Tarn’s cuisine offers regional food found throughout the Midi Pyrenees like cassoulet (a warming bean stew including pork, bacon or goose confit) and various dishes using foie gras and charcuterie.
Summer farmers markets all over France are where you’ll find great free-range poultry, fresh fruit, vegetables and cheeses. They’re also the place to have fun seeking out local products. In Tarn, you may not discover many truffles from the Gresigne oak forest but you could find creamy yellow cepes (mushrooms), and pink Lautrec garlic in the markets of Realmont and Trebas. This red label product really is pink, aromatic with a subtle, sweeter taste and it keeps longer than white garlic.
The pure mountain air of Lacaune is perfect for salting meats for which Tarn is well-known. Pork is a speciality, in particular salt ham. Try sausages, black pudding and melsat (a type of white pudding made with meat, bread and eggs). Flavoursome veal from the Aveyron and Segala areas has earned a red label and Lauragais veal and lamb are also known for their quality. Wild boar stew (le civet de sanglier) is sometimes on menus around Cordes and the local market sells fish so fresh they’re still swimming in tanks.
Strawberries, cherries and apples grow in the valleys of central Tarn. Pumpkin pancakes (mesturets) were once popular street food around Castres while Albi’s speciality is biscuits - fruit and vanilla boat-shaped navettes, lemon gimblettes and aniseed Jeannots.
Local cheeses like French Chester (from Castres), Blanc d’Oc, Mont de Saint Pierre or Mont Lacaune all go well with a glass of Tarn’s Gaillac wine. There have been vineyards here since Roman times and modern vines produce AOC wines for dry or sweet palates. For something different, look for fraicheur perlee - a light sparkling white - or rouge primeur - the new season’s red which should be drunk young. Gaillac Maison des Vins, Abbaye St-Michael offers tastings and advice on Gaillac AOC wines 1000 - 1200 and 1400 - 1800 each day and Lisle-sur-Tarn makes a good base for wine tours.