Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

eG foodblog: CheGuevara - A sourcing journey through Europe


Recommended Posts

Five hours of sleep, partly shaved and fully showered I stumbled onto one of our vans and drove straight through from Maida Vale over to Battersea...London in the right light is hard to beat, but unfortunately for me while I tend to cross the river at Chelsea bridge with views of the power station, today's crossing was over Vauxhall, hardly an exiting scene. Aside from Mi-6 and the infamous architecturally absurd bus shelter, there is little else to draw the eye.

The office was pitch black - the keys needed dropping off - and half asleep i made it on the train two stops to Waterloo. Lately it seems I'm spending more time than planned on Eurostar; in the month of October this will be my third trip across the channel. Regularity has its benefits and that is how i find myself enjoying machine cappuccino, stale brioche with butter and honey, and posting from the lounge (free papers and the economist as well!). I've taken some pictures which I'll be able to post when I'm in the office later.

Last night was a different evening - for now I'll just say that the "best burgers" were tested - albeit it ate into my cherised sleep.

Boarding time now...


Link to comment
Share on other sites

And I.  I can smell the deep burgundy smoke from here.

Oh, Dear Heavens.  I just looked at this---you've been blogging a day, and now two crazy women groupies, cadging a cigar.  What next?

LOL :laugh:

I've been following this blog too with a lot of interest. I can't wait for more.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

Link to comment
Share on other sites

London evenings are getting shorter - they do this all the way to the 4:30pm mark in the middle of winter - and significantly colder. As I tend to do I left the office three times last night, each time returning for another critical object I have left behind, and off I go to Fulham to meet a good friend of mine for dinner as we've been invited to the house of a butcher's brother (I know what you're thinking). My house had be proffered for the event; however as all of you know I'm currently disposessed and was thus unable to host this "perfect burger" tasting.

Obviously after struggling to find the place due to an incorrect address I realised the Argentine wine I promised was missing - so off to one of the multiples I go to pick up a bottle of Cote Rotie from Guigal; there was no decent wine from my country. And it is my country partially that gets us to tonight. Hopefully you'll follow...let's start off with James:


He's a very good friend from my first days in London who is now running a Burrito joint out of two markets in London. James meets Jack, the incredibly skilled Irish butcher, and my brother and I are introduced as the two guys who have an Argentine parrilla (bbq) at home. Jack and I meet as we're looking for a London-based butcher and he's looking for a real parrilla. We immediatly talk about asado de tira "short ribs" and his upcming trip to my part of the world...and that's how I find myself having dinner at Jack's brother's house.

The dinner was to gather friends around for the airing of yesterday's show on the perfect burger - Heston Blumenthal went to Jack when he developed the recipe for the beef patty. The log which James is kindly holding with a smile are numerous perfect burgers prior to slicing.

The evening started off with some sausages and lamb cutlets which were incredibly tender and juicy.


Followed by the magical burgers - I won't get into the recipe as you can find everything online. One of the head chefs from the Fat Duck was there to do the honors. Unfortunately I only managed a few pictures; this is prepping time:


Cooking time:


The ever purist I had mine with nothing but a bun; I was lazy really and standing. Very tasty burgers and extremely well cooked. The only thing missing was the taste of smokey charcoal.

Midnight cam quick and I headed home, having had far too little to drink...should have taken a cab.

With luck Jack will become our butcher soon; he's a pleasure to talk to and is truly passionate about not meat in general, more precisely butchery - and that to me says a lot.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Where were we? Waterloo station roughly 7:30am, just in time to grab a quick breakfast and hop on the train. You can't expect much out of Eurostar coffee and pastries, although one should be able to count on the latter. The lounge is a dated ensemble of futuristic furniture more relevant in a jetsons set that Waterloo. It took me a while but finally I can post pictures:


Here's my breakfast and where it came from:



A last view of London...


...some overly expensive water which my doctor says I should drink more of, and the joys of excel spreadsheets keep me company for the next three hours, or just about.


From Gare du Nord I headed out to Madeleine where we have most of our meetings, thankfully as it is slightly more convenient than Rungis. The day was spectacular filled with sunshine and blue skies like only Paris can achieve. It is without a doubt physically the most beautiful city in the world; no other place invites you to walk along the river at dusk guided by those damp orange lights which so perfectly outline the imposing architecture which holds the Seine.

