La Loire

france's kitchen garden.

Dan and I have a slight bias toward this trip, as we both adore the Loire Valley in no uncertain terms. This verdant, temperate region stocks the larders of France with a mind-numbingly diverse array of agricultural products. One would be hard-pressed to eat poorly here. At every turn, you'll see signs along the road advertising fresh goat cheese, eggs, produce, and baked goods. Our brakes, and our appointment calendars, get a real workout here.


But what we really love about the region is the people. Just because they appear to be a little rough around the edges, don't think for a moment that these are simple farmers. Get ready to meet some of the warmest, wittiest humans you've ever encountered. They are proud of what they bring to the table, and will reward you for making the trip.

Where we'll go:

Follow the Loire upstream from its mouth at the Atlantic to the enchanting village of Amboise. Major cities will include Nantes and Tours, our major market forays. We'll hit six wineries, a cheese affineur, pâtisseries, a salt maker, and an oyster farm. Staying in our own mini-chateau for five nights will give us ample opportunity for cooking together and relaxing between castle and winery visits.

Who we'll meet:

We'll explore underground fermentation and aging with Jean-Pierre Guedon, owner of Domaine Hautes Noelles, taste Vouvray from barrel with winemaker Mattieu Cosme, shuck oysters with Jean-Baptiste and Emmanuel Bourgogne, and learn the ins and outs of fleur-de-sel production from Mannou at Salines du Millac.

What we'll eat and drink:

Get ready for cheese. A trip to Baillevaire, the famous cheese affineur, will include one heck of a tasting, and the opportunity to watch butter molded by hand. We'll eat oysters just pulled from the water at Ocean et Fraicheur, sample fouaces still warm from the hearth, taste the finest finishing salts, learn to make tarte tatin, and wash it all down with Muscadet, Vouvray, and Sancerre from our wineries.