Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Farewell Dinner, But Thankfully Our Farewell

Tuesday we planned on being out the door by 9:00 and pretty much acheived that goal. Tuesday there was a big market in Gordes that we were told was well worth the trip. It was about an hour and forty-five minutes drive to the market so after a quick tea we headed out to the market.

The drive started out pretty good but there was an old man behind me flashing his high beams at me for one or two kilometers. I got a little angry with the old man because we were in the middle lane with ample space on either side to pass. This lead me to believe that maybe flashing your high beams at someone in France means something different than it does in America where it means: You are slow, I hate you, and I wish a nasty plague upon your family. After finally passing me he just stayed right in front of me doing the same exact speed as me. I concluded that he was just a big jerk.

The view approaching Gordes was pretty nice. We could see the village on the hill in the distance. The driving for this trip was much easier than the trip to Vercors but inside the city it was a little dicey. We parked just outside the main area on a steep hill and walked up to explore the market.

We explored the market for a bit before getting coffee and tea at a little cafe where the waitress was extremely stressed and rightly so. It appeared that she had about twenty tables all to herself and she was running around a bit. I was thinking of asking for the check right away but I was pretty sure that that was considered rude in France. Luckily the waitress was more than happy to do so to get us out of her hair so it worked out really well.

It was also strange but the cafe only had green tea, no other kinds. It was a little weird to have green tea in the morning but somehow I coped. It came with a little cookie so that made accept it with a little more ease.

Gordes was the best market we've seen so far. There were dozens of amazing vegetable stands and a wide assortment of stands selling other things of a more chatche nature. We bought a tremendous amount of vegetables and other assorted items and decided it was lunch time. There was also a gentleman dressed up as a Native American in full headress selling some Native American art and jewelry.

They were also selling a jacuzzi.

And a grill from a company called Smeg.

Around 12:00PM we'd planned to go for lunch at a place called La Pause for lunch on a recommendation but by this point the market was so packed you could barely walk through and we were carrying two extraordinarily heavy bags of produce with us. So we elected to simply pick up a little tart and a great little ham on baguette with lettuce and tapenade for the car ride back. We got back nice and early (around 2:00PM) so it paid off well.

After a brief nap and kick about the place we walked down to La Begude de Mazenc, the village down below Chateauneuf de Mazenc. We needed some supplies for the dinner we were cooking that evening so we picked up a beautiful pork loin and some jambon cru, the only two items we did not have the patience to wait for at the market earlier. We also stopped by the local bakery and picked up some items for dessert.

On our way down to La Begude we walked down the steepest hill I've ever personally walked on in my life. The entire road was lined with wild blackberries. We picked a good amount of blackberries which I wanted to somehow incorporate into our dinner that evening.

It is fitting that on a Tuesday, the same day we generally pick up our farm share, we were able to make another meal with all local ingredients thousands and thousands of miles away. That being said, I think this meal happened to be more local and authentic than any of our past farm share endeavours. Every single piece of food put into this meal (except maybe the salt and the pepper) was from within this country and much of it was local to this region.

The meal also happened to be a farewell dinner for Gregg and Ross, our hosts for the past few days, who were going to Paris before returning to their home in Toronto. Ulrike, the excellent hostess of La Magnanerie, had just returned to take over and everyone was invited.

Before dinner we had some olives we'd gotten at the market along with a green olive tapenade. I was most interested in trying this tapenade because for some reason you never see tapenade made with green olives in America. I can't really conceive of why that is. Is someone out there afraid that green olives are somehow a little too risque for Americans to see in a tapenade even though they eat green olives with more frequency than black olives? Who can say?

We started out with a salad made from the red and green lettuces along with the tomatoes, chives and a simple vinaigrette of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

With the figs we'd gotten we made a salad with figs, jambon cru, roquefort cheese and I made a balsamic and blackberry glaze that I drizzeld over the salads. The jambon was incredible, far better than any prosciutto I've had back home. It worked out well because I'd gone to the butcher with the intention of buying prosciutto and I settled for this instead. Another thing that it is a shame I'll never be able to find back home.

I was a little nervous cooking the pork because the oven just had numbers from 1 to 10 instead of actual temperatures. It also had a nice rack that slid in and out that you could roast directly on. By the time I'd come around to checking the pork I poked it and determined that it was done. I was second guessing myself so I cut into it a bit and confirmed that it was perfectly cooked which was a pleasant surprise.

The main course was pork loin. I rubbed it with salt, pepper, olive oil and herbs de provence. Then I browned it in a pan before finishing it in the oven at 8.5, roasting it on some chopped fennel and onion. I also made ratatouille and roasted fingerling potatoes that I roasted on the sliding oven rack. For the mushrooms I sauteed a small amount of garlic in butter and olive oil then carmelized the shallots finishing by adding the chantrelles. I finished it with some fresh chopped parsley that Jen had clipped from the herb garden.

We accompanied it with some Domaine du Moulin Cotes du Rhone local wine. It was great and we are considering visiting the vineyard before we head back home, the only problem being the insane restrictions they put on how much of what you can take back home with you. So we may end up having it shipped depending on the price.

I also used the comte cheese and the fresh pears from the market as an after dinner course with a sprinkle of black pepper.

For dessert we had some walnut tarts we'd gotten from the bakery down in the village. They were excellent.

Just as we finished up dinner the rain started and thunder and lightning finished up the evening. We heard that it was supposed to rain today and ruin our trip to the market. We haven't even bothered looking at the weather anymore and, as you can tell by looking at the pictures, our trip to the market was quite rain free.

After dinner we settled back with some tea and read our books as the lightning flashed outside the glass doors to our terrace, sure that it would all be over by morning.

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