France is a wonderful country for cycling, and Headwater Cycling Holidays have pioneered the best type of cycling holiday: the sort where you cycle from one fabulous meal to another, getting rid of the calories with the pedalling exercise in between.
There’s a rich treasure in France’s regional produce and the local recipes for its preparation.
Pork-butchery is one of the oldest surviving traditions in Alsace with choucroute garni undoubtedly the region’s most acclaimed dish. Made from various cuts of meats, salted hams and sausages braised in local Riesling wine, it appears on every menu from local workers’ cafes to contemporary restaurants (although at the top end you’re likely to be offered the grander choucroute royale made with champagne instead of wine!).
The tiny, subtle-flavoured Burgundy snail is considered to be among the finest in the world. Rather than drown it in tonnes of garlic – as is often the case! – Burgundian chefs prefer a more refined approach, opting instead for lightly sauteing in a parsley butter, adding possibly a dash of cream just before serving.
Not many people know that there are no fewer than 13 varieties of oysters in Brittany! If you are a fan, then see if you can taste the difference between the nutty-flavoured Aven Belon oyster, the perfumed Cancale oyster and the beautifully smooth oyster found on the Bay of Quiberon.
Some of the best cheeses in France come from the relatively unknown Massif Central. Personal favourites include the dry and fruity Cantal, the smooth and mild Saint Nectaire, and the stronger blue Fourme d’Ambert cheese, easily identifiable by its tall cylindrical shape.
With its warm sunny climate and proximity to the coast, Provence produces some of the freshest and tastiest food in France. If you’re looking to try something a little different this summer, look out for the delicate lavender honey which is delicious served with roasted figs or eaten simply with fresh crusty bread.
The fragrant black truffle, also known as the “black diamond”, is used widely by in the restaurants of the Lot & Dordogne, and is considered one of the pearls of French gastronomy. Chefs rely on it to turn a simple omelette into a gourmet dish, as well as often adding shavings to salads, hot cheeses and foie gras.
Tarte tatin, or caramelised upside-down apple tart, was apparently invented by two absent-minded sisters in the Loire where it remains a specialty dessert. If you have a sweet tooth, look out too for almond patisseries from Comery and Poulain chocolates from Blois.