Friday, Jan. 28, 2011, part 1
Inteested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you!
We're heading north, to truffle land, to fulfill Chef Kim's (of Dine by Design Catering) desire to experience the Friday morning Truffle Market at Carpentras. January is prime time for the mysterious funghi, and the buyers and sellers have gathered in front of the Hôtel Dieu on this chill misty morning.
Bags and berets are de rigueur (obligatory),
and the conversation muted as the hunters open their bags to show off their bounty.
The inner courtyard is now open for business, and in the foyer we see a lady with baskets of truffles and flyers advertising Truffe de Luberon.
She's the wife of Geo, with whom we went on a truffle hunt last January! She asks which dogs we went hunting with, and Kirk pulls out his iPhone and shows her photos - oh it's Bulot - and there's my house!"
You would think that the air would be positively infused with the earthy scent of all of these truffles, but it's so cold you have to get your nose right into the basket to get a whiff. The wooden mandolins on the right are truffle slicers.
The whistle blows and sellers enter the inner courtyard, carefully opening their bags on the tables.
Buyers surround and sniff and hold the "black diamonds",
moving from one seller to another to check out the bounty.
No truffles for us today, but Kim purchases a burlap truffle bag
to remember the experience.
Shivering after all this time outdoors, we eagerly enter Bar La Civette and order café crèmes and croissants for all. Is this the best café we've ever had, or is it just that it's such a welcome warmer?
The negotiations that started across the street are completed in the bar, and my head whips around in the middle of a sentence, seeking the source of the sudden earthy scent that's wafted under my nose - the warmth makes the fragrance of the truffles much more apparent. We watch as Serge (on the right - I have tried for actual HOURS to get this or any photo we have of the cafe business to post correctly but none of them will, so kindly turn your head or the computer ;)), of Chez Serge, truffle restaurant extraordinaire, chooses the best for his kitchen. He hands us a flyer for the restaurant, encouraging us to give him a call and come for a truffle feast.
Labels: Carpentras, Truffle Market
A Few Days in Aix
Sunday - Thursday, Jan. 23-27, 2011 Aix en Provence, FranceInterested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you!
Our days in Aix are filled with ordinary tasks - shopping,
communicating with friends and clients in person or online,
putting up a shower rod and curtain.
These could-be-done-anywhere tasks are interspersed with delightful visits to the open-air market,
where even the potatoes are beautiful,
the wintery fragrance of roasting chestnuts,
strolls along the Cours Mirabeau (icicles on the mossy fountain!)
a visit to the Musée du Vieil Aix
where the current exhibit showcases plans in process in the town to preserve the architectural heritage of the past.
The inside is an elegant setting for the interesting photos and diagrams of history from as far back as Roman times.
We take our time, slowly translating the text, fascinated with the knowledge of how the streets and squares around our home looked in ages past.
Something that I can not do easily in the States is cook Kirk's favorite dinner - duck breast. They are difficult to find in Virginia, I usually have to go to several stores to find one frozen duck breast. But here, it's even in the 7-11 type stores.
I prop my netbook up in the kitchen to follow Divina Cucina's recipe for Anatra a l'Arancia (better known as Duck a l'orange) and oh is it delicious!
I've got a few recipe books here - but can find anything I want to make, anywhere in the world, right online - so easy!
We've invited Oscar and Anne Marie over for dinner tonight, and come back from the market with a basket full of goodies, and an armful of fresh mimosa.
We love the golden blooms atop the mantel, they're only a few euros, but they only look good for a couple of days. Our friend Katrina's British phrase comes to mind - cheap and cheerful ;)On the menu this evening is Kirk's Pasta (with sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, pine nuts...) and it turns out terrific - maybe the best he's made.
And I pull another yummy recipe off the internet: Clothilde's (Chocolate and Zucchini) Pomme et Poires aux Caramels (Apples and pears baked with salted caramel pieces - another easy-to-find item here in France).
The next evening we introduce our Aixoise friends, Philippe and Benedicte, to the progressive dinner style which we've started at home in Reston: aperitifs at our house, a stroll to a nearby restaurant, and back home for dessert.
Philippe has brought Kirk a quirky gift which we saw at their house when they had us over last year.... a plastic train set that he got in Morocco with George Bush chasing Bin Laden around the tracks - ha!They think diner progressif is a charming idea and I think they'll be spreading the concept around their neighborhood.While we were enjoying our aperitifs, they mentioned that their latest renter, a chef/caterer from Florida who is staying in the beautiful apartment in which we stayed last January, had really wanted to go to a Truffle Market on Friday in a town north of here, but had found that public transport was not a viable option. Kirk and I looked at each other and said "We could take her!" Of course this is just the kind of thing we love to do. So Philippe called Kim, told her about us, and passed his phone to us. We chatted, and made plans to meet the following morning.
First stop was Europcar, where Kim rented a car for Kirk to drive on Friday - we'll pick it up late tonight and park nearby so we can leave early in the morning. Then we just enjoyed strolling through Aix, sharing some of our favorite corners of the city, such as the lovely Place de Trois Ormeaux, just down the street from one of the apartments we looked at last year before finding this just-perfect place we're in today,
with a colorful madonna gazing down from a corner above.
We've noticed several new restaurants in town, and decide to check one out today - perhaps to use in our Music and Markets Provence tour.
Les Bacchanales proves a winner, with a genial chef/ owner, warm and charming ambiance,
isn't the framed gleaming copper on the walls a fun idea?
and excellent cuisine. My entrée (first course) of partridge, figs, and panetonne was as delicious as it was photo-worthy.
Early to bed tonight - we've got a full day of adventures tomorrow!