Market Billom 6Market Billom 6
©Billom market|© Denis Pourcher

Taste and flavor Livradois-Forez, a land of epicureans

This “vacation” in Livradois-Forez can be the time to reclaim your diet, for its benefits to your body. The challenge often lies in breaking with well-established habits and, let’s face it, in having enough ideas! Visiting farms, understanding the origins of products, their manufacturing processes, the constraints of production methods, taking part in workshops, understanding nutritional aspects and the impact of cooking processes… A stay in the Livradois-Forez region can be a real immersion: you’ll never cook like you did before!

Nuggets from Livradois-Forez : 

Fourme d’Ambert is one of Auvergne’s famous five PDO cheeses. Emblematic of the Livradois-Forez region and a native of the Hautes-Chaumes, it is produced at altitudes of between 600 and 1600 m in the Puy-de-Dôme, but also in a small part of the Loire and Cantal regions. It is said to have possible Gallo-Roman roots, and even some legends link it to the Druids. However, it is now certain that it originated in the Middle Ages. The origins of Fourme d’Ambert go back to pastoralism in the Forézien region. In those days, it was the women and children who accompanied the herds to the summer pastures, from June to October, and made Fourme d’Ambert while the men stayed in the valleys and plains to ensure haymaking and cultivation. Nowadays, most of the Fourme d’Ambert is produced in dairies, although in recent years, farmhouse production has been revived and is highly prized on the markets.

It’s a blue-veined, cylindrical cheese weighing around 2 kg, about 20 cm high and with a diameter of between 12.5 and 14 cm. It has a fine, bloomy rind with a gray-blue tinge. The paste is ivory-colored, dotted with blue spots, known as marbling. These characteristic hollow molds are obtained by the piquage process. This perforation allows the cheese to breathe and blossom.

The cheese’s reputation in the world of gastronomy is well established, as the PDO has earned Ambert the status of Remarkable Taste Site, inspiring many renowned chefs.

Thierry Chelle, Toque d’Auvergne chef at Les Copains restaurant in Ambert, was no exception. 20 years ago, when he decided to take fourme cheese off the cheeseboard and into the kitchen. Feel free to pay him a visit to see if he’s succeeded! Thierry Chelle shares one of his favorite recipes with you on our blog. In particular, he points out the greatest quality of fourme cheese: its subtle sweetness, which allows the balance of flavors to be respected.

In his restaurant Les Chênes in Augerolles, chef Jean-François Fafournoux is another artist of Livradois-Forez gastronomy. What he appreciates most are vegetables. Creative, he sublimates them through unexpected combinations with our Auvergne specialties. The result: incredible flavors. His son Léo, who joins him today, continues a five-generation tradition.

Of course, like all the Toques d’Auvergne, of which Jean-François is president, he cultivatesextra-local, seasonal produce and links with producers.

In fact, many events feature it, such as the Fourmofolies in August, every year, in Ambert or the Fête de la Fourme every early October in Montbrison. Since 2021, the FOURM’idables picnics have been held in the PDO production zone at the end of July, for tastings at altitude. Finally, from April to November, the Maison de la Fourme d’Ambert et des fromages d’Auvergne is open to visitors.

Garlic has been grown in Billom and the surrounding area since the 14th century. The clay-limestone soils are ideal for this crop, which is part of France’s intangible cultural heritage. Some twenty growers cultivate it in open fields and harvest it from July onwards. Then, after drying in the air, high up and out of the sun, the garlic is sold in braids. Annual production is around 200 tonnes. Chefs and gourmets alike appreciate this top-of-the-range bulb for its fine taste. In August, chefs and gourmets alike gather at a large market to exchange the most beautiful pods. And at events organized for the Sites remarquables du goût. The “ Sites remarquables du goût ” label is a French trademark under the aegis of four ministries: culture, tourism, environment and agriculture.

How to choose the right garlic in Livradois-Forez?

Choose the most natural crops possible, with no anti-sprouting treatments that alter the product.

Petrified of bad breath? Chewing parsley, mint or coffee beans significantly reduces garlic breath.

There is a confrérie des Grands gousiers d’Auvergne: its members defend and promote Billom pink garlic at numerous events.

Wild blueberry, emblematic species of Auvergne

The wild bilberry, a hardy plant by nature, is found naturally in the mountainous regions of France. It thrives mainly in acidic, granitic soils, generally at altitudes of over 800 metres and preferably with a northerly exposure. Berries ripen from July to September, with a sweet red pulp that is slightly astringent.

For some years now, it has been suffering from the state of the blueberry moorlands, themselves impacted by climate change, which favors the appearance of new pests. Grazing practices also have an effect on the density of the flora.

Since 2019, the Parc Livradois-Forez has been involved, alongside other Massif Central nature parks, in an initiative aimed at preserving and developing this emblematic resource that is the wild blueberry.

Recipe: you can try the traditional blueberry tart, but in a version revisited by Fourme d’Ambert.

Auvergne specialities: the market ritual

In Livradois-Forez, going to the market is a weekly ritual: meeting local producers who are proud of their work means forging a new bond with food. So, back in the kitchen, it’s not just a variety of fruit or vegetables, it’s the story or the smile of the producer you stopped by. And going to the market means reconnecting with the natural rhythm of seasonality. When you stroll down the aisles of a farmers’ market, you don’t leave with a predefined list: you let yourself be guided by the inspiration of the stalls. Only then can you use your creativity to imagine what you’ll be cooking. In fact, don’t hesitate to ask the producers: they often have their own favorite recipes for local specialties, which they’ll be delighted to share. If you have a little more time and are curious to see and understand, farmers also welcome you to their farms. For epicureans who’d rather let themselves be carried away, you could call on Mathieu Barbet. He cut his teeth at Domaine de Codignat, and is now a home chef based in Thiers. Or Nathalie and Pierre Fougère, a gourmet caterer based in Sermentizon.

At the Livradois-Forez markets, you’ll find seasonal fruit and vegetables on the market stalls. Our range of artisanal jams embodies the sweetness of the seasons. Strawberry, basil, black cherry from Celles-sur-Durle, delicate mirabelle plum slipped into your luggage. Livradois-Forez honey, with its subtle, complex flavors, a natural treasure and a tale of local biodiversity. Dry sausage, mountain ham and black pudding are real treasures of authenticity, made with know-how handed down from generation to generation. Olive, walnut and rapeseed oils each tell a story of fertile soil and authenticity. Precious sources of essential fatty acids, a drizzle of oil on a salad of fresh herbs and you’ve got a simple yet delicious dish. Microbreweries are also flourishing. They often choose to use locally-produced cereals, wheat, rye, buckwheat and barley… Find out more here: