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Market Day in Southern France

March 29, 2016

This post includes three topics –

  • Market Day
  • Canadian Winemaker Recipes
  • Easter Winemaker’s Lunch

Market –

It’s spring – printemps – in southern France. At least some days. The temperature oscillates between 48 and 75 Fahrenheit (9 and 24 Celsius). Beautiful hours of sunshine are interspersed with rain and howling winds.

But change is coming, so it’s time to ramble and meander. It’s always good to mosey through the Wednesday or Saturday morning open air market in the city of Blaye.

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I’ve learned a few lessons here about market day shopping.

Lesson One –

There are two types who sell fruit and vegetables – producers (meaning farmers who grow the crops) and vendors (middlemen who may operate a store when it’s not market day). Getting food from farmers is the real deal because they will never jeopardise their livelihood and reputation by selling sub-par food.

How to tell them apart?

Producers, or farmers, often have dirt beneath their fingernails. They may look a little rough and their clothing is often crinkled. Their marketing skills are often less than polished, and their laughter is loud. Okay, so that’s somewhat of a generalization…

Does it really matter to find only producers? Not so much. In general, prices of most sellers are comparable, though producers may answer more questions, and will sell only freshest produce. I shop at different vendors to support all local stalls, and for the variety of experience

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Lesson Two –

Why go to market?

In the USA, many ‘farmers markets’ sell local produce, often untouched by pesticides or herbicides. This is excellent, though often costly. It reminds me of the Bed and Breakfast scenario. In Europe, Bed and Breakfasts have traditionally been less expensive than hotels. They provide a room in a home and a meal before morning check out. The USA discovered this concept decades ago, then created Bed and Breakfast ’boutique guest houses,’ which sell the ‘experience’ of staying at a home, often for a cost greater than hotels.

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It’s the same with many open air markets now bustling in the USA. People are often willing to pay more for the combination of being assured of quality, as well as for the ‘experience.’

One solid reason for shopping at markets in France is that a few large supermarket chains sell inferior vegetables and fruits – outdated, perhaps partially rotten, and of a poor enough calibre to make customers consider keeping their distance.

The reasons for shopping at markets here is to secure decent quality food at a reasonable cost. It’s also a lively and colorful experience. And those live chickens and the fresh horse meat? All for a decent price.

Recipes – 

I recently cooked two recipes from winemakers in British Columbia, Canada, and also shot a few photos. These contributions are for the forthcoming book The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion. The wine scene is vibrant in British Columbia, and many wineries include restaurants.

The first recipe is for Mushroom Velouté (velouté is a sauce made with cream; it’s also a soup thickened with butter and cream) from Chef Damain Mischkinis at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery.

This recipe is outrageously delicious. I sprinkled prosciutto on top and served it with a Sancerre white wine, though the recommended Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc would better cut through the cream.

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Mushroom Velouté, from Chef Damain Mischkinis of the Sonora Room Restaurant at Burrowing Owl Winery, British Columbia, Canada

Preparation Time and Quantity –

15 minutes to prepare, 50 minutes to cook. Serves 4 people.

Ingredients and Amounts 

Butter – 3 tablespoons (42 grams)

Onion (medium) – 1

Garlic cloves – 2

Oyster or Crimini mushrooms – ½ pound (220 grams)

White wine – 4/10 cup (95 ml)

Milk – 1 cup (225 ml)

Cream – ½ cup (115 ml)

Vegetable or chicken stock – 3/5 cup (150 ml)

Sprigs of thyme – 3

Sprig of rosemary – 1

Salt and pepper – to taste

 Preparation –

  1. Slice the onion and garlic.
  2. Slice mushrooms lengthwise into four pieces each.
  3. Measure out wine, stock, milk, cream, and set aside.
  4. Tie herbs together with butcher’s twine to make what is called a Bouquet de Garnis.

Recipe –

  1. Sauté onions and garlic over medium to high heat in butter until soft.
  2. Add mushrooms and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add white wine and herb bouquet and cook for 5 more minutes.
  4. Add milk, cream, and stock.
  5. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 30 minutes, or until mushrooms are cooked and soft.
  6. Puree in blender ‘until sinfully smooth.’

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Serving –

Garnish with brioche and prosciutto crumb and serve with a Pinot Gris or a Sauvignon Blanc wine (such as one from Burrowing Owl Winery, of course).

Another, second, recipe I recently tried was for shortcake, from British Columbian CedarCreek Estate Winery. This was shared in a recent blog post.  The shortcake was frail enough so that sandwiching cream and strawberries between slices of cake was too difficult a challenge, especially after I’d downed a glass or two of rosé.

Here’s the finished product.

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Easter with Winemakers – 

Our friends at Château La Rose Bellevue put on an afternoon feast this past Sunday, with the menu written on a chalkboard. The photos tell the story.

IMG_3324However, two wines deserve mention. During our blind tasting of whites, I was certain the first was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc because of the distinct acidity and slight tang. It turns out the wine we tasted is instead made with 100 percent Garganega grape from north-east Italy (produced by Buglioni).

IMG_3326There was also a white that tasted familiar, yet remained unknown. It turns out that a mysterious wine wizard from the region of Blaye produces a wine made from 100 percent white Cabernet Sauvignon. Considering how unusual it is to shuck tradition in this region, this maneuver from Domaine Leandre-Chevalier is bold.

 

 

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