Out I came from under the ground and I had to do a tour around Madeleine since at every corner you're faced with a new food shop. Turning right out of the Metro you run into Fauchon - recently re-branded and refurbished:


Continuing along I couldn't help but take a picture of one of Paris' gems - cafes and the culture around them. Can you sport the Heinz?


On we go around the second corner and onto densest of the blocks, from right to left we have Hediard, on this image you can't see its emblematic black and red stripes, Prunier without whom airports and air travel would be unbearable, La Maison des Truffes, apparently closed for renovations and finally Kaspia.


Cross the road and we reach what used to be Lucas Carton, now Alain Senderens - it seems like they like the effect of the old "Lucas" letters...it's all part of the tradition of that restaurant.


The final crossing takes us to Maille - who hasn't had their cornichons or their mustard at least once?


And most importantly, the Madeleine in all her glory...


Having been faithful to my eGullet responsibilities I was now ready to face my meetings.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lazyness got the better of me and as I left the office (after the damn laptop crashed on me well into my post) and the camera got put away. I'm truly sorry, because last night was for me a classic Parisian evening filled with good drink, suprisingly (tbc) good food and wonderful company...all that on a stunning night; how else do you describe walking along the Seine and then through the louvre at 30 past midnight on your way back from dinner, beautifully buzzed? Now you're bound to my words and fuzzy memory.

A friend whom I met through a friend...Gemma and I met up around Place de la Concorde and headed East along Rue de Rivoli which borders the Louvre and the Tuileries on its north side; our destination: Le Fumoir. Yes you are allowed to smoke here. A restaurant with an elegant bar which takes you back to a somewhat Deco-ish period with good but not excellent drinks, a warm oak bar and sound filled with miles davis and other great jazz. We started off with a vodka tonic for the lady and a bloody mary for moi; the latter (the BM not me) was too sweet, not ballsy enough, but nevertheless enjoyable. I then moved on to a vodka tonic, and once all the peanuts and olives were finished we decided to leave the comfort of the bar for a proper table. Many times I've consumed booze in here, but only once have I sat down for food - my memories were not too fond.

Gemma is English and I can say I'm slightly adopted, so very civilised of us we decided to order a three-course meal, for one. Sharing is good for the heart; but the wine was full-size! Burgundy of course, Roully from 2004 was very very good.

The appetizer was a carpaccio of monkfish, dressed simply with olive oil and lemon, a few sprigs of parsley, frozen red currants and very finely julienned pear. Simple, unfussed and tasty. Our main course was canette cooked rare served with roasted figs and delicious mashed potatoes - they really stole the night; that was until our conversation veered onto Gemmas lack of oven and our dessert selection: compot of "prunes of the moment" - you can imagine after half a bottle the jokes you can make of it. Excellent, slightly spiced and served with almond ice-cream on the side.

No after dinner drinks if you were wondering...i was nearing the 5-hour mark, as in less than 5 hours left of sleep available to me. Off we went, along the Seins, through the Louvre past the beautifully lit pyramid always trying to walk over the clay-coloured ground gravel rather than cement - it feels so much better - out to Rue Rivoli and back to where we started.

My alarm woke me up at 5am...by 5:20 i was downstairs waiting for my taxi, pastries were being delivered to the hotel and the concierge kindly offered me one straight off the trays - god thank him! As to the coffee, that had to wait until I was knee deep in poultry...


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Markets are to be seen in the dark - welcome to Rungis:


Where's my coffee? It's about 5:45am when I get to the office, no one is here. I need to pick up a van, walking Rungis is like trying to visit Manhattan in one day - you don't. Bags dropped, keys grabbed, I waste no time with the coffee machine here...Nescafe would be far better. A view from the van (I probably should avoid taking pictures while iI drive in a busy place like this).


You'll have to excuse me but you won't get to see the fish market - I would've had to be there at 4am at the latest - maybe I can be conviced to do so on some other blog. So off we head to the Poultry market, we need to as it will be the first to close. In case you're lost this will tell you what day it is and how much poultry has arrived.

Now there's no doubt you're in the right place.


Back to my coffee needs, and as is customary, a picture of my breakfast. This cafe is smack in the middle of the poultry hall. While I have my tartine with butter and a noisette gentlemen next to me are drinking beer, white wine, some are even enjoying a steaming plateful of choucroute.


