friday market....
...Vendors are happy to offer a little gouter...or taste
Endive in the winter cut from flats kept covered to keep out the light.
It doesn't get any fresher!!!!
Cannot find celeriac at home in California...
and without it how does one make remoulade?
I look at these eggs and I just want to go into the kitchenand start making omelets, or scrambled
with some shaving from the truffle I just bought.
It is the season for oysters....
...other shellfish like the scallops here with the shell still attached. Unlike California, where bi-valves can only be eaten fresh during months with an 'R' - here they are available all year.
Lots of good local honey from the happy Périgordian bees....
They have an 'amour fou' here too
Special indoor marché during the truffle and foie gras season....
The worldwide known black truffels from the Périgord...
I bought some black truffles.....How can you not?
And I bought some goose foie gras......
These are duck cuisse...the thighs....
I love to cook them 'confit style', in their own fat, until the skin is crispy.
It just does not get any better than this!
Me...just to prove I really was here....
wearing my jacket; it was cold out.
A hot cup of coffee or tea at this café is a good way to warm up
before heading home. Also it's the place to run into friends
because everyday is an opportunity to be social here in the Périgord.
On the way back 'home'....
....I love this wooden door, set in a typical limestone building
Once back in the kitchen...
....there are some local cook books
and when one arrives there is always a bottle of wine,
a loaf of fresh bread, fresh farm eggs and some other little surprises....
I am sipping a little glass of the Pineau from this bottle as I type this.....
...and then I am inspired to make some scrambled egg with truffle
...I go for a walk...
...through "my" little forest and open fields.
All good things must come to an end
and I must leave tomorrow.
But I am not sad because I know that I will be back
in July, just after Bastille day.
And when I return the fields will be full of sunflowers
and the Ribérac market will be bursting with summer produce.
A bientôt - La Pouyette