May 26, 2005
Last Saturday I attended the Salon Saveurs, a food show focusing on (mostly French) artisanal products, where producers come to talk about and sell their products, most of them offering samples.
Long-time readers may remember about my visit to last year's Spring edition, during which I first met a few C&Z readers who have now become good friends of mine, and with whom we organize potluck dinners every now and then. This time it was a smaller group of us -- Alisa, Meg, her baby-boy Kieran and myself. Learning from experience I knew to bring a tote bag to carry my purchases, and this is what I filled it up with.
- A 1.5 kg crate of Bonnottes potatoes from Noirmoutier, previously featured here as The Rolls Royce of Potatoes. I didn't really need 1.5 kg (they only keep for ten days in the refrigerator) but my heart yearned for the cute crate (no idea what I'll do with it, but that's not the point is it?), and I thought we would share the potato goodness with our neighbors -- which we did that very night, steaming about a kilo of them and eating them in their naked perfection, with just a touch of fleur de sel.
- A bottle of Balsamix, a reduction of balsamic vinegar from the Mille et Une Huiles stand. This is a super thick and aromatic syrup to use as a decoration (it comes in a convenient squirt bottle), to top desserts (ice-cream, pancakes, strawberries..) or to pair with something savory -- I'm thinking goat cheese or sheep's milk cheese.
- A bottle of sirop de figue épais, a thick fig syrup that can be used as you would maple syrup, produced by Fan & Jicé Robin in the Cévennes. This was sort of a gamble purchase because they didn't offer samples and it could have turned out to be uninteresting and so sweet you couldn't taste the fig, but such was not the case. We have tried it with strawberries (my main fruit intake these days!) and fromage blanc, and it would work well I think as a sweetening agent for baked goods -- possibly for scones or cookies or muffins -- or mixed with dry white wine to make kir (or champagne for kir royal).
- A bag of unsweetened, organic cocoa powder for my baking. This stand also sold sweetened and flavored cocoa powders (hazelnut, almond, pistachio), but as good as it sounds I didn't get any: I am not much of a hot chocolate drinker, because unless it's made with actual melted chocolate I can often taste the milk too much, and for some reason I've always hated milk in my beverages.
- A bag of brise de châtaigne, a coarse chestnut meal -- also part of last year's bounty and previously featured in the Galettes à la Brise de Châtaigne. Alisa and I snatched the two last packages of this, so if you arrived later and there were all out, we would like to offer an apology (but no regret). They did explain that they will gladly ship their products: call them (Maurice Zerathe, +33 (0)4 75 39 26 39) to enquire about the cost of shipping and handling (dependant on the number of packages you would like and where you want them shipped).
- An assortment of dried fruits -- apricots, prunes and figs. I had bought some from that same stand last year, and they were definitely some of the moistest and tastiest I have ever had. The dried fruits one can usually find are often leathery and, well, dry, so these really show that freshly dried (although it does admittedly defeat the initial preservation purpose) quality fruit make a difference.
A lot of the stands we remembered from last time, but I deeply regretted the absence of Baillardran, the famous producer of canelés from Bordeaux. There was one stand that sold some, but it took one tiny sample to decide that they were not my kind of canelés at all -- too mushy. (But Baillardran has a store in the Gare Montparnasse if you'd like to taste theirs.)
Since we'd been really reasonable with the tastings (having been to a number of food shows, I have now learned to kindly refuse a sample if I'm not really interested) we got hungry at some point and sat down in the lunch area to eat some excellent gigot d'agneau (leg of lamb), made with Allaiton lamb from Aveyron. Their lamb benefits from a Label Rouge and an IGP (a European certification of origin), and they are the purveyor for a number of great French chefs -- Michel Bras, Olivier Roellinger and Anne-Sophie Pic in particular. I wish the salon organizers had taken more care with the decoration of the lunch area and the service (could it be any more tasteless and impersonal?), but the lamb, served with the traditional white beans, was really superior and we enjoyed it very much. Note that if you're in France, you can order lamb from the producer and have it delivered to a pickup point near you (exact locations on their website).
Le Salon Saveurs is a twice yearly event (once in May, once in December) that takes place at the Espace Champerret in Paris. No website unfortunately and the next edition has not yet been announced, but searching Google a month or two before will usually get you the exact dates or you could email the organizers.
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