Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fungi or Candy?

A truffle, Webster's dictionary says, is "the dark or light edible subterranean fruiting body of several European ascomycetous fungi."  Gourmands say it is gold!
Truffles are harvested in southern France  with the help of dogs and pigs who follow the scent of this pungent fungi.  Those who hunt this fungi guard their areas, usually around the oak trees,  for the treasures that grow at their feet.
Two weekends in January, we observed the Truffle Market in Uzes.  Last years post, Two Americans Loose in France 2009 
and another quite different one in Carpentras about an hour away.
  The Uzes market began with Sophie, a huge, gorgeous pig, who sniffed her way through the soil which had been brought into the market place.  Attended by her owner, who watched her carefully, Sophie discovered many previously hidden truffles and was rewarded for her diligent work.
  I think she even smiled, proud of her excellent skills.
The Uzes market gathered people from near and far who looked for that perfect, precious gem---a diamant noir, black diamond.  The most important sign of that truffle is its fragrance, color, and lack of any dirt to add unnecessary weight to the fungus.
In contrast, the Carpentras market begins when the clock high in the ancient Hotel Dieu tower, strikes nine.
  Sellers of truffles, carefully guarding their bags of the found gems, gather at tables. 
Professional buyers stream into the area to examine, smell, touch the truffle and some buyers, knife in hand, take a small sliver to observe the inside color.  Why?  A freeze had frozen some truffes and flavors had suffered.
Buyers walked around with all sorts of bags, plastic, muslin, calico bulging with their finds.

Bargains were struck and some sellers returned home with a pocket filled with money.
All this took place in ten minutes (add another 10 minutes for this day as buyers were being careful not to purchase the frozen truffles whose flavors had suffered)..
The price this year?
That is 1000 euros for a kilo. (a kilo is 2.2 pounds)  It is no wonder the buyers are so careful with their purchases.
Now, for our Christmas present from the girls.  We, along with Gina Trevier of Maison Trevier, cooked a complete dinner using truffles of the region.  Just wait to see!


Oh, and the other Webster's definition of truffle?  "A candy made of chocolate, butter, sugar, and sometimes liqueur shaped into balls and often coated with cocoa."  Yum!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Still Stories To Tell

 The Champagne is empty.

The flowers, well, they are bedraggled and

after cleaning the house today so am I.  We are off to an early train and three flights arriving in Colorado Springs about 11 PM.  Ugh!
But we will be back---in May (and another unique adventure!).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Walk to Meet a New Friend

Wednesday evening we enjoyed the company of our neighbors, Pierre and Albert.

With the help of Amy and Matt, who speak superb French, we learned more of the history of our house and village.  Pierre would visit his grandparents here during summer vacation (their home just two doors away).  Each morning he would venture down the road to Le Tonnellerie to watch the barrel making process.  He, during all of his visits to the building, had only been about ten feet inside the door.  Oil stains remain on our fireplace from the barrel maker's tools and our ceiling still has soot from him burning the inside of the barrels.

I decided I needed to introduce myself to the former owner of our home. 
Early Thursday morning, I walked down the path,

Past the ancient walls dripping with ivy,

Seeing doors opening to ?????,

Peaking over the wall to the garden of the chateau,

Viewing the empty fields waiting for the summer's seeds,

Walking over the once very busy railroad tracks,

Down the rain soaked road,

To the cemetery.

I walked slowly down the grand allée

to anxious meet Victor Brouzet, my new dear friend and former proprietor of  La Tonnellerie.

Amazingly, Victor and I had met in this same place two days earlier when I had visited, but we didn't know what we know now.

Can you imagine how many barrels those hands have produced to hold the wines of the Côte du Rhône?

I was so pleased to meet and talk with Victor.  I would like to have a glass of Amy's Rhone wine with him. Now, our home has a personality.
Thank you, Pierre and Albert.

À la prochaine,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Love a Sale!

I love a sale. I mean, I really enjoy finding that perfect bargain of something I just cannot live without.    I couldn't live without this silver tray from Goodwill which was originally $10.00.  I waited until it was 75% off and now it holds the winter clementines.

In France, sales are different.  No watching the Sunday paper, collecting the occasional flyer, or hearing from your neighbor of a coming sale.  Sales are determined by the government----only twice a year. Casa began their sale with extra savings.  We had to go early as we really "needed" coffee cups.

This year the first sale occurs between January 6th and February  9th, about six weeks long.

Now, all stores have their signs posted---

some in bright, jazzy print,

others on a piece of cloth, (My absolutely favorite store---Atelier des Ours )

while others handwritten on a piece of paper. (Well, this one is also my absolutely favorite---Lola Rossa
a fabulous store for hand work.)

Sales are wonderful.  Time is running short.  I must get shopping or wait until the next sale----in the summer.  I just don't know how I will last six months.  (I did find a tablecloth, needle holder, notebook, and metal garland on sale.  I think I shall have to investigate more tomorrow.)  It is a long time until the next savings.

Á la prochaine,

Monday, January 11, 2010

It Almost Stopped!

Two things I adore doing are sitting at a long dining table with friends eating and discussing the world and....

going to the lively Saturday market in Uzés.

This Saturday, however, was a sight I have never seen. The Place aux Herbes was snow covered, quiet and without its normal excitement and activity.

Terriors, our favorite outdoor restaurant, hadn't even opened its doors.

There was the pasta and Italian cheese vendor,

three fish sellers,

 (Can you imagine how cold her hands are, but, how oh, so delicious those fresh scallops will taste.)

one hat and ear muff salesman who was constantly busy!  Don't you love the bright umbrella for display?

Snow had curtailed the market.  No wine, honey, fresh mushrooms, linens, purses, pork, and all the other vendors who were at home warm in front of the fire.

Yes, meeting friends, we did find one café that had remained open and were ready for us to warm ourselves.

Next Saturday the market will be taken over by pigs, omelets, scales, and strange little gems called truffles.  I can't wait.  For lunch Saturday, our son in law prepared delicious scrambled eggs with the first truffle of the season which was given to Amy by Francoise, a choir friend.  YUM!

Here, a lady, buys a truffle at the market.A scale which was constantly cleaned and a brush dusting away dirt for true weight are the buyer's friend. Next week we will find out the going price for these treasures. 


 I do hope it warms up for next weeks fête.