Now I'm ready to take you around. The pictures of products are few as unfortunately in this area of the market they are difficult with cameras so I focused on the lesser known and more interesting animals. In the Pavillionn des Volailles you will find all types of poultry and a few other bits - from Halal chickens to Poulet Bresse, different types of turkeys, quails, pigeons, pigeonneaus, foie gras, ducks, canettes, pyrennean lamb, poussin, rabbit...anything that is fairly small, edible and lives on land.

Here's a good view of the hall:



Stands are all around (see signs to the left and right); buyuers and sellers meet in the middle; products go out the back to be loaded.

These pigeonneaus were some of the nicest I saw today, notice how fresh they are - beautiful birght meat under a perfectly dry skin. The quails less so as is apparent from the blotched skin.


Poulet Bresse are one of the favoured chickens, they are the only poultry to have a protected appellation. They are essential to the classic French dish which for the life of me I can't remember the name, where slices of black truffle are placed under the skin of the chicken.


I've never seen so much game as today, the majority of which I have no idea what it is...I did see pheseants, wild ducks and pigeons that I recognized. Below are the products I managed to take pictures of.




For the squamish you might want to look away now...cute little dead rabbits ready to be skinned.


By far my favourite area of Rungis is this pavillion. It retains a lot of its old school charm. Its Individuals, the atmospherre that builds all over the hall and in the cafe - cleverly positioned in the middle - and perhaps the fact that it is all contained in one hall. Fruits & Vegetables are laid out over 12 halls each one two or three times the size of this one. The white coats, trading being centralised in an office run by the market...it feels like a real trading floor with its own codes and practices, its attire, customs. Maybe it's because France is the king of poultry production.

Before we move on here is some of that atmosphere which I tried to capture for you:




We need to cross the hall, out the back and head over to the Meat Pavillion...

Edited by CheGuevara (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those birds are breathtaking (the fowl, not the women in labcoats) It never occurred to me there would be identifying feathers in the crate, they all look so plump and flavourful.

Maybe you mis-posted the rabbit shot? SHOW ME THE BUNNY!

edit: there they are, thanks!

Edited by Peter the eater (log)

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My camera is packed and this keyboard is annoyingly difficult to use...having a bloody mary while i wait to board the train back to London; it is 7pm and I'm exhausted.

Much more Rungis to come tonight before I call it a day...stay tuned.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Franco, what a wonderful, wonderful blog this is. Thank you sooo much! I must get across the pond soon as I would dearly love a jar of Guiness Marmite for my often desk-bound breakfasts...

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On my way out as I head towards the more manly meat market I run into these two fellas, maybe someone was indicating the way.


We’re now at one of the farthest corners of Rungis after crossing the road from the Pavillon des Volailles we reach the aptly named Pavillon des Viandes or “Meat Pavillion”. It is the cleanest of the six sub-markets – poultry, meat, fish, fruits & vegetables, cheese & dairy and flowers – and the smallest. White coats are once again mandatory even if visiting.


As you enter the pavilion the colour red takes over, from the doors, the floor, the meat and the red-stained white coats of many workers. It is far less busy here; not nearly the atmosphere you have in the poultry market, or the variety. Here you come to buy beef, veal and lamb; very straightforward.


Most of the beef is Charolais, some of what I saw today was German (Italy also sources apparently very good meat from Germany as well) and there is a little Irish but that was vacuum-packed. Half carcasses hang from an intricate rail-system on the ceiling, which makes the movement of these beasts manageable. Tags are used to record all traceability information including breed, country of provenance, country of death, etc. Although they’re hanging all day little blood is present, these are well aged carcasses. Look at the purple colour of the meat.




You could feed a hell of a lot of people with all the food in this hall alone; that is one shocking realisation when you first visit Rungis. Certainly it is the largest market in Europe and one of the largest in the world; but we’re not used to seeing this abundance – itself being an inadequate word – man’s ability in plain sight to produce such vast quantities of food, somewhere it all feels unnatural. When we reach the fruit & vegetable pavilion(SSSSS) this point will come across in much starker contrast.

As with poultry here we find the old school boys, the faces you’d expect to see in a market, the poetry in their eyes…our Italian butcher would be right at home here – with the people if not the scale.


