Saturday, August 16, 2014

Berry, One of France’s historic Provinces, Enjoy its excellent Berrichonne Cuisine. Savor its wines. Taste its outstanding cheeses and much more.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated February 2020.
Château de Valençay
In the department of Indre (Berry).
Berry is a historic French province in the Loire Valley that, during the French revolution, was divided into the two departments. They are Cher and Indre in the administrative region of Centre-Val de Loire. Despite more than two hundred years of administrative division, Berry remains united in its cuisine. 

How to get there.

Berry's old provincial capital was the city of Bourges, now the prefecture, the department capital of Cher. Châteauroux is the largest city in the department of Indre ad its prefecture. From Paris, the departments are two-and-a-half-hours by car, and less than two hours by direct TGV train.
Berrichonne's traditional dress.

Berrichonne the people and Berrichonne the Cuisine
Berrichonnes is the name given to the people who live in the area and Berrichon was the language they spoke. That language was a precursor of modern French. Berrichonne is the name of the excellent cuisine that was and is still is being created in the area. 
The cuisine.
Berry’s cuisine has well-established culinary credentials, but like much of the best French cuisine does not cling to a single style or type of recipe. Local dishes will often be assigned suffixes that will show their origin. Your menu may offer dishes… du Berry or…. à la Berrichonne.  Outside of the area, Berry’s name remains famous throughout France for its vegetables, freshwater fish, cheeses, snails, and wines. When traveling in the area, local restaurants will always include at least one dish with their famous green lentil, the Lentille Verte du Berry, IGP, Label Rouge and their cheeses will include one their five famouse AOP goat’s cheeses.

Your menu may offer you:

Coq au Vin à la Berrichonne – Coq au Vin made with one of the red wines of Berrichone.  
Coq au Vin.
Crème de Lentille Verte du Berry  - A cream of lentil soup made with the green lentils of Berry. These yellow-green lentils from Berry have a mild chestnut flavor, and they are France’s only label rouge, red label lentil. These lentils were the first dried vegetable to be awarded the Label Rouge for their consistent quality.
Cuisses de Grenouilles Flambées à la Crème d'Ail Persillée – Frogs’ legs in a cream of garlic sauce flavored with parsley and flambéed before serving.
Fricassée de Lumas à la Berrichonne – The local Petit Gris snail fried in butter and flavored with garlic, parsley, sea salt, and pepper, often made with an added local white wine.
RIs et Rognon à la Berrichonne, En Croûte –  Sweetbreads and kidneys, cooked in a pastry covering in the manner of Berrichonne.
Salade de Lentilles Vertes du Berry au Chaud  - A salad made with the green lentils of Berry and warm goats' cheese. Your cheese plate or a restaurant’s cheese trolley will include at least two of Berrichonne’s five famous goats’ cheeses. Berry has quite a number of other excellent cheeses, and you may enjoy them locally; unfortunately, most do not have the production required to receive a national following. For more about the famous five, see lower down this post.
Green lentil salad with a walnut dressing.

Salade Berrichonne – A salad in the manner of Berry. The traditional version is a warm goat’s cheese served with toast, on top of a poached egg, bacon, and tomatoes. The salad is flavored with nuts, cider vinegar, walnut oil, and a small amount of mustard. Like all salads linked by name to a specific area, there are small changes in the recipe from chef to chef, and Berry chefs will also make one or two tweaks to the original recipe. Ask how your Salade Berrichonne is prepared; it should be close to the traditional recipe.
Tarte Berriaude - An apple tart flavored with a cinnamon cream sauce. Occasionally this dish may be served flambéed with Calvados, France’s famous and unique apple brandy.

The fish, frogs, and snails of Berry

Local chefs take full advantage of the freshwater fish from the National Park of Brenne. The park has over 1,000 freshwater ponds as well as freeing-running streams and freshwater fish-farms. From here comes fresh carppikeeels, pike-perchfreshwater perch, and frogs, here uniquely called guernouilles; in the rest of France, frogs are grenouilles. Local menus will also feature their lumas snails, the Lumas de Cluis, the local name for their homegrown petit gris snails. Most of these snails are raised in and around the small town of Cluis in the department of Indre. Cluis has a number of snail fairs every year, but the big one is the Fête Du Luma held on 1st May.     

Sandre – Zander or Pike-Perch.
The wines of Berry
Berrichonne is part of the Loire Valley, so even the house wines, in small restaurants, will usually be the excellent IGP Val de Loire wines. If you do want an AOP local wine ask for the wine list and look for a white, rosé or light red Sancerre AOP;  a white, rosé or red Menetou Salon AOP; a white Quincy AOP; a rosé or red Châteaumeillant AOP or their white, rosé, and red Reuilly AOP wines. For those who want a sparkling wine, the nearby Crémants de Loire are excellent whites and rosés sparkling wines.
The five most famous cheeses of Berry.
Berry has many wonderful goats’ and cows’ cheeses though their internationally famous five AOP cheeses are all goats’ cheeses. 

Pouligny Saint Pierre AOP;  
Selles sur Cher AOP,
Valençay AOP.

The Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine cheese.
Listening to French in Berry
You may have learned excellent French in school or college; however, among themselves, the locals do allow old Berrichon words to slip in, and that, along with local usage, may interfere with any eavesdropping!
Visiting Bourges the old capital of Berry
Bourges, the ancient capital of Berry, is now the prefecture, the departmental capital of  Cher. Bourges has a fantastic history, a unique Gothic 13th-century cathedral, and is set on the River Yevre. Of particular interest is the Marais Berruyers, the marshes of Berry; there is no longer any marshland there though the name remains. The marshes are an amazing agricultural area in the center of the city, a 10-15 minute walk from the cathedral. Originally, this was a market gardening center; now, it has over 700 private plots with some that include amateur fish farms. You may visit and walk among most of the plots. Bourges is 250 km (153 miles) from Paris. With a direct TGV train, traveling time is 1 hour and 45 minutes, and by car two and a half hours.
The cathedral of Bourges. (Cher).

Visiting Châteauroux the largest city in Indre
and the Brenne national park.
Châteauroux was the largest city in Berry and now is the prefecture, departmental capital of Indre. The town is set on the River Indre and the edge of the Brenne national park. If you just wish to enjoy the country travel slowly around the National Park of Brenne with its ponds, fields, forests, and villages along with many small, but good, local restaurants. The park’s English language website is  
A Squacco Heron (ardeola ralloides).
In the Brenne National Park.

The Circus Museum
and the annual Green Lentil fete in Vatan (Indre).

If you are traveling with children, the small town of Vatan has a unique circus museum. Vatan is just 30 km, or twenty-five minutes by car, from Châteauroux. However, when visiting the museum, do check its opening times as they used to close daily for two hours for lunch! The circus museum’s French-language website is; it is easily understood using Google or Microsoft translation apps.

On the second weekend in September, Vatan hosts the annual Fete de la Lentille Verte du Berry à Vatan, the Festival of the Green Lentil of Berry in Vatan. Their French language website is This green lentil was the first dried vegetable to be awarded the Label Rouge, the Red Label.
The snail fete, the Fete de Lumas, in the town of Cluis (Indre).
Cluis has several snail fetes every year, but the largest begins on the first of May. The town also has a farmers’ market on the first and third Sunday mornings of every month. The Berry Province French language website give more information; it is easily understood with the Google or Microsoft translate apps. You can write ahead for dates and information on all their snail fairs to   They promise to reply in English.
Château Valençay and its gardens

The beautiful Château Valençay was once the home of that consummate politician Talleyrand. Talleyrand: Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince Benevento (1754- 1838).
Talleyrand was a gourmet and France’s first internationally famous politician, as well as the first politician to use the dinner table for political maneuvering. As a Minister, he first served King Louis XVI but later supported the French revolution and took part in writing the Declaration of the Rights of Man. As a true Everyman’s’ politician, he later served Napoleon I as Foreign Minister, and then when the monarchy returned served King Louis XVIII and King Louis-Philippe, Philippe Égalité.

One of Talleyrand’s most famous quotes was:

L’Angleterre a deux sauces et trois cents religions; la France au contraire, a deux religions, mais plus de trois cents sauces.

The English have two sauces and three hundred religions, while on the other hand, France has two religions and more than three hundred sauces.
The nearby town of Valençay gave its name to the Chateau. It is the only town in France to have an AOP for both its cheese and wine, as well as a chateau named after it. The Valençay AOP wines are whites and reds and its cheese is one of France’s most respected goats’ cheeses.

The main fountain in the grounds of the Chateau de Valencay.

Champagne Berrichonne
Look at a map of Berry, and you will see one large part is called Champagne Berrichonne, and that causes some confusion. Champagne Berrichonne has no Champagne; the word champagne historically refers to a type of soil, and the name was adopted further north for the famous sparkling wine. Champagne Berrichonne is not a center for bubbling wine or any wine for that matter though it does have a micro-brewery. Champagne Berrichonne is a vast plain, and a center for the cultivation of Berry’s famous green lentils, and also their cattle farming. The area is covered with hundreds of small lakes and is also home to the Pouligny Saint-Pierre AOC goats’ cheese.


Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013, 2014, 2019

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog write to Bryan Newman

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