Our new truffle market — Part II

Yesterday my wife Jan made scrambled eggs for breakfast, and they were particularly delicious. How so? Because she had grated lots and lots of summer truffle into the egg mixture — from a truffle we had bought the day before.

And it looks as if  Daglan’s first summer truffle market (held on Sunday morning) has started a fine new weekly tradition for the village.

To the surprise of some, the truffle market was located a bit off- piste, in the courtyard of Daglan’s primary school, rather than in the main square (where the regular Sunday market was in full swing). It’s easy enough to find, but some locals still weren’t sure. To orient you, here’s the entrance to the school yard, immediately next to the village Mairie:

 

The schoolyard entrance.

The market consisted of two long tables — on the left, the truffle vendors with their baskets and weigh scales, and on the right a table bearing various snacks and drinks. Here’s how it looked on Sunday morning:

Vendors on the left, snacks on the right.

And here’s a closer look at some of the truffle vendors,  chatting amongst themselves:

Tables of truffles — and scales.

I went to the market first, and was quite pleased to buy a reasonably large truffle for just 10 euros — something like a quarter of what I had expected to pay. When Jan found out how reasonable the prices were, she went to the market for herself and bought an even larger truffle, for 13 euros.

And what do you do with summer truffles? Well, you can slice them thinly over just about any dish you like — scrambled eggs, pasta, and so on. You can also make truffle butter, like the mixture shown below, which was spread onto slices of baguette and offered for free at the truffle market snack table:

Bread and (very special) butter.

Jan’s method of making (and preserving) truffle butter starts with softening a good amount of butter in a bowl. When it’s easy to mix with a fork, you start grating the truffle over the butter (she uses a Microplane, to get really small flecks), and then stirring it in.

Keep grating and mixing until the butter is clearly showing lots and lots of dark flecks. Then roll the butter into a log shape, wrap it in waxed paper or cling film, and freeze it.

That way, you can store it for a long time, and simply slice off just the right amount to finish your mashed potatoes, or green beans, or grilled steaks — in other words, just about anything that would work well with the mild taste of summer truffle. And enjoy!

 

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Our new truffle market — Part I

Daglan is about to launch a new market — one featuring the summer truffle, or tuber aestivum, also known as the burgundy truffle. (Evidently the summer truffle and burgundy truffle are somewhat different looking, with different growing seasons, but science has proven that they are, deep down, the same species.) In fact, the start for our market is tomorrow (Sunday, June 3) at 11 a.m.

Here’s a bit of background on the summer truffle, which I’ve lifted from Wikipedia:

The flavor, size and color of summer truffles …  is similar to that of burgundy truffles, but their aroma is less intense and the flesh … is a paler hazel color.

As their name suggests, summer truffles are harvested earlier than burgundy truffles, from May to August. They are most often found in the southern part of the distribution area of the species, notably in the Mediterranean climate area of France, Italy and Spain.

To publicize the new event, the village has put up this large sign above a parking area just as you enter Daglan, after crossing the Pont Neuf:

The sign as you enter Daglan.

And this sign was hung high above the Place de la Liberté, our main square. It points out that the actual market will be held in the courtyard of our elementary school, which lies between the Mairie (Mayor’s Office) and La Cantine, the restaurant of Fabrice (Le Chef) Lemonnier. We intend to be there, and will report on how the launch went. We will also, on a day to be determined, be making truffle butter. More on that later as well.


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Restaurant Eléonore, take 2

A couple of weeks ago, I described an enjoyable journey that we took from Daglan to Monpazier (“A lovely market-day lunch,” May 14). I went on to suggest that if you were looking for a good place to visit on a Thursday, Monpazier would be it — offering a double treat. Here’s how I put it:

Treat No. 1 is that Thursday is market day in Monpazier, and the central square is always filled with stalls — with vendors offering everything from vegetables to jewellery.

Treat No. 2 is that you could try the special lunch (served only on Thursdays) at Restaurant Eléonore in the Hôtel Edward 1, a charming hotel named for the English king who founded Monpazier in 1284.

Today we did it again, with great friends Keith and Kathy from Toronto, and all of us agreed that Restaurant Eléonore is a most pleasant lunch destination.

The four of us began with cocktails in the bar, and then went in to the dining room itself. The menu is set, although Chef did alter some dishes to provide a completely gluten-free meal for my wife Jan. The entrée was oeufs en mimosa, which consisted of a hard-boiled egg, drizzled with a green herbal sauce and placed atop a nice selection of garden herbs. Here’s my plate:

Egg with herbs — fresh!

The main course, or plat principal, was a pavé or square of merlu (hake, a member of the cod family), stacked with a variety of vegetables and napped with a beurre blanc sauce. Here’s my serving:

A stacked seafood creation.