Veal, very French. We sell a lot of it, purely because England doesn’t produce it really. No supermarket stocks it, funny that. It drives me mad how I can go to the supermarket in Italy, France and let’s not speak of Argentina and find tons of different cuts of beef, veal, pork, etc. In the UK it is misery: a few steaks, a few joints and some mince; oh and since when do cows come boneless? I’m certainly not going to get into this issue in depth here, too much has been written on it already. Let’s keep walking and find our veal – this are not babies let me warn you, they are Limousin (some of the chefs we supply swear by it – and they run top Italian restaurants) and small cows. No hormones here just a badass breed – possibly rugby players similar to those white and blue shirts who trounced the French twice – with huge hind legs which make excellent rump. Why not, here’s a recipe for you:

Pound a veal cutlet super thin, it needs to be no more than a few millimetres thick. Dip it in beaten egg and with forefinger and thumb acting like a squeegee remove as much egg as possible leaving a very thin coat; drench in breadcrumbs or even better the powder left from it (no thick crumbs please). This is key: after drenching shake off any excess, place on a board or flat surface and with the palm of your hand press down over the whole surface, turn over and repeat. Now you’ve ensured the thinnest possible coating and avoid the ultimate sign of bad milanesas – air pockets on the coating. This needs to be fried in a butter and olive oil mixture for a few minutes on each side until nice and golden – drain on paper towels and you’ve got yourself a proper Milanesa de Ternera.

Get yourself a good piece/loaf of bread – baguette works well – mayo, good tomatoes, lettuce, hard boiled egg and milanesa…you’ve got yourself a Sandwich de Milanesa.

The Limousin


A ton of lamb is sold here; my guess is the Middle Eastern community plays a big role in its consumption. Here you’ll always find Halal meat.

Loads of Lamb


A Halal merchant


It’s still dark out as I make my way back to the van. We need to drive now in the direction of the dairy pavilions; have I ever mentioned that cheese to me comes before food? In my world you have three classes of energy to nourish our body: Cheese, Food and Liquid.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I do this right I hope like me as we move from poultry to flowers you’ll be left with the same thoughts on our production, distribution and eventual consumption of food (and cheese ;)). The premise of Industrial Agriculture is simple: we apply our distinctive human capability to deconstruct a natural process and reengineer in order to maximise the equation inputs x energy = outputs. Our dairy pavilion might demonstrate how we are capable of removing the arguably economically illogical elements of production, which make us and our pleasures so beautiful. The romance, time, and quirkiness they are not present in much of what is to come – things which make artisanal food so damn good. It’s like producing jazz with digital instruments.

It is not all true what we see in Rungis, appearance sometimes is worse than reality, but nevertheless the first time you see this pavilion a lot of the poetry is lost. I’ll try and sift through that for you.

In we go and we’re hit by the big boys – you’ll have a have a hard time lifting them and cutting into them – this was once milk if you can believe that. They are sublime works of art. Beaufort, Comte and Gruyere…nuts, oak, and minerals these cheeses develop and evolve in your mouth like a proper wine.


To anyone who hasn’t I beg you do this: buy some top quality Swiss gruyere (or any of the above, make sure salt crystals are present in the dough) along with a “very good” bottle of white Burgundy; Puligny Montrachet, Meursault, and Chablis and don’t go cheap. Now enjoy them together (make sure the cheese is at room temperature). The mineral characteristic of excellent Burgundy goes phenomenally well with these complex cheeses. All those who think that only red wines go with cheese have no idea what they’re talking about. White in general is a far better choice.

There are a number of dairy halls selling primarily cheese, followed by cream, butter and yoghurts primarily. The French do love their yoghurts…actually dairy products in general are very big here. One of our strengths is the range of our dairy; again another category which is more than lacklustre in English and American supermarkets. Cheese and pallets are oxymorons for me; quantity and cheese give me the same bad feeling. This might explain it better:


Guaranteed the Crottin de Chavignols which you’ll find at your local Whole Foods comes from one of these stands. The large supermarkets in France don’t shop at Rungis, but the producers whose products are represented here many times are the same.

It doesn’t take long to warm up, even if slightly, as these halls are kept warmer than poultry and beef. Standing still, even here, is not really recommended at 6am. The smells are nice, not as pure as a proper cheese maturing room, but nice. As you make your way down the hall you see piles and piles of cheese…



Ever seen a pallet of Brie?


