I never expected to love France this much. Everyone talks about how charming it is and I thought it was just hype, but it’s not. Wine, cheese, and truffles aren’t mere extravagances here. They’re part of everyday life. The people are relaxed and friendly, with a healthy dose of cynicism in almost every conversation. The land in the Rhone/Alps region is absolutely gorgeous with snow-capped mountains framing the edge of the horizon and gentle, rolling hills dotted with vineyards providing a living landscape painting out of nearly every window.
Yesterday, I shared with you my first day in Lyon, which was filled with cheese, tunnels, and traditional Lyonnaise food. On our second day, the #FrenchGourmetTrip group, put together by the Only Lyon, Tourisme Rhone Alpes, and Rendezvous en France tourism boards, headed out of Lyon and into the greater Rhone Alps region for truffles, truffles, and more truffles.
Join me on my journey as we indulge in the most coveted product of the region: the elusive French black truffle (aka truffe noir, Tuber melanosporum, or Périgord truffle).
We began our day in the Drôme Provençale region where the truffle market in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux was in full effect. It’s a small market in the town square and vendors set up in a circle where hungry customers line up to buy freshly picked truffles for a fraction of the price they cost at specialty stores. The town is the only one in France to offer a guarantee that these are legit melanosporum and the regulations are tight (if they don’t sell their wares the day they arrive, they can’t return to try to sell them again next week), so if you want the absolute best quality, this is the market to hit.
After the truffle market and visit to the town’s small but sweet Truffle Museum, we ended up at Le Moulin Valaurie, a charming French chateau that looked like what you’d imagine a charming French chateau to look like. See for yourself in the image above. We dined on three courses of reimagined French cuisine that was hit-or-miss.
The merlan en mousseline above was fairly good. It’s a fish custard of sorts wrapped in a thin layer of pastry dough. Similar to the quenelle I experienced in the bouchon the previous night, it was quite light and almost bouncy in texture. Perhaps bouyant would be a better description. The sauce was a chive butter that ended up being a bit overpowering.
The main course was something we rarely see in the US: chicken oysters (that little fatty nub on the back of the chicken). They sat on top of pureed sunchokes and that green dap in the middle is a miso-cress ice cream. Very creative, but that doesn’t mean successful. I wasn’t very impressed.
After lunch, we drove to the gorgeous estate known as Ferme des Eybrachas, a truffle farm in Réauville. There, we hunted truffle with an adorable dog (seem in the bottom part of the photo above) and ate delicious truffle-y foods.
Yep. That’s a truffle. It’s probably worth more than Facebook and Apple combined. Okay, okay, I mean the phone you use to view Facebook and an actual Apple. Still pretty pricey! For the record, that isn’t my hand. It’s the hand of an old woman I’m traveling with.
The next stop on our tour was the last of the evening. Imagine a French chateau. Now imagine that it’s actually real. That’s the Le Clair de la Plume hotel, which turned out to be the epitome of French class and hospitality. I thought French maids were fake stereotypes until I stayed there. Now I know they actually exist. Above you’ll see the welcome note and cookies that greeted me in the room. #Baller.
What a day! More to come tomorrow!