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A cooking holiday in France should not only be spending time at the stove. It should also be an immersion into rural France, giving you an insight into French food-culture. Lot-et-Garonneregion is famous for prunes of Agen, fat duck, Bazas beef, hazelnuts, cpes de Bordeaux, gariguette strawberries, melon, white asparagus, marmande tomatoes, Buzet and Ctes du Marmandais wines, and more delicacies. During this cooking holiday you will get not only a real taste of France, but a taste of beautiful Lot-et-Garonne.
Despite the derelict state of this 1850 stone farmhouse, when Le Gargantua Cooking & Patisserie Holidays in France was first seen in 2004 by its actual owners, it was love at first sight. It was renovated it for 3 years, keeping all the original features and eventually opening in 2007. Bedrooms are situated on the first floor. Four spacious and comfortable double bedrooms of an average size of 22 square meters (227 square foot), all with private en-suite facilities: pantagruel room (twin beds), gargamelle room (double bed), grangousier room (double bed), melusine room (four poster double bed). Furnishings and decoration are of traditional French country style. The house and bedrooms have bags of character, with exposed stonewalls and sloping ceilings.
Le Gargantua Cooking & Patisserie Holidays in France cooking holiday classes are based on seasonal local product: you will go out in the morning to source ingredients from local producers, farms, and markets, to cook together in a team effort and produce dinner for all the guests staying at the guest house. You can then have the pleasure of tasting the fruits of your own labor, while exchanging impressions with your fellow diners. Every day, on food outings, you will make little detours to show you the local villages and countryside so you can get a feel of the area.
Leave after breakfast to visit a market or a producer, to get ingredients. You will also make a few detours on the way, to admire the pretty villages around the area. Get back for lunch. At 13:00, you will enter the kitchen, where everyone gets involved in a real team effort to prepare dinner. You will cook for about 3 hours, and then get some time to relax or to drive to town. You will meet at 19:00 for aperitif, and then head back to the kitchen for the last minute preparation. You are invited to pop into the kitchen to plate up each course, but you can do as little or as much as you like (your holiday, so your time, your rhythm).
The scenery is changing: yellow, orange, and brown appear all around; nature is getting ready for winter. This is the return of the pot-roasts, the season of game and fat duck. The whole region catches the "blue disease" (this is how they call the hunt for wood pigeons). When possible, you will enjoy evenings outside, gathered around the outdoor chimney. The cookery courses include pts, rillettes, coq au vin, rabbit in prunes, quails, tarte Tatin, etc. You will also make the best of the local apples, hazelnuts, grapes, and figs.
This is the time of year when nature wakes up, flowers start blooming, new vegetables appear, and everything gets colorful again, including your plates. During spring, among many other ingredients, you can cook with the organic asparagus, grown by Le Gargantues neighbor; prepare succulent desserts with the local gariguette strawberries (from April), and make the best of the beautiful farm-bred poultry. Classic Spring dishes include Navarin of lamb, Blanquette de veau, veloute of asparagus, strawberry tart, and poule au pot.
Summers in Lot-et-Garonne are quite hot, so be prepared. You will make the best of the abundant fruit and vegetables that you will pick from local markets or Le Gangantues own garden. During your cooking classes, you could prepare the basque fish soup (the "cousin" of the bouillabaisse), make terrines, fresh pasta, souffls with local goat cheese, tarts with the garden peaches, and cherry clafoutis. You could also smoke salmon or trout. The weather is also perfect to prepare beautiful sweet iced parfaits, chilled mousses, bavarois, etc.
At this time of year, you need to come back to a cozy home, enjoy the warmth of the comfort food, and give in your appetite for rich soups, stews, and other belly-warmers. It is also time to make good use of the local kiwis, pumpkins, squashes, apples, and root vegetables.
Tour beautiful villages around the area
Visit a market or producer to buy ingredients
This holiday will take place in Lot-et-Garonne, France. Lot-et-Garonne is known as the Garden of France". The landscape is quite unspoiled, nature and wildlife are preserved, and agriculture is thriving. The surrounding colors are the ones of wheat and sunflower fields, vineyards, and the deep green of the pine forest of the Landes de Gascogne. It enjoys a very pleasant climate, mostly dry and sunny.
This is a land of eventful history, featuring Richard the Lion Heart, the musketeers, and Henry IV. Many old stones still stand; silent witnesses of the region's historical heritage. Discover the Gallo-Roman relics, Romanesque churches, the impressive castles, and the old wash-houses. The guesthouse, Le Gargantua Cooking & Patisserie Holidays in France, is located in the tiny village of Anzex, surrounded by glorious sunflower fields, only a couple of minutes drive away from the pine forest of the Landes de Gascogne.
This is a serious matter. People of Lot et Garonne (and the south west in general) love their food, and love it traditional. The local cuisine is probably the most diverse in France, as it was influenced by the nearby cuisines of the Basque country, Perigord, Limousin, Languedoc, Pyrnes Mountains and Atlantic Coast. The closest to an accurate description of the local food is a hearty, peasant, incredibly tasty, beautiful for its simplicity, satisfying, interesting, and honest, without compromise. Lot et Garonne is known as the land of the geese, the fat ducks, and their foie gras.
But it is also known as the land of game, Cpes mushrooms, prunes, gariguette strawberries, sweet melons, white asparagus, and Marmande tomatoes. Your daily continental breakfast will consist in bread and croissants, fresh fruit, coffee, English tea, cereals, yogurts, home-made jams, and local honey. Lunches and three-course dinners will include wine. On the wine side, this is the region of Buzet, Ctes du Marmandais, Ctes de Duras, Ctes du Brulhois, Vin de Pays de Gascogne, and Vin de Pays de l'Agenais. The first vines of Buzet are about half a mile away from Le Gargantua cooking school.
Your time off will basically be from 16:00 to 19:00. After your cooking sessions you can relax in your room, in the lounge/diner, in the garden, or maybe read a good book or take a little siesta. If you have a car (which is recommended for the duration of your stay, if you wish to visit the area at the end of your cooking days and time off, or simply to go into town) you can explore the area. You can try some bikes on site that Le Gargantua is happy to let you use across the surrounding countryside.
Follow the sign to Agen
Do a left onto the D11, towards Damazan / Anzex, for about 5 miles
Turn left onto the D120, towards Anzex / Villefranche (do not turn left into Anzex)
Le Gargantua is on that very road, about 2 kilometers from the junction, on the left hand side
There is a shuttle service between BordeauxMrignac Airport (BOD) and Bordeaux train station, called Jet Bus. Departing from terminal B (arrivals level) at the airport, the Jet Bus shuttle connects BordeauxMrignac Airport (BOD) to Bordeaux train station, via the city centre every hour, 7 days a week. The ride from start to finish lasts around 45 minutes, depending on traffic.
You can catch a Eurostar from London to Paris, or a fast train from most cities in Europe to Paris. You then need to get to Paris Montparnasse station, to catch a train to Bordeaux or Agen. Lot-et-Garonne local train station is Tonneins. There are TGV (fast trains) or slower regional trains coming to Tonneins from Bordeaux or Agen. There is approximately 1 train every hour.
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