Situated in Southern France on the banks of the river Garonne, Toulouse is more than just a stopover. Recent tourist data shows that it is finally receiving the attention it has long deserved.
Known to many as La Ville Rose (The Pink City), Toulouse is a city where old meets new, where tradition comfortably sits beside the modern. It is called the pink city because many of its heritage buildings were constructed with bricks made from pink clay.
More than just a city with a bustling metropolis and for being home to the aircraft manufacturer Airbus, Toulouse is extremely famous for its culinary traditions. If you're visiting this region, like our travel tribe who will be exploring Southern France, make sure you sample these traditional Toulousain dishes when you visit the city.
Cassoulet is one of the foremost dishes of the Occitanie region, and is considered to be a local institution. The dish is a melodic mish-mash of duck or goose confit, sausage, pork ragout, and a bean mix, resulting in a hearty casserole that warms your belly on cold days.
The late great Anthony Bourdain spoke fondly of cassoulet in his book Kitchen Confidential, referring to the dish as a pillar of the ritzy New York City restaurant Brasserie Les Halles where the esteemed food writer worked as executive chef.
Toulouse is known for two breeds of large domestic geese, the oie de Toulouse a bavette and the oie do Toulouse sans bavette, literally “goose from Toulouse with a dewlap (a flap of skin below the jaw)” and “goose from Toulouse without a dewlap,” respectively. These birds gain weight rapidly, and are an important source of protein in the region.
As one would expect from an area with a strong poultry and fowl industry, goose and duck dishes are ubiquitous in Toulouse — but none more so than the delicacy foie gras. Toulouse goose foie gras is made from fatty Toulouse goose liver, and has a more delicate taste than duck foie gras. Toulouse goose foie gras is considered to be a bit of a rarity, as around 95% of French foie gras comes from duck.
Le fenetra is one of Toulouse’s heritage foods that, sadly, has faded into obscurity. Historical accounts say that fenetra has been around since Roman times, and it was traditionally baked and served around Easter time, during the festival of Fenetra.
Fenetra is a dense almond shortbread atop a layer of sweet garnish and pie crust. The garnish is composed of apricots, candied lemons, and meringue. It’s a sweet treat that will leave you loaded with energy for another day of touring.
Millas is a polenta-like confection made from cornmeal. Traditionally, it was prepared as a starch entrée to be paired with saucy roasts and braises. Nowadays, millas is often made with brown butter and sprinkled with sugar.
Saucisse de Tuolouse is delicious any which way it’s cooked, and many butcher shops and delicatessens freely showcase their sausage-making activities on-site, making for a truly holistic culinary experience. It’s a delicious combination of various cuts of duck, goose, fatty pork, and aromatics like garlic and nutmeg. Many family recipes include Toulouse sausages in cassoulet, although other varieties, like roasted with pomme frites or braised with vegetables, are also popular.
Violet blossoms are a unique garnish to salads, pastries, candies, sweetened drinks, and cocktails. Violet jam and jelly are also popular in the region, and you can even find violet-infused essential oils that make terrific souvenirs or gifts for your friends and family back home.
Cachou is black liquorice packed in easy-to-spot round, yellow, metal tins. Cachou was first made in 1880 by a local pharmacist for purportedly medicinal purposes. Over time, its medicinal value was debunked but not consumers’ taste for it (similar to what happened to Coca-Cola products). Today, this candy is considered an important part of Toulouse’s culinary legacy.
W&A is gearing up for a jaunt along Canal du Midi in late October 2020, a mesmerizing tour of southern France from the canal’s mouth by the Atlantic Ocean to its tail on the Mediterranean — and everything in between! Toulouse is one of the stops — don’t miss out! Click the link to sign up.