South West France Open Markets

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I adore the French markets!!!! And for me, there is nothing more pleasurable to do than go to an open market first thing in the morning and get the very best, freshest ingredients available from the local farmers, butchers, bakers and fish monger that has spent a lot of time and care cultivating their produced or for bakers I should say ‘mastering the fine art of baking!’  I somehow think that the produced and bread you get in a French open markets are far, far, better than those you get in the supermarkets. I can only assume that is probably because they give their produce loads of love and very tender care! and I particularly love the French markets within the Southwest region of France.IMG_2161 IMG_2004IMG_2160 IMG_2165 IMG_2164IMG_2163 IMG_2162 IMG_2150IMG_2155 IMG_2151IMG_2156 IMG_2174IMG_2173 IMG_2172IMG_2005 IMG_1958

The South West Region of France which the French refers to as simply ‘ Sud-Ouest,’ covers the regions of Aquitaine, Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. Not only is this region well adored in France for its’s amazing wine produced but it is also widely known and adored all over the world for it’s amazing wine, brandy and cuisine. The finest wines and brandy are produced in this region; covering several wine-producing areas located inland from, and south of Bordeaux. A total of 16,000 hectares  of vineyards, throughout the Aquitaine region all the way to the west of the Midi-Pyrénées region. This region’s wine history goes all the way back to the Romans who had a flourishing wine trade and were the first to cultivate land in the South West of France, long before the Bordeaux wine vineyards were planted and established.  The Romans believed that ‘wine’ is a necessity and should be made available for everyone to drink, from aristocrats to slaves. To ensure the continued supply and availability of wine for everyone, Roman soldiers and colonists ensures that viticulture and wine production spread to every part of their empire. The profound effect of which, we still see in today’s major winemaking regions in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

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But as this is not a history or geography lesson I will carry on straight to point the food! South West French cuisine is one of the finest cuisines in the world. Due to it’s geographical location the cuisine benefits from the best of the French and Spanish culinary influences, by the coast the cuisine is celebrated with fresh fish and seafood whereas inland, fresh meat such as  the high quality lamb “Agneau de Pauillac” and cured meats, as well as high quality sheep cheeses, patés, terrines, confits and magret are the french tables favourite! Not the mention the abundance of vegetables, legumes,  freshwater fishes, salt cod that are also widely available in this region and of course, last but not least the famous Armagnac brandy that is only available in Gascony!

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The open markets located in the Greater South West of France are not open every day, opening and closing hours varies as well so if you do embark on a gastronomic  adventure as I have done, best check the local tourist office when the markets are open, particularly during Easter or New Year time when most market and shops won’t be open for business. Note that all markets are only open in the morning, everything is close by noon.

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Opening Days for just a few of the markets are:

Wednesday- Barbotan and Condom (located in Gers)

Thursday-Eauze and Auch (located in Gers)
Friday-Vic Fezenzac and Lectoure (located in Gers) 
Saturday-Auch (located in Gers) 
Sunday-Mezin (located in Lot and Garonne)

Here are just some of the produced you can expect at a local South West French open markets. It wasn’t just the produced that I found entertaining, the sellers in the market were all so friendly and so eager to share their produce, I couldn’t pass anyone who wouldn’t insist that I try their produce, I was stuffed before I finished my shopping just from all the free samples I have been offered to try; amazing cheeses, fresh oysters, strawberries, bread, olives! It was fantastic!

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What I also found fascinating is the French love and affection for Jeff (he is the lovely white fluffy dog in the pictures), they were all so glued on him and even though he causes trouble every where we go, he seems to be able to get away with it, I was buying some tomatoes turned around and saw Jeff’s head inside a French woman’s shopping bag, he was aiming for the sausages! The lady saw him aiming for her sausages and rather than be annoyed, she gave him a kiss! Jeff and I went to a cafe at the market and the waiters came out to give him some water and the rest of the customers even shared some their food to Jeff!

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I wasn’t planning to take him with me at the market but he seemed quite sad when I was leaving home, so I decided to take him along for a ride.

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Unfortunately though Jeff also didn’t want to sit at the back of the car like any other dogs, he decided to launch himself at me and he and I traveled like this from home all the way to the market and back, that is with his bum on my face! Thanks Jeff!

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Boulangerie-Patisserie Review: Hardouin

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Category: Boulangerie-Patisserie, Take Away Service Only no seating.
Cuisine: French Bread and Patisseries
Price Range on Average: Between EUR 2- 3 for a piece of patisserie
Ambiance: Traditional with a modern twist
Address: 39 Place Grand Marché, 37000 Tours, France
Tel: +33 2 47 76 02 63

Opening Time: Tuesday to Thursday open from 7:00 to 13:15 and again from 15:00 to 19:15 and on Friday & Saturday from 7:00 to 19:15 all day ‘no closing break’.
Website: http://www.achat-tours.com/pagecp-93-BOULANGERIE-PATISSERIE.htm
Last Visited: 2013

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Review:

Tours, which is also known as “Le Jardin de la France” The Garden of France has a lot to celebrate, the city has many beautiful gardens and parks, surrounded by white and blue slate roof buildings that is typical in the North of France, it is also famous for its original medieval district, called “Le Vieux” Tours. Thanks to Jean Royer, who became Mayor of Tours in 1959 for 36 years that conservation of the old beautiful buildings of Tours began, saving the beautiful historical buildings of Tours city centre from demolition. If it wasn’t for him we may never see how beautiful this city must have been.

The centre also has a beautiful square called La Place Plumereau surrounded by boutiques, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. I you are visiting to watch or participate in the world famous bike race ‘Tour De France’, please take some time too to visit the centre and experience it.
Touraine, the region around Tours is also worth a visit, known for its fine wines and fine cheese. But as my obsession lies more on patisseries, I would like to share my newly found discovery the ‘Hardouin Boulangerie-Patisserie’ located inside Tours main market ‘Les Halles De Tours’  http://www.achat-tours.com/pagecp-93-BOULANGERIE-PATISSERIE.htm

This Boulangerie-Patisserie shop offers amazing freshly baked breads and a wide selection of patisseries at very reasonable prices. Their Eclair Praline, Apple Crumble patisserie and Lemon Drizzle Cake were executed very well, in taste and creative design, the patisseries were so pretty that I felt so guilty eating them. They are not just pretty to look at they are so tasty too. It is not a surprise that Patisserie chefs are so highly regarded for their amazing Patisserie skill and creative flare. I am so honoured to have had the chance to try these amazing little gems! I will no doubt make a trip to Tours once again in my lifetime just to try these Patisseries again.

Finally, I would like to add that, Hardouin is right in front of a great Charcuterie in Tours. You can spend a morning walking around this little indoor market and sample all the amazing cheese, bread, Charcuteries, chocolates on sale at reasonable value and of excellent quality!

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Restaurant Review: Bordeaux- Le Noailles

Le Noailles
Category: Restaurant, Brasserie
Cuisine: French, Typical Brasserie Dishes
Price Range on Average: EUR 35.00 (per head for a 3 course meal excluding drinks)
Ambiance: Traditional, Rustic French
Address: 12 Allée de Tourny, 33000 Bordeaux, France
Tel: +33 5 56 81 94 45
Website: Currently Not Available
Last Visited: 2013 for dinner

Review:
This beautiful Parisian style brasserie has been serving typical French brasserie dishes such as steak and pomme frites and sole beurre noisette since the 1932. This restaurant is centrally located at the Allées de Tourny just a few steps away from the Grand Theatre. This is not the restaurant to go to for a haute cuisine gastronomic experience, but a place instead to enjoy a casual dinner with friends and reminisce the old times. This is certainly one of the places to go to when in Bordeaux just like La Tupina, not because it is the best but because it has been around for decades.

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The atmosphere and dining experience will take you back to 1930s, it has a lovely covered terrace with tables and wooden chairs set up by the side street overlooking the Tourny alley square, full of smoking locals who’ve just finished work. The main restaurant is decorated in traditional dark wooden panelled walls and red velour booths, with waiters in traditional black and white outfits and black long aprons running around across the room as they navigate all the tables of hungry guests of both regular locals and tourists.

