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)