What You Need To Know About Visiting Sarlat’s Saturday MarketWhen I first visited Sarlat’s famous Saturday morning market in 2016 I was entranced. I’m pretty sure I’d never been to such a delicious and expansive market, full of so many local delicacies and so much regional produce in my life. I walked through the stalls, wishing that I was able to shop there every week, and thoroughly enjoyed watching our chef make a bee line for his favourite vendors before taking it all back to his apartment to cook us up a simply delicious lunch. The one thing that hurt the most about the first trip was that I was not really able to buy anything to take home with me as we still had a day of the trip and a flight from Bergerac airport left, so this time I made a plan. It seems only fitting that this, the last post from my 2018 French adventure is one stuffed full of tips to get the most out of a visit to this famous market.
1. Stay in town the night before
My biggest tip if you’re serious about enjoying the market is to stay in town the night before as get gets pretty impossible to park on market mornings; most of the roads and parking spaces in the old down are closed off the evening before to allow for the all day market to set up. If you really want to cook up a storm there are a fair few Airbnb’s you can book (use this link to get £25 off your first stay!) in the old town (which is where you want to be located in the heart of the action – it is also walkable and where most of the bars and restaurants in Sarlat are located) but if you want to go down our picnic route, I can’t recommend the Hotel Plaza Madeline on the outskirts enough. The rooms are reasonable, modern and comfortable, and most importantly there is secure parking available on the other side of the old town (a 10 minute walk) for only 15€ (£14) a day. You’ll not manage to park anywhere else without it costing a lot more and possibly needing to keep moving your car, so take advantage of this! We also loved the courtyard swimming pool, and I will be staying there again!
2. Buy a traditional panier
You know those beautiful big French baskets (paniers) with the long leather straps French women carry at markets and can be upwards of £50 in London outlets of French stores like Colone & Cotton? You can easily grab a beautiful one for around 20€ (£18) on the market and from several local shops (there is a great cook shop on Rue de la Republique) and not only are they great to carry everything you get in the market around in (though watch as they carry loads they can get heavy) but mine has become an utter lifesaver for me taking it every time I go to the North End Road daily vegetable market or to Waitrose here in London. It will also make for a really chic alternative to a more traditional picnic basked!
3. Focus on local produce
Obviously one of the biggest food regions in France (though every French person would always argue that they live in the best French food region!) there is some fantastic local produce. Depending on the time of year, the fresh items you really need to make a beeline for because they’re particularly good around here are asparagus (white, green and purple), goats cheese (Rocamadour is hyper-regional and hyper-delicious), little sweet Gariguette strawberries, cepe mushrooms, duck (smoked, sausages and pieces of) and goose.
Even if you’re not buying fresh produce at the market, there is so much great local produce that is not perishable you can zero in on. Things to look out for: cans and jars of duck confit, goose gizzards and cassoulet, truffles, truffle oil, truffle mustard, grape must mustard, walnuts, candied walnuts, walnut oil, walnut wine, plum aquavit, foie gras and dried cepes.
A few tips on choosing some of these: I don’t have any recommendations for which store or brand does the better confit, gizzards (the delicious pieces you need to make local salads) and as they’re all about the same price, go for a recommendation or just go to a store that looks good and don’t waste time shopping around! Truffles are something to go for (do compare prices here) as is truffle oil, though make sure the bottle specifies that it is made with Perigord (local) truffles as oil can be made cheaper with Asian imports. A great way to enjoy local truffles is in mustard; also look out for bright purple Violette mustard made with the grape must that is a by produce from wine making (my favourite brand of this comes from the Denoix distillery in nearby Brive). Walnuts are the big thing in the area and you’ll find them in everything. If you’re a keen cook just buy great bags of them, but also keep an eye out for walnut products, including rich walnut oil, candied walnuts that come in either sugar caramel or cocoa dusted, chocolate coated varieties (these are stupidly more-ish) and the local walnut wine which is a wonderful aperitif – again, my favourite comes branded as Quinqui Noix from the Denoix distillery. While I’ve not tried my bottle yet a type of plum aquavit is super popular after dinner. Foie gras is the big product of the region and you can get it everywhere in jars and cans, and some stores sell the fresh version in fridges. If you’re a fan of the poached, pate like version in restaurants still only get one jarred/ canned version to try because they taste radically different – I really don’t like it! Finally, dried cepe mushrooms. They’re delicious here and so much cheaper than any we can buy in the UK!
4. Focus on what is seasonal
I know this seems obvious, but make the most of what is in abundance; it will taste so much better than you’re used to! While we were in Sarlat beefsteak and heirloom tomato varieties were starting their season and nothing has tasted as good this summer as the tomato salads I made from the ones I brought back to our family holiday home in Brittany and served with every meal. However, on the other hand it is also worth stocking up on more exciting varieties of store cupboard items like garlic, onions and shallots than the ones you can get in the supermarket, which store well so seasonality is less important!
5. Stock up on French luxuries
As well as investing in a good panier, there are some other items that sell for loads in British stores imported that you can get at great prices on a good French market. Look out from soaps that have come from Provence (but be sure to talk to the vendors to make sure you’re not getting something run of the mill, mass produced) and I also picked up a beautiful French, pink and white striped tasselled table cloth (those ones that also double as a picnic blanket and a beach towel) that has made it’s debut on my Instagram recently – you don’t want to know how much my Mum paid for something really similar for her kitchen table from OKA!
6. Make sure you eat something!
Especially if you’re stocking up on dried and preserved goods to take home from you rather than going down the holiday rental with a kitchen / picnic route (if you’re wondering, we picnicked on French breakfast radishes, soft crumbly fresh goats cheese, strawberries and French bread – we’d forgotten to pack knives!) eat something local at the market before you leave. Just like at our local Brittany market in Combourg pieces of local meat and potatoes are the order of the day; make a bee line for pieces of duck confit and potatoes cooked with fresh herbs in the fat of pork, duck and goose offcuts.
I hope you’ve enjoyed all of my French exploits and don’t worry, I’ve already started planning my next trip across the pond! In case you missed them, here is everything we got up to: How To Spend A Day In The Northern Loire Valley (If It Is Raining!), Another Fantastic Stay at Manoir de Malagorse, Cuzance, How To Spend A Day In The Lot, South West France, Dinner at Chateau de la Treyne, South West France, How To Spend A Day In The Dordogne, Where To Eat If You Only Have One Night In Sarlat.