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The atmosphere is busy and noisy, so if you want a quiet romantic candle light dinner this is not the place for you.  Expect the waiters to be running around you throughout the whole evening, at one point our waiter tripped and accidentally dropped an ice cream on a guest’s jacket, I must say that it was an accident and he was very apologetic still something I should mention for those readers who are particular about service and expect superb service. As someone who is in love with food and adventures for me this is just another exciting new experience to try, so the running around doesn’t really bother me. I was simply happy to have tried another restaurant that has been serving food for decades. The food is not much to write about, I can see why this restaurant appeals to locals and tourists as they serve, if not all, certainly most of the traditional brasserie dishes you would expect without all the fuss and fusion type dishes you find in some of the new trendy restaurants.

This is a place that serves plain, simple, classic French brasserie dishes in massive portions. The price is little bit more expensive than I would expect for the quality of food and service they provide. But then as an institution that has been around since 1932, a restaurant well located at the centre of Bordeaux I guess they can charge the prices they do.

For the main course I tried their steak which was cooked perfectly, the French beans that came with it was however over cooked and under seasoned. For dessert, the waiters come to each table to show the day’s patisserie and ice cream samples, guest can then pick their choice from the plate of desserts or order from the menu which has the classic desserts you’d typically find in French brasseries such as crème caramel. They have a wine list that suits every budget. 

Overall the food is average, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great. If you fancy a night out with friends, in a busy restaurant full of atmosphere then I would recommend this place for sure.

 

Bordeaux

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Bordeaux, home to one of the best wines of the world and to France’s tasty canelé de Bordeaux, a traditional Bordelais cake made originally using miniature cooper mould. These little golden cakes with a rich and dense spongy custard filling and golden caramel shells are definitely a “must try” in Bordeaux. Typically eaten for breakfast, as a dessert or even just as a snack in between meals; wine lovers often serves these little gems at wine tasting as well, a perfect accompaniment with sweet Sauternes wine. In my case, I can certainly eat them anytime of the day with a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, tea or even just by itself. Aside from canelé, Bordeaux is also famous for its oysters from Arcachon Bay, seafood from Gironde Estuary and Cod from Begles. Lamprey à la Bordelaise is another popular dish that originated from Bordeaux, a fish stew cook in red wine that is popular to both locals and visiting tourists. In terms of meat; the black pigs from Bigorre Pyrenees and Charolais beef cooked over wood-burning fires are also a must try and certainly a delicious treat to have in this beautiful city, full of history, pack with flavours and amazing wine! A city that no doubt will leave you with a lasting memory in the palette…

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Reviews and Recommendations:

La Tupina

Category: Restaurant, Bistro

Cuisine: French, Traditional cooking from the South-West of France

Price Range on Average: EUR 65.00 (per head for a 3 course meal excluding drinks)

Ambiance: Traditional, Rustic French

Address: 6 Rue de la Porte de la Monnaie, Bordeaux, 33800 France

Tel: +33 5 56 91 56 37

Website: www.latupina.com

Last Visited: 2013 for dinner

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Review:

La Tupina which meant ‘kettle’ in basque language, opened in 1968 by Jean-Pierre Xiradakis, this restaurant is situated in a lovely narrow cobbled street at the centre of Bordeaux. While Cafe Tupina is right at the main road of Quai de la Monnaie, La Tupina, the restaurant, is tucked away just behind it in a pretty narrow street.

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As you enter this restaurant the first thing you will notice is an enormous open fire place, surrounded by hanging dried herbs and garlic, rustic pots and pans. Best local produce of vegetables from the surrounding region of Bordeaux and best cuts of meat of the day is also showcase at the centre of this magnificent fireplace. I have requested for a seat right by the fireplace at the centre of the action. I must say that the whole experience has been fun. As someone who is in love with food and has great passion for cooking, watching chefs prepare and cook is always an exciting experience for me.

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As the chef roast a chicken on a rotating spit over wooden fire, season a rack of lamb on a grill and cook chips on a pan of sizzling duck fat, the smoked and aroma of all these amazing flavours really captivates my senses and appetite. I just couldn’t resist staring at every single dish he plates up.

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When I came for dinner at 7pm on a Monday evening, the restaurant was a bit quiet, by 8pm however the restaurant was packed both with locals and tourists all ordering La tupina’s famous chips cooked in goose fat.

The restaurant is divided into different rooms; the best tables in my opinion would be the tables at the front room by the entrance. Furniture wise; wooden chairs and wooden tables covered in white French country style tablecloths.

The front of house, the chef and the waiters are very friendly. Service is both friendly and efficient. The front of house is very lively and entertaining, who speaks fluent English and of course French.

There’s an extensive wine, Armagnac and cognac list to suit every palette. The waiters are also quite knowledgeable on the best wines to match the dishes they serve and are happy to recommend a good wine to accompany your dish.

The portions of the dishes are definitely very generous, tasty, rich and robust in flavour. This is not the place to have an haute cuisine experience, this is more of a place to try a traditional south-west French cooking, cook simply with good local ingredients and serve simply without all the Michelin starred detailed architectural plating style. For instance, a side dish of stewed beans that came with the leg of lamb was served on the table with a metal sauce pan; this may not be to your taste but works for me as it does suit the ambiance of a rustic, French country home decors and furniture.

For Starter:

The terrine of semi-cooked “Foie Gras” was served with a simple toasted white bread, a few pinches of salt and ground black pepper around the plate. The waiter recommended that I have it with a sweet Sauternes wine, the wine did complement the smooth; melt in the mouth foei gras.

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The squid was simply pan-fried with garlic and chili, served on a simple black plate. The squid was fresh and perfectly cooked. There is nothing worst than an over cooked, rubbery squid and this was definitely not one those.

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For Main:

The leg of lamb was cooked in its own juice for 7 hours, served with one clove of roasted garlic and a pot of cassoulet beans. The meat was succulent and the beans were cooked fine, it wasn’t the best but it’s good.

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The Bigorre black pig was served with a lovely thick sauce, creamy mashed potato and a clove of roasted garlic. It was such a delight to have tried this dish, the meat was tender and pack full of flavours. I’ll definitely order this again the next time I visit.

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For Dessert:

La Tupina’s “Cannelé “stuffed with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with some butterscotch coulis was a new discovery for me. Although I’ve had Cannelé countless times in France I’ve never had them with butterscotch coulis or stuffed with vanilla ice cream. I love the different textures and flavour combinations of this simply constructed dessert. Though perhaps I am a bit biased seeing as cream and caramel is my idea of heaven! Hence, even though I was already full from a massive portion of starter and main course, I did eat all of it. Sometimes it is worth remembering that life is too short to waste such sweet, tasty dessert. So if you do order this on your visit at La Tupina, please enjoy it to the full as I’ve had, as it is worth it.

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Pear “Belle Hélène” with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Sadly as I was too busy tucking into my “Cannelé” I’ve only tried a bit of this dessert, the pear’s cooked well in spice syrup and was served covered in chocolate sauce with some almond slivers, the ice cream came as a surprise as it was hidden inside the pear, this is a tasty and rich dessert.

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Overall the quality of food at La Tupina is good, the portions were a bit too much and I can’t help thinking that perhaps it would have been better if they reduce the portions and the price both at 20%. As in comparison to all other bistros that I’ve been to in Bordeaux, Lyon, Tollouse, Paris, Orleans, Reims and Rouen, La Tupina’s price is definitely higher than any other bistros in France that offers the same food quality and service level. But then, everybody goes to La Tupina as in some ways it has become an institution in its own rights, it is the place to dine when in Bordeaux, to have a great time, to enjoy the theatrical atmosphere and the cozy ambiance, to reminisce on the old days and enjoy local produced. I guess you’d go to La Tupina, because it is La Tupina.

Bon appétit!