By Ann | November 21, 2013
Aveyron is known as la France profonde — deep France, in-the-sticks France — and, indeed, I’ve met many French people who have barely heard of it, let alone been there. Located about 350 miles south of Paris, the lack of high-speed TGV or direct train service means the region has remained relatively inaccessible.
Aveyron is a landscape of mountains that plunge to river valleys, twisty roads, and cows — the famous Aubrac race — grazing in high pastures. I’ve heard Parisians describe the local cuisine as “costaud,” or heavy (but you know how critical Parisians are), and indeed it’s hearty fare, famous for dishes like truffade (mashed potatoes mixed with bacon and cheese, fried into a golden pancake), farçous (herb-enhanced fritters), raw-cured sausages and ham, and aligot, a fine potato purée beaten with fresh cheese until it resembles molten lava. The rough and ready region is also home to the celebrated three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Michel et Sébastien Bras.
Where to eat in Aveyron?
My suggestions focus in and around Laguiole, in the central part of the region.
Restaurant de l’Aubrac (17 allée de l’Amicale, Laguiole, tel: 05065 44 32 13) draws crowds of locals and tourists for its magnificent aligot, so gooey and cheesy that our waitress actually climbed on a chair to tame the molten lava-like strands so she could serve it to us. Choose from an array of Aubrac beef in various forms (steak, pot au feu) to accompany the potatoes.
Michel et Sébastien Bras (Route de l’Aubrac, Laguiole, tel: 05 65 51 18 20) continues to earn all of its three Michelin stars, with its beautiful, thoughtful, heartfelt, poetic food — food that tells a story. Of all the Michelin-starred restaurants I’ve eaten at (granted, there haven’t been many), this was my absolute favorite. (Check out this post for a detailed report of my meal.)
Delbouis Les Bessades (Les Bessades Montpeyroux, tel: 05 65 44 40 11) is, to me, on par with Chez Bras. It’s a local farmhouse kitchen where Cathy Delbouis serves up recipes that have been passed down for generations. Most of the ingredients are produced on the farm and the food is honest and simple and true. There is usually charcuterie from a pig slaughtered and cured by Cathy’s own hands, and parsley-flecked fritters eaten with her homemade red current jam (see photos above), and some sort of roast — chicken, perhaps — local cheese and fruit. I’ve eaten some of my favorite meals in France here — then again, I’m biased: if you’ve read my book, you know Cathy is a friend. Make sure to call ahead for a reservation.
Coopérative Fromagère Jeune Montagne (Laguiole, tel: 05 65 44 35 54) is a factory producing fromage de Laguiole (a hard, sharp cheese like cheddar), and tome fraîche (squeaky and clean, used to make aligot), as well as frozen aligot, and other products, all sold in the adjacent store. (That’s me in the photo above, taking notes on the factory floor.)
Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Library Journal says “is sure to delight lovers of France, food, or travel.”
And more from the series, Where to Eat in France.