Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dining in the Ardèche in the Rhone Alps

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

View over the Gorges de l'Ardèche.
Dining in the Ardèche introduces the visitor to a department that is virtually entirely agricultural and also  one of France’s smallest departments. Chefs work with local produce and products and anything not available locally may be found next door in the Ardèche’s neighboring departments in the regions in of the Auvergne, Languedoc-Roussillon, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.  N.B. The Ardèche is just 180 km (112 miles) north to south and at its widest point 79 km (48 miles) from east to west. Despite the department's small size the visitor to the Ardèche does needs a car or at least a bicycle or a horse; the only public transport is buses and they are not always direct, there are no trains. 

Where is the Ardèche?
Dining in the Ardèche:
Assiette de Saucisson d’Ardèche Poêlée de Champignons Frais Melsat aux Chanterelles Croustillant d’Aubergine au Fromage de Chèvre Frais    - A plate of Ardèche sausages lightly fried with fresh mushrooms and the local Melsat pork and egg sausage. All accompanied by Chanterelle mushrooms, crisply fried Aubergines (in the USA eggplant) and fresh goat’s cheese. Areilladou  is the name of one of the best traditional fresh goat ‘s milk cheeses.

Ardèche sausages on sale.
The Ardèche pork sausages come from pigs raised in the mountainous areas of the Ardèche (above 500 meters). The sausages come in a variety of forms, but apart from different herbs, spices and shapes all are pre-salted, steamed and then air dried for four weeks.  These sausages, with their red tinge, will be offered in a manner similar to salami-type sausages as part charcuterie plate or they may be grilled, or fried.

Bar Grillé aux Herbes de Provence et Fenouil, Picodon de l'Ardèche – Grilled European Sea Bass prepared with the Herbs de Provence,  fennel and the Picodon de l'Ardèche AOP cheese. 
The Picodon AOP goats’ cheese (also called the Picodon de la Drome AOP or Picodon d’Ardèche AOP) is a 45% fat, lightly spicy to very spicy goat’s milk cheese, made with non-pasteurized milk. The youngest and mildest of these cheeses are matured for only two weeks.  These younger cheeses are likely to be in your salad or used in cooked dishes while more mature cheeses may be on the cheese trolley. The Picodon AOP cheese has, as may be expected, a Fête du Picodon and has its own French-language website easily used with the Google or Bing translation apps


Picodon AOC/AOP
Photograph courtesy of george34
Chou Farci aux Châtaignes d'Ardèche AOPCabbage stuffed with chestnuts from the Ardèche; usually, this stuffing will be mixed with pork and or veal sausage meat.
The AOP chestnuts of the Ardèche are the only chestnuts in France to have an AOP and that highlights their unique and consistent quality. Ardèche chestnuts are available all over France; just make sure the label on the packaging says La Châtaigne d'Ardèche AOP. These chestnuts are fresh between August and November and out of the season they keep very well. For more about chestnuts in French cuisine click here. The Fete de la Châtaignes d'Ardèche is held annually in the village of Antraigues sur Volane. As the dates seem to move between September and October check this year’s dates with the French Government Tourist Information Office in your home country if you wish to include this special French festival when planning a trip. The Ardèche chestnuts have their own French language website, but their dates for this and next year’s Fete de la Châtaignes d'Ardèche are not regularly updated.
Stuffed Cabbage.
Jambon Cru d'Ardèche – Very thinly cut slices of the Ardèche IGP cured ham. This ham comes from the same area mountainous regions as the Ardèche sausages.  The ham is prepared with salt, lard, and chestnut flower and after ten days the ham is hung and cured for between seven to twelve months before being sold. (For more about cured hams in France click here).

Smoked ham from the Ardèche
Magret de Canard au Miel de Châtaigner de l’ArdècheDuck breast prepared with the honey from the bees and chestnut trees of Ardeche.

Ardèche chestnuts.
Photograph courtesy of Mireille Muggianu
Râble de Lapin Fermier Rôti à la Bière Brune d’Ardèche et au Romarin Purée Grand-Mère -  Saddle of farm raised rabbit prepared with a local dark beer and flavored with the herb rosemary. The dish is accompanied by mashed potatoes as grandma used to make them. Local lager and dark beers are available as well as special craft beers made with chestnut, honey, and verbena; all with 5% alcohol.
Tarte aux Myrtilles d’Ardeche - A tart made with wild billberries from the Ardèche.

Tarte aux Myrtilles
Truite Fario d'Ardèche, Crème d’Asperges Brise de Châtaignes, Courgettes à La Tomate, Carottes Braises. A thick cut of brown trout from the Ardeche served with an asparagus cream sauce flavored with small slices of chestnuts and accompanied by courgettes (zucchini in the USA) stuffed with tomatoes and braised carrots.
White Ardèche asparagus on sale in a farmer’s market.
Tarte Tatin aux Figues, Sorbet Myrtilles de l'Ardèche – A fig tart prepared in the manner of a Tarte Tatin and served with a sorbet made from the bilberries of the Ardèche.

The Ardèche’s wines include two AOP wines and the IGP wines include red, rosé, white and lightly sparkling white wines. The Ardèche IGP Chardonnay that I chose was excellent and inexpensive. (For more about the IGP label on wines that have replaced the Vin de Pays labels click here).  Additionally, since Ardèche is situated on the western bank of the Rhone River, the visitor will also be offered many wines from the Rhone Valley.
The Ardèche, in the summer is home to campers, hikers, sports climbers, anglers, bicyclists and kayak and canoe enthusiasts.
Kayaking in the Ardèche.
For the bicycling enthusiasts, the Ardèche hosts one of France's biggest annual road cycling events,”L'Ardéchoise”, with over 15,000 entrants. To participate or watch the 2016 the races keep your calendar clear from 15 to 18 June 2016.  L'Ardechoise has an English language website:

The Ardèche contains part of the Cévennes National Park, itself a source of many unique food products and many working villages. You will find the Cevennes National Park English language website at:
In the Ardèche’s many valleys are cherries, apricots, and peach orchards along with farms that raise sheep both for milk and meat as well as its many goats raised for their milk. The Ardèche is a major producer of goat’s cheese and that is not only the Picodon AOC.
The Ardeche has an English language website:
Connected Posts:
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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