Loire Valley restaurants
The Loire River has shaped both the landscape and the cuisine of the region. River fish, notably sandre (pike perch) and freshwater eel, are particular treats. Other fine local delights include asparagus in spring, strawberries in summer, and wild mushrooms and game (hare, venison, wild boar, partridge) in autumn and winter, as well as button and oyster mushrooms, which are cultivated in dank caves around Saumur. Also be sure to try the region's superb goat cheeses, from Selles-sur-Cher, Ste. Maure de Touraine, Valencay, and Crottins de Chavignol. In addition to classic dishes like coq au Chinon, fish in beurre blanc, foie gras, game pâtés, and pigeon, you'll also find modern renditions of the repertoire crafted by chefs who are lightening sauces, adding exotic spices, or rediscovering légumes oubliés ("forgotten vegetables"), such as old varieties of tomatoes, parsnips, or beets. Restaurants range from grand château establishments to bustling brasseries serving steaks and salads to simple village bistros. In addition to the restaurants listed here, the establishments of chefs who belong to the association Touraine Gourmande (www.tourainegourmande.com) tend to be worth a visit.