South-west France is a place full of delicious, locally grown, food and great wine. As is the hotel barge Saint Louis.
Here on the Saint Louis, the French food tradition has become an integral part of the barging experience. Whether enjoying your meal in the wood-panelled salon or alfresco on the sun deck, the cuisine will remind you that you are in a part of the world where food is treated lovingly and seriously.
The superb food on board is largely based on traditional recipes from this region of France prepared with international additions and a twist of our native Scotland. Ingredients are prepared fresh from our local suppliers on a daily basis. Beautifully prepared by our resident chef, duck, foie gras and seafood are thus among the basics of the cuisine. Dietary preferences, vegetarian and special dietary needs are always respected.
Breakfasts are Continental-style – juices, cereals, fruit and yoghurt, with croissants and bread arriving fresh each morning from the local baker. Cooked breakfasts are available if requested.
Lunches are generally enjoyed on the sun-deck as we glide gently through the French countryside. You may have a freshly-made savoury tart, or a variety of cold meats, with salads to compliment, or even a delicious bowl of fresh fish soup. (Barbara’s fish soup is rated by a professional French chef as being the finest in France!) Afterwards, the dessert course is likely to be fresh fruit or a dish prepared from fresh fruit. Lunch will be served with carefully selected wines from the region.
Dinners may either be served below or on deck, according to the wishes of the guests. Twinkling candles help to set the scene as the sun dips below the horizon. Guests will enjoy a delicious four-course dinner, all freshly made, tasty and finely presented. To accompany, specially selected wines from this region of France will be served. The Saint Louis dinner experience is a fitting and enchanting way to round off another wonderful day on the barge. The wines on board are of excellent quality, selected personally from local vineyards including some wonderful examples from Gaillac and Fronton. Local liqueurs are well represented in the bar, with a range of Armagnacs and Flocs de Gascogne. The bar also stocks a number of special high-quality single malt whiskies from Scotland.
The culture of quality food in south west France is widespread and deeply entrenched – almost everyone here is a connoisseur of gourmet food. It is part of a lifestyle, of a quality of life, that has changed little over the years. This really is the “pays de cocaigne” – the land of plenty, with a wide range of products from land and sea ending up on the tables of these relaxed people. This is, for example, the basis of the French Sunday lunch – which might easily start at mid-day and continue until six in the evening.
The range and the quality of the food of south west France was very evident in the TV series French Odyssey, in which celebrity chef Rick Stein took a barge trip from Bordeaux to Toulouse, visiting farms and kitchens along the way. We should also mention Kate Hill, the American chef who runs a cooking school not far from Agen, who published the book “A Culinary Journey of Gascony”.
The region is well known for its consumption of duck, of geese, and of game. There is a range of well-known dishes prepared from the duck, including of course magret and confit de canard, but the best-known product must be foie gras, and this region is pre-eminent in France for its foie gras production. It is not always realised how old the method is – it does actually date back to ancient Egypt.
The range and the quality of the seafood in south west France is remarkable. A large part of the Atlantic coast is devoted to the production of oysters, mussels, scallops and other shellfish, and it is not surprising that the people in this area have developed many dishes based on these excellent products.
The Garonne valley is often referred to as La Vallée de Serres (valley of greenhouses). In the valley you have great soil, perfect climate, plentiful water for irrigation, and a population largely of Spanish origin – all the ingredients for the production of a huge range of high quality fresh vegetables.
South west France is particularly well known for its fruit, particularly “top fruit” (fruit grown on trees) and there are extensive orchards devoted to the production of apples, pears, plums, cherries, apricots, peaches and kiwi fruit. The plums, particularly, are widely used in the dishes of this region, and Agen is known as the “prune capital of the world”.