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Editor'S Choice - 2020

Gastro Rally for the French Lot

This is a bite to one of the most amazing lands in France. Inhospitable, depopulated and with more green surface than the meadows where Heidi made the croquette with Pedro. So far from everything but so close, it looks especially with a couple of products that are named after its two great attractions: the capital Cahors and the epic Rocamadour. But this is not about centuries-old stones and pilgrimages. This goes from keeping track of two concepts as distant as the rurality of the farms and the sybaritism of the wineries.

This gastro rally must be done on wheels and motor, going up and down the hills of its steep orography. But be careful, not too fast because a cheese farm can appear in any corner. The large part of the surface of the Lot It is protected inside a natural park called Causses du Quercy. This translates into hectares of not very lush forests and meadows where goats graze. And they say that in their lifestyle goat is the key to the success of its famous cheese, in the taste of the herb and the peace of parsimonious digestion. Because it will not be because of the race, simple and common alpine goats. Only here they don't eat newspapers or yellow bushes, here they eat Michelin star.

Views of the town of Rocamadour, on the banks of the Lot © Corbis

The more than 40 producers of fromage of the region gather around a DO. called Rocamadour. The name was decided in 1996 and in its baptism the marketing and tourist attraction of this place had an important weight since for centuries this cheese was known as cabecou. In any farm the sniffing visitor is welcome with a French book. At this point there are always two options: or not to pass the store or be interested in how it is produced. The good thing about the first option is that, if you are a scrupulous urbanite, you will not suffer constant déjà-vus Farmers when you put a piece in your mouth. The good thing about the second, which is discovered that in its elaboration there is not much magic or science, only pure and simple tradition. Alain Lacoste, of the Lacoste cheese factory He takes a lot of importance from his work and shows his installations as if he were not showing anything special. It is true that the process surprises with its simplicity and its speed, since only a week elapses since the goat is milked until this cheese is produced.

Farm in the Park of Causses du Quercy © Corbis

But what is most surprising to the naked eye is its size. Away from the mastodónticos cheeses and the mainstream rulo, Rocamadour is sold in small individual portions. In just three bites you finish with each piece. It is said that this measure became a standard for paying tithes to feudal lords. It was easier to divide small parts than large round cheeses. Another key is its fragility because for the pilgrims who reached the sanctuary and for those who passed by to Santiago It was much easier to transport these mini cheeses healthy and safe.
It is a cheese that agrees to both regional and more sophisticated restaurants. Always third course, preceding dessert and served naked. At most, with a teaspoon of jam on the side, giving great importance to a creamy and surprising flavor. Demystifies and erases at any stroke any topic regarding goat cheeses as it maintains its potency of flavors surprising with texture. And here is its great value, beyond its packaging and forms.

Rocamadour cheese, small bites of pleasure © Corbis

The roundabouts that precede the entrance to cities like Cahors or Souillac are plagued with store ads from Cahors wine. It is the new old hit, the oenological claim that already had its pull in the past. But it has returned with such force that the entire city is full of winks to wine, from the vines populating any park to the exclusively wine shops that are mounted in street markets throughout the region. His story is discovered perfectly zigzagging through Cahors and entering its covered market, a whole museum dedicated to food where strawberries and asparagus shine on these dates. In its wine bars, the name of Malbec stands out above the name of the city. And this grape is the mother of the whole affair and the culprit of the new rebirth.
After the phylloxera disaster in the 19th century, the region suffered a couple of crises of different kinds that discriminated against Malbec. On the one hand, the new wine preferences: of more quantity and lower quality. On the other, the great rural exodus suffered in an apartment that barely has industry. But a few decades ago, some local heirs re-planted this type of strain to deal with the neighboring Bordeaux monopoly. A product that would be pure Malbec (if it does not contain more than 70% of this grape, it is not admitted in the D.O.) and that would be done as before, with care and precision. And was it worth it? Well it seems so, since the business grows like foam, causing the few clearings in the region to repopulate with vineyards.

Vineyards in Cahors in the Lot region © Corbis

To discover them, it is best to leave civilization behind and go back up and down the road. Specifically to the southeast, where it is the most ambitious wine tourism stop: the vineyards of Château de Haute Serre. Your owner, Bertrand-Gabriel Vigoroux acquired a few hectares at the top of a hill to not only repopulate them with vines, but also to reform an old warehouse and turn it into a unique gastronomic experience together with the visit to the Lot. In his own words: "The wine precedes the trip, accompanies the trip and makes the trip last."

"The wine precedes, accompanies and makes the trip last" says Vigoroux, owner of the Château © Château de Haute Serre

With this belief he opened his restaurant four years ago La Table de Haute Serre. And also with an objective: dignify this special wine at the table. Because, above all, Malbec is a very complex grape difficult to match. Its wines enter the mouth aggressively, with some enveloping tannins and endures with a persuasive touch of pepper. Here your chef Thierry Pszonka try to combine the culinary sudoku that involves pairing the flavors of southern France (see foie, birds, etc.) with the Cahors homegrown. That's why he not only makes his dishes wonderfully well, but also organizes cooking and tasting courses with which to hook every fan of a good gastro rally to this wine. And by the way, it marries beautifully with Rocamadour cheese. It would be less ...
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La Table restaurant by Haute Serre © Corbis

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