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 patĂ©s 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)


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8 thoughts on “Festivals

  1. We could have bumped since we were in Mirepoix around 11am on that same Saturday having made the stop coming from the village of Paziols, near Tuchan and Tautavel, on our way to Toulouse Airport Hotel the Holiday Inn Express which by the way is quite a new hotel with a good pool, fitness room, great buffet breakfast, cable TV, comfortable rooms, I recommend it for anyone having to catch a flight the next morning. And they have a free shuttle bus to the airport at the time who want!
    But I love Mirepoix, its Monday market, le Festival de la pomme with great sculptures and so many great apple products. I was told they call this grey apple the Canada Apple funny enough! Mirepoix is one of my coup de coeur in your part of the world I visited during three weeks this sept-october.

    My trip was to meet family members of my ancestor Jean-Pierre Rolland who left Rivel for Quebec in 1753. I had a very emotional reunion with 5 members of the Rolland family from Rivel and was invited in the big family house where he lived in the middle of the village in the 1730 which is still owned by Marie-Andre of the Rolland family. It was her great grand father who asked that the row of platane trees on each side of the road coming into the village be planted. I will be back in 2 years with my brother Claude to meet with Claude and his sister Maryse from Ste-Colombe and their oncle Pierre from Lavelanet. I discovered that the Rolland family had a foundery in Rivel and that the bell in the Cazal small church has a Rolland signature. Five members of the Rolland family were mayors of Rivel…and they also had a flour mill in l’Horto. Like I said Randy, I fell in love with Rivel and Chalabre and all the surroundings and will certainly come knocking on your door at some point again.

    • Suzanne, it sounds like your trip accomplished everything you hoped. I’m so glad you had such a nice time and found your relatives.

  2. Oh, I’ve gained 5 kilos just from reading the food descriptions, especially the gratin. Must try that one. And finding a good local source of home-grown meat is wonderful luck–good for you.

    • And, last night we had the roast we bought from the farmers in Rivel; amazing! Simply the best roast I’ve had in I don’t know how long. Grass raised, no GMOs, totally local. I’m going to order from them from now on I think. It’s 12 euros the kilo, which comes to less than $6 per pound for high quality beef. I don’t think you can beat that, really.

      Do try the gratin, MG; you’ll love it!

  3. Ooh – can you share the name of the Rivel farmers? We’re over again for Christmas and while I really rate the butchers in Chalabre, would prefer to directly support the local farmer! Is it just cattle they raise, or do they also do sheep/poultry?

    Many thanks Randy – I do love stopping by your blog!


    • Just cattle, as far as I can tell, Aine. The main thing is that they sell by the carton. In other words, you get a box with a mixture of things: a roast, a rib steak (large), an entrecote, a faux filet, a basse cote, a rumsteak and either beef for bourguignon or minced steaks. It comes to about 6 or 6 1/2 kilos, so that might be too much for you for your holidays. On the other hand, it is vacuum packed so can be popped right into the freezer. Here is their URL: http://ventedirecteviande.fr/. Also, they only deliver once a month, but I’m sure you could go there and pick it up directly from them if you aren’t around for the delivery.

      • *grin* i think perhaps best left for the summer vacation then! i’m a meat eater, but that would a tad too much for even me. On the other hand, perhaps i can interest my mirepoix buddies to rent me some freezer space… Thanks ma’am!

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