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The Domaine de Saint-Géry at Lascabanes
Twenty two kilometres from Cahors, in the Quercy blanc region, Patrick and Pascale Duler have created a new art in hospitality and cooking.
If you are passing through the Cahors area, pay a visit to the Duler family in the Saint-Géry estate situated in Lascabanes, not far from the village of Montcuq-en-Quercy. This is something I cannot recommend too highly.
The family estate, which Patrick inherited in 1984, dates back to the twelfth century. It is made up of several white-stoned buildings which he and his wife converted into chambres d’hôtes (bed and breakfast accomodation.) A place which is suitable for meditation.
« I’m not a chef in the normal sense of the term… »
Cultivating one’s own individual style is not an easy task but Patrick Duler can tell you something about it! This robust 49 year old man with an expression as gentle as a Quercy lamb is indefinable. He is a farmer, a cook and a hotelier all rolled into one and he has built a world of his own far from the usual well trodden paths. That’s what so disquieting about him...
Patrick Duler is not only self-taught but he has also been able to win respect from chefs as prestigious as Michel Guérard, Alain Senderens and Alain Ducasse. To get a true understanding of this man the simplest way is through sampling his produce (foie gras, cured meats and truffles.)
He sells a vast quantity of them and they have an undeniable level of perfection! His whole duck liver foiegras, garnished with truffles or seasoned with mild spices is absolutely beyond compare. « A foie gras has to be fresh and prepared the same day as the slaughter before being matured at least 15 days in cold storage. It is salted and peppered and then cooked in an oven for roughly 20 minutes under a watchful eye until it becomes pink, but not too pink! The most important thing is that it should not be too big because this will make it too fatty and buttery and lacking in the intrinsic taste of liver which is slightly bitter. »
Patrick is also a past master of the art of producing and maturing a ham that originates from the famous Black Pig of Gascony raised outdoors. At a very early stage his goal had been to produce cured meats which are free of additives and saltpetre (despite the latter being authorised under the guidelines of organic farming!) The result is a 3 year old matured farmhouse ham which has no trouble in rivalling the Spanish bellota hams of the highest repute.
Patrick Duler’s philosophy is to cook as much as he possibly can of the produce from his own estate. Therefore all the year round he uses 20kg of black truffles produced every winter by the 6000 truffle oaks that he has planted since 1989.
« Before the First World War you simply had to bend down to find truffles. The farmers from Quercy filled their baskets and then gave the rest to the pigs. But then with the loss of a whole generation of men, truffle growing declined as the forests were no longer cultivated. Then came the use of fertilisers and pesticides which did not help things. Nowadays we have to learn everything all over again. Producing truffles requires a lot of patience and observation. »
According to the inspiration of the day, Patrick Duler creates highly polished cooking with powerful flavours, like his partially cooked foie gras accompanied with a sauternes jelly, his apricots cooked in Gascony black pork lard, his wild snails served with a saffron and garlic mayonnaise, his black pork rillettes with rosemary cooked in a cauldron, his fillet of black pork marinated in herbs and cooked whole over a fireplace, garden picked heart of little gem lettuce with truffles and grilled pine kernels, and his fine apple tart delicately flavoured with rosemary flower water.
« I spend whole days preparing sauces based on carcasses, pigeon meat, or black gascony pork : the sauces are caramelised and moistened several times over in order to take up all the meat and bone juices. As far as I am concerned there is more creativity in a sauce to which I have added fresh herbs than in the emulsions that are invading the menus of so many restaurants! I also enjoy roasting my meats on wood fires as opposed to the steam ovens that are becoming more and more popular. »
Dining chez les Duler is a unique experience of its own! Of course one has to reserve several days in advance but also be prepared to be patient because Patrick is the only person in the kitchen and he does everything himself!
There are only three or four tables laid out in the dining room but you can also ask to dine out on the terrace which overhangs the Italian gardens.
On the wine menu, do not miss out on sampling the wonderful Cahors wines of Mathieu Cosse who cultivates his vineyards using biodynamic agricultural methods.
Domaine de Saint-Géry
46 800 Lascabanes
Tél : +33 (0)5 65 31 82 51
Budget 100 Euros for a dinner (excluding wine)