About 40km’s to the east of Limeuil lies the capital of Black Périgord, Sarlat-la-Canéda, a beautiful medieval town. At the heart of Sarlat is the buzzing Place de la Liberté a focal point for the maze of narrow side streets winding through the wonderful sandy limestone buildings. I loved the narrow streets with high buildings with their deep red or light blue window shutters. The pristine buildings are lovingly maintained. The city is full of history having become wealthy after the establishment of a monastery and abbey. Through history the city was at the front line between England and France during the Hundred years war and changed hands several times. The old city centre was protected and restored during the 1960’s to preserve the old façades.
On Wednesday and Saturday the Place de la Liberté and adjacent side streets are filled with the produce market. When returning from trips to France people often talk with gusto about the markets, and after visiting some myself it’s easy to see why. The vegetables are fresh from the ground, still covered in soil. The cheeses are to die for, Creamy Fromage du Chevre, tangy Brie and nutty Comté. I had a few lunches of cheese, bread and wine and very fine lunches they were to! As well as the vegetables and cheeses were Walnuts which are used to flavour so many Perigord dishes, especially good in salads. Stall’s selling Chestnuts, Sausages and souvenirs fill the outer edges moving down the boulevard to the imposing Cathedral .
Aside from the market there are reasonably priced tourist shops selling tinned foods like Foie gras, Confit Duck and Magret de Canard (duck breast from the same ducks as Foie gras). Though they are canned these are still very good and they make lovely gifts for family or to bring back and enjoy at home. Foie gras production can make people uncomfortable and so weather to try it and the Magret de Canard is a personal one.
Around Sarlats Place de la Liberté tourist resturants vie with each other offering egg’n chips amongst other over priced Anglo-friendly dishes. Take a short wander away from here down any one of the labrynthine back streets and you’ll be rewarded with small simple family run restaurants, traditional food and reasonably priced set menus. Being in the heart of the dordogne region most menus will feature Magre de Cannard, Fois Gras, Walnuts and Garlic in Differing combinations. The restaurant we chose was intimate, old oak beams criss crossed the low sealing. At the back of the room you could see into the kitchen. There was a small bar to one side and the small fire on the other side drying us out after the summer showers. For €18 each we had three courses and a carafe of red wine, pretty good! Before the starter came we had some fresh crusty bread and haddock pate. The pate was not too strong or fishy to colour you palette before the meal. I started with a traditional Gascon dish – Garlic soup (see recipe) which was not overly strong or complicated but delicately flavoured and not too filing. This stood out as my favourite dish of our holiday. After more bread to mop up the remains of the soup came the main course of steak and frites with more wine finally followed by golden Crème brûlée. I love cracking the sugary top and delving deep into the crème inside. Sarlat is a real treat for food lovers and I recommend a day trip there!