Highlights of a Month of Food in France

Galeries Lafayette’s food section is a lot of fun. It’s global in scope and features the best France has to offer. This is their beautifully displayed spice department.

One morning, I was listening to some food pundits on Radio France Inter.  One of them quoted Cornell historian Steven Kaplan. According to Kaplan, they said, only 15% of the boulangeries in France still produce baked goods – baguettes and croissants being the acid test – of any value. That said, this is the best croissant I’ve ever eaten.

It is made at the boulangerie de Germain Maureille in the bourgignon village of St. Sauveur-en-Puisaye. If you go, also try their gougeres. This is M. Maureille’s mission statement, printed on the outside of his big bread bags:

A method of traditional breadmaking using yeast

The dough of my traditional French bread is slowly kneaded, then I let it rest longer than most so that it develops beautiful cavities and numerous flavors, a sign of a natural and well-conducted fermentation and a gauge of its conservation. It’s a little bit less voluminous, with a fine, colored crust, and when you cut into it, you’ll find a creamy and aromatic crumb with large air holes. In your mouth, it will reveal all the flavors of wheat.

Longtime friend and organic farmer Fredo Lamour and I ventured into the woods twice in search of wild cepes and girolles. Once we were unsuccessful. More rain and rot changed everything.

Here’s Fredo with about 3 kilos of both.

The cepes, after a gentle 30 minutes with garlic, parsley and olive oil.

Mushroom locales are closely guarded secrets in Burgundy. If you can find this chapel in the woods, you’re in the vicinity of some amazing boletus.

Fredo, pricing his wares before the market in Toucy.

I turned two kilos of his peerless red onions into Leigh-Ann Hahn’s amazing pickles. These are two jars of them setting up in Fredo’s cave.

Naturally, those onions went extremely well with lamb. Fredo and his wife Monique barbecued one for the méchoui they hosted, a benefit event for the Roma rights association Confluences Nomades.

Here’s Monique Lamour welcoming the guests.

And this is how the main course turned out.

There were numerous desserts, but this was the tastiest: a performance by the manouche swing ensemble Am Ketenes, in a meadow, under a full moon. Shooting stars even showed up.

The evening was noteworthy in another way: it was probably the only meal with which I didn’t eat a cheese course. This one was typical, and almost all the cheese came from within a 50 mile radius of Toucy.Meanwhile, back in Paris, I returned to Le Jardin d’en Face in Montmartre for their oeuf cocotte minute a la foie gras d’oie, gazpacho, and hachis parmentier with confit de canard.

Just down the street at La Part des Anges, they bring in artisnal organic ice cream from a little fabrique in the Ardeche. We had cocoa and nougat with mint, and the caramel with fleur de sel.

Now, back home in Cambridge, MA, I thank local bakery Iggy’s for always having a baguette that falls into Steven Kaplan’s 15%, so I can duplicate my daily breakfast en bourgogne, day-old toasted bread with Fredo’s creamy acacia honey.

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