Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Travel: Dordogne Day One

So I haven’t told you guys about the biggest competition prize yet- but I figured I would tell you all when I had “claimed” the prize- I won a FRICKIN HOLIDAY!!! In December I entered Sudocrem’s “Superchef” competition on their Facebook page, and in January I got an email back saying that I had won 1st prize- a 3 night stay for two at a gourmet cookery school in the Dordogne!! I couldn’t ruddy believe it! Anyway, so I went on this holiday a couple of weeks ago and I thought I would tell you about my opinions and experiences of the Dordogne. So the travel arrangements were a bit confusing, as the rustic cookery school ( “CookinFrance” is its title) was located 2 hours drive from Limoges or Bergerac airport, and we had to get there on the Monday before 6, which meant we had to fly from Stansted airport with Ryanair. Luckily we have a friend that lives in Seven Sisters in London (thank you Dan!) so we stayed with him for a night before going early from Stansted (and actually had a fun time, checking out some “music from the andes” at some weird random pop up stage, then going to see one of his friends perform at a local pub “The Woodbine” which also served amazing Thai food).
After we arrived in Limoges airport and got our car hire, and after driving on the motorway for about 45 minutes, we figured we would go off to one of the many little villages that are signposted all along the motorway for a bite to eat. As far as I’m aware I didn’t see any service stations (or Little Chefs, lol!) so generally I think to have a break you are supposed to get off the motorway a little bit and chill out at a little village for a while. Well, we stopped off at a place called Pierre Bouffiere, which was a cute little village with a mechanics, a couple of shops and a couple of hotels/ restaurants. We decided to sit and eat at a restaurant called Restaurant La Providence, which we noticed had slightly high prices but the menu sounded nice.
Since we had arrived at quite a late time (about 2:30 ish if I remember right) the funny old waitress told us that we had to order either the pate or the entrecote, so we ordered the entrecote (not knowing at all about what it came with!). an Entrecote is just a French word for premium cut of meat used for steaks- and basically it’s the same as our English “Rib-eye” steak, although often the French cut is thinner and larger. When our meal arrived, she brought it out on cloches and removed the cloche and I love the reaction of my face here- it was kinda like, is this it?? A big slab of COW? I know this is France but is it really just like “you asked for meat and HERE IS MEAT”, haha! Nah, but we started tucking in to our massive steaks, which were delicious and cooked to perfection- well, I like my steaks rare, maybe it was a bit under for nick, who likes his medium, but they didn’t ask us how we wanted it and knowing how they like their meat in France I was expecting it to be fairly rare. 5 minutes later we were relieved however by this wonderful baking dish of creamy Dauphinoise (which I thought was poignant as I had won this holiday for my leek and potato Dauphinoise recipe, haha!). The meal was delicious, the service was great (a super quirky very French old waitress who couldn’t stop laughing!) and we could sit outside and watch the lazy little village go about it’s daily business.
Soon we were back again on the road to get to the Cookinfrance location. When we arrived, I just thought- this is perfect, this is just how I imagined it! Converted from an old French set of farm houses, it’s got a cute little veg plot as well, a cute courtyard where we met all the other people on the cookery course, and 6 rooms (3 “modern” and 3 “contemporary”- I’d chosen contemporary which I was vary happy with). There was also a pool, which of course I immediately got into my bikini for and jumped in!!
Soon we were called to have drinks and dinner and meet everyone. There were 12 of us (including me and Nick) and what was super weird (considering this was a random place in another country) was 4 other people were from either Bath or Bristol!! The couple from Bristol were also competition winners actually; Steph had won this holiday by appearing on Family Fortunes, and had brought her very nice highly entertaining Aussie boyfriend Al along with her. Nick and Al had a nice chat about being happy with anything because to be fair they were both getting a holiday free, given to them by their lovely girlfriends!
After a couple of glasses of fizz we were then told to sit to dinner. Jim and Lucy (the CookinFrance organisers) served us a chilled tomato, fennel and black olive soup, with pesto and feta. Mains were confit duck (a dish that I soon realised in the next few days this particular region is utterly obsessed with) with mash, gravy, and sautéed vegetables. Dessert was a posset (which I thought was an unusual choice, considering posset is traditionally an English dessert) with poached rhubarb, raspberry sorbet and some shortbread. You guys know I’m not much of a pudding person but it was presented in a very rosette/ Michelin style way so I was quite impressed.
After a few glasses of wine and a lovely dinner, we met Jim who explained to us what we would be doing over the next few days, gave us an itinerary, and said goodnight. I had a skim through the recipes in the booklet and looked forward to all the culinary antics the next day would involve.

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