With these courses we enjoyed a well-chilled Sancerre, and then finished our meal with large servings of tiramisu with lots of dark chocolate, and coffees.

Price for the three courses is just 24.50 euros, and so this is a lunch that’s as reasonable as it is enjoyable. Do give it a try!

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A relaxed luncheon to end anniversary week

A little more than a week ago (Monday, May 21) we marked our 30th wedding anniversary (thank you, thank you very much) and I wrote about our celebratory lunch that kicked off the week. This was at the Michelin-starred Le Grand Bleu in Sarlat, and I described the lunch in my last posting, “Dish du jour — 20-05-2018.”

This past Sunday, we concluded our anniversary week with a meal of a different sort. It was a casual lunch of oysters, accompanied by a nice bottle of Chablis, at La Cantine, the restaurant of Fabrice (Le Chef) Lemonnier. La Cantine is located on Daglan’s main street, next to the Mairie.

Of particular note is that our lunch treat was an anniversary gift — a bottle of vino and two dozen oysters, arranged with Fabrice long-distance by a wonderful group of close friends in Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake, the old stomping grounds for my wife Jan and me.

So what do two dozen oysters look like? Well, pretty much like this:

What two dozen look like.

More importantly, how did the oysters taste? Well, they were wonderful — deliciously fresh, full of the flavour of the sea. Oyster lovers may want to know that they were Charente-Maritime No. 3s, from a producer on the Ile d’Oléron. (Oléron, just off the Atlantic coast, is France’s second largest island, after Corsica. Just thought you’d want to know.)

Then, to finish off the meal, we shared a cheese plate (well, I had most of the cheeses) and then had coffees. Here’s the cheese selection:

Cheeses? How French!

We ate outside the restaurant, which would have been more pleasant if it hadn’t been raining. But then, we are having quite a rainy time of it these days. I can see my skin getting darker, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a tan — I think it’s rust.

 

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Dish du jour — 20-05-2018

Today is our 30th wedding anniversary, obviously a day to celebrate. However, it is a Monday and also un jour ferié in France, or public holiday. So the chances of having a fine-dining meal today would be zilch.

Always thinking ahead, my wife Jan and I decided that we should have a lovely celebratory lunch yesterday instead, and so we made a reservation at the Michelin-starred Le Grand Bleu, in Sarlat, half an hour or so from Daglan.

Having written about Le Grand Bleu many, many times, I will keep this brief. However, I’ll just point out that Chef Maxime Lebrun is not only talented but extremely inventive — always tweaking his dishes, combining unusual ingredients (including lots of foams and ice creams, even for savoury dishes), and creating art on a plate.

With an excellent bottle of Chablis Premier Cru, Jan and I enjoyed a small bowl of soup to begin; then an entrée of barely cooked langoustines; then sole for Jan and sweetbreads (as usual) for me. And then on to dessert. And here’s my dish of the day:

This is a lime pie?

On the menu, it was described as Tarte au citron vert et au cacao, sorbet noix de coco au poivre de timut. One could translate that as “lime pie with chocolate, accompanied by a coconut sorbet with timut pepper.”

But what is timut pepper, you might wonder (as I did). Through the mighty power of the Internet, I learned that it’s a Nepalese pepper, which has “the cold spiciness of a sichuan peppercorn, with remarkable hints of grapefruit.” Oh, that timut pepper.

In any case, it was as delicious and unusual as it looked. “Ah,” said Jan, “it’s key lime pie, re-imagined.” Yes indeed.

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Where fresh comes first

One of the surprising (and disappointing) facts of life for food lovers in the Greater Daglan Area is the occasional short supply of fresh fruits,  herbs, and vegetables in our supermarkets.

Certainly there are times when stores and local markets are bursting with fresh, locally grown strawberries, melons, and other produce. But there are also  times when the lettuce, broccoli, and green beans in supermarket bins look decidedly second-hand, and herbs such as coriander are simply not available.

And that’s why my wife Jan and I, and many of our friends, occasionally make the trip to Bergerac (about an hour and a quarter from Daglan, by car) to shop at the Grand Frais supermarket. (Typically, we visit Grand Frais when we go to the Bergerac airport, to pick up or drop off friends from the U.K.)

Grand Frais is actually a rather large chain of speciality supermarkets, with stores all over France (aside from the Bergerac outlet, the closest outlet is in Brive).

The stores were founded specifically to focus on the freshest possible fruit and vegetables, and top-quality meats, fish, spices, cheeses, and so on. We also shop at Grand Frais for otherwise impossible-to-find products like crayfish from Louisiana, and fresh okra. But the stores do not offer any of the other goods that are common in supermarkets today, such as soaps and paper goods.

