What is the secret behind the smooth, velvety texture of Bresse cream? Its high fat content. And its slightly acidic taste comes from slow biological maturing... Bresse butter, which is made from Bresse cream, is made in a churn. It has a characteristic yellowish colour, which may vary with the season, and a floral or slightly sweet fragrance. It melts in the mouth and its taste has predominant hazelnut or walnut notes. These characteristics saw Bresse cream and butter awarded French "AOC" classification in 2012. Now "Crème de Bresse" and "Beurre de Bresse" have been granted official European PDO status, for Protected Designation of Origin: the regulations were published on 11 April 2014 in the Official Journal of the European Union. PDO status means the products are protected throughout the European Union.
It takes 20 million litres of milk to make 500 tonnes of cream and the same quantity of butter. Some 60 farms are concerned in three départements, including Ain.
It is a well-kept secret. For 250 years, the composition of Chartreuse Verte - Green Chartreuse - has been known to none but the monks who make it. The only fact that has filtered through about this mysterious recipe is the number of plants and flowers used to make it: 130. The ingredients are collected from around the world, dried, ground, weighed, then delivered in large, numbered bags to the distillery in Voiron. There, they are macerated in alcohol. The various spirits obtained from the main plant families are then combined with distilled honey, sugar syrup and the plant decoction, from which the liqueur takes its distinctive colour.
Another distinctive feature is that Green Chartreuse is the only spirit still produced by its inventors. This panacea is derived from an "elixir of life" that built the reputation of the Carthusian monastery in Paris. The recipe was further analysed and finally formulated by Brother Jérôme Maubec, the apothecary at the Grande Chartreuse monastery. A tonic with a lower alcohol content was extracted from this plant elixir in 1754. The distillation lasts eight hours, under the supervision of two senior monks. The stills are computer-controlled by the Carthusian monks from their monastery at the foot of the Grand Som mountain, about 20 kilometres from Grenoble. The liqueur is then aged for a number of years in oak vats before being bottled and sold.
Two hundred and fifty years after its creation, Green Chartreuse has gained fresh popularity with consumers, night owls and the inventors of cocktails. It can be found around the world. A bar in Melbourne holds the record for consumption, at 900 litres a year. In a film called "Death Proof", Quentin Tarantino - fond of a drop of Chartreuse - cites the drink in a cult one-liner: "Chartreuse, the only liqueur so good they named a color after it".
Troisgros, Bocuse, Chapel, Blanc, Pic, Veyrat, Vianay, le Bec, Orsi, Lacombe... there is no shortage of prestigious ambassadors of French gastronomy in Rhône-Alpes. But behind these prestigious culinary stars, there are hundreds of Chefs in charge of more modest establishments and, above all, thousands of Rhône-Alpes inhabitants who celebrate the table arts and hospitality on a daily basis. One of the great strengths of Rhône-Alpes in this field is its astonishing variety of climates and terroirs, which provide local people with first rate products. Poultry from Bresse, fish from Dombes and the Alpine lakes, fruits from Forez and the Rhône valley, chestnuts from Ardèche, cheeses from Savoie, truffles from Tricastin... here again, the list is long.
Recognised as the world capital of gastronomy since the 16th century, Lyon is ideally situated, at the heart of the zones of production of numerous products enjoying AOC status.
With regard to wine, here again Rhône-Alpes has found tremendous ambassadors. Northern Côtes du Rhône (Côte-Rôtie, Saint-Joseph, Palais Grillet, Cornas, Crozes Hermitage...), Beaujolais (Morgon, Chenas, Brouilly...) wines from Savoie and Ain (Chignin-Bergeron, Mondeuse...), grand cru wines exist side by side with various coteaux wines (ardéchois, lyonnais, roannais), which go marvellously well with the products from the same terroirs.