© Nº10 Béarn B & B 2018
Béarn Bed & Breakfast
On the coast you will find wonderful fresh fish and seafood whereas inland there will certainly be duck – confit and magret to name but two. There will also be delicious lamb, Blonde Aquitaine beef, wild boar and venison to sample.
The mountains are home to a rich variety of cured meats, patès and terrines, one of the best known being Bayonne ham with its own festival held in March each year. Pork and duck sausages, boudins blanc and noir and not forgetting the one and only ‘marmite’ product, the andouillette, love it or loathe it.
This being France you cannot forget the many cheeses. Most famous in this region is Brebis (ewe’s milk) cheese is produced in the Ossau valley in the Béarn and the Irati forest in Basque country. It is one of only two sheep's milk cheeses granted AOC status in France, the other being Roquefort. Although Ossau-Iraty received AOC status in the 1980s, it is an ancient cheese, traditionally made by shepherds.
Pure Brebis Pyrénées cheeses are made using aromatic ewe’s milk produced mainly by three of the region’s breeds: Basco Béarnaise, Black-Face Manech and Red-Face Manech.
It is a rare cheese, because each ewe can only provide a litre of milk per day, and five litres are needed to produce a kilogram of cheese. It takes twenty-two ewes to provide the same quantity as a single cow!
For those with a sweet tooth: regional specialties include gateau basque, first made in the 17th century with black cherries or cream and available at any boulengerie throughout the Basque country.
Le Russe cake has been baked for three generations by the Artigarrède family. Many famous/infamous politicians have enjoyed it - Khrushchev, Mitterrand, Clinton and Chirac to name a few. An artisan product which combines almonds and hazelnuts to produce the extraordinarily light cake and a speciality of the Bearnese Pyrenees. Do try it with a glass of sweet Jurançon wine.
The people of Bayonne were the first in France to work with cacao beans. In the eighteenth century the town specialised in chocolate production and it remains France’s premier chocolate centre to this day. Inland, the chocolate tradition is upheld in Cambo-les-Bains and Espelette. Tablets of dark chocolate flavoured with orange, cinnamon and local Espelette pepper.
Espelette pepper ‘Ezpeletako biperra’ in Basque, has PDO protected status and can only be harvested in a small area by 170 producers with the ideal hot and humid climate.
It is available in a variety of forms, from seed to powder, and complements a huge range of dishes, from starters to desserts. Many foods can be flavoured with Espelette pepper, such as speciality pâtés, foie gras, sea salt, caramel, chocolate and mustard. From September every year garlands of red peppers are hung up on houses to dry.
The water of Salies-de-Béarn is ten times saltier than the ocean! It produces the coarse salt and “fleur de sel” crystals that are much appreciated by gourmets and top chefs. Traditionally used for salting meats, Salies salt is required for the production of PGI Jambon de Bayonne.
Perhaps the best known local wines are the delicious white Jurançons, both sweet and dry. The sweet is most often served as an aperitif and is perfect with foie gras, smoked salmon, cheese from the Pyrenees and blue cheeses. Jurançon sec accompanies shellfish and fish, especially mountain trout and salmon and of course the Béarnaise meats.
Perhaps less well known is Irouleguy from a small region of only 12 communes in the Pays Basque. They produces fruity, tannic red wines and full-bodied, tangy whites. Less well known are its intensely fruity and deeply coloured rosés.
Last and by no means least, we must not forget the liqueurs. Izarra, "star" in Basque, with recipes unchanged since 1835. In addition to their colour, they are distinguished by their taste and alcohol content. lzarra yellow tastes of bitter almonds with an alcohol content of 40°, while lzarra green has peppermint overtones and is stronger at 48 °. Whichever you choose, it will be good enjoyed over ice.
Patxaran from the Navarre is something akin to sloe gin and takes its name from Basque "basarana" or wild plum.
Due to it’s geographical location, the cuisine of the South West of France benefits from the very best of the French and Spanish culinary influences and so has many delicious treats to sample
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