Food and markets

Trip Start Jul 09, 2011
Trip End Aug 11, 2011

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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Monday, August 1, 2011

31 July – Local Dishes

I have been inspired by Don Metcalf to write about some of the food we have experienced in the area we are in currently – South West France.

Our first night here we dined at the restaurant at Hotel D'Alibert, (named after one of the Monks who was in charge of the Abbey at one stage) a one minute walk from our home for the week.  The manager, waiter, comedienne and host is Frederic…..5th generation Caunes-Minervois resident and hotel operator whose hotel is 500 plus years old.  We were reliably informed that Frederic words his menu in such a way that even the French need an explanation.   His sense of humour is akin to Basil Faulty for Faulty Towers fame and Frederic has a signed poster from Basil in his restaurant.

 Frederic’s explanation of the menu went something like this………..ze menu eez pork, beef stew, guinea fowl, lamb shank, liver etc  ……….with no explanation whatever of how it was to be done etc.  We chose the salmon for entrée and DM the guinea fowl for main and me the lamb shanks.  The entrée was a  huge piece of salmon which I thought was a mixture of salmon pate and grilled salmon wrapped in grilled salmon skin accompanied by (the mandatory) basket of French bread (and no one makes it as good as the French), and a salad – lettuce in a bowl with French salad dressing.  Absolutely delicious combo.

My main was just superb.  The lamb was delivered in a separate dish so I could serve myself.  It was a huge proportion served in a blended tomato, olive oil and red wine sauce and just fell off the bone.  DMs guinea fowl was also served separately.  She described it as "it melts in your mouth".  We also received a bowl of vegies (we had been lacking a good feed of veg since prior to Prague) which included a potato bake (in a creamy sauce of course) grilled tomato, aubergine, zucchini and olives.  The food was just great. 

I tried to order a bottle of red that had been recommended by previous Aussies who have stayed in our house but was told in no uncertain terms by Frederic that it was too big and heavy for this time of the year and I should choose something else.  I then insisted that he choose which he did (and which I think he intended to all along) and the match was perfect for what we were eating.

As DM has mentioned we toured the markets yesterday morning and for a late lunch once we got home we did the French lunch for two.  It of course included the mandatory baguette, roman tomatoes, olives in oil, garlic and ginger, mini capsicums stuffed with fetta and dripping with olive oil (of course), jambon (ham), two cheeses (camembert and swiss) and a fantastic tapenade with a capsicum base but including herbs and spices I couldn’t pick up on.  What a feast for two.

DM cooked dinner last night using all local produce sourced from the markets.  Lamb with aubergine, potatoes, zucchini and mushrooms in an onion and red wine sauce and of course accompanied by a bottle of the local red which our host tells us is now receiving high rating in Paris wine shows.

………..the only downside to all this is that we have both added a few kilos which will need to come off before we continue the “foodie” dream when we get home…………..Peter

1 August.  Market Mania

Yesterday, we went on the market trail.  Ingrid, our host, has kindly given us market days (along with loads of other information) for the towns and villages within driving distance.  So Pete and Francesca (yes, she is back with us) headed off to a village high up almost in the Pyrenees.  The village, Ferrals les Montagne, is very small but known for organic produce (Kate, I hear your approval) and the market is set up on the main road into town.  Only about 10 or so stalls but growers, buyers and cars all compete for the space.  Somehow it seems to work!  We got a coffee at the small restaurant, also on the main road, and it was great.  Hard to get the coffee orders right in Italy and France as most people drink short black espressos with at 2-3 sugars so a white latte or similar is quite out of the ordinary.  Much easier to order a wine, which seems to be drunk at any hour of the day or night?

Next stop Saint Chinian which was alive with market stalls, musicians and tourists.  The huge bowls of olives, tapenade and sauces were about the size of washing baskets.  In our broken French we bought some of the olives, tapenade and stuffed peppers to form the basis of lunch and afternoon drinks in the courtyard.  (see photo).

