Pyrénées Atlantiques

A great gastronomy

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Here we have to devote a full paragraph and yet it might not be enough to shelter our enthousiasm for the basque cuisine and gastronomy!! The basque country is certainly one of the French regions with the most joyful gastronomy. There is a strong Spanish influence that starts with the tapas , a colourful collection of snacks to start a dinner with, featuring cured ham (from Bayonne or even better the Jamon Ibérico), and many sorts of sea food. The basque cuisine is as varied as the territory it comes from, be it sea food or inland food. There is a strong tradition of fishing dating back to the XIXth century when Basque fishermen used to sail to Newfoundland to fish whale and cod. So if you want to eat light and yet tasty try “merlu à l’espagnole” a refined white flesh fish baked in the oven and served with grilled garlic in a vinegar sauce, or a fish, generally seabass or gilt-head, grilled “a la plancha” (meaning grilled on a metallic plate), or crab soup called “txanguro” or a fish soup called “ttoro”. The food coming from the inland territory is less light than seafood but not less tasty! You seriously cannot leave Pays basque without sampling a “txuleta” a grilled bone steak served for 2 persons. One of the renowned specialty of Basque country is “piment d’Espelette” or Espelette pepper which features in veal “axoa”, “piperade”, or “lomo” (fine slices of spicy pork). The inland gastronomy provides a varied range of desserts, be it ewe’s cheese (that people eat with cherry marmalade), “mamia” (a sour tasting ewe’s milk curd), or the rejoicing “gâteau basque”, an ‘energizing’ cake with almond filling. As to the beverage, basque cider is a unique apple wine, slightly acid and very different from the Breton cider.
As you might have infer from the mouthwatering list above there are a lot of very serious restaurants in Pays Basque, from gastronomic ones to simple beach restaurants but all taking their job seriously!
 

Wines and vineyards

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In the Madiran area, the grape red tannat gives wines aromas of black fruits and spices. It matches with the hearty meals of the winter like the famous Gardure a rich soup of local white beans and duck confit or can fit with a T-Bone steak grilled, one of the joyful specialty of the summer.  For white wines, the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh are sweet and soft.

They rival in sweetness and aromatic richness with the Jurançon wines that are often drunk along with foie gras or even cheese.

To go along with fish and seafood another specialty of the Basque gastronomy, the dry white Jurançon has a perfect quenching and minerality to go with a summer meal.

The Irouléguy wineyard, cultivated on terraces on the slopy hills of Pays Basque offers wines remarkable for their power and frehness.