Taking inspiration from both sides of the French-Spanish border, the cuisine of the Pays Basque is distinctive, delicious, and packed with the traditions of its people. Whether it’s tucking into mouth-watering meals of tender, flavoursome meat, or enjoying a sweet treat from the noted chocolatiers from Bayonne, every meal provides a taste of the distinctive culture.
The passion of the Basque people is evident in every part of life in the region. As such, the cuisine prepared across this area of south-west France takes much from history, such as the cooking of meat and fish over hot coals. Thanks to its coastal location, Pays Basque offers fine fresh seafood such as salt cod and hake, while further inland, the famed Jambon de Bayonne (Bayonne ham) is air dried and salted to deliver a delicate flavour. This particular delicacy enjoys an award-winning pedigree, and can be identified by the distinctive Lauburu Mark, or Basque Cross, that is branded onto each ham.
New Basque Cuisine
During the 1970s, the adoption of nouvelle cuisine acted as a catalyst for a revolution on Basque gastronomy. A number of noted chefs transformed the traditional dishes and flavours of Basque cookery with lighter versions of the rustic foods traditionally enjoyed. Of course, while the traditional form of production may have evolved, the manner of dining retains links to the past in the form of Gastronomic Societies. These societies see participants cook for family and friends, preserving the cultural traditions of Basque dining.
L’Atelier de Chocolat
The city of Bayonne offers much for the visitor to experience, but nothing quite so rewarding as l’Atelier de Chocolat. The riverside city is renowned for its high-quality chocolate, with l’Atelier de Chocolat among the most acclaimed. Offering tours, demonstrations and, of course, tastings, l’Atelier de Chocolat provides the ideal tourist sport for those with a sweet tooth and a taste for rich, delicious treats. The city even hosts an annual festival in celebration of the confection, with local chocolatiers taking to the streets to offer samples to visitors.
Locally produced cider is the perfect accompaniment to any meal, with the crisp, fruity options available among the most traditional beverages available in the Basque region. There are even cider houses that enable visitors to enjoy plates of traditional tapas before being called to the cider barrel with the cry of “Txotx,” and the chance to taste the latest sample of cider.