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France - Carcassonne
24-27 January 2020

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2-5 November2018

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A Taste of Carcassonne, France

24th-27th January 2020

An exciting opportunity to discover the Cuisine du Terroir within the rugged Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. The theme of this gastronomic weekend is the Period black truffle, Michelin star cooking regional wine, understated luxury and the legendary cassoulet.

During the trip you will enjoy a luxury three-night stay at the five-star Hôtel de la Cité, uniquely situated within the historic Carthar medieval walled city of Carcassonne. Highlights of this three-night stay include a truffle-inspired tasting menu dinner (specially designed for our group by Executive Chef Jérôme Ryon) with full wine service within the hotel’s Michelin star La Barbacane restaurant, take part in a truffle hunt in the French countryside and visit a French food fair (where the highlight is a truffle auction) at the Ampélofolies of Carbardès Festival. Also on the trip guests will visit a traditional Saturday morning French market, enjoy a traditional cassoulet dinner at Chateau Saint Martin, visit the local winery Chateau Saint Jacques d’Albas where we will have a tour, tasting and lunch and then off to visit a truffle museum.

The Ampélofolies of Carbardès Festival is held annually in the village of Moussoulens, which is located at the base of the Black Mountains. The Festival is little known outside the region, but is well supported by local producers and vintners (whose vineyards produce wine from high-quality AOC Carbardès grape varieties including Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot). The highlight of the informal Festival is the midday truffle auction conducted in the village square - an age-old tradition fiercely regulated and its customs guarded. Prices fetched from buyers reach upwards of £1,000 per kilo.

Truffle Market
Hôtel de la Cité

Chef Jérôme Ryon profile
Head Chef Jerome RyonHôtel de la Cité Executive Head Chef Jérôme Ryon was born in a small village in La Bresse, a region known for breeding France’s finest poultry, and he recalls sitting in his grandmother’s kitchen as a young boy, watching her prepare regional dishes.

A graduate of the well-known Thonon-les-Bains Hotel and Catering School, where Chef Ryon honed his craft by working for prestigious chefs such as Marc Veyrat at L’Auberge de l’Eridan.

Although Chef Ryon defines his culinary heritage as mainly classical French, he is also extremely open to evolving foreign cuisines. Of all the culinary seasons, he prefers autumn and early winter, with its array of game, mushrooms and truffles (his favourite ingredient).

Chef Ryon is a former winner of the prestigious “Pierre Taittinger International Culinary Award.

Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat, pork skin and white beans. The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides.

But to truly understand the essence of the “holy trinity” of Cassoulet and its importance to the people of the region it’s best to read from the author of the Larousse Gastronomique, Carcassonne native Prosper Montagné, who, in his 1929 “Le Festin Occitan,” proclaimed, “Cassoulet is the God of the Occitan cuisine. The Castelnaudary version is God the Father, the Carcassonne recipe is God the Son, and the Toulousain is the Holy Spirit.”

Chateau St. Martin restaurant, owned and operated by Chef Jean-Claude Rodriguez (and three generations of his family) is home to the Académie Universelle du Cassoulet. 

Chef Rodriguez pays homage to Cassoulet by lovingly preparing his brand of cassoulet that brings to the mind bouquets of forests, meadows and succulent meats. All this served in clay bowls containing beans cooked to perfection, tender but still holding their own, dotted with rosemary, thyme and parsley. Duck confit, chewy and silky, mixed with chunks of braised pork and a fatty and delicious membrane known as “couenne.” 

© Brian Smith Associates www.briansmithassociates.co.uk