Wood is always in every product a warm material, lending some of that romance I said was being lost. A reminder of the natural world we inhabit (it has served us well in wine!).Vacherin season just started…what a cheese. I remember discovering it for the first time. Hala was her name, I was dating a Lebanese-French girl who had among others, one outstanding quality: she loved cheese so much so that she ate it for breakfast. Speechless she left me. She really pushed me into French cheese, or better said lured me. When I tried Vacherin with a spoon onto a piece of toasted Poilane (her bread of choice for cheese) I thought someone had made it just for me.


I’m sure you’ve heard the story of Vacherin Mont D’Or…conflict between the French and the Swiss, the latter now retain the name VMD while the French call it Mont D’Or or Vacherin something or other. Above you have all three versions. On the first one you’ll see the “Swiss AOC” stamp on it.

Vacherin can be eaten like a fondue. Pierce the top, pour some white wine, heat in a hot oven for 20-25min. and serve in its box with steamed new potatoes, cornichons and charcuteire of your choice.

While we’re on the wooden boxes how can you not talk about Camembert and Epoisse? There are loads of Camemberts around but only one Epoisse made by Mr. Berthaut.


Butter even comes in wood. Echire is well known in the restaurant industry and nowadays in high-end delis as well. These tubs are beautiful, unfortunately they are too big for my house.


No French dairy would be without Crème Fraiche, so voila some tubs for your viewing pleasure. Cows certainly don’t come to mind when I see these tubs.


Before we get to find the little gems that give me so much hope and pleasure, I had to show you two cheeses from Corsica one of which I’m a big fan of. Corsica is known for its sheep’s “brebis” milk cheeses. My favourite being A Filetta (not the one pictured even though it carries that name on the tag), a washed rind cheese similar to munster (French that is not the Amrican version).


St. Marcellin – lovely cheese…little brother to St. Felicien and certainly tastier. Once I was with a friend having an aperitif at Café de Flore on Blvd. St. Germain, we ordered some Campari Sodas with a St. Marcellin and some saucisson. After we finished the waiter looked at us and said: “A cette heure ci, c’est ideal” (At this time, it’s ideal). Ahhh the complicity of the man…the meeting of minds!


So here’s a little story on cheese, particularly French. The majority of cheese is not taken to completion by the producer; he gets the milk, makes the cheese and sells it on either directly to an “affineur” (ager) or to a merchant like we see here who then sells it to someone who hopefully will finish it before it is consumed. As one would expect, the affineur is just as important as the producer in the quality of the end product. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in goat’s cheeses:


If you go back to the image of the St. Marcellin you’ll see that they are very young, still very white and firm. The lines across them are very straight and the edges off the sides of the ceramic plate. If you were to press it, it would not give in much.

St. Maure de Touraine is shaped in the form of a log, covered in ash and contains a straw straight through the middle. Its purpose is to allow the affineur to turn the cheese without loosing its skin. I’m oversimplifying but it will serve the purpose: milk is separated into curds and whey, the curd being the solids. Solids are pressed into a mold and cheese is made with the addition of rennet and specific molds. Whenever a cheese is liquidy or runny it is because the bacteria are eating the protein and breaking it down. This is exactly what happens with St. Maure, so if you were to pick it up, the “skin” would slide off.

When you cut into a St. Maure you have a solid compact centre with a liquid outer ring encased in the grey “skin”. The rugged texture is characteristic of the type of mold (again my mind slips me) whihch attacks it. It is this contrast of textures and flavour intensity that is so magical. Without a doubt it is one of my top 10 cheeses.

Here you have an excellent example of the progress of St. Maure, from super fresh to fully mature. The mature one is a picture of a cheese finished by one of our cheesemongers; probably about 7-8 weeks old. The fresh one has no more than 2 weeks.



Time to move on, but before we do a cheese I had never seen or heard of before:


How could I forget, albeit not one of my cheeses I respect Emmental. The cheddar-like cylinders are Cantal. When young it has a marvelous grassy bouquet, very tangy and fresh. The ones on the left are "Vieux" which generally are aged over 18 months - delicious.



Edited by CheGuevara (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am speechless... and moved to tears.

Time to cast off my chains of denial and lie, cheat and/or steal for my ticket back to Europe. One-way, of course.

