The people of the Hautes-Alpes have been living off the land here for centuries. A mixture of wild flowers, berries and plants, the produce of local farmers and some creative cooking has gently evolved over the centuries and... voilà !... a range of seriously delicious dishes totally unique to the region - a 'must' for food lovers to try out!
Mushroom picking is a national pass-time in France and on a sunny morning, the day after a big rainfall in autumn, you will see the world and his dog out in the fields picking wild mushrooms! If you would like to learn about mushrooms and make your own wild mushroom risotto, then let us know when you make your reservation and we will organise a day out with a mushroom guide! On a similar vein, the spring time here is superb for all the new spring greens, buds and shoots. And if you come in the summer, wild strawberries and raspberries can be found in the woods everywhere. And now... an explanation of some the specialities the locals have created over the years...
Tourtons are small squares of fine pastry, filled with a potato, cheese and onion puree and fried. They are usually served as a starter with a green salad or as a main course with meat. For tourtons fans, there are also apple tourtons and prune tourtons which are great for dessert !
This is a traditional dish from the Valgaudemar valley. Its name "Oreilles d’âne" (Donkey Ears) comes from the main ingredient, wild spinach, which is collected when its size and shape resemble that of a donkey’s ear! Ravioles are a cheese and potato mixture, rolled into little ‘quenelles’ (a bit like dumplings) and then either fried or baked.
The differences in altitude, the 300 days of sunshine and the variety of different habitats, from gentle fields and hedgerows to steep mountain sides, give rise to hundreds of different species of flowers. The mountain honey reflects this diversity with delicious vigour. The bee keepers produce rhododendron, clover and wild sage honey amongst others. You can find them under the label "miel de montagne" (mountain honey)
This is a jam tart with a difference ! The original tarts would have been made with fine pastry filled with prunes and could be either open or covered. Today you can find blueberry, raspberry, apricot... and many other fruits to indulge yourself with !
On a traditional menu you will find a selection of raw hams accompanying your tourtons. These are all locally produced from animals reared in the mountains. The saucisson (dry sausage) is particularly delicious !
Great for an afternoon snack, the "croquant des Ecrins" is a speciality not to be missed. Try them with almonds, hazelnuts or chocolate.
You can taste the rich pastures of the mountains in all the local dairy products. Try the cheese made from a mixture of three milks (goat, cow and sheep), the blue cheeses and the milk and cheese based desserts - of which there are plenty !
These small orange berries and their parent spiky shrub can be found on the mountain sides of the mountains. They are exceptionally rich in vitamins (vitamin C particularly but also A, B and E) probably as a result of the strong sun and altitude. They contain 30 times more vitamin C than oranges ! Today you can taste argousier as a juice, a cordial, a jam, or you can just pick them yourself off the shrubs. All totally organic and natural!
When it comes to the most French of all beverages, the Hautes-Alpes are not Burgundy. But it has become a more common trend in the last years, and you will now find vineyards producing a decent wine (white, red and rosé) just south of the main city, Gap. The "Tresbaudon" and "Allemand" estates in particular, in the Durance Valley by the lovely town of Tallard, are producing wines that keep getting better by the year. We're happy to organise a tasting for you in either one of these estates if you're a wine lover looking for the next big thing !