Sarlat, the time for Black Diamond is back

By | Category: Travel destinations

a whole basket full of truffles

In Lot and Dordogne valleys the approach of winter puts many inhabitants in turmoil. The black diamond, a popular name of the Perigord Black Truffle, calls for a delicate and specialized search, the “cavage”. Will this winter be as good as the last?

On January 18th and 19th, Sarlat, capital of Perigord Noir, opens its doors to an extremely popular event that draws crowds towards the old historical centre of this medieval city. The Truffle Festival during that weekend attracts visitors to discover, learn, taste and enjoy two exceptional local food products, the truffle and the foie gras, which is one of its best companions in cooking.

Sarlat and the Truffle Fair

Sarlat

Sarlat in itself is worth a visit. Its history is exceptional and is still viewable in the small streets which are lined by dozens of medieval houses, including the beautiful facade of Etienne de La Boétie’s house, a friend of Montaigne the great philosopher of the 17th Century. Sarlat is known as holding the record in possessing highest density of medieval buildings in Europe. And, at night, a perfect lighting system offers an attractive vision of the old city. In day time the Belvédère at the church Sainte-Marie is not to be missed. It has a panoramic glass lift built inside the church tower and from its top there is a stunning view of the lauze-tiled rooftops of the whole city.

Wandering the small streets is the best way to discover the atmosphere of Sarlat which combines a perfect mix of history and gastronomy. For centuries, the inhabitants of Perigord, and especially Sarlat have maintained a high level of culinary tradition. It can be seen anywhere in the market, in the shops and in the numerous local restaurants.
Every year during the January weekend of the Sarlat Truffle Festival the city welcomes thousands of gourmet visitors with events and festivities.

Cooking courses
Throughout the weekend, Sarlat chefs provide ninety minute cooking courses to everyone so that they can learn their secrets of preparing foie gras and truffles. But each course has a limited number of guests so you need to book in advance. Contact the Sarlat tourism office for registration.

Cooking demonstrations
In front of a larger public, a dozen Michelin-starred chefs from the Sarlat area show off their techniques in ingredient selection and in the preparation of dishes. Needless to say, visitors can taste the results.

Truffle market

slices of foie gras

A truffle market is open on these two days, where the public can see, touch and smell fresh truffles. And all are for sale. Prices will be cheaper than in UK, but they will never be low. You can also sample the finished product as there is a food market with many stalls offering a large variety of truffle and foie gras products.

Truffle weight competition
All day long on Saturday the public is invited to guess the exact weight of one truffle and to write it on a form. Around 17.30, the truffle is weighed with an extreme accuracy, and the one who is the closest of the real weight, wins the truffle. Given the price of truffles, this is quite a prize!

Foie gras and truffle tasting
At lunch time the public rushes from the streets to join a joyful crowd heading for the Place de la Liberté where delicious “croustous” are served by chefs from the whole region. Croustous are a sort of Perigord tapas made of foie gras and truffles. More than 15.000 croustous are served in two days. Each chef also presents different truffle dishes at very affordable prices. It’s a very friendly moment.

Cavage demonstration
A large crowd is present at each demonstration of ‘cavage,’ the art of finding truffles. In bygone age pigs were used to look for truffles. But truffle hogs with their inmate ability to sniff out for these smelling underground fungi, have a great tendency to dig and eat the truffles as soon as found. So, nowadays, especially trained dogs are used. Dogs don’t dig for truffles they just mark the place.

Wine tasting initiations
To learn basic tasting skills and how to choose the right wine for the right dish, wine tasting initiations are on offer by an association of professional winemakers from the Bergerac area.

The Jean Rougié Trophy

another successful find

Last but not least, the Jean Rougié Trophy is a high level cooking competition open to eight young talented students in French cuisine who will be in the final year of their studies. Coming from all over France, these eight competitors have to prepare two dishes to show off their creativity. They cook in front of very large appreciative crowd and are judged by the most prestigious jury that you can imagine, a jury of 17 Michelin starred chefs including two three-stars chefs and one Bocuse d’Or.

Coinciding with the naming of the winner on Saturday evening, eight Michelin starred chefs from the jury come on stage each to prepare a stunning dish and providing everyone with the details of their recipes. At the completion of each dish three members of the public are drawn out of the hat to join the chef and taste his cuisine.

This weekend in Sarlat is for gourmets. And Sarlat and Perigord are two words which will never rhyme with dieting.

How to get there
The two closest airports Bergerac and Brive have direct flights from UK and are at one hour drive from Sarlat.

fr more information about Sarlat, click here.

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