The Loire Valley, often referred to as the Garden of France, is only an hour’s drive south of Paris.
After the frenetic pace of the French capital the Loire Valley is a complete contrast, with its historic towns and villages set in gentle green hills, sprinkled with vineyards and hundreds of chateaux, including perhaps the best-known, Chateau de Chambord, a Renaissance masterpiece.
The Loire River, which dominates the region, rises in the southern Massif Central and slices through this beautiful part of France, with the towns of Blois, Tours and Saumur sitting on its banks. High on any visitor’s list of other things to see along the river are the many Troglodyte houses carved from the soft limestone.
Some of the finest French wines available come from the wine regions of Touraine, Chinon and Anjou, not forgetting Sancerre and Muscadet. For the most enthusiastic, there are a number of Loire wine trails to follow. Like most other French wine, Loire Valley varieties are referenced by the geographical district they come from and not the grape.
While it may not have the same range of cuisine as next-door Burgundy, the Loire Valley offers a number of superb dishes made from locally caught fish from the Loire and its tributaries; wild boar from the region’s forests and poultry from the Orleans area. Mushrooms grown in the limestone caves around Saumur are found in dishes throughout the country.
Like the rest of France, vegetables, play an important part in cooking and the Loire is no different.
A few which are definitely worth further investigation are listed below:
-Quenelles de brochet. Poached pike mousse
-Tourangelle soup. Made with local vegetables and salt pork.
-Rillettes de Tours. Chunks of pork cooked in pork fat, using bouquet garni to add flavour.
-Jargeau sausage. Pork chitterling sausage.
-Fouace. Flat bread baked in a wood burning stove, can be filled with a variety of things, most popular are rillettes, mushrooms, cheese, bacon and beans.
-Noisettes de porc aux pruneaux. Pork medallions cooked with prunes, cream and white wine.
For those with a sweet tooth there is the ubiquitous Tarte Tatin and the less well-known Clafoutis, a mouth-watering cake filled with cherries, not forgetting the fruit macaroons of Orleans.
If you prefer the cheese board, there are plenty, made from goats’, sheep’s and cows’ milk, to choose from: bondaroy au foin, selles sur chen and Sainte-maure de Touraine to name just a few.
The Loire Valley offers a gentle, relaxed pace of life, together with history, superb wine and gastronomic excellence.