Eating Locally

6 04 2010

The weekend before last, our neighbors Celine and Jesse invited Nick and I to accompany them to a cheese and wine festival being held in Coulommiers, about an hour’s train ride from Paris.  (Why is it that we’ve lived in this apartment for two years and only just now make friends with the neighbors?  Granted, they only just moved in this year, but still it’s a bummer to have to move now that we have friends in the building.)  Anyway, we all had a great time at the festival, tasting wines, cheeses, and an awful lot of sausage considering it was a cheese festival.  One of the coolest things about this particular fair was that many of the companies represented came from the immediately surrounding area.  We tasted hard apple cider from Île-de-France, which was good enough that we bought a case, and were amused to hear that many French people don’t accept their cider because it’s not from Normandy or Brittany.

One of the last tables we visited was selling bags of locally-grown legumes and flour.  I couldn’t resist, and bought a bag each of brown lentils, green lentils, and freshly milled flour.  I explained to the salesguy that I was really interested in cooking with local ingredients, and that I like knowing where my food comes from.  Upon hearing my accent, he asked me where I was from.  When I responded “Les Etats-Unis,” he quickly replied (in French) “Well, you’re not very local, are you?”  Touché.  I explained that I live in Paris now, and he threw in a free bag of split peas.  Hooray!

split peas from Brie

I love split peas, in part because split pea soup is so easy to make, yet so filling and tasty.  So a few days later, I boiled up the peas with a smoky Alsatian sausage (also purchased at the festival – and not exactly local, but still only 2 hours away on the TGV) and some carrots and leeks (which came from the Loire Valley via my CSA).

Local split pea soup

Did I mention how cost-effective split pea soup is?  500 grams of dried peas, a couple fresh vegetables, and a sausage made three meals for Nick and me.

I also cooked up the green lentils for a version of salade tiède.  They are definitely among some of the best lentils I’ve had, with a fresh, green flavor and nice meaty bite.

But what to do with the flour?

Fresh-milled flour!

I mean, look at that: when have you ever seen flour marked with the date it was milled?  The text explains that the flour may produce a darker-than-usual dough, due to the germ and bran not being removed and the flour not being bleached.  I wanted to bake something that would really highlight how special this flour is, so a simple pain au levain it was.

local flour bâtard

And let me just say, wow!  This is probably the tastiest loaf of bread I’ve ever baked.  The flavor of the wheat really shines through, and the texture is perfect for sandwiches or slathering with cheese.  (You don’t think we left the cheese festival without buying cheese, do you?  We got a delicious Camembert, a funky triple crème that smells and tastes like a piquant blue, and another one that’s getting its very own post later on, because it’s that amazing.)

I discovered one more thing that I’m really excited about at the Coulommiers festival: Ok, two. One,  I found out that Saint-Pourçain, the local wine of my first stay in France finally got an AOC after over 50 years of being a VDQS; and two, that there are several farms around Paris where you can go pick your own fruits and vegetables!  I picked up a brochure from Cueillette du Plessis, which not only has the farm, but a daily market featuring locally-made products including cheese, beer, and charcuterie.  A little research showed that they belong to a collective of farms called Chapeau de Paille (straw hat) which have member farms all over France.  I can’t wait to go berry picking this summer!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




9 responses

6 04 2010

You’re right, that was a pretty quick-off-the-mark response from your legume man! Your split pea soup reminds me of the time my brother came home “out of the cold, after an horrible day at work” (his words) to find me cooking split pea soup, or what he called “a green monstrosity”. He refused to touch it, but I can’t help feeling he’d have changed his mind if I’d put sausage in it like you, rather than fresh peas…

Can’t wait for the cheese post – I’m back to the vicarious-Paris-living-through-you! 😀

7 04 2010
hungry dog

That festival sounds amazing, what fun! The soup looks delicious and so artfully photographed but what I really want to discuss is that bread. Pain au levain is my favorite, it’s what I always buy here in SF, and your looks stunning. Lovely job!

7 04 2010

Hannah – Ham would probably have worked, too… 😉

hungry dog – Thank you! I find the more bread I bake, the less I feel bound by a recipe. Perhaps I should write a post about it soon.

9 04 2010

I think the fact that the bag of split peas was free added to the cost-effectiveness! I love the story of your encounter at the festival – so French!

9 04 2010

I love your post about the fair and your efforts to source local ingredients. At our Bistro Des Copains in West Sonoma County California, we are regularly asked where we source our produce and proteins on the menu. When you source locally, you support the small producers and its great for the environment. I think the variety of things you found at your fair was exceptional.

9 04 2010

Jessica – True. 🙂

Michel – I totally agree about keeping things local being better for the environment as well as the local economy. I hope I get a chance to eat at your restaurant someday!

11 04 2010

It was great reading this and thinking about the fair again! Just came back from San Sebastian, it was incredible. We’ll have to hang out soon before your big move (need help packing?).

11 04 2010

Celine – Can’t wait to hear about it! We also have to arrange a wine exchange…

12 04 2010
Fribourg d’Alpage « Croque-Camille

[…] 12 04 2010 I believe I promised you all a cheese post featuring the most delicious cheese at the Coulommiers festival.  It wasn’t a Coulommiers or Brie-type cheese that stole my heart that day.  No, it was a […]

%d bloggers like this: