Our favourite night market gets a split personality

One of our favourite summer activities over the past couple of years has been attending the Saturday night market — le  Marché Gourmand Nocturne — in the village of St. Pompon,  about five kilometres from Daglan.

Unfortunately, it seems that the market has become something of a victim of its own success.

If you plan to be in the Greater Daglan Area this summer, give this post a close read. Otherwise, you may be excused.

In case you’ve forgotten, the St. Pompon night market isn’t the usual weekly French  marché; it’s not about picking over cheeses, fresh vegetables and flowers.  Instead, it includes buying prepared foods (fresh oysters, curries, sausages, paella and much more) and local wine, and enjoying them at rough picnic tables with friends and neighbours and strangers. Dancing to the music provided by a DJ is another big part of the fun — and the event had been attracting all sorts of people.

As I wrote more than a year ago,

The organizers of the …  market deserve full marks, because they have created a treat of an event, one that really captures the community spirit of a small French village, bringing people together for food and fun.

Here are just two photos from night markets in previous years. First, have a look at the crowd of people enjoying themselves right on the main drag of the village:

It was hard to find a place to sit and eat.

It was hard to find a place to sit and eat.

And then this photo of the dance platform in front of the DJ’s stand, where little kids liked to spin and twist and jump, before the older folks took over, later in the evening:

For some reason, the kids were especially active on the dance floor this evening.

For some reason, the kids were especially active on the dance floor this evening.

So what’s new? Well, it turns out that St.-Pompon’s weekly event was simply too successful. Earlier this year, I happened to be chatting with the Mayor of the village, and I told him that my wife Jan  and I really admired the community spirit demonstrated by the summer night market.

Somewhat sadly, he said that the market had been generating too much money — and attracting too much of the attention of the tax authorities. I couldn’t follow all the intricacies of the tax situation. (Too much money earned by the food and wine vendors? Too much revenue for the village? I really don’t know.)  But the short story is that the Mayor had to cut back the event to just five per summer. And that’s what has happened.

So now there is a hybrid sort of structure. On Thursday and Saturday nights, there has been a night market at a ferme auberge several kilometres out of the village, high up on a hill. And then  in late July and early August, there is supposed to be a run of the “normal” St. Pompon night market.

This past Saturday, Jan and I drove up to Ferme Dauriat for one of the Marchés Gourmands Champetres, or Rural Food Markets. (To find it, drive out of St. Pompon to where the road splits for Saint-Laurent-la-Vallée on the right, and Prats-du-Périgord at the left. Stay left, in the direction of Fumel, and follow the long, twisting road all the way to the top of the hill; then turn left onto the little country road marked with signs for Ferme Dauriat.)

We arrived just as it opened, at 7 p.m., and were among the first people there, other than the food vendors. We had a glass of rosé wine; wandered around the various stalls; and then sat at a picnic table with our modest selections (cheeseburger for me, grilled sausage for Jan) and drank some more rosé wine. Then we went home.

Now it may have become lively later, but it certainly wasn’t while we where there. Here are a few photos to give you a flavour of the event, starting with a look at the DJ’s stand and makeshift dance platform:

By 8 p.m. last Saturday, there was still no music.

By 8 p.m. last Saturday, there was still no music.

Here are some of the food vendors, preparing a variety of the usual local favourites, next to the wooden structure (at the right) where wine and other drinks were on offer:

The usual local dishes -- sausage, duck and so on -- were being prepared.

The usual local dishes — sausage, duck and so on — were being prepared.

Finally, here’s a look at some of the tables, showing that by 8 p.m. or so, there were a few participants, but certainly not a crowd:

A few of the picnic tables were in use, by the time we left.

A few of the picnic tables were in use, by the time we left.

I’m sure the event would be more fun if we went with a few friends, but it certainly lacked the lively village atmosphere — and the huge variety of foods — that Jan and I like so much in St. Pompon proper.

