Culinary Tour of
Bordeaux & Dordogne
By Jana Soeldner Danger
Truffles. Foie gras. Caviar.
Those are some of the tantalizing temptations Laurel Pine deals with every day in her role as founder of Mirepoix USA, a luxury food company based in Reno, Nev. In April, Pine will lead a culinary tour of the Bordeaux and Dordogne regions of France, drawing on her personal knowledge of their unique restaurants and fabulous fare to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for foodies. And, she promises, guests will sample plenty of truffles and foie gras, for which the areas are well-known.
Each of the two regions has a distinctive cuisine style, Pine says. Bordeaux’s is more urban and sophisticated, while Dordogne’s is more rural and relaxed. “They have totally different feels,” she adds.
The Most Wonderful Ingredient
Although the tour begins and ends in Bordeaux, it is the Dordogne region that tempts Pine’s taste buds the most. “It’s probably the best known area for foie gras in all of France,” she says. “And foie gras is the most wonderful ingredient in the world. It’s really meat-flavored butter. It pairs with poultry, meat, and shellfish, and there are endless ways to use it. I can’t imagine anything that wouldn’t taste better with it. I even make ice cream out of foie gras.”
The tour group will spend four nights at Chateau de la Treyne, a castle overlooking the Dordogne River. Guests can explore the medieval village of Rocamadour, built on the face of a 400-foot cliff and famous for its cheese, as well as walnut pastries and cookies.
Chateau de la Treyne is where Pine discovered one of her favorite dishes: mille-feuille of beef and foie gras, which consists of five layers of thinly sliced, rare beef tenderloin alternating with four layers of rich foie gras. “The combination of flavors and textures was exquisite,” she says. “It’s one of the most creative and interesting ways of serving foie gras that I’ve seen.”
It is, however, just one of many variations. At Les Jardines d’Harmonie in Salat (Salat is another stop on the tour), foie gras is layered with scallops and chanterelle mushrooms, served on a crisp wafer and finished with a dusky sauce made with beef stock.
Because so many ducks and geese are raised in the Dordogne region, they appear on most restaurant menus, as well as in home kitchens. One of the area’s simple yet delicious
signature dishes is pommes sarladaise, potatoes fried in rich, flavorful goose or duck fat. “There are often black truffles in it, too,” Pine adds.
Lunching On Truffles
And speaking of truffles: Another culinary highlight of the tour will be a truffle-based lunch in Les Eyzies at Les Glycines. Different courses will pair truffles with foods like bacon risotto, sweetbreads, rack of lamb, and chocolate.
Black truffles and white truffles each has its own flavor profile, Pine says. “France is best known for black truffles, which are available from early December to March or April. They’re more earthy than the white truffles you find in Italy, and can stand up well to beef and veal dishes with complex flavor patterns.”
While in Sarlat, the group will have an opportunity to visit its famous marketplace, where they can find both truffles and foie gras, as well as regional walnut oils and walnut liqueur, dried mushrooms, chabichou cheese, and chocolate treats called ephemeres.
In Bordeaux, guests can sample local culinary specialties that include seafoods like cod, oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, and snails, as well as delicious agneau lamb, and flavorful beef dishes like
entrecôte marchand de vin. Perhaps the area’s best-known classic is bordelaise sauce, made with red wine, beef marrow, shallots, and seasonings. And for those with a sweet tooth, there are the famous cannelés
Tour guests will stay for three nights at the Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint Emilion, where they can explore the medieval village there. The hotel itself offers panoramic views of surrounding vineyards . And, of course, it is wines that Bordeaux is most famous for.
“Bordeaux makes the longest lived wines on the planet,” says Andrew Lampasone, owner of Wine Watch, a wine boutique in Fort Lauder-dale that is popular among South Florida collectors. “The reason you pay big money for a wine is because it has the potential to age, and the best wines from Bordeaux can be cellared for 100 years or more.”
Vineyard visits and tastings will include the Chateau d’Arch and Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes, as well as samples of Haut Medoc. There will also be dinner at the 2-Michelin star restaurant Chateau Cordeillan-Bages.
Pine says her network of luxury food purveyors helped her plan a memorable tour. “The challenge is designing something unique, and creating an experience people can’t do on their own.”