In France, delicious food and wine are not the exclusive province of Paris. If you are visiting the country’s southwestern Midi Pyrenees region, you will discover many excellent restaurants and local specialties, as well as cheeses, wines and other culinary treats.
Toulouse is famous for its cassoulet, a soul-satisfying rich stew of white beans, duck, pork, vegetables and sausages. The dish is ubiquitous in restaurants all over the city.
Foie gras is another regional specialty. At Restaurant Emile (13 Place St. Georges), a diner can splurge on a first course of pate de foie gras, followed by ravioli filled with foie gras in a scrumptious sauce.
Toulouse has its share of first class restaurants. Chef Michel Sarran’s two star restaurant bearing his name (21 Blvd. Armand Duportal) is elegant to look at and serves elegant, complex dishes, representing the best in local produce, game and fish, including such dishes as pigeon, line-caught fish and strawberry tartlets. Le Bibent, a brasserie on the central Place du Capitole, is a marvel of art nouveau dating back to 1882. The food is innovative and delicious and the surrounding magnificent.
The city has some great covered markets. The Victor Hugo market has over 100 stalls and is over 120 years old. It houses not only an extraordinary array of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meat and wines, but also a stall selling foie gras and another selling black pork sausages. There are several bars thoughout the market, all of them well attended. The smaller, Carmes market is equally interesting and filed with beautiful produce. Like the Victor Hugo market, its nineteenth century metal structure has been replaced by concrete.
In Albi, a lovely garden restaurant awaits hungry visitors. The Clos Sainte Cecile (3 rue du Castelviet) is located in what was once a school. The family owned and run restaurant is close to the city’s famous cathedral.
If you visit the brand new Pierre Soulages museum in Rodez, be sure to snack or lunch in the museum’s restaurant Cafe Bras, with dishes designed and prepared by Michel and Sebastien Bras, two of France’s outstanding chefs. The food is bistro style featuring fresh, local produce.
A few miles from the beautiful pilgrims’ village of Conques, the Domaine de Cambelong, a hotel and restaurant owned by Herve Busset, is not only a lovely place to spend the night, but chef Busset prepares outstanding meals. His hotel is what visitors dream of - the charming little country inn with haute cuisine prepared by a master chef.
These are just a few of the culinary highlghts of a trp through the Midi Pyrenees.