Aug 2012

In the Loire Valley: Searching for Châteaux, Finding Foie Gras and Goat Cheese Instead

Around the Loire Valley

After spending three days in Paris, The Astronomer, my mom, and I packed our bags and headed to the countryside. The first stop on our survey tour of France brought us to the Loire Valley, a region famous for its age-old châteaux. The Astronomer, a proficient stick-shift driver since age 15, rented a car to shuttle us from site to site. Even though things got a little hairy at times on the narrow, winding roads, he navigated the terrain like a true Frenchman.

The first fancy house that we visited was the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, an impressive residence with its foundations built under water. From there, we headed to the Château de Villandry to scope out its intricate gardens.

Ferme des Morinières - Loire Valley

Somewhere between point A and B, we found ourselves lost among the grassy pastures. Though we made a valiant effort to follow the sporadic signs pointing us in the right direction, it was a hopeless situation without a GPS.

On the search for Villandry, we drove by dozens of signs on the road advertising a plethora of artisanal products. We decided to follow the blue arrows promising foie gras after giving up on finding the château.

Ferme des Morinières - Loire Valley

Fortunately for us, the signs leading to Ferme des Morinières were much easier to follow than the ones for Villandry. Ferme des Morinières is a family-run foie gras farm that has been operating for three generations. We were the only visitors on the farm this early evening, although I sensed from the farm’s welcoming spirit and gift shop that visitors exploring the countryside swing by all the time.

Ferme des Morinières - Loire Valley

Before visiting the area where the ducks were fed and kept, we admired the geese and goats nearby.

Ferme des Morinières - Loire Valley

As we approached the pen area, we saw that the ducks were being fed by their caretaker. While the actual gavage didn’t really phase me, the idle ducks with their wobbly beaks flapping in the wind broke my heart. It seemed to me that constantly force feeding the ducks caused severe damage to their beak muscle tissue.

Ferme des Morinières - Loire Valley

With so much controversy surrounding foie gras, especially in California, I was glad to have had the opportunity to witness gavage firsthand even though it was a slightly disturbing sight. I also found value in seeing foie gras production from a French perspective since the country has such a deep history with the ingredient.

Ferme des Morinières - Loire Valley

The corn used to feed the ducks was an odious mixture.

Prior to hitting the road, we stopped by the farm’s gift shop to pick up a half dozen jars of preserved duck rillettes and duck pate for our personal enjoyment and as gifts for friends and family.

Fromages de Chevre Fermier - Loire Valley

Before heading back to our hotel in Tours, we followed a series of forest green arrows leading us to Le Chèvrerie de la Bernassiere, a family farm that’s been around since 1920.

Fromages de Chevre Fermier - Loire Valley

In addition to fresh and aged goat cheeses, the farm sold rabbits, chickens, ducks, and Guinea fowl.

Fromages de Chevre Fermier - Loire Valley

We weren’t quite sure how to approach the basket full of moldy cheeses…

Fromages de Chevre Fermier - Loire Valley

…so we zeroed in on the selection of fresh goat cheeses that were coated in a variety of spices including shallots, red pepper flakes, herbes de Provence, garlic, and black pepper.

Fromages de Chevre Fermier - Loire Valley

We chose the one enrobed in minced shallots. The cheese was so mild and creamy that we ate it in big bites just like an apple.

Getting lost in the Loire Valley was one of the fondest memories that I have from our time in France.

Ferme des Morinières
37190 Druye
Phone: 02 47 50 11 88
Email: [email protected]

Le Chèvrerie de la Bernassiere
37190 Druye
Phone: 02 47 50 10 91

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13 thoughts on “In the Loire Valley: Searching for Châteaux, Finding Foie Gras and Goat Cheese Instead

  1. GAVAGE! Well, at least you saw it out in the Loire Valley and didn’t mean to! I had a similar confrontation with an animal product I loved when I had to personally “process” a live lamb for some Barbacoa in Mexico, but it was so good in the end!

    Anyways, thanks for posting so vividly, with your awesome shots and short-form prose! Makes me want to boost up France in my top world destinations list!

  2. Both are actually correct and acceptable. But I’m less concerned with the grammar of a food blog. Good post and thanks for sharing, places like these are always harder to research for a trip. We are going to southern Spain later this year and looking for pig farms or a dairy usually aren’t public or conveniently located in the city center.

  3. Waleed – I’ve never explored the Spanish countryside, but in France you’ll find clusters of signs on the road advertising things like honey, fruits, calvados, and of course, goat cheese and foie gras. The products varied depending on the region’s specialties. Give yourself time to get lost and I’m sure you’ll stumble upon some once-in-a-lifetime stuff. I hope you’ll be renting a car to get around.

  4. train 90% of the time. Car for a day trip through Seville-Ronda-Jerez(sherry tasting). You guys opted for a car rather than a train in Spain?

  5. Waleed – If memory serves me right, we only visited major cities in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, San Sebastian, Gerona) so we traveled by train. In France, we traveled from city to city by train and rented a car to visit sites out and about. I hope you’ll see some fun stuff from Seville to Ronda to Jerez. I bet you will.

  6. Sorry the only acceptable plural of château is châteaux,you can always ask your French cousins.
    That does not make this post less interesting, I just think that if you are to borrow words from another language you should write them correctly.

  7. One of our best vacation days was a “lost in Sonoma” day. Now lost in the French countryside sounds lovely too.

    Off topic question – how far out do you recommend making reservations for restaurants (popular ones) in Paris? We are traveling at the end of November, is it too soon?

  8. Heather – the best approach is to research the “rules” for each restaurant and plan accordingly. Some allow for reservations up to three months in advance, while others like Chateaubriand only two weeks. A few restaurants also have very specific windows of the day when reservations are accepted. It’s admittedly quite a chore, but worth the fuss! Also, make sure to confirm your reservations a few days before.

  9. What a wonderful write up. Even though we have been to the area, we have never visited a goat cheese farm. After reading your entry, we will have to try and visit one. Thanks.

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