Besides coolish rows and perhaps head races, autumn, for many, brings harvests, and our thoughts turn to food—fresh food. As at home, after a good, long row on one of our trips, nothing is better than a meal of fresh foods, especially when dishes are often distinctive to an area and full of unique flavours. Magret de canard comes to mind in the Lot River Valley or really anywhere in France; fresh seafood in Italy and pork dishes in the Mosel River Valley.
Along with abundant vegetable selections, we always see one or more of four of our favourites—duck, pork, polenta and seafood of all kinds—on the menu in these regions we frequent:
In the last post on the Mosel River Valley, we talked about smoked eel, which is a specialty here, as is baked trout. Just as popular are beef with tartar sauce, Tresterfleisch, pork marinated in wine, and Winzersteak, pork neck in wine. Cräwes is also very typical in this region, a puree with sauerkraut.
A lovely Reisling, ubiquitious in this region, will pair nicely. Yes, please.
In northeastern Italy, the culinary fare has been influenced by other northern and southern European countries such as Austria and Croatia. Viennese sausages, as well as pork dishes such as Prosciutto San Daniele, are special. Goulash and polenta are common, as are sides with cabbage, turnips and wild mushrooms.
Grado and Caorle, two ports we experience on our Italy Adriatic trip, are actual fishing ports, so the fare on offer here is seafood and yet more seafood, whether that be branzino agli asparagi verdi al forno, which is sea bass with baked green asparagus, or for the adventurous, polipo all’istriana, octopus served in the Istrian style. That, and a side of white polenta paired with a lovely Friulani, can’t be beat.
In Venice, when we participate in the Vogalonga, seafood is also on the menu. Surrounded by lagoons and the sea, this comes as no surprise. At the very special Granviale Restaurant where we dine on the Lido, a small island off Venice, specialties include grilled bream, sea bass, sole, and baby squid. Depending on the day’s catch, baked monkfish or giant prawns may also be available. Now, that’s fresh. Of course, loads of tasty and unusual pastas and risottos, bruschetta and all the foods that you expect in Italy are also on offer.
The French consider the ancient oak forests and caves of the Lot River Valley deep France. In this land where medieval edifices perch on steep gorges, culinary traditions are unique.
You’ll find duck done countless ways including magret de canard and confit de canard or duck terrine. Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole containing meat, sausages and white beans.
During the vendange, in September, winemakers harvest grapes for the robust Vin de Cahors. The fare above is best enjoyed, as King Henry II did at his wedding, with a wine so dark, it was called black or blood wine as we talk about in this wine post. Who knew?
Whether you fancy duck, pork, seafood or are more prone to vegetables and greens, you’ll find bounty so fresh and fine in Italy, France and Germany. They all pair best with rowing.