Gastronomy in the Charente is very well represented in Cognac and the surrounding areas. It is known to be "simple, honest and direct, if not plain rustic".
This judgement by a "grand maître" is a little out of date. Our chefs today compete with each other in terms of ingenuity and talent, aiming to help you appreciate the best of local products. "Les amuses-balots", (cocktail snacks) are a vital accompaniment to Pineau des Charentes or a cognac tonic as an apéritif, the perfect way to start a meal.
Then there are the "gorailles" made up of "grillons", a less fatty form of "rillettes" (a sort of pork based potted mince), but also more "gouteux" (tasty), as we say around here. These can be eaten on their own or accompanied by oysters to "freshen your mouth".
Of course there is always "charentais melon" with Pineau des Charentes for an ideal summer starter.
As for main courses, the choice will depend on the season.
The "cagouilles" (small grey snails) cooked in the charentais style with white wine, onions, garlic, smoked ham, and bread crumbs will vie with "daube de beu" (beef stew). For those who feel a bit more daring, you can enjoy a plate of "gigourit" (a sort of black pudding is the nearest description). In terms of vegetables, there are the inevitable "mojhette piate" (haricot beans), which will go well with sausage done in white wine or smoked ham.
At the end of the meal, some goat's cheese is always welcome. With any luck you will also be able to taste some "caillebotte" a dish so local we have no equivalent, you will have to taste it to appreciate it !
For dessert, try a "galette charentaise" or a "milla".
By the way, all the specialities just mentioned go very well with a local "vin de pays charentais", red or white. Finally, as if it needed saying , a cognac is the perfect way to round off any meal and help digest all these tasty dishes.