I wrote about the Bergerac store briefly last year (“Bergerac: A few good reasons [to visit],” Sept. 7, 2017), but here’s a more detailed view, with a series of photographs to give you a good taste of what’s on offer. Let’s begin with the store’s exterior:

The view from the parking lot.

Next, here’s an overall view of the interior of the supermarket, where there are rows and rows of goods in the centre, with shelves and coolers around the perimeter of the large space:

An overall look, inside the store.

This photo shows a sample of the somewhat more exotic produce available, including fresh ginger and a variety of peppers:

Ready to spice up some dishes.

And this being spring time, you’ll find lots and lots of strawberries on offer (although Jan prefers to shop in Daglan’s Sunday market each week, where a woman sells delicious berries from our area):

A crimson field of berries.

Greens? You want greens? Have a look at just some of the leafy vegetables lined up in Grand Frais:

A wide range of fresh greens.

And for a final burst of bright colours, how about some fresh rhubarb and lemons, like these:

Fresh rhubarb, bright lemons.

Finding the store, however, is not terribly easy, at least the first time. The address is simply given as ZA la Cavaillé, Route de Bergerac. That means it’s in a sort of industrial/commercial area, on a long stretch of road with outlets like the appliance/furniture store Conforama.

We approach Grand Frais by heading west from the Bergerac airport, in the direction of Bordeaux, and pass through several roundabouts (traffic circles) until we see the Campanile restaurant on our right. Then we turn right, and head up the street.

With luck, you won’t miss it.

 

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A lovely market-day lunch

Monpazier is a charming bastide* town about 45 minutes from Daglan, and it’s well worth a visit. For one thing, it’s rated “one of the most beautiful villages in France.” For another, if you go on a Thursday, you could enjoy a double treat.

Treat No. 1 is that Thursday is market day in Monpazier, and the central square is always filled with stalls — with vendors offering everything from vegetables to jewellery. (Okay, in the summer, it’s also filled with tourists.)

Treat No. 2 is that you could try the special lunch (served only on Thursdays) at Restaurant Eléonore in the Hôtel Edward 1, a charming hotel named for the English king who founded Monpazier in 1284.

And lunching at the Eléonore is exactly what my wife Jan and I did this past Thursday, with our good friend Joanne.

This Thursday lunch concept seems to be a new idea, and I think it’s a good one — although when we visited, we sat at one of just two occupied  tables. Previously, the restaurant was open only for dinner, and it seems like word about the once-a-week lunch hasn’t spread very far yet.  In any case, the restaurant seems well respected, since it’s ranked No. 1 in Monpazier on TripAdvisor.

Here’s a look at the exterior of the restaurant, which is located in a wing of a hotel:

The restaurant’s attractive sign.

To reach the restaurant, you walk through the hotel’s main entrance. Then take a left turn, where you’ll find a comfortable bar for a pre-meal drink, and then proceed down the hall to the restaurant entrance. Here’s the front of the hotel:

The hotel’s main entrance.

We began our three-course meal with a kir, and then were offered a pleasant amuse-bouche — a light smoked salmon spread served with thin toasts. Then came our asparagus entrée, which I described quite fully in my last posting. Here’s another look at it:

That tempting asparagus entrée.

The Thursday lunch menu is set, but all three of us were quite happy with the plat principal on offer — a perfectly cooked chop of young pork, served with fresh peas (a highly under-rated vegetable, I think) and a circle of polenta dusted with black truffle. Here’s my plate:

Perfectly cooked pork.

Dessert for Joanne and me was the one set out on the lunch menu — a moelleux au chocolat noir (chocolate cake with a molten dark chocolate centre), served with chocolate truffles and chocolate ice cream. Voilà:

Chocolate — and then some!

One sign of a really good restaurant is its ability to meet special needs. When making our reservation, we let the restaurant know that Madame Chudy has an allergy to gluten — and sure enough, she was served particularly delicious gluten-free buns with her meal.

And because she couldn’t have the chocolate cake, for dessert Jan asked for strawberries with chantilly (whipped cream). Instead of simply tossing the strawberries in a bowl, chef chopped up quite a number of them, and placed them in the centre of a plate, and then surrounded the plate with a row of vertical strawberries. Have a look:

A special strawberry creation.

Worth a return trip? Yes, and in fact we’ve already made the reservation, for a Thursday lunch with Toronto friends Keith and Kathy.

By the way, the price for such a lovely meal? Three courses for 24.50 euros. Deal!

*What’s a bastide town, you ask? It’s a medieval walled town or village, in which the streets were laid out in a grid pattern. As mentioned earlier, Monpazier was founded in 1284 by King Edward 1.

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