In any case, here’s the schedule of events for your use, alternating between Ferme Dauriat and the village of St. Pompon:

  • Ferme Dauriat on Saturday evenings: July 11, then August 22 and 29.
  • Ferme Dauriat on Thursday evenings: Every Thursday from July 9 through August 27.
  • St. Pompon on Saturday evenings: July 18 and 25; then August 1, 8 and 15.

Chances are good that Jan and I won’t be attending the night market in the field, but for sure we’ll be in St. Pompon on Saturday evening, July 18. Maybe we’ll see you there.

 

Posted in Festivals in France, Food, French food, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No stars in sight — but that’s okay, M. Croque

Occasional readers of Radio Free Daglan may well  believe that my wife Jan and I eat exclusively at Michelin-starred restaurants. But that’s absolutely false! Why, just three years ago, Jan and I had lunch in a restaurant that was barely mentioned in  the red Michelin guide!

Seriously, however, Jan and I do eat at home quite often, and quite well. And we also eat at what normal people would call casual restaurants. Like, for instance, the café La Plage (it means The Beach) in Castelnaud, about 10 kilometres north of our village. There are no Michelin stars in sight, nor will there be. Ever.

However, La Plage has a pleasant terrace to visit if you’re out riding your bike, or renting a canoe or kayak for a Dordogne River trip, or driving around to see the sights. Here it is, as seen from the front parking lot:

A view of the La Plage terrace.

A view of the La Plage terrace.

Sometimes I have a pizza there, since I find La Plage’s pizzas are pretty acceptable by French standards. Jan, with her gluten allergy, usually has something involving meat, like a cheeseburger served with no bun, or beef steak served en brochette. My personal favourite, however, is a plate of that French classic sandwich, a croque-monsieur.

If you’ve never had one, it’s simply a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich, but served with a béchamel sauce on top; then it’s broiled (grilled) briefly, to puff up the sauce and brown it a bit.

For nine euros, this is what you get when you order a croque-monsieur at La Plage — the sandwich plus a decent green salad plus some nice, crispy French fries:

A tasty lunch plate for just nine euros.

A tasty lunch plate for just nine euros.

And if you look closely, you’ll see not only two halves of a cherry tomato on the left of the plate, but also a decorative dusting of paprika. Hmmmm … maybe Chef does have some higher ambitions.

Posted in Cafés in France, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Daglan salute to Canada

Today (July 1) is Canada Day, and my wife Jan and I marked the occasion by placing Canadian flags in the planters on the front steps of our home in Daglan. Have a look:

Maple Leaf Forever: Our Canada Day statement in Daglan.

Maple Leaf Forever: Our Canada Day statement in Daglan.

As patriotic Canadians, of course, we had to go further.

Since today was also the last of our weekly French classes until September, both groups partied afterwards with our excellent teacher at one of the class-member’s homes in the country. Everyone brought a dish or two — from frittata with red peppers, to samosas, to quiches, to cheesecake with raspberries — and there was lots of wine to quaff.

And in between one group singing Nini-Peau-d’Chien and our group singing Voici venir le joli mai, Jan and I performed a rather rousing rendition of our national anthem, O Canada. Even better, we were joined by an Irish woman who — as she explained later — had lived for two years in the city of Oshawa, east of Toronto.

Small world, isn’t it? And a pretty great world, when things are going right.

Happy Canada Day!

Posted in Holidays in France, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Ka-bloom! (Our flower explosion)

Pretty much all of the Greater Daglan Area has exploded into bloom, thanks to some decent periods of rain and now an immense amount of sunshine.

(So, did you get “Ka-bloom!”? It’s like “Ka-boom,” only … okay, okay, you got it.)

In this posting, I’ll just show off some of the colourful flowers we’re enjoying now.

The first three photos were taken at La Plage, the café in Castelnaud, about 10 kilometres north of Daglan. My wife Jan and I often go there for a drink or a coffee, or an occasional casual lunch, and enjoy its terrace near the Dordogne River. Each year the café owners plant a huge variety of flowers around the terrace, and here are some of them.

First is this lovely mix of colourful flowers:

A nice mix of colours, dominated by deep blue spikes.

A nice mix of colours, dominated by deep blue spikes.

Here’s another nice grouping:

Sprays of bright orange flowers.

Sprays of bright orange flowers.

One of my favourites — because it’s so unusual — is this plant whose branches are covered with tiny blue-white flowers:

It's like a bunch of blue-white sprays.

It’s like a bunch of blue-white sprays.

On the home front, things are pretty bright as well. We have a planter holding this kind of flower on each side of our front steps, and they seem to be thriving:

Not sure what it is, but I like it!

Not sure what it is, but I like it!

And our ever-faithful Rose of Sharon, at the side of the house, is doing it again:

Old Faithful: our Rose of Sharon.

Old Faithful: our Rose of Sharon.

Finally, the Greater Daglan Area is now full of fields of sunflowers, which have been  growing incredibly fast and which are starting to bloom. Here’s just one example:

Now it's sunflower season.

Now it’s sunflower season.

The only question is how all the flowers will hold up in the heat wave we’re now enduring. Tomorrow (Tuesday), the forecast is for the temperature to hit 39 Celsius, which is above 100 Fahrenheit. Ouch.

 

Posted in Cafés in France, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And how was lunch? Simply delumptious!

You may not think that delumptious is actually a word, but my wife Jan uses it when we have something that’s truly delicious and scrumptious, and so it must be correct. Certainly delumptious is an excellent way to describe the lunch that we had this past Sunday — a Father’s Day celebration — at Le Gindreau.

Le Gindreau is one of three Michelin-starred restaurants less than an hour’s drive from Daglan. (Le Grand Bleu, in Sarlat, is 25 minutes away, and Le Vieux Logis in Trémolat lies 50 minutes from here.) All three are wonderful in their own way, and I’ve written about each of them several times. (To see a review, just type the name of the restaurant that interests you in the Search box at the top right of this blog.)

I wrote a somewhat mixed review of Le Gindreau on April 19, 2013, when the new chef was just taking over from the previous owner. But then Jan and I had a wonderful meal with Florida friends Sam and Jill in October of last year, although we had to eat indoors because of cool weather.

This past Sunday, we were able to eat on the lovely, shaded terrace. Perfect.

I won’t write too much more about Le Gindreau, except to say that it’s in Saint-Médard, about 45 minutes south of Daglan in the Lot. Chef is Pascal Bardet, who comes from the area, but who spent 18 years working and training with the great Alain Ducasse, and who was chef de cuisine at Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel Paris, in Monaco. So yes, he does know how to cook.

We were the first customers to arrive on Sunday, because when we telephoned we had been assigned a noon reservation. A bit early, perhaps, but it gave us time to sip a glass of Champagne while studying the menu and enjoying the terrace. And here it is, before anyone else arrived:

Le Gindreau's cool terrace, before the lunch crowd arrived.

Le Gindreau’s cool terrace, before the lunch crowd arrived.

As befits a restaurant with a Michelin star, we were served several different types of amuse-bouche. Here’s a sampling of them for Jan (all carefully chosen to be gluten-free):

Just a few of the amuse-bouches to begin.

Just a few of the amusebouches that began our meal.

Next came this surprisingly good amuse-bouche, which included a roasted cross-section of leek (at the left), served with a tarragon sauce:

This leek dish was surprisingly delicious.

This leek dish was surprisingly delicious.

Jan loved her entrée — pieces of green asparagus served with morel mushrooms. Here it is:

Jan loved all the morel mushrooms in her asparagus entrée.

Jan loved all the morel mushrooms in her asparagus entrée.

My entrée featured local trout. It was light and delicate, but with surprisingly complex flavours. Spotted among the dabs of sauce were individual trout eggs, which look like little orange dots on the plate:

A delicate but very flavourful entrée based on local trout.

A delicate but very flavourful entrée based on local trout.

By 1 p.m., all the tables on the terrace were occupied, but the service remained professional, friendly and prompt. Jan and I were sitting near the water feature, which seemed to contribute to the cool atmosphere:

By around 1 p.m., the terrace was full.

By around 1 p.m., the terrace was full.

Early in the meal, we enjoyed a wonderful Sancerre, which went beautifully with my trout entrée and with Jan’s plat principal — a piece of sole which we figured had been cooked sous vide, and which was served on a bed of crunchy vegetables:

Delicate sole on a bed of crunchy vegetables.

Delicate sole on a bed of crunchy vegetables.

As for me, I was very happy with several glasses of a rich Châteauneuf-du-Pape, because my main course was this hearty dish of veal kidneys, served in a pool of dark sauce and sitting on a bed of caramelized red onions:

Perfectly cooked veal kidneys, and delicious (rich) sauces.

Perfectly cooked veal kidneys, and delicious (rich) sauces.

For dessert, both of us chose the strawberry-and-rhubarb soufflé, which was flambéd at the table. Here’s the spoonful of flaming liqueur being poured over my dessert:

A spoon of flaming eau de vie sets off a delicious dessert soufflé.

A spoon of flaming eau de vie sets off a delicious dessert soufflé.

With the meal (mostly) over, we could just sit back and enjoy the view from our table. The area around the restaurant is a mix of farmland  and forest, and it’s quite lovely, as you can see:

The countryside as seen from our table.

The countryside as seen from our table.

At this point, Jan and I decided that we had eaten enough, and asked our server not to bring the mignardises that normally are served at the end of the meal. She seemed terribly disappointed, and said that the kitchen had carefully prepared gluten-free mignardises for Jan. So of course, we relented. And of course, we were delighted — especially with the small meringues topped with tiny fraises des bois, or wild strawberries:

The tasty little sweet treats to enjoy with coffee.

The tasty little sweet treats to enjoy with coffee.

We first came across these strawberries on our first trip to Italy, and love them. So here’s a close-up:

A close-up look at these tiny beauties.

A close-up look at these tiny beauties.

So that’s what a delumptious Father’s Day lunch is like at Le Gindreau. Delicious, scrumptious, and large enough that my dinner that night consisted of nothing more than the olive in my evening martini. Lovely way to end the day.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Lot, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

And then there were three (foals)

We’re having a bit of a baby boom here in Daglan. (No, not me personally. Thank you, however.) The incidence of horse births seems to be rising. At least in the field near us, the number of births is up by 50% from two years ago.

If your memory is great, you may recall this from the posting of June 7, 2013:

Heading north from Daglan, as you go towards Saint Cybranet and just before you reach the Stade Municipal (home of Daglan rugby), there’s a horse farm that’s often worth a look. Especially when there are foals in the fields.

At that time, two years ago,  there were two foals in the field with their mothers. Here was the scene at the time:

cropped-1-horses.jpgBut now, in June 2015,  we’ve got three of the little beauties!

This morning it was difficult to take a photo that showed all three foals clearly, as they were clustered with the three mares under the shade of a walnut tree, trying to avoid the heat of the day. (We’re in a bit of a hot spell at present.) Maybe you can make out the three little ones:

Three mares, three foals, one walnut tree.

Three mares, three foals, one walnut tree.

And here’s another attempt to show the three babies:

Another look at the six horses.

Another look at the six horses.

Eventually, as I watched the horses, one of the mares and her foal followed me over to the fence:

Mother and child take a walk.

Mother and child take a walk.

And here’s a closer look at one of the three foals, trailing along behind Mom:

A closer look at one of the foals, walking behind Mom.

A closer look at one of the foals, walking behind Mom.

It takes a bit of careful viewing, but we are pretty certain that this foal will grow up to be a stallion.

Whatever — all three foals are lovely to look at.

 

Posted in Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Paella pointers, and other tidbits

Why does Nigella Lawson insist on pronouncing paella with an “l” sound? I don’t know. But I do know that (a) the dish should be pronounced in the Spanish manner, something like pie-AY-uh,  and (b) that it is one of the favourites in our household.

Aside from the fact that it tastes great, my wife Jan and I love the colours of Spain’s national dish — the yellow of the rice, the reds of the peppers and the paprika (flowing from the chorizo sausage), and the green of the peas that we add. We often have paella for lunch when we feel like brightening our lives on a cloudy or wintry day.

Paella is well-known in this part of France, since Spain is just south of us, across the Pyrenees Mountains, and the dish originated in Valencia on Spain’s eastern (Mediterranean) coast. In fact, if there is a Spanish dish that can be found fairly often in southwest France, it’s paella. At weekly markets throughout the Greater Daglan Area, like Tuesday’s market in nearby Cénac, there is often a stall with a large paella pan set over a gas flame, so that shoppers can take home a serving or two.

Actually, Jan and I prefer to make our own paella  at home — and hence this blog posting, with just a couple of pointers that we’ve discovered.

Pointer 1: You may already do this, but Jan recently changed from cooking with long-grain rice to short-grain rice that is meant to be used for making risotto. The arborio  rice not only has a nicer texture (we think) but the sauce becomes a bit creamier.

Pointer 2: Some time ago, I ordered paella in the Basque restaurant in Castelnaud, about 10 kilometres from Daglan, and really enjoyed the taste and texture of well-cooked pork along with the usual meats (chicken, chorizo) and seafood (squid rings, shrimp or prawns). So for our most recent batch at home, we added chunks of roasted smoked ham hocks, which we bought (already roasted) at the Carrefour supermarket in Gourdon. Delicious!

Here’s how our pan of paella looked as it cooked on our stove:

Bubble, bubble -- paella without trouble.

Bubble, bubble — paella without trouble.

And here’s the final result, my plate of mixed paella  (that is, including both meats and seafood), prepared for lunch a couple of Sundays ago:

Paella on the plate -- colourful, yes?

Paella on the plate — colourful, yes?

A final note: Did you think that our pan of paella seemed like an awful lot for lunch for just two people? You were right! So we had a nice portion for lunch a couple of Sundays ago; saved another bunch of it in the refrigerator, for lunch on the following Tuesday; and then froze two more batches for meals later on. Are we thrifty, or what?

Tidbit No. 1: When I first posted this (June 1, 2015) the “header” photo at the top was a scene of lunch outdoors at the Michelin-starred Le Vieux Logis. (Since then the header photo has changed, because I try to use a different photo each week.) Anyway, I like the photo of the lunch scene at Le Vieux Logis so much that I’ve decided to show the whole thing, and here it is:

From the left: Our friend Elisabeth; me; and Jan.

From the left: Our friend Elisabeth; me; and Jan.

What’s good about it, aside from the obvious star qualities of the people at the table? Well, the beautiful surroundings, the table linen, the staff in the background aching to serve us. So, if you happen to be here during a spell of good weather, and you enjoy fine dining, you must drive to Trémolat and dine at Le Vieux Logis. You’d be a fool not to.

Tidbit No. 2: Speaking of fine dining, Jan and I ate again this past Sunday (May 31) at the Michelin-starred Le Grand Bleu in Sarlat. There were eight of us in total: friends Rosemary and Richard, as well as friends Tish and Bob and their Australian friends Peter and Sue. Four of us had eaten at Le Grand Bleu before, and four people hadn’t. The newbies, I’m happy to say, loved the experience as much as Jan and I do. Peter, for example, raved about the artistic presentation of each dish as it appeared. Do I believe that you will try the restaurant? It would be pretty to think so.

 

Posted in Food, Life in southwest France, Markets in France, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments