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This month LA GOURMET BOX whisks you away to Berry, a historic province in the heart of France comprising the modern-day départements of Cher and Indre, nestled between the Loire Valley's famous chateaux and the foothills of the Massif Central. In addition to its extraordinary architectural, cultural and historical heritage, Berry boasts an exquisite and generous cuisine.
The untainted natural splendour of its bucolic countryside is a feast for the eyes, while the authentic, flavourful bounty of the land thrills the palate: sweet ambrosia from the vineyards of Menetou-Salon, goat cheese, green lentils, walnut oil, fresh orchard and garden produce, and much more. This terroir is the bastion of traditional French cuisine and its old-time flavours. Bon voyage & bon appétit!
No self-respecting gourmand can visit Berry without sampling the region's excellent wines. There was once a time when Sancerre wine ruled the roost in this part of France. Today, however, winemakers like Philippe Gilbert who practise sustainable, organic viticulture have found the best soil for growing magnificent Sauvignon grapes to produce nectar that can compete with the best whites in France: the wine of Menetou-Salon. Straw-yellow in colour with glints of green, this white wine boasts a delicate flavour and a bouquet with hints of white blossoms and fruity orange. Serve it chilled (12ºC) with a cheese platter or a baked fish course for a delectable culinary experience.
MUSHROOM TAGLIATELLE (250G)
Artisan: Pâtes Fabre.
Mushroom lovers are in luck! These gourmet tagliatelle are made by one of the last famous pasta artisans in France from the finest all-natural ingredients: premium semolina, mushrooms (porcini and boletus) and berries. This pasta is made the old-fashioned way, mixing hand-picked semolina with pure water, extruding the dough through bronze dies, and drying it slowly at low temperature. The result is pasta with an exquisite flavour and unmistakable texture. We recommend serving this pasta al dente (boil for 2-4 minutes to taste) so that the centre of each noodle is not fully cooked and the pasta retains its shape. In our opinion, it doesn't even need cream or sauce: this pasta is divine with just a drizzle of olive oil and some grated Parmesan cheese.
GREEN BERRY LENTILS (500G)
Artisan: La Ferme de la Bisquinerie.
The Green Berry lentil is a legume or pulse native to France, characterized by its small, round shape, dark colour and fine texture. Richer in fibre and vitamins than rice or potatoes, it is famous for its flavour and nutritional value. The fresh, recently harvested lentils we've chosen bear the Protected Geographical Indication label, a hallmark of quality. Their subtle chestnut aroma makes them ideal ingredients in countless sweet and savoury recipes: salads, stews, mashes, soups and even desserts (crispy lentil biscuits). A little grain with a surprisingly big flavour!
CREAMY ROYALE CARP RILLETTES (130G)
Artisan: Fish Brenne.
This exquisite, creamy gourmet snack is sure to surprise foodie fans of culinary novelties. A handmade farmhouse delicacy, this spread is made by Fish Breen, a local artisan enterprise specialized in fish products, from the Royale variety of freshwater carp found in central France's La Brenne Nature Park, known as "the land of a thousand lakes". Spread the savoury rillettes on toast for an original and scrumptious snack.
ARTISAN WALNUT OIL (250ML)
Artesan: Le Moulin à huile de Pesselières.
In the southern Sancerre, tradition is not only alive but also thriving thanks to the efforts of Anny and Joachim, who make walnut oil using time-honoured methods at their press in Pesselières, Berry. Their admirable dedication yields a truly unique product. They still use the original 19th-century stone mill, only now the pressing and grinding mechanism is powered by electricity instead of horses. And the ingredients haven't changed, either: shelled walnuts and nothing more. All-natural goodness. With its sweet flavour and fruity scent, this delicate oil is not recommended for cooking or frying; it's best served cold. Drizzle it on a spinach salad or use it to give cakes a subtle nutty aroma.
SABLÉS DE NANÇAY CHOCOLATE-CHIP BISCUITS (150G)
Artisan: Sablés de Nançay.
Nançay is a commune in central France famed for its sablés, sweet shortbread biscuits invented by accident in 1953 when a baker got one of his recipes wrong. If you try them, you'll understand why they're famous. Crisp on the outside and deliciously soft on the inside, these biscuits are sure to impress—especially since we've chosen the chocolate-chip variety! They're perfect sweet morsels for serving with tea or coffee, but if you have children round the house you’ll have to be on your guard: little ones are drawn to these artisan concoctions like bees to honey.
MINI-CROQUETS DE CHAROST (100G)
Artisan: Le Croquet de Charost confectioners.
In addition to being the oldest biscuit factory in Berry, Le Croquet de Charost is world-renowned for its croquets, little biscuits made from whole almonds. Their recipe never changes and is only passed on orally, and the ingredients are a tribute to local products: flour, eggs, butter and a homemade natural fruit extract whose secret is zealously guarded. Today they also offer savoury versions made with goat cheese that are astoundingly tasty. The texture of the mini-croquet we've chosen differs slightly from that of the larger original version, because the almonds are ground rather than whole, but the flavour is just as amazing and addictive!
AND DON'T FORGET OUR INVITATION TO TRAVEL... FOR THE LUCKY WINNERS!
The charming manor/hotel Saint Victor La Grand' Maison is one of the best-kept secrets in central France.
On our travels through Berry while scouring the countryside for gourmet delights, we stopped at a small 16th-century chateau and were immediately taken with its medieval architecture and other myriad charms. The peaceful silence of unspoilt nature, the splendid grounds, the fantastic breakfasts and dinners with local farmhouse products, and the crown jewel: the proprietor, Marie, who made us feel right at home. A place so wonderful that we simply had to share it with you. Before the end of September, one of our gourmet boxes will be chosen at random to receive a gift certificate for one night's accommodation for two people (breakfast included). While waiting to find out who the lucky winner is, we invite you to visit this lovely spot www.saintvictorlagrandmaison.com.