During my recent trip to Egalières, I took a side trip to one of the largest and most well-known markets for antiques, the town of Isle-sur-La Sorgue. Famous also for its large, moss-covered water wheels, this town is a must see, with its crystal clear river running through the town’s center and the beautiful building of the Caisse d’Epargne bank. So, what did I buy? Well, I almost bought a beautiful, oval, gold, baroque-style mirror (no photos allowed and there was an employee staged there), but even with a small discount, it was pricey. That being said, I still see the mirror and hope it will go out of my mind soon!
Is the open-air and covered market disappearing in France? One would think so, from the large prominent supermarkets like Auchan, Carrefour, and Leclerc, but not to worry! There’s the open market in Cours Saleya and at Malaussena in Nice. Cagnes-sur-Mer, just outside of Nice, has rebuilt and opened a new covered market, with all the relevant fanfare – Bon marché!
I recently signed up to do a group cooking class at a top-rate restaurant in Nice, called l’Univers. Not having a cooking gene, I figured I could watch and learn something – but NON, this was a hands-on cooking experience! I don’t eat a lot of fish, so never handle or cook it…until then, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The class started with a walk to the famous, daily food market in Cours Saleya, with the chef – he had planned the main course for the day, but needed to see/decide what would he vegetables he wanted to include. It was amusing to watch him browse the local vendors stands, instantly choosing things that he was mentally preparing. He choose nettles, which I had heard of but never saw or touched (yes, the leaves do sting ever so slightly to the touch) – were we going to eat them? Not exactly – they were cooked to make a dark green sauce to accompany the red fish (see photo).
Back at the restaurant, wearing plastic aprons, we watched the chefs demonstrate and then, we each took a turn – fileting and de-boning the sole, pulling stems off of rocket lettuce, fileting red fish, and of course, observing the chefs as they cut, cooked, and created delicious delicacies. I tried to avoid semi-guillotining the red fish – a necessary step before fileting them, but concentrated on not cutting my self and the job at hand (pun intended)!
After about 2 hours, everything was ready, so we sat down to a beautiful table setting and were served hearty wines and the day’s cooked catch (three-course meal). Everything tasted wonderful, as we relaxed, chatted, and enjoyed the fruits of our (and mainly the chefs) labor! What also impressed me was the relaxed, easygoing ambiance in the kitchen, thanks to Master Chef, Christian Plumail, and Chef Nicolas, as they joked with us, taught us basic skills of their craft, and patiently explained and answered our questions.
I am planning on doing another class, and if and when you visit Nice, it is definitely worth doing (the class was done in French, but the Chef also speaks English).
(hover over photo to see the caption)
I recently attended a truffle festival, since I really wanted to know if they really smell like what I had heard – like dirty sweaty feet! Sure enough there were tables galore with vendors selling their black gold, so I asked one vendor if I could smell one of ‘her’ truffles. I was very surprised that it didn’t really smell at all (certainly not like dirty socks), but I did order an omelette with truffles for lunch and wow – the taste of the grated truffle was pungent! At 120E for 100 grams, truffles are worth their weight in gold!
There were vendors selling other items: ceramics, food & drinks, with attendees enjoying the day hosted by a local 4* hotel/restaurant called, “La Bastide Saint Antoine.” As I walked around the beautiful grounds, I was amused by the posters displayed from the past years’ truffle festivals (one rather risque from 2003!), as well as watching a truffle hunting dog demonstration – I wondered, though, where was the pig? Maybe next year!
Holiday photos featuring local, artisanal products at a local Christmas market.
Santons are small colourful hand-made Christmas figures part of a typical French Nöel crèche (Christmas Nativity scene), made in the South of France. The idea was started by an artist in Marseille and quickly spread through Provence and Languedoc Roussillon. The traditional nativity scene includes figures representing the characters from local village life such as the baker, the fisherman, the butcher, the blind man, the shepherd, the parish priest, the flower seller, the storyteller and the chestnut seller, etc. Typical santon scenes include musicians and dancers who dance the farandole with joined hands. There are two types of Provençal santons: santons d’argile (hand-painted clay figures) and santons habilles (figures dressed in real clothes and carrying real baskets, lavender, fishing nets etc).
Source: Posterous Space
(Above photos are mine)
From 24/7 in France
While I was in Montpellier, I attended an International Fair that was being held in a large exposition hall. There were goods representing a multitude of countries, each with its unique style and presentation of items for sale: clothes, flowers, household items, interior design, and much more. It was huge and literally overwhelming, as I walked up and down the aisles. The most unusual thing was slimey, jellied cubes (but not wet to the touch) to put plants and flowers in; color could be added for decorative effect.
I didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without, but certainly enjoyed looking! See anything in the photos you would have purchased?