Bravo, Franco! Outstanding blog! Another fascinating look at food and it's relationship with humanity.

Carry on.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cheese aside this is where my heart lies, this is the cradle of gastronomy, fruits and vegetables. Not for nothing does the word “fruit” have numerous connotations. Cooking is the fruit of fruits and vegetables, and mind you I’m no vegetarian. Whenever you understand the source of something you reach a level of comprehension which is far superior, a level which allows you to create in harmony with that source. As an architect, if you are not in harmony with your construction materials, if you don’t fully understand them, you will never be capable of innovation and vision.

Interestingly our cooking traditionally revolves around the meat or fish; seldom do fruits and vegetables take centre stage. But just like Bilbao’s Guggenheim is built around the outer metallic panels and curves, it would not be able to stand without the ground underneath nor would it panels shine as bright or reflect the water were it not for its surroundings. In cooking, this role is dominated by fruits & vegetables, primarily because of the seasonality, regionality, and the non-necessity of human intervention for their growth.

My desire to work in the food industry was about more than passion and a love of cooking, it was born out of frustration at not finding the quality of raw materials I expected. Only a few days ago I held a meeting with our entire team to reinforce the reasons behind our efforts – we’re capitalists for sure, but trying to twist the system to what we feel are good ends – and I told a story about a vivid December in New York, shopping at Citarella’s and hearing this woman ask one of the employees for peaches. Peaches, in bloody December! This is the point where it all started for me.

Arranged over what I believe are twelve pavilions fruit & veg is by far the largest of the markets, it is a true monster. The overall quality has come down over the last three years which is when I started visiting. The number of out of season products along with the greenhouse imports from hydroponic masters Belgium and Holland are constantly growing. Much of what would only be available in London is now available in Rungis – that’s a scary thought.

Case in point a walk in to the awesome view (you’ll see the difference with London tomorrow):



The bicycles you see are a common sight in most markets, they make for a very convenient way to move around. Milan has them, so does Barcelona, etc….except for London – you’d hit yourself against the wall before you put it into second gear. See the strawberries on the right, here’s a close-up:


To the left the Hoogstraten, or tasteless Belgian junk that is identical year-round. To the right, those are actually French, certainly not grown outdoors in freezing October. Logically it’s nothing new that there is a market for Strawberries in winter, but Rungis more than Milan is filled with products that shouldn’t be so prominent in one of the last places where one goes to find quality produce. If the markets of this world turn into supermarkets, we really are in a mess. I can do what I do because of these markets, thanks primarily to chefs. They have kept and continue to keep the demand for quality products alive, while 80% of shop at supermarkets across the developed world.

Token Kenyan “French beans” and Peruvian asparagus – both available 365 days of the year.



Walk a little more and you realise not all pavilions are the same, this is E3 if I remember correctly and it is mind-blowing. In an earlier post I mentioned the sheer quantity of products and the effect this had on me. The amount of food we produce is absolutely impressive, how we achieve it is astonishing. This is industrial agriculture at its finest – the majority of what you see here is grown hydroponically or in greenhouses, nothing sees the sunshine and some of it doesn’t even see make contact with the earth.



Let’s take the Belgian tomato (do note that the image above, tomatoes grown indoors are actually French produced in Brittany)


Those green tomatoes are not meant to be like that, but have no fear, the box says they should be stored at 15-18 degrees, perfect maturing temperature. Look at the close-up on the right – see the yellowish freckles. This is pure water – bite into it and side from it tasting of nothing, it will feel like mush. Certainly very nutritious food.

The wonderful contrast is there though and let’s get to it, quick. This is the one and only fruit & veg pavilion for small farmers; see those boards up on the wall, each one represents a producer/farmer. Load you truck, drive it in, unload and sell. I’ll let the images do the arguing for me.


Cold weather is ideal for salads, cabbages, etc…




Look at the size of these cabbages!


Here’s a marvellous example of quality


When I see fennel tops like those I’m immediately inspired to cook. Try combining calf’s liver and fennel, or even better dill. A number of the products we source from Rungis for our website come from this pavilion, primarily our apples, pears, cherries from Mr. Lelut and our Salads.

