Pictures from Espezel 2010

As promised (a day late!), here are some pictures from Espezel. Mirepoix to follow.

From Espezel 2010

Here was the local band (really glad we didn’t have Peaches with us; she would have been terrorized)

From Espezel 2010

This year’s poster:

From Espezel 2010

Some lovely horses:

From Espezel 2010

Monsieur Rolland from the Domaine de Cassignole, where we buy blanquette Ancestrale and the best grape juice we’ve ever tasted:

From Espezel 2010

Festivals

One of the things I like about this time of year is the autumn food and agricultural festivals. I don’t really like to do too many in the summer, because it’s hot and crowded; two things I’m not fond of. But in the fall, even if it’s crowded, it’s not hot and therefore a thousand times more enjoyable as far as I’m concerned.

Last week was the apple festival in Mirepoix. I love it because they are so creative with their theme each year, building amazing statues out of apples (I’ve got photos but need to upload them and will try to do that tomorrow). We were extremely lucky to have beautiful weather on Saturday morning when we went; Sunday the weather was foul and I felt terrible for the organizers and producers who had to be there anyway.

We always come away with a few purchases, of course. This year I discovered a wonderful apple that I hadn’t tasted before, called the Pinova Grise (maybe it’s Pinova Gris, I’m not sure about the “e” though). It is everything I love in an apple: sweet, tart, crunchy and juicy. In the last week we’ve already gone through our first three kilo bag! And that’s just eating them as is, not cooking with them.

We also picked up a seven kilo bag of potatoes from the growers in Sonnac. I made a wonderful, but simple gratin with them the other day: four large potatoes, peeled and sliced thin. I layered them in a buttered casserole dish with a bit of sea salt,some garlic and a touch of nutmeg, then poured 40 cl (about 2 cups) of creme fraiche over the top and baked it until it was brown and the potatoes were tender. The taste of the potatoes came through beautifully and really blended perfectly with the cream and seasonings. The perfect autumn comfort food.

I also picked up some apple cinnamon jam that I haven’t tried yet, but which looks divine. And we bought half-a-dozen types of patés to get us through the next few months.

Unusually, the agricultural fair at Espezel was THIS weekend. Generally there are at least two weeks between the events, so we have time to feel like spending money again, so we weren’t even sure we should go to Espezel and be confronted by all that temptation. But today was again glorious and we adore the drive up to the Plateau de Sault, so we decided to go but be prudent.

That’s easier said than done though. This year the organizers did a bang-up job of laying things out and had most of the food producers all together at the first part of the fair as you walked in. That made it much easier to scope out the food products and decide what we were interested in buying, although we always do a full walk around first before buying anything.

We did try to be reasonable, and I think that overall we succeeded. We always have to buy some aligot, that amazing concoction of potatoes and cheese that is stirred together in a cauldron until it is smooth and amalgamated and just begs to be eaten until you can’t swallow another bite.

Then we knew that we wanted some cheese; we ALWAYS want cheese! But that is one of the hardest decisions to make, as there is just so much of it! We chose a booth that was a bit out of the way of the other food places, hoping to help a seller who might not draw as much business because of his location. We only bought two types of cheese as well, which for us is quite sensible!

Then, there were several local beef ranchers who sell direct to the public. I stopped at the table of a couple who are just next door in Rivel! I’m making a roast that I purchased from them, which is about as lean as any beef I’ve ever seen. If it works out I’m sure I will be buying from them again, as they make regular deliveries to individuals in the area. I love the idea of buying things directly from those who produce them if it’s at all possible.

For a change we made it out without overbuying and we avoided all the pastry tables. I had a freezer full of banana muffins that I made last week and it really seemed like overkill to buy more cakes of any kind.

As we left, the crowds were really starting to arrive and I told several friends from the village that they should go today if they could, because rain is predicted for tomorrow and Espezel in the rain is a far less enjoyable experience, unless you enjoy mud!

Ciao for now, (and photos to be posted soon, I promise)

Randy

Visitors!

As I mentioned in my last post, we have been lucky to have several loyal Possum World readers visiting this past week. In fact, Saturday was a first, as we had the first ever International Possum World Summit when River Rat and husband Tony from the Great State of New Jersey were here at the same time as Suzanne from cosmopolitan Montreal in Canada and, of course, yours truly, JM, Shmoo Alexander and Peaches LaRoo from right here in the Possum Kingdom!  What fun!

We didn’t get to spend much time with Suzanne (and her little Mini), but we’ve been getting to visit a lot with Rattie and Tony. We have a final dinner scheduled for tonight, as they are off to Toulouse and their flight back home tomorrow morning (strikes permitting that is).

What a joy it is to meet people whom you’ve only “known” through correspondence. Getting to really visit instead of just jotting off a few lines is a very special experience. Especially when you discover that you have more in common than you even realized. The worst thing, though, is knowing that is only for a short time and that they must return to their real lives far away.

I hope that we were able to show our little corner of the world to its advantage; despite the DELUGE that we had on Sunday and Monday! We had 12 inches of rain in a 24 hour period, which makes tourism a slightly unpleasant experience. Luckily, French friends had also come for lunch, so I think we were able to keep Tony and Rattie entertained for at least part of the day. They held their own in conversation admirably!

Bon Voyage, good friends! Come back to see us soon!

Ciao for now,

Randy

Vacation season?

I know that officially it isn’t, but it feels as if more and more people are discovering the joys of taking their holiday in October.

Of course, JM and I never really take vacations, but we love it when others do and come to see us. We’re privileged at the moment to have long time Possumworld reader River Rat and her husband Tony visiting. They are staying at Dave and Toni’s gite around the corner, but it’s a two minute walk, so almost as good as staying here.

We all had a lovely lunch and dinner last night and today they are off seeing Carcassonne. I don’t think we could have ordered more perfect weather for their visit, as it is in the mid-seventies (F) during the day and the sky is that perfect autumn blue that we get here at this time of year.

I actually have my fingers crossed though, because the weather reports for the rest of their stay are not exactly promising. However, the weather reports have been wrong before and may well be this time. Even though you CAN enjoy a vacation in the rain, it is not really the ideal type of holiday for driving around and sightseeing. In particular I know that Rattie want’s to take pictures to use for future paintings and that is definitely something better done in the sunshine!

Strangely, even though JM and I are busy working as usual, Rattie and Tony’s visit makes US feel as if we’re on holiday too. I suppose it is the break from routine, having good company for dinner conversation and the joy of watching friends discover the beauty of the Possum Kingdom; but whatever the reason, it is a pleasure we’re sharing.

So, wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying good friends, good food and good weather as well!

Ciao for now!

Randy