Cooking In Gascony - Wine Course Bordeaux France And Southwest France Cooking Tours
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Cooking in Gascony
Gramont, France

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About the Location: Situated in the heart of the Gers in South-Western France, this cooking school is the perfect setting for your initiation into French cuisine. The location has been specifically selected by your hosts for the region’s famed gastronomy and the area’s culinary prestige is rivaled only by the beauty of its landscape; a combination of rolling hills, meandering rivers and fields upon fields of golden sunflowers. In addition to the picturesque region’s gastronomic treasures, this corner of the French countryside is saturated with European history. Now one of the least populated areas in France (a fact which enables Gascony to proudly retain its core ‘Frenchness’), Gascony was invaded by the Romans, the Vikings and the Visigoths, each civilization leaving behind remnants of their occupation. From forts and castles to beautifully preserved Roman baths there is a plethora of excursions and sightseeing activities to be enjoyed during your free time at the cookery school. Alternatively, the school is also in easy driving distance of Toulouse and Bordeaux and, for those wishing to extend their European exploration, you are only a train ride away from the Spanish city of Barcelona.
Your home for the duration of the five-day course will be the historic French commune of Gramont. The village of Gramont is a closely-knit community and boasts, in addition to its status as a national heritage site, the Chateau de Gramont, a well-maintained medieval castle and one of just six national monuments in the Midi-Pyrenees region. Your hosts for the week, David and Vikki, are an English couple whose long love-affair with French food and culture finally led them to renovating the old Gascon auberge in which you will be staying. You will be accommodated in one of the five elegant and classically furnished guestrooms of their chambres d’hôtes (there are two double rooms on the ground floor; and, three double rooms, one room with a king-sized bed, and a room with a double bed and single bed on the first floor). In true Gascon manner David and Vikki will make you feel as welcome and comfortable as possible in your new home from home.

About the Cooking Lessons: The teaching itself will take place in a large, professionally-equipped kitchen and for this David will be joined by locally acclaimed French chef, Bernard, in guiding you through your introduction to French cookery. Both David and Bernard are experienced and talented chefs in their own rights and their unique Anglo-Franco partnership allows for a method of tuition that is completely accessible to English speakers, whilst at the same time preserving the authenticity of your truly Gallic experience of French cuisine. Your menu for the week has been carefully crafted by David and Bernard in order to showcase the best of Gascony’s culinary delights and includes, amongst other dishes: cassoulet, ballotine de poulet and tartes aux pommes. All of the ingredients that you will cook with are sourced from the local, open-air markets which you will visit during your stay. Aside from familiarizing yourself in this way with any new produce and flavors, your time spent at the local marchés promises to enhance your experience of French life through your contact with the people whose cuisine and culture you will be learning about.

Cooking in Gascony Itinerary

Day 1 - Sunday

  • After settling into your room and acquainting yourself with the village and your fellow cookery school guests, your hosts David and Vikki and French chef Bernard will be waiting to welcome you on the terrace. Greeting you with local aperitifs and hors-d’oeuvres they will provide an overview of the week ahead before serving an exquisite four-course supper. This dining experience will be repeated every night of your stay and is inclusive in the overall price.
  • Following dinner, relax on one of the three terraces, where you can admire the beautiful sunset.
  • Overnight.

Day 2 - Monday

  • After beginning the day with a traditional breakfast of croissants, fresh bread, cold meats, cheese, home-made jams and local honey, you will start with a tour of the kitchen and a lesson in basic knife skills. Following this, learn to prepare a simple French dressing, sauce suzette, and an ornate puff pastry dessert, gâteau pithiviers.
  • Next, use your new knife skills by making David’s famous pizza gersois: a homemade pizza with onions, sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, duck breast, and olives. Your class continues with some pâtisserie, such as a sweet pastry like pâte sucrée, that will be used as a base for a pastry you will make the following day.
  • After a typical long French lunch — based on your culinary efforts — head across the street to an auberge to learn the art of foie gras, including mi-cuit, traditional, cru, and pain d‘épices, as well as how to make cassoulet, Chef Bernard’s most popular dish. Your class ends with a tour of Bernard’s restaurant, where you will be spending much of your time during your cooking vacation.
  • Next, it’s time to make crepes and use the sauce suzette you prepared earlier as the finishing ingredient. You’ll also make two more traditional pastries, perhaps a pâte sablée and a pâte sucrée.
  • In the evening, tour the local wine museum while enjoying a glass of wine. Dinner to follow at Bernard’s restaurant; the signature menu will include the duck foie gras that you made earlier.
  • Overnight.

Day 3 - Tuesday

  • An early breakfast at 9:00 a.m.
  • Today you will attend the local markets and select ingredients for this afternoon’s class. The markets are sure to whet your appetite, as you learn about the region’s seasonal produce. You will then lunch in a traditional local café in the Roman town of Lectoure before returning to the school to begin your afternoon classes.
  • In this session you will fillet a fish, prepare a velouté sauce, and
 practice your knife and pastry skills to create a delectable tarte aux pommes.
  • Prior to starting dinner, there will also be a quick lesson, led by David, on plating and presentation skills. Each dish you prepared today will be part of your dinner.
  • Overnight.

Day 4 - Wednesday

  • Breakfast. (For those on the 3-night program, departure after breakfast).
  • For those on the 5-night program, David will show you how to employ your newly acquired knife skills to bone a chicken in order to make ballotine de poulet and a rich, mushroom sauce to accompany it.
  • After this main course you will set about preparing a tarte au citron as well as an entree of soupe aux deux poivrons (two-pepper soup). Lunch to follow based on your efforts.
  • In the afternoon, visit Gramont’s 17th-century chateau, which is a well-preserved Renaissance castle.
  • You will then be invited back into the kitchen to practice your presentation skills and to serve and sample the dishes that you prepared earlier with your hosts.
  • Overnight.

Day 5 - Thursday

  • Breakfast.
  • Return to the kitchen to prepare six dishes over the course of three hours, your most intensive time in the kitchen. This cooking class will focus on French desserts, and you’ll make such delectable treats as une crème patisserie, une crème caramel, and une crème brulee. Then you’ll switch from the sweet to the savory and make the iconic French sauce, béchamel. Lastly, you’ll work on sugar spinning and make a reduction sauce, jus de vin rouge.
  • Lunch.
  • In the afternoon your hosts will take you on a tour of the Chateau de Cassaigne, an Armagnac distillery in Condom where you can study the history of Armagnac and perhaps enjoy a dégustation of the locally produced spirit.
  • Time permitting, a visit to the ancient fortified village of Larrissingle, a beautiful Roman relic, will follow.
  • Dinner at Bernard’s restaurant; the menu will include the dishes you worked on in class, including the cassoulet you prepared earlier int he week, and the desserts you made today.
  • Overnight.

Day 6 - Friday

  • After a final hearty breakfast you are welcome to either extend your stay in Gramont or else transport to the airport can be arranged for you.