If you look around in a place like Rungis you’ll inevitably find good stuff…here’s a selection of the best today has to offer:



Mushrooms...Trompette and Girolles


Wet walnuts & chestnuts


Garlic and further down the great Muscat and Chasselas grapes



Real passion fruits


All of those behind the man are grapes…it still amazes me as much as the first time. That is just one stall in one pavilion in one market in the world. Same goes for the clementines…




Well-branded and very good Spanish clementines


French raspberries and wild strawberries



It's 25 past midnight in London and I truly am as they say here, shattered. Tomorrow it's another early morning to take you to New Covent Garden Market...I hve plenty of reflections to make on all of the above, but my eyes are begging me to stop.

Hasta manyana.


PS - the cabbage image will have to wait

Edited by CheGuevara (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Given that I brought up Whole Foods Markets in my question, your fingering industrial agriculture as the signal event that changed food production is quite astute indeed.

The US' leading natural/organic foods retailer struggles with competing desires, those being to promote local producers in its stores and to provide a consistent supply of products of consistent quality to all of its hundreds of locations across the US.  I think you will even find on the blog of John Mackey, WFM's CEO, posts documenting efforts to address critics' complaints that, in pursuit of the latter, WFM has shortchanged the former; the response IIRC was to restore to individual store managers their power to purchase products at the back door.

Today's supermarket model is not built to coexist with quality food - attempts are made but the reality is a different one. In order for things to revert, the model needs to change. I wonder sometimes whether we are capable of growing and retaining the quality of products, but scale needs processes and standardization, you thus walk a very fine line. I'm confident we can; and in any case we're a blip on the screen so I have other issues to worry about.

When demand truly changes then we might see other models that work, but for now the majority of consumers can't tell the difference between an good tomato and a bad one. Children today are not raised in an environment at home that values food, there is zero education barring ready meals, fast food and crisps. A night out to the trattoria in the US is TGI Friday's.

Whole Foods is true to its American blood, it is a fantastic marketer. Behind all the shine and gloss there is little difference expect a ridiculous price tag.

They opened up shop here in June and are doing farily bad both from what I hear and from numerous visits of mine. Whole Foods is like a fashion label. Take Armani for example: a product is consumed by few individuals who are able to recognize its quality due to their own knowledge and expertise. It becomes known and the brand is now recognized as high-end. It now begins to appeal to a broader market who can afford it but don't recognise the quality, the brand reassures them of that. Take away the label and that same person would not feel comfortable paying that money for it - he needs the label to judge the quality. That is clever marketing.

So Whole Foods is now the Saks Fifth avenue of food shopping. Europeans however are different; across all social classes there is a strong culture of food and family meals. Therefore it is hard to sell old lemons 20% more expensive than the market, or San Daniele ham at £60/kg (For comparison we're at £30/kg - and trust me, it's far better) to them. In fact it's impossible. In the US, due to the lack of culture, this has not been a problem. On my last visit to the shop last week the quality of the fruit & veg was abismal in certain areas.

Might that South Philly deli have been DiBruno Brothers on 9th Street?

I can't remember, it was not very fancy but then again they might have refurbished the place in the last 10 years.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Franco, what a wonderful, wonderful blog this is.  Thank you sooo much!  I must get across the pond soon as I would dearly love a jar of Guiness Marmite for my often desk-bound breakfasts...

thank you - and thanks to everone else who's been sendng nice comments...i'm glad people are enjoying it.

do they still make the guinness marmite? i thought it was a one-off thing, and actually have not tried it myself...any good?

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Those cheeses are beautiful!  I really envy you your job.  Do you get to taste these babies?  I'm wondering about that new cheese you saw--Touchtra?  Fouchtra?  Where was it from and what did it taste like?

This time around I didn't do much tasting - we don't source our cheese from Rungis but rather do so through an affineur who is based in Paris, as well as a second one in London. Italian cheeses we import direct and English throguh Neal's Yard.

Unfortunately I only took a picture of the Fouchtra...I'm going to see if I can find it next time I'm in Paris.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

This blog is amazing. I loved the pictures and descriptions of the various markets. Also, your description of changing careers to something you were passionate about is inspiring. After reading/seeing what you get to do for a living, I can't stop wishing that there were opportunities like that on this side of the Atlantic!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Franco, what a wonderful, wonderful blog this is.  Thank you sooo much!  I must get across the pond soon as I would dearly love a jar of Guiness Marmite for my often desk-bound breakfasts...

thank you - and thanks to everone else who's been sendng nice comments...i'm glad people are enjoying it.

do they still make the guinness marmite? i thought it was a one-off thing, and actually have not tried it myself...any good?

Alas, it is entirely possible they do not, I haven't been over to check. Guinness = :wub: , Marmite = :wub: so, to my mind Guinness Marmite = :wub::wub:

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow! Are there such markets in the US? I assume so, but not of the same size?

This is really terrific to have an "industry insider" blog.

They opened up shop here in June and are doing farily bad both from what I hear and from numerous visits of mine. Whole Foods is like a fashion label. Take Armani for example: a product is consumed by few individuals who are able to recognize its quality due to their own knowledge and expertise. It becomes known and the brand is now recognized as high-end. It now begins to appeal to a broader market who can afford it but don't recognise the quality, the brand reassures them of that. Take away the label and that same person would not feel comfortable paying that money for it - he needs the label to judge the quality. That is clever marketing.

So Whole Foods is now the Saks Fifth avenue of food shopping. Europeans however are different; across all social classes there is a strong culture of food and family meals. Therefore it is hard to sell old lemons 20% more expensive than the market, or San Daniele ham at £60/kg (For comparison we're at £30/kg - and trust me, it's far better) to them. In fact it's impossible. In the US, due to the lack of culture, this has not been a problem. On my last visit to the shop last week the quality of the fruit & veg was abismal in certain areas.

Very good analogy. I completely agree.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great blog! And Rungis.... I rushed to my old photos of my apprenticeship in Paris in the early 90's, and the weekly highlight was the early morning(3am) trip to the market. It is overwhelming. We would always break @ 6am for breakfast there(yes including beer) and then head back in to shop some more. The abbatoir was shocking to the senses, tables and troughs full of innards, we usually picked up livers, brains, and kidneys. Just amazing.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Similar Content

    • By Duvel
      The first week of November are „autumn holidays“ in the area where I live. We wanted to use that time to go to Paris, but when my parents-in-law somewhat surprisingly announced they‘d be coming over from Spain for the whole of November, we scrapped that idea and looked for something more German …
      So … Berlin. Not the best time to travel (cold & rainy), but with a couple of museums for the little one and the slightly older ones to enjoy together, plus some food options I was looking forward it was a destination we could all agree on. The Covid19 warnings in the Berlin subway support that notion …

    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and led us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.


      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
      Then into lunch:


      Chicken Soup

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.

      Stir fried lotus root

      Daikon Radish

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable

      Fried Beans

      Steamed Pumpkin


      Beef with Bitter Melon

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice


      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.




      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.

      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.

      And here they are:
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
    • By FoodMuse
      Hello everyone,
      eGullet was nice enough to invite me to write a food blog chronicling what I've made or eaten out for one week. I'm so excited about it! Thanks guys.
      About me:
      I dream about food, I wake thinking what's for dinner and I'm so excited to share it with you. I'm part of the food world in New York. By that, I just mean that I'm so fortunate enough to be invited to great events where I get to eat great food. I'm also a nerd and a part of the technology world. I produce, edit and sometimes host food related web videos and I'm also a part of the tech world.
      I'm launching a website called Please, Pass the Gravy. www.pleasepassthegravy.com We let you create a menu, invite friends and then collaborate on that menu. Never host another potluck with 8 pasta salads. You could use it now, but we're alpha launch, it works but it's ugly. It's my ugly baby. So, if you use it be kind and message me if you have improvement ideas. I thought it would be ok to write about it here because it is food related.
      I live in Brooklyn with a lovely guy who likes to eat and a small corgi mix dog. I cook pretty much every night and do a nice brunch on the weekend. I am not a crazy dog lady, but I do admit to cooking food for the dog. I have an excuse, beyond doting, he had seizures that have stopped since not feeding him dog food.
      Foods I cook:
      Spicy foods! If you look at my blog I have a simple papaya ketchup with habanero that is pretty darn good.
      I love great cheese. This may be the week for Beer Cheese Soup.
      I try to limit carbs, though I do cheat.
      In any given week C. and I probably eat cauliflower, broccoli and green beans as a side.
      Tonight's dinner will be Vietnamese inspired. We'll see how it goes. I'll post about it as soon as I can.
