Known especially for its red wine blends and grape varieties that thrive in the maritime climate, Bordeaux is among the most famous of the French wine regions. But wine, while a good reason to visit on its own, isn’t the only thing the region has to offer. The city of Bordeaux is situated between the man-made Landes Pine Forest and the Gironde (or Garonne) River, both sources of unique local dishes. Several picturesque villages dot the region, rich not only in scenic chateaus, but in culinary tradition.
Cannalés (or Caneles)
Maybe it’s bad manners to start with dessert, but just one won’t hurt, right? This bite-sized treat is popular all over France, but originated at the Convent of Annonciades in Bordeaux at least three centuries ago. With a soft middle made from a custard-like batter with rum and vanilla, and a crispy, caramelized outside that comes from being baked in copper tins with a coating of beeswax, cannalés are a sweet perfection not to be passed up. If you can’t find the time to visit France, try making them at home! Dip them into a glass of the famous sweet Sauternes wine from Bordeaux and you’ll be in heaven.
In Italian, this would be the Porcini mushroom, or the “penny bun” mushroom in English. They grow exceptionally well in the Bordeaux region thanks to the abounding pine forests between the Gironde River and the Atlantic coast. They come into season in late summer and autumn, just after the grape harvest, and the hunt to gather them is nearly as enjoyable as the reward. Locals typically fry the meaty morsels in butter with salt, shallots, parsley, and garlic. Try these with an aged Merlot-dominated red Bordeaux wine from the Right Bank. Mmm.
Éclade de Moules
Being situated on the Gironde River (or rather, the Gironde Estuary), Bordeaux still gets all the benefits of a coastal port. The banks of the Gironde are dripping with multitudes of mussels ripe for the digging – and for the roasting. The residents of Bordeaux have a unique traditional method of preparing their shellfish: they pile them up right on the riverbank on a wet board, cushioned with pine needles, and set the whole thing on fire! Éclade is usually served with garlic mayonnaise, or a simple side of bread and butter, and goes swimmingly with any Bordeaux Blanc.
Entrecôte à la Bordelaise
The main course, of course, must be entrecôte à la bordelaise: rib steak seared in a red wine sauce made from herbs, marrow, sautéed shallots, and, naturally, a regional Médoc. The end result is a rich, juicy, fully satisfying dish often served with a side of pan-fried and seasoned potato slices. A culmination of all the best ingredients of the region, entrecôte à la bordelaise is the inspiration for the red wine sauce preparation method of the same name, “à la bordelaise.” A rich, red Bordeaux wine will do the trick here. Try one from the Left Bank that will be Cabernet dominant for extra structure.