|A view of the Vallee du Mars|
Back in our house in the Auvergne, the other evening we went out for supper to a new establisment in the village. It is L'Establou de la Vallee, and has been set up by the son of our neighbour. The family have been working hard at converting a barn on land they own just above the village itself, and have turned it into a lovely ferme auberge, in a beautiful setting, and with magnificent views over the whole vallee du Mars and the mountains surrounding it. L'Establou is well worth a visit. The food is simple but generous and tasty, and the ambiance in the restaurant calm and peaceful. There is a lovely sitting out area beside a small lake.
The whole valley is very beautiful, and at the moment busy with hay making, in order to provide food for the cattle in winter. Cattle rearing is the major farming activity of the area, and cheese is a major product. Cantal cheese is found throughout France and is one of the country's oldest. Some of the local dishes , such as Aligot and truffade, use Tomme fraiche de Cantal, which is very young cheese,, creamy in texture, somewhat similar to unsalted mozzarella. Both aligot and particularly truffade feature regularly on menus in local restaurents, both being mixtures of potatoes and cheese, but there the similarity ends. Aligot resembles mashed potato but requires a lot of beating to achieve its smooth texture, while truffade is prepared differently. I have to admit I have not yet made either for myself, just eaten dishes prepared in restaurants or at communal meals where aligot and sausage are often the menu.