Enjoy hearty Flemish food, such as
winter beef and fish stews. The forests of the Ardennes provide deer and venison.
Try ‘carbonnade’ (charcoal grilled beef cooked in local beer with onions and spices), ‘hochepot’ (stew of meat and vegetables) or venison braised with dried apricots, prunes and raisins not forgetting ‘andouillettes’ - local spicy sausages. Other dishes are made from marvellous locally grown vegetables such as ‘flamiche aux poireaux’ (leek pie).
Well known cheeses are Maroilles (first produced in the twelfth century and made in squares) and Abbaye de Mont des Cats. And for desserts there’s ‘beaten cake’ made with Picardy butter and macaroons, ‘gouffres a la citrouille’ pumpkin waffles and ‘tarte a gros bords’ a sweet custard tart cooked in a wood-fired oven.
Beers rather than wines (the region grows grain not vines) are produced in Nord Pas de Calais ranging from light lagers to strong ales. There are large breweries in Lille and St Omer, and smaller artisan breweries throughout the region.
The regional spirit is Genievre, a gin flavoured with juniper berries. Visit the Persyn distillery in Houlle for a tour of their distillery established in 1812 to supply English smugglers keen to avoid heavy English taxes on spirits. Tour includes film and tasting. Tel (00 33) 3 21 93 01 71 for appointment Monday to Saturday.