One eats well in the Périgord. This is especially true in the colder months, when one craves the hearty, nourishing ingredients for which the reason is best known. Duck and goose, their magrets, their foie, their rillettes and terrines. Garlic, potatoes, walnuts, nut cakes. Mushrooms of all kind and, of course, the king of mushrooms: the Perigord black truffle, shaved on anything or served in an omelet. On a birthday trip in February, I had the chance to enjoy the region and its cuisine at its very best. During the day, we shopped at the Sarlat truffle market and toured the sober, cold stone castles scattered across the exquisite Dordogne landscape. At night, we enjoyed the cozy comfort of restaurants, which sparkle like flecks of warm light in the otherwise cold, black périgourdine night.
One particularly belle adresse is La Couleuvrine, situated in a 15th century castle in the heart of historic Sarlat. Chef Marion Martel has created a menu that sparkles with local pride. Products are almost all IGP Périgord, with a reasonably priced set menu, à la carte and truffle-sprinkled options to choose from. There’s also a more international “Saveurs” menu with things like foie gras nems and sesame-crusted tuna mi-cuit for local guests craving something more exotic. We opted for the flavors of Périgord.
Tourain blanchi is a local soup made of garlic fried in goose fat and thickened with a flour roux, egg whites and egg yolks mixed with white wine vinegar. It’s served with crunchy croutons and a slice of toasted bread with cheese melted on. Frying in goose fat brings out the very best in the local garlic, its sweetness, nuttiness and caramelized deliciousness, which in turn flavors this velvety, heart-warming soup. Such a simple “poor man’s ” recipe but expertly executed, a wonderfully comforting and welcoming first dish.
Their duck foie gras was probably one of the best foie gras I’ve ever had (and after living almost 6 years in southwest France, I’ve had a lot of foie gras). Full of flavor, but still very delicate rather than gamey, it had a truly dreamy texture. Smooth, cool, endlessly rich and fatty, absolutely perfect. I also enjoyed the very périgourdine foie-to-bread ratio, which revealed a no-fuss, rustic generosity we greatly appreciated.
Ben was in a simple mood and got a filet of beef which came cooked to a perfect rare and served with the meat jus, fries and some veg. The menu also includes quite a few cuts served with a truffle sauce and a beef filet façon Rossini, which means topped with a ring of pan-fried foie gras, slices of truffle and a Madeira sauce.
I was not in a simple mood and ordered the ris de veau (veal sweetbreads), plump and juicy, with a generous portion of locally-foraged cèpes mushrooms in a delicious and glossy Madeira sauce, which brought together the earthy flavors of the shrooms with sweet shallots, herbs and the savory depth of the cooked wine. This gorgeous, juicy and warm mixture was served with pommes sarladaises, a local recipe of potato slices seared in duck fat and finished with garlic and fresh parsley. Again, the duck fat brings tremendous flavor and a gorgeous caramelized crust on the potatoes. Some fried parsnip chips added crunch, while a few blanched veggies lent a touch of freshness to the dish.
Cozy, delicious food and excellent service from start to finish. La Couleuvrine is a true gem in Sarlat, which I recommend to all who visit this magically little town.