The Lakes and Gorges du Verdon will delight nature lovers, from the Verdon canyon, the most breathtaking of the European continent, through the fascinating pre-alpine landscapes of the Artuby and the Lake of Sainte-Croix, the4th largest artificial lake in France whose exceptional turquoise waters are a constant call to enchantment. If the area welcomes lovers of outdoor sports activities, on the water or on the cliffs, we must not forget the gastronomic pleasures, such as truffles, which are found in particular on the hills of the Haut-Var. To take full advantage of its flavours, here are 10 ways to discover the "black diamond" of Provence during a stay inland in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region.
1- The Truffle Days
Taking place on the Place Frédéric Mistral or in the Town Hall of the commune of Aups, the Truffle Days, which will be held on 23 and 24 January, are a great opportunity for locals and passers-by to stroll through the market, meet producers, discover exhibitions and take part in conferences about this precious product of local gastronomy. Not forgetting the gourmet moments with the Aupsois restaurateurs who make truffles the flagship item on their menus. This highlight entirely dedicated to the discovery of the "black diamond" of Provence is also the opportunity to attend the truffle digging, the activity which consists in locating, digging and extracting the truffle from the ground with the help of dogs or pigs.
2- The Aups Truffle market
From the end of November to the end of February and beginning of March, one of the most important truffle markets in France is held every Thursday morning in Aups. It is a sale offered to individuals, organized by the Syndicat des trufficulteurs du Var. The sale starts as soon as the bugle has been blown at 9.30 am sharp, and the first to arrive is the first served! The black truffle market in Aups is a perfect moment to stock up on the precious product, but also to exchange with the sellers and regulars, a moment to share your recipes and secrets around a species of mushroom that sublimates a large number of dishes.
3- La Maison de la Truffe d'Aups et du VerdonInstalled in the heart of the village, the Maison de la Truffe d'Aups et du Verdon has been open since November 2015. It attracts a large number of visitors, young and old, amateurs and experts, who have come to unravel all the mysteries surrounding the "black diamond" which is the pride of an entire region. The museographic space allows you to discover truffles from different aspects: traditional, historical, economic, agricultural, but also playful, with different routes decorated with interactive and multimedia supports. The Maison de la Truffe offers 4 different worlds: a multi-sensory area, another to discover and learn how to taste the mushroom, a third offering activities around the truffle, and finally a shop where you can stock up on good products
4- The restaurant La Truffe y algo más
Located in the heart of the old village of Aups, the restaurant La Truffe y algo más is an unmissable address to taste succulent dishes sublimated by the Black Diamond of Provence. Truffles, foie gras and many other local products are cooked with passion, and the plates are always carefully presented. In 2016, the chef was awarded the title of Maître Restaurateur. He prepares mouth-watering dishes in the kitchen just by reading them: foie gras and truffle ravioli, belote and parmesan cream, beef in carpaccio, coffee sauce, peas, parmesan and summer truffle and truffle ice cream to finish off. This restaurant with its warm atmosphere is not to be missed to enjoy the delicacy of this noble product that is the truffle.
5- The restaurant Le Saint Marc
Another address not to be missed in Aups, Le Saint Marc was once an oil mill. Today, it is a restaurant where the chef will delight the most delicate palates, and make you discover all the flavours of black truffle in winter and white truffle in summer. Among the star dishes of this revisited home-made cuisine: the pan-fried duck breast, celery mousseline with truffle oil and poached pear or the creamy scallop risotto with summer truffle. The Saint Marc also offers cooking workshops which are another great opportunity to discover the local culinary heritage through the good products of the Provencal market of Aups
6- La Bastide de Tourtour
La Bastide de Tourtour Hôtel & Spa is an elegant country house set in the heart of a park of several hectares. The rooms are elegant, refined and offer a superb view of the park or the valley. To relax, it is possible to stroll among the olive and laurel trees, to reach the swimming pool, the tennis court, the whirlpool or the hammam. But the address is also a great place to savour truffles, as the chefs offer fresh, seasonal cuisine in their on-site restaurant, to be savoured under the glass roof or on the terrace on sunny days in the shade of the trees.
7- The restaurant Le Provençal
Passing through Aups to enjoy the splendours of the Lakes and Gorges du Verdon region, a stop at the restaurant Le Provençal is recommended to discover regional products and delight the taste buds. The cuisine is traditional and is prepared according to the seasons. The dishes based on truffles and game decorate the menu. How not to quote for example the "brouillade de truffes", a typical dish of the region to be tasted in the veranda in winter or on the shaded terrace in the summer? The plates are most generous, what good reasons to settle down for a moment of greediness and complicity.
8- The restaurant Le Grand Hôtel
Just 15 minutes from the Gorges du Verdon and the Lac de Sainte-Croix, Le Grand Hotel offers a typical setting in a former 19th century coaching inn. The restaurant is pleasant and colourful and on sunny days, you like to sit on the terrace shaded by a hundred-year-old plane tree, to enjoy the peace and quiet of the place and explore the menu. The local products are also highlighted here, and as a matter of course, the unavoidable black truffle. In the menu dedicated to the Black Diamond, you will find dishes such as the black truffle brouillade and the egg casserole with its grated truffle. Unless you prefer duck breast with black truffle sauce or gnocchi with Parmesan cream and grated black truffle
9- Le restaurant des Gourmets
It is in a typically Provençal setting that one sits at a table, in a room where the frescoes tell what makes the richness of the region, from the landscapes to the products. The chef of the Restaurant des Gourmets offers a cuisine that respects the seasons, based on fresh and quality products. Foie gras, poultry, game on the menu, without forgetting the star of the area, the truffle, declined in dishes such as Rossini style beef fillet, pan-fried foie gras with truffle sauce, apple croquettes and Tatin with shallots. We also don't forget the sweet touch with truffle ice cream on a nougat iced and truffled, truffle caramel, a delight for the palate.
10- The Domain of Majastre
To all those who dream of staying in a typically Provencal historic place, where the beauty of the stones joins the pleasures of moments spent around good local cuisine, then this exceptional place is the place to be. This 17th century estate is simply sublime and offers a dream setting to enjoy the table d'hôte. The Black Diamond reigns supreme here and the young chef knows perfectly how to bring out the flavours of the truffle, which goes straight from the Majastre estate to the plate. Brouillade de Majastre with truffles, estouffade of veal stew from the farm and its creamy truffled polenta, lasagna with Black Diamond, we enjoy the scents and flavours of certified organic products and a cuisine that is both generous and refined
More information on the website of Lacs et Gorges du Verdon Tourisme.