Nerding out on gastronomy – Day 8

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It was a bit of a slow start this morning (perhaps resulting from finishing off a bottle of champagne, several beers and wine). We eventually made ourselves presentable and headed to the area’s daily market in La Tour Blanche, which was only a couple kilometres away, and was actually in an eastward direction (as most of our travels had been westward thus far). It was a lovely little town, with an old chateau at its entrance. The market was much smaller than the others we’d been to, with very little food and actually more emphasis on clothes and flowers. Luckily, the town had a boucherie (butcher), so we purchased some delicious-looking pork chops before dinner. After taking the scenic tour of town, we headed back home. D was quick to start lunch: pan-fried mullet with a sweet white wine and crème fraiche sauce (and some garlic/onions in duck fat of course). He sliced up some coeur de boeuf (lit. heart of beef) tomatoes with a little balsamic vinaigrette and some crusty bread on the side. Quite tasty!

We planned our modest route for the day, which started off with finding the duck farm that we purchased our little can of foie gras from at the market in Tocane-St-Apre on Monday. The lady had given us a little flier with a map on it, so we thought we’d swing by to pick up some more. We opted to take a road we hadn’t yet travelled, and it turned out to be yet another picturesque road, with plentiful vistas of farmsteads and rolling hills. The map wasn’t the clearest, but we knew it was somewhere near Lisle. Following a minor detour, we eventually found the place. The gates were closed, and we weren’t sure if anyone was home. After greeting the happily barking dog, we continued on down the road. We did have their phone number, so I suggested calling to see if anyone was around. The lady (Mme Dominique) remembered the Canadians from the market and told us to come back (she was just about to get into the pool). She took us on a little tour of their farm, introducing us to her husband who was sealing cans of freshly-made pâté. She showed us the ducks and explained the process—while it was entirely in French, I found myself being able to follow the majority of the conversation, rather surprisingly. We saw the rooms and equipment for the various stages of the process and storage. It was a small production, just her and her husband, which they preferred—liberté, they said. They were friendly and chatty, and D worked his French hard. We commented on the differences in food and flavours between France and Canada, and, of course, the essentialness of fresh products. We eventually went to their little store area to make our selections. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any of the large cans of foie gras, though they did say they were canning some on Saturday. We decided to get a few cans now, and since we’d be passing back in that direction on Monday on our way to the Loire Valley, we said we’d try to swing by on our way up. We paid for our purchases, but not before she showed us some of her photos of some of the chateau in the Loire region. We said our goodbyes and went on our way.

We made our way towards Perigueux to find a McDonald’s for wifi. Ice cream sundae and chicken nuggets in hand, we reconnected with the world for a while. Once we were suitably interwebbed, we stopped in to the local supermarket to pick up a few things for dinner. Not surprisingly, we soon found ourselves drawn to the cheese section, which was impressively-sized for what was essentially a Wal-Mart (though I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised—we are in France after all). We perused the selections until a salesperson came by and asked if we needed any help or if we were looking for something regional. Always game to try local produce, D agreed, and she handed us over to her colleague. This sales lady knew her cheese and genuinely seemed excited about it. She explained the different regions of France and their respective cheeses, slicing off pieces for us to try. Cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk…D noted that it was exceedingly difficult to find raw as opposed to pasteurized cheese in Canada. She laughed and said that real French people who love their cheese only eat it raw, which I thought was amusing. It was highly entertaining going around trying different cheeses, commenting on their level of hay flavour or what have you, and particularly amazing to be doing so in a French Wal-Mart.

Pleased with our selections, we headed back home. D quickly went to work on dinner, as I worked on administrative business, tallying up our expenses for the day. Satisfyingly, we are on budget! D cooked up a meal of mashed potatoes and pork chops, with a crème fraiche, mushroom and white wine sauce (not to mention a host of garlic and onions), as well as green beans with a little balsamic/walnut oil vinaigrette. The pork chops were absolutely divine, perhaps some of the best I’ve had, which we attributed to their freshness (and D’s fabulous cooking skills of course). Stuffed to the brim, we settled in for a movie (Mao’s Last Dancer) and a few spirited philosophical debates for turning in.

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