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This month La Gourmet Box invites you to discover Loiret, a region that owes its name to the River Loire. The central location of this French province, quite close to the capital, and the historical importance of the Loire as one of the principal commercial waterways in France have given it a rich culinary tradition, forged and maintained by some of the finest artisans in the country.
Thanks to this history, Loiret is bursting with unique flavours: Orléans vinegar and mustard, delicious wines, freshwater fish, the first true praline almonds, Cotignac candies and the famous "royal chocolates".
Foodies, throw moderation to the wind and surrender to the pleasure of Loiret's sweet and savoury delights in this irresistible gourmet gift box!
The Loire Valley is one of the most important wine regions in France, and Loiret is no exception. Loiret's designations of origin may not be as famous as those of its neighbours, but they're full of fresh, delightful surprises. There's a reason why the talented Valérie Deneufbourg chose to establish her vineyard and personal wine-making enterprise here.
Rencontres Rouge is a coupage of Pinot Meunier (one of the three varieties used to make champagne, along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and Pinot Noir, Burgundy's signature grape. This cherry-red wine leaves notes of kirsch, blackberries and dark forest fruits in the mouth with a delicately spicy finish. A fine, fresh, undeniably charming wine!
Pairing recommendation: try it with cold meat products (such as our rillettes) or the catfish pâté included in your gourmet gift box, a spectacular combination.
Orléans white-wine vinegar with Loire Valley tarragon (25 cl
Artisan: Martin Pouret.
In Orléans, the history of vinegar is closely linked to the River Loire. In the Middle Ages, the Loire was one of the most important trade routes in France and supplied residents of Paris with all sorts of products, including wines from Burgundy and the Loire Valley. When the boats reached Orléans, the wines that had gone sour during the voyage were unloaded and delivered to the city's master vinegar-makers. Over the centuries, Orléans became famous for its vinegar tradition.
This savoury white-wine vinegar was made using the traditional Orléans method by Martin Pouret, one of the last producers who still employ this artisanal process. Wine is allowed to ferment naturally, without any additives to speed up the process. Protected from sunlight inside 240-litre oak barrels and kept at a constant temperature of 30º C, the wine slowly turns into vinegar. After fermentation, the vinegars are aged for one year in barrels (a far cry from the 2 days needed to make the industrial variety!). This process refines the vinegar and intensifies its flavour. Like good wine, good vinegar improves with age.
This traditional white-wine vinegar seasoned with fresh, locally-grown tarragon is a culinary find: a perfect balance between the acidity of the vinegar and the fresh, potent aroma of tarragon creates a burst of delightful flavours. It's perfect for dressing your salads or adding a new twist to homemade mayonnaise.
Traditional Orléans mustard with honey and Chardonnay (95 g)
Artisan: Martin Pouret.
The unmistakable quality and personality of traditional Orléans mustard is the product of a time-honoured recipe, local know-how and the finest selected ingredients: locally-grown mustard seeds are ground with millstones to achieve this mustard's characteristic fine, creamy texture, and combined with famous Guérande salt and Martin Pouret's own artisanal vinegar.
Add a touch of sweet honey and full-bodied Chardonnay, and you've got a très gourmet mustard for sauces, meats or your own culinary creations.
Smoked catfish pâté with Loire Valley asparagus (52 g)
Artisan: Bruno Gabris, Pêcheurs de Loire.
Most people don't think of catfish as a gourmet product, but after trying our pâté you'll probably change your mind. This large underwater predator can grow up to 2.5 metres long and weigh more than 80 kilos, and its white meat has a very interesting flavour. Bruno Gabris is a member of the Loire Professional Fishermen's Association, a group that practises traditional fishing and advocates the sustainable use of the river's resources.
Gabris also processes his own catches, creating products from fish and other local ingredients like asparagus, a Loiret speciality. It's a winning combination and makes a perfect snack spread on toast. Treat yourself and your guests to the fresh, fine flavour of nature's gourmet bounty!
Artisanal chicken rillettes with Cheverny wine (180 g)
Artisan: La Petite Garenne.
A highly recommendable traditional French hors d'oeuvre, these chicken rillettes are a genuine treat for the taste buds. Made of tender chicken meat and a dash of Cheverny white wine, with no preservatives or artificial colourings, it can be eaten at room temperature spread on toast or served as a cold appetizer.
You'll be amazed by its smooth, creamy goodness!
The famous Cotignac d'Orléans (22 g)
Artisan: Benoît Gouchault, confectioner.
We had a hard time finding an artisan who still makes this Loiret speciality, but our perseverance paid off! The Cotignac is a traditional Orléans candy somewhat like quince cheese. In the olden days, it was peddled by apothecaries for its astringent properties, but today it's a luxury for sweet-toothed gourmands.
You can use a piece of the spruce bark box it comes in as a spoon to scoop it out, or just lick the surface like a lollipop. If you're a fan of quince, you can't pass up this old-fashioned delicacy!
Crunchy Montargis pralines (12 g)
Artisan: Confiserie Mazet.
Mazet is an artisanal confectioner's shop established in 1903 that makes the famous Montagis pralines, sugar-coated almonds prepared using a recipe and method that hasn't changed since 1636.
Praline almonds are considered one of the oldest sweets in France—and if they haven't altered the recipe in 400 years, there's probably a good reason! A sweet, nutty must.
We may have saved the best for last. Pair a confectioner's shop with a "royal" history and a highly talented artisan, and you get this lovely Camembert wedge that's actually made of praline chocolate. It's got everything: beautiful presentation and amazing flavour.
An exceptional treat for fans of praline, chocolate and sweets in general. 200 grams of pure bliss!