Gers

  • France’s craft beer boom has been building slowly for several years, but the impact of this hops revolution really struck me one summer evening while meeting a friend for a glass of wine. We had sat on the terrace of a bar across from the Marché de Carmes in Toulouse and ordered two glasses of red wine. As we waited for them to arrive, I noticed something odd as the waiter continued to take other orders. Young, old, middle age, they were all ordering beer. I craned my neck around and couldn’t see another glass or bottle of wine in…

  • Gascony has rightfully developed a strong reputation for rich, traditional southwestern food enjoyed with hearty wines and strong spirits at a slow pace. These and other traits are why this rural stretch of land has become one of our favorite corners in France. But it’s also easy to stereotype a region like this one and miss the broader pleasures it offers beyond its famous foie gras, armagnac, and magret de canard. During a last-minute getaway to Gascony, we spent a week sampling the traditional as well as the modern twists offered. No need to ignore one for the other. We…

  • In the frenzied attempts to plan a last-minute getaway to Gascony, we stumbled across a new bed and breakfast that turned out to be the ideal combination of location and comfort for exploring the western part of the Gers Departement. Chez Brunet opened this season and is located just outside Gondrin. The B&B, or “chambres d’hôtes” is an old farmhouse that has been lovingly renovated by its owners, Andy and Pam, an English couple who began the work three years ago. The buildings are surrounded by fruit trees (apple, fig, nectarine, and peach). We contacted Andy and Pam on Thursday…

  • Stepping inside the Maison Samaran boutique across from Toulouse’s Victor Hugo Marché is more than just a chance to forage for the essential elements of Southwestern French cuisine. It is an opportunity to visit and pay homage to the Mecca of all things duck. On a recent morning, I arrived and spent a few minutes browsing the display case full of magret de canard, duck thighs, duck confit, duck hearts, and dried duck. On the shelves, there were jars full of cassoulet, duck fat, patés, terrines, and rillettes. I had come to interview the head of this empire, Christophe Samaran…

  • The Toulouse Whisky Festival was held this past weekend and the event delivered some surprises about the French and their relationship to this spirit most popularly associated with Scotland. This was the second edition organized by the Hopscotch Pub & Brewery of Toulouse. And like the first one, this one sold out. It also attracted about 40 distilleries, primarily from places you’d expect — Scotland, Ireland, and the U.S. — but also from Japan, New Zealand, Denmark, and Sweden. Included in that last group is France itself. When I first heard about the festival, I was both mystified and excited…

  • One doesn’t need much of an excuse to visit the Gers Department, the vast region that lies to the west of our doorstep in Toulouse. But attending a meeting in Condom last week gave me one anyway. And on the leisurely drive back I stumbled across plenty of reminders of why this corner of France remains so alluring. Sitting in the heart of the Gascony region, Gers is one of the most rural streteches in all of Europe. Less than 200,000 people live in a region stretching across 2,416 square miles. And it remains far less trampled by hordes of…

  • On an early December weekend, I drove from Toulouse to Agen with my daughter to meet my wife at the train station. The official story I had been told was that she had rented a place somewhere for a quiet weekend to celebrate my 50th birthday. Instead, what unfolded was an epic surprise birthday party with old and new friends, armagnac, and the warm, generous culture of Gascony. Leaving from Agen, I wasn’t even entirely sure which direction I was driving, turned around by the labyrinth of old streets and round points. Eventually, I realized we were headed south, but…

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