 Wanda you will be pleased to know that St Chinian was on the route of the Tour to France and we saw a number of cyclists attacking the steep, windy mountain roads and although we didn’t see Cadel we stood where he had passed just two weeks before.    Hopefully, they are not left overs from the race!! Darrell and Jill are lovers of St Chinian and I can now see why.  Another place on the list of – must return!

Today we had a bit of a late start, well probably normal for European starts.  We tried to act like locals and went and bought our daily baguette from Chez Marlene (the local shop).  Just as well we got there at 11.30am as Marlene was about to shut up shop for several hours.  Still struggling with this concept.  Frederic, our famous restauranteur, has a sign on his hotel that says “sorry I have a nap each afternoon until 5.30pm, call back then”, he also has the handle removed from the entrance door so you can’t get in anyway.  Must be working as Peter mentioned his family is 5th generation. 

Went through the local Abbey which was amazing as this town has a population of 1500 people and they have an Abbey dating back to 791.  There have been a number of recent additions, renovations – around 12th and 14th century.  The area is renowned for the pink marble that is everywhere in the Abbey and the Benedictines had a presence here around the 10th century, give or take a century.  Now having a late lunch and thinking about going for a leisurely drive, maybe to a local winery or a co-op (they allow you to taste wines from the local area, you can even buy wine there by the litre!).  Will add some photos and send off.  Thanks again for the messages and updates – we do feel somewhat remote from the local action in Cairns and Australia.  CNN rarely mentions Oz, although I understand the exchange rate is great.  Couldn’t even get an update on the Shanghai swimming!  Thank goodness the US has negotiated a debt ceiling increase, as I was tiring of that.  Love to all D-M
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Wanda on

LOVE the photos, especially the top one! I've put in for my leave and am anxiously waiting for it to be approved...and then will begin planning...can't wait!

Wanda on

Bob Hamill says hello & that he's very jealous! He wants to know what sort of car you've got? He's jealous of what you're doing and said please send no more pictures! He has something planned for later in the year...can't say too much, but he's getting info on the Bahamas...Bob says enjoy your trip...

Don Metcalf on

Good Morning,
Once again have risen and rushed to the computer to notice my name up in lights.
Upon reading the menu and the snacks I think of mainly one canine,Harry!
He would have an absolute feast travelling abroad and dining on the cheeses/food throughout Europe.
Thanks for the update!

doc on

Bonjour Pierre...great stuff..keep them coming

Ben on

Cannot believe short blacks are the go. Probably the only proponents of them at the Coffee Club are the quarter to 7 off to work businessman and the enervated 3pm "I don't really want to work" version of your son! Speaking of the Coffee Club, had the pleasure of serving a pot of tea to a Mr. Nathan Sharpe on Friday night, wished him luck against the All Blacks this week. Pretty cool after growing up watching him play for the Wallabies and the Reds. Really enjoying Torts B so far, and off to Leo's ball this Friday night. Ciao.

metcalfw on

Leave approved by Principal!!! YIPEE!!! VERY excited!!! Let the planning begin! Yes, am starting NOW!

AVD on

DOC passed on the blog - absolutely fantastic, I have started saving for our holiday....

Shayne on

Hi Peter and Donna, fantastic read, can almost taste the food you are describing. You could write for Masterchef. Great photo of you Pete, sitting at the table, glass of wine in hand. Doesn't get more french than that pose, and backdrop. You can't beat getting off the "beaten track" to experience life as its really lived in other countries, particularly when there is no english spoken, makes it quite a challenge. Your road trip through France reminds me of my road trip those years ago, and you are driving through some of the countryside i have been through- totally awesome. Love the phone message on my birthday, and that you remembered with so much exploring going on in your holiday. Take care, Shayne.xx

dmandpeter on

I read the article today that you sent me a couple of weeks ago regarding the locks ond the Canal du Midi near Beziers. If you can get on a boat trip when you are there you should. There are a number of "ports"on the canal but not in every town. Otherwise drive to Homps (where we went on one) then go to Bages near Narbonne for lunch - Portenal Restaurant on the lake - Entree, Plat and Dessert du Jour fantastic value and great views.

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