The mild climate of sunny Charente not only makes it a great holiday destination, but also provides ideal conditions for the products used in the traditional cuisine.
Most visitors will be familiar with the region’s world famous brandy from the Cognac vineyards, but have you tried the locals’ favourite - Pineau? Advertisements for this sweet liqueur - a blend of Charente grape juice with Cognac brandy - can be seen everywhere.
Sample it chilled as an aperitif with tonic and a sliver of lemon peel or to accompany foie gras and desserts. Pineau added to a rabbit casserole (lapin a la santongeaise) along with garlic and tomatoes is popular or cooked with mussels.
Cattle grazing the lush green pastures of the Charente Limousine produce fine tasty Limousine beef and milk-fed calves from Chalais give tender veal. From a variety of cheeses try Le Manslois, named after the town of Mansle. Made from either cow’s or goat’s milk, it can be eaten either sweet or savoury.
Even Charente’s butter has AOC status and is acknowledged to be the finest in France. Special occasions are often celebrated here by serving moist, flavoursome, caponised chickens from Barbezieux, although on 1 May it’s the custom to sample the pork delicacy of grillon charentais, a type of potted meat eaten with young garlic shoots.
You’ll be sure to find dishes with Charente’s little mojhette beans on menus any day of the week. Also look out for fabulous truffles and smooth fragrant salad oils made from walnuts and hazelnuts. You may also spot Charentais locals hunting around vines and ditches after rain, gathering one of their favourite delicacies - ‘les petit gris’ or small grey snails!