It is a rare and wonderful thing to see underneath the tourist trail to see how people live their everyday life in close up detail. I had that pleasure in Riom where we went for dinner with friends Tiara and Julien and their beautiful two year old daughter Nina. First they took us to see the village of Montpeyroux – one of eleven in Auvergne classed as one of the most beautiful. It’s little streets spiral around a tower at the summit. The shutters are all painted bright colours and dotted around are artisan workshops, restaurants and cafes.
Even before we ate I had some education. I know Pineau des Charente from our holidays in Charente-Maritime. Either red or white it is made by somehow using mixing eau de vie with wine. It makes a lovely aperitif. What I was less familiar with was the Picon orange liqueur added to beer in a way similar to lime or blackcurrant are added in the UK. With a white Leffe beer it was a nice refreshing flavour – the recommendation was for warm summer evenings.
After nibbles of rounds of french bread with pate from the local market they prepared a local speciality for us to eat. Tiara knew we had tried the Truffade and so the other thing we had to have before we left was Aligot. Aligot is a mashed potato but a wonderfully creamy and cheesy version with a lovely texture. It is made by adding creme fraiche and cows milk cheese – traditionally tomme d’auvergne or in some cases Gruyere. It has some roasted garlic as a delicate flavour running through it. The end result is something quite spectacularly elastic and resembling choux pastry before cooking…and it is quite delicious. Tiara also demonstrated the skills needed to separate the stringy mixture for serving on to plates. Imagine a big bowl of long, wilful, spaghetti being divided into four.
Tiara served it with local sausage in onions and a reduced white wine gravy.
They were lovely hosts whose mastery of English meant we could talk about anything and learn a lot. Tiara dropped us back at our hotel in Clermont at the end of a fascinating day.