Food in the Pays Basque in South West France is a heavenly mix of Spanish and French cuisine: and increasingly other countries too. The region is famous for its tantalising sweet-hot peppers, an abundance of fresh seafood, hearty hams and other succulent meats, as well boasting an extensive choice of delicious cheeses. What is there not to love?
The legendary American Chef Julia Child once said, “Wine is meant to be with food – that’s the point of it.” And here in the Pays Basque, we have our fair share of superb wines from local vineyards; amongst these are the distinctive wines from Irouléguy (the smallest wine appellation in France) in the foothills of the Pyrenees, to the more widely known Madiran and Jurançon vintages.
There is so much to enjoy in Pays Basque dishes, both traditional and more modern.
On a typical Pays Basque menu you will generally find food steeped in tradition and flavour. Basque chorizo is one example; smoky and spicy, this tasty sausage has a vibrant red colour from the dried smoked Espelette peppers that are famous in the region. Let’s also not forget the celebrated Bayonne ham, a wide variety of duck dishes and cod prepared in a special Basque style sauce with peppers and flavoured with garlic.
Seafood is, without question, excellent; the superb Atlantic coastline is an ideal place to discover the best oysters in France as well as all kinds of fish and shellfish… accompanied by a chilled glass of rosé or white wine, perhaps?
As our taste buds change, the cuisine of the Pays Basque is also evolving to adapt original flavours and combinations. Many restaurants will include exciting new fusion recipes, prepared using ingredients from across the world and offering an additional dimension to French cooking; the aromatic and fragrant appeal of Thai food, elegant Japanese cuisine such as sushi and the spicier flavours of the orient, for example.
If you love good food or drink, you’ll love the Pays Basque.
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Photo credit: CARLOS MARTINEZ