The Dordogne offers some of the best of France's rich, earthy cuisine. Expect chefs to take great pride in the regional produce, and create ever-changing menus featuring local delicacies like black truffles, duck, walnuts, cheese and fresh vegetables. Establishments range from simple bistros or farm-auberges to world-renowned gastronomic temples.
Truffles: Black Pearls of Périgord
While the Dordogne is famed for all of its gourmet goodies, for some culinary connoisseurs there’s only one that matters: the black Périgord truffle (Tuber melanosporum), often dubbed le diamant noir (black diamond) or, hereabouts, la perle noire du Périgord.
A subterranean fungus that grows naturally in chalky soils (in the Dordogne around the roots of oak or hazelnut trees), it is notoriously capricious: a good truffle spot one year can be inexplicably bare the next, which makes large-scale farming practically impossible. The art of truffle hunting is a matter of luck, judgment and hard-earned experience, with specially trained dogs (and sometimes pigs) helping in the search.
The height of truffle season is between December and March, when you’ll find them on local menus and when special truffle markets are held around the Dordogne, such as Périgueux’ Marchés au Gras, Brantôme and Sarlat. Leading local chefs head 35km south of Périgueux to St-Alvère’s marché aux truffes where top harvests fetch as much as €1000 a kilogram, still a bargain by retail standards. Truffles are classified by quality and size, with the brumale species of truffles garnering lower prices.
Alternatively, book with local truffle expert Edouard Aynaud at Truffière de Péchalifour for a truffle-hunting tour, meal or stay at his truffière (truffle-growing area), just north of St-Cyprien.
Sorges, 23km northeast of Périgueux, has an Écomusée de la Truffe and a 3km trail through the local truffières, while La Truffe Noire de Sorges runs truffle-themed tours followed by a tasting (tour in English on request). Sample the local speciality, or stay over, at Auberge de la Truffe.