26 August 2006

Busy weekend ahead

Just a couple of more things about the supermarket ads: I didn't post anything about fresh fruit and vegetables because most of the ads in the Intermarché flyer didn't give prices for those. There were specials on tomatoes and shelling beans (is that the term?), for example, but instead of a price the ad specified they were being sold au prix coûtant -- at cost + taxes + transport, according to the fine print.

I went over to Intermarché yesterday morning. I'd forgotten how busy the store is on Friday mornings. There were at least 15 people standing in line at the butcher counter, so I decided I didn't need to buy a fresh pork shoulder after all. I couldn't find the pont-l'évêque cheese (it too often happens that the sale products are sold out) but I did see the munster cheeses.

This is the garage where I took my car for service on Tuesday

On the way home I stopped at the Ferme-Auberge in Mareuil to buy some goat cheese. The Ferme-Auberge is a working farm that also rents rooms to tourists and operates a restaurant featuring the food they produce on the farm. Monsieur and Madame Bouland, the owners, also make and sell goat cheese. They have a pretty good-size herd of goats.

There was an interesting article about mussels in the New York Times this week. (I'm not sure how long the article will be available.) It explains, for example, how mussels are raised on wooden posts or stakes out in the water, and it reports that the mussels produced in the bay at Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy have been awarded an A.O.C. -- Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. It also explains different ways mussels are cooked in the La Rochelle area, on the French Atlantic coast. I wonder how many Americans have ever eaten mussels?

Old houses in the wine village of Reuilly, near Quincy

We have a very busy weekend ahead of us and I may not be posting much for a few days. Already we've had a busy week. I took the car in for service on Tuesday, and Walt mowed the grass. On Wednesday, we drove over to Quincy, near Bourges and about 50 miles from Saint-Aignan, to buy some good Sauvignon Blanc wine from a producer there. We did more clean-up work in the garage and garden shed one day (don't remember which).

Our neighbors invited us over for lunch on Thursday, and we spent the whole afternoon with them. They are leaving this weekend to return to their main residence, in Blois. Summer's over and they are closing up the country house for the season.

The woman we bought our house from came to visit Friday afternoon, and we took her on a tour of the garden and house. We hadn't seen her since last fall. She lives in Tours, and she's 79 years old now. I think she enjoys seeing the old place and keeping up with changes we have made. We gave her some eggplants and tomatoes to take home, and Walt baked her an applesauce spice cake. All that didn't stop us from cooking, milling, and freezing six quarts of tomato paste during the afternoon and evening.

Yesterday's tomato sauce, before W. ran it through the food mill to purée it

An item on the France Inter radio news just reported that the Beaujolais grape harvest, which growers thought would begin in late August because of the long stretch of hot weather France experienced in July, has had to be delayed for a week or more because of chilly, cloudy weather in August. The Beaujolais harvest will begin around September 5.

Touraine grapes growing in the vineyards out back, 22 August 2006

A+, as we say in French. That means à plus tard. Catch you later.


  1. I've eaten mussels--a lot!!! And I've gathered them in Half Moon Bay.

    Of course, Tony Bourdain says you should never eat them in a restaurant, but I have, anyway.

  2. Do I want to know why Tony Bourdain says not to eat mussels in restaurants? Does what he says apply to U.S. restaurants only? Walt and I ate mussels in a restaurant in Dieppe on Sunday. They were delicious and we haven't gotten sick or anything...

  3. I found it (from "Kitchen Confidential"):

    I don't eat mussels in restaurants unless I know the chef personally, or have seen, with my own eyes, how they store and hold their mussels for service. I love mussels. But in my experience, most cooks are less than scrupulous in their handling of them. More often than not, mussels are allowed to wallow in their own foul-smelling piss in the bottom of a reach-in. Some restaurants, I'm sure, have special containers, with convenient slotted bins, which allow the mussels to drain while being held -- and maybe, just maybe, the cooks at these places pick carefully through every order, mussel by mussel, making sure that every one is healthy and alive before throwing them into a pot. I haven't worked in too many places like that. Mussels are too easy. Line cooks consider mussels a gift; they take two minutes to cook, a few seconds to dump in a bowl, and ba-da-bing, one more customer taken care of -- now they can concentrate on slicing the damn duck breast. I have had, at a very good Paris brasserie, the misfortune to eat a single bad mussel, one treacherous little guy hidden among an otherwise impeccable group. It slammed me shut like a book, sent me crawling to the bathroom shitting like a mink, clutching my stomach and projectile vomiting. I prayed that night. For many hours. And, as you might assume, I'm the worst kind of atheist. Fortunately, the French have liberal policies on doctor's house calls and affordable health care. But I do not care to repeat that experience. No thank you on the mussels. If I'm hungry for mussels, I'll pick the good-looking ones out of your order.

  4. To enjoy mussels, I guess you have to choose your restaurant carefully and have confidence in the chef and cooks to take their jobs seriously. I do believe that restaurant employees in France are more careful about food preparation, because good food is such a big deal here. And in a place like Dieppe, on the coast, I assume the mussels are fresh. Anyway, I've never been sick after eating mussels, and neither has Walt. That whole thing Bourdain says about "mussel piss" is a little over the top, I think. No doubt about it though, I'd rather clean and cook the mussels myself. We did that in July when Charles-Henry was here.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?