When deciding on your ideal culinary adventure in South West France, one clear benefit of choosing to cater for yourself is that you can make the most of all the region has to offer, in the way of restaurants and wonderful produce!
South West France, with its warm climate and long hours of sunshine, is the perfect location to grow the most amazing food. Even vegetables that you know well, take on a more intense flavour, transforming the most simple of recipes into an incredible dish.
Why is French Food so Good?
France’s love affair with food and wine can be seen everywhere and here’s why:-
- Age old recipes passed down from one generation to another.
- Classic cooking techniques to get the most out of local produce.
- Cooking what’s in season to get maximum flavour.
- Taking time to sit and savour every meal.
I believe this is the essence of why the French have such a great reputation for all things culinary.
So Here’s My Must-try List
Food is a very personal thing, so I can’t promise that you’ll enjoy everything on the list. However, I do know that you’ll love your culinary journey and definitely find some magical ingredients and recipes guaranteed to inspire.
These are grown less than a kilometre from Bijou Barn and they are absolutely wonderful and so refreshing for lunch on a hot summer’s day. Sprinkle with lime juice and some coarsely ground black pepper to intensify the flavour. Better still, top the pieces of melon with some wafer thin slices of Bayonne ham.
This is the French version of Parma or Serano ham. A delicious cured ham which you can buy from local supermarkets. However, for the best quality, try to find a local supplier who sells in the markets. Without a doubt, you’ll be able to try before you buy and you will be in ham heaven (yes, there is such a place!) with this melt in the mouth treat.
Duck in any shape or form is well worth a try. Go for succulent slices of duck breast served with a classic sauce. Or why not enjoy the smoked variety with a light salad? Of course, the classic slow-cooked confit duck leg is a must for a melt in the mouth option.
These are also on the delicacy menu in South West France. Of course this is an expensive option but fortunately, you don’t need much to elevate any dish from ordinary to outstanding. Try with pasta and mushrooms, sprinkle over an omelette or mix into a risotto.
They are always good – just look at what’s in season and you can’t go wrong. A selection of coloured tomatoes, each with their own unique flavour can be a lovely accompaniment to any BBQ food.
These nuts are grown in the area and whether you try them in a cake or top a salad with them to add texture, you’ll be impressed by the rich flavour of this soft nut. Look out for the local producers who sell in the markets as their walnuts are AMAZING! We know a producer who makes the most delicious walnut and fig brownies and she sells them every week at the Sunday market in Montcuq – they are absolutely delicious, so get there early before they are sold out!
Famous in the region and its smooth texture and powerful flavour makes for a versatile delicacy. Choose it in a salad with sweet chutney and toasted brioche, or have it warmed as a topping to steak or simply melted into a rich sauce. You can visit a farm for a tasting – there’s one very close to Bijou Barn.
Try with a glass of Mombaziac sweet wine for the ultimate decadence.
It’s a bit like marmite – you either love it or ….. you don’t. I know so many people who love cheese but just don’t feel the same about the goaty variety. I understand completely – it took a while for me to warm to this distinct flavour. However, if there was ever a goats cheese that you would describe as the best introduction to this genre, you’ll find it here in South West France. Cabecou cheese is made 3 km from Bijou Barn and has the most mellow flavour I have ever tasted in a goat’s cheese. Try it warmed with a drizzle of local honey and some crusty bread – you’ll be converted.
Visit Local Markets
Isn’t it funny that food shopping at home can be really boring and is definitely regarded as a chore – that thing you need to do every week. But by being transported to a different country, with a warm climate – shopping for the daily essentials becomes a stimulating experience.
Wandering through a local market on a sunny day is an inspiration to any food lover. The whole atmosphere is mesmerising – the hustle and bustle mingle with the smells and flavours. Then there’s the sound of the food producers as they tell you about their products and tempt you with samples.
Specialised ingredients like Madagascan vanilla and spice stalls nestle beside the more familiar cheese and bread producers. No wonder you always leave a market with lots more than you planned – hey, it’s good to spoil yourself on holiday!
I love food and I have been lucky to visit many different types of restaurants all over the world, but for me, the little restaurants in out of the way places, frequented by the locals are the essence of French life and should be experienced as regularly as possible.
Many of these places don’t offer a choice. Instead, there’s a 3 or 4 course set meal often including wine, where you eat like a local, with the locals. It’s usually seasonal food, simply prepared and served in a friendly atmosphere – a brilliant recipe for a wonderful lunch.
There are many other restaurants in more salubrious settings which are also worthy of a visit, whilst on holiday, near Bijou Barn. Visit restaurants in stylish old buildings serving classic French cuisine. Or why not choose a centrally located rustic restaurant with outdoor terraces where you can watch the world go by? Or what about a hillside retreat with stunning views of vineyards, as far as the eye can see?
These evening markets are a joy to visit. As the sun goes down, little food markets set up in local squares with a communal dining area in the centre. Wander around each stall, talk to the producers and create your very own meal from seasonal produce.
The hardest part is deciding what to have! Start with home-cured salmon or homegrown melon then move to moules or char-grilled steak, just the way you like it. And to finish?…… a delicious crepe, cooked to order then topped with a mouth-watering topping of your choice.
Buy a bottle of wine and join other foodies at the long tables, as they savour their meal then dance the night away to live music. It’s a lovely way to meet the local French people and get a taste of how they live.
Fine Dining At Its Best
France, as you would expect, has some really wonderful restaurants offering out of this world dining experiences that you will remember long after your holiday is over.
You don’t have to travel far from Bijou Barn in any direction to enjoy the most memorable of culinary adventures where you’ll be wowed by the whole evening. Elaborate recipes and stunning presentation come as standard. Local ingredients and seasonal produce combine to create an impressive gastronomic delight, guaranteed to inspire.
In search of Michelin stars? Then you’re in for a treat in the Occitanie region of South West France
If you want to experience a 2 Michelin star restaurant then Le Grindeau is a mere 40 minute drive.
Discover Why the Malbec Region Has Such Amazing Wine.
Bijou Barn is situated in the Malbec wine region of France, so you don’t want to miss out on some wine tasting to fully appreciate this wonderful grape.
Learn the history of the Malbec grape and how Cahors wines were sold in London as far back as the 13th Century. The Cahors vineyards were amongst the first planted in France by the Roman emperors, more than 2000 years ago.
My advice is to visit a mixture of vineyards – from the famous producers with a worldwide reputation such as Chateau Chambert to the small family operations within 4 km of our home such as Domaine du Garinet. Or why not try the wines of Mas del Périé, where they combine age-old traditions with a contemporary twist.
The dining options for your holiday in South West France will never get dull. Whether you want to eat out every night or you just want to create your own simple dishes at Bijou Barn, the Occitanie region of France offers a vast choice.
So there you go…a taste of what to expect when you come to South West France and stay at Bijou Barn.