Lovin' the Loire

The one, the only tarte Tatin

“You will never, ever find a tarte Tatin that resembles the true tarte Tatin of the Tatin sisters,” says Jean-Paul Martin Cousin. Even if you travel to Lamotte-Beuvron, the Loire Valle town where the mouth-watering caramelized apple pie originated, sadly you can no longer find a genuine tarte Tatin because the hotel where the sisters invented the dessert has closed its restaurant. The exception is on the one day each year when the confrérie holds its chapitre, which falls this year on May 18.

What’s a confrérie? When it comes to food and wine, it’s like a trade association –with lots of pomp and circumstance. The chapitre is a meeting held at least once a year, when members don long robes and other accoutrements, parade down village streets and then sit down to a gala feast. At some point during the festivities there are “enthronements”, when participants receive honorary memberships in the confrérie. France boasts all manner of confréries, many to do with food — think truffles, cheeses, cassoulet, foie gras, even potatoes — as you can imagine they range from somewhat frivolous excuses for a party to dead serious groupings, as is the case with many wine confréries.