Gourmet Sarlat: straight to the liver
The capital of the Périgord Noir region in France attracts hungry visitors. Gastronomic jewels such as goose ‘foie gras’ attract over a million visitors every year.
Guided only by their appetites, a million and a half hungry gourmets walk the medieval streets of Sarlat every year. They march in short pilgrimages between its goose farms and its farming châteaus, its truffle farms and even its new seasonal markets and restaurants. In 1790 the Dordogne department replaced the French province of Périgord, an area that nowadays is divided into four districts, like a kind of colour chart: Périgord Vert in the north, Périgord Blanc in the centre, Périgord Pourpre in the south-west, and Périgord Noir in the south-east, with a name that refers to their dark forests. “Maybe one day France will cease to exist, but the Dordogne will survive, as do all dreams which nourish the human soul”, wrote American novelist Henry Miller.
During the Truffle Festival (Fête de la Truffe) there are culinary conferences held by prestigious chefs, as well as tastings.
The gastronomic bible (the Michelin Guide) omits its importance in the gourmet landscape, but Sarlat and Périgord Noir stand head and shoulders above the rest in traditional terms of ingredients Their programme of festive events are organised around their gastronomic jewels. The Truffle Festival takes place in January (third weekend), in February there is the Goose Festival (third Sunday), in May the Local Produce Markets and on 27 September the Food and Gastronomy Market.
The goose farms are one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region.
Its culinary calendar is set in the medieval city of Sarlat, which boasts the highest number of protected historical buildings per square metre in the whole of Europe: over 65 within a one kilometre radius. As well as a frenzy of aromas and flavours, visitors are surrounded by architectural marvels that include Gothic and Renaissance palaces, and where the landscape is dominated by tiled roofs and ochre-coloured facades. The city is especially charming at sunset, when the streets are deserted and illuminated by candles and gas lamps.
The nearby village of Beynac-et-Cazenac was constructed on a cliff along the Dordogne River.
The gastronomy of Sarlat recently took over the Sainte-Marie Church, which has been converted into an indoor market covered with vaulted ceilings designed by the company of architect Jean Nouvel, who spent his childhood in the city. It also designed the bell tower, where a panoramic glass lift affords stunning views.
Its ‘delicatessen’ micro-universe offers a selection of products ranging from produce from its goose farms to the jewels of their farming châteaus: ‘foie’, ‘confit’, truffles, chestnuts, boletus mushrooms, strawberries, ‘cabécous’ (goat’s cheeses), etc. This is a daily extension to the popular market in Place de la Liberté and its small gastronomic stalls, which is held on Wednesday mornings and Saturdays (all day). In Sarlat people don’t buy fridge magnets or keychains. The souvenirs par excellence are the jars, tins and terrines of preserves, which are hand prepared and allow visitors to remember their visit to the region once their gourmet holiday has ended.