By Annick Dournes
Wines, cheese, fish, cakes, sweet… you’ll find something for everybody’s taste in Tours. It comes as no surprise that Tours is appointed International City of Gastronomy since 2013. This beautiful town not only boasts a great cultural and architectural heritage it also is one of France best places to get a good meal made with locally sourced products. France’s art de vivre at its best!
The list of local specialities is almost endless. Valençais, crottin de Chavignol and Sainte-Maure cheese, green lentil from Berry, the famous tarte Tatin, the delicious Pithiviers a delicious almond cake, the pâté berrichon traditionnally served at Easter time, the Nougat de Tours an amazing dessert blending apricot jam and candied fruits… and of course the wide range of red, rosé and white wines of the Loire Valley, these are just a few examples of the diversity of delights to taste here.
There are no less than 30 different farmers’ markets in Tours each week. Every day local people and tourists are thus able to discover producers of the area and taste their tasty products. There are two very good reasons to go to Tours for a long weekend. Firstly because on the first Friday of every month from 4pm till 8:30pm, a big marché gourmand draws in all kinds of artisans proposing seasonal produce as well as dishes to be eaten on the spot or taken away. A great way to discover new tastes in a unique atmosphere!
Secondly because every year in June (except of course for the last two years but hopefully the event will be back in 2022) a whole weekend is dedicated to the Loire Valley wines. This big fair called Vitiloire is quite unique. Set right in the city centre (the railway station is only 50 meters away with direct trains from Paris that is only a one-hour trip from Tours) open-air stalls stretch under the trees of a large avenue. At least 150 wine makers from 70 different “appellations” await amateurs and connoisseurs for a big wine tasting in a good-natured atmosphere. A good opportunity to make your choice and buy your favourite bottles at a good price.
“La Roche le Roy”, my favourite restaurant in Tours
“La Roche le Roy” is a gastronomic restaurant set in a lovely 18th century château. A typical castle of the Loire Valley with white “tuffeau” walls and turrets topped with black slate roof. The château was turned into a restaurant in 1986 and when the previous owners retired in 2016 young chef Maximilien Bridier took over. He was born in nearby Blois and after graduating from cooking school (top of his class in 2009) he travelled the world for seven years to enhance his skills. Back to his homeland to open his own restaurant he discovered “La Roche le Roy” quite by chance and fell in love with the place. Supported by a fine team both in the kitchen and at the restaurant service, he makes an inventive and tasty cuisine inspired by exceptional local products. Everything is homemade including several kinds of bread baked in an ancient oven.
Of course the menu changes according to seasons but key dishes favoured by Maximilien’s fans are available year-round. We started our meal with a mellow homemade duck liver with “poires tapées” (local dried pears), pistachio and Bonnezeaux jelly (a jelly made with a local white wine called Bonnezeaux).
Next we had a wonderful “kuri” pumpkin squash topped with poached quail eggs, honey vinegar and roasted hazelnuts.
Next a perfectly cooked veal filet was served with a quince “tatin” and chestnuts. Finally we had a yummy chocolate and hazelnut cake both beautiful and tasty and an amazing strawberry soufflé served in a “theatrical” way! (just look at the pictures…) No doubt that Maximilien Bridier’s work should soon be awarded with a Michelin star.
“La Tortinière”, a 4-star hotel combining charm and prestige
The Tortinière is an elegant château of the Loire Valley built in 1866. It is a 10-minute drive to get there from Tours, but in only 10 min you are taken to another world, a perfect countryside setting where elegance and comfort meet the great sense of hospitality of the owners. The castle has been turned into a luxury hotel in 1955 and is managed by the same family ever since. Today Xavier Olivereau and is wife Anne are in charge and are the soul of the place never ending to improve their guests’ experience. The château is surrounded by a vast park with century old trees and overlooks the spectacular landscape of the Indre River Valley.
With only 26 rooms and 6 suites the “Tortinière” is a human-sized hotel but offers all the facilities you can expect in a 4-star hotel. Recently renovated the outside heated pool set at the foot of the castle offers a wonderful view over the park. There are also a tennis court, a billiard room, bikes for rent, rowing boats to go canoening on the river, massage and sauna facilities… Cooking courses and wine tasting sessions are also organised on request.
The rooms are quite large with a stylish decoration mixing precious materials and period furniture with modern amenities (air conditioning, flat screen TV, WiFi, tea and coffee set…) Whether in the château or in the outbuildings they all have their own decoration and offer great views over the park. Some of the family suites even have a terrace perfect for a room service breakfast or evening drink. Breakfast is served in the hotel colourful restaurant or on the outside terrace overlooking the swimming pool and the Indre Valley in the distance. The buffet offers a wide choice of savoury or sweet dishes with freshly baked croissants and breads, seasonal fresh fruits and a good choice of coffees and teas. You will feel nicely full and ready for your day in the Loire Valley. The restaurant is also open for lunch and dinner and the chef proposes a gastronomic menu as well as a bistronomic and a vegetarian menu. Once again Xavier and Anne search for quality is obvious and you will undoubtedly remember the good time you had in their restaurant.
More information and special offers at https://www.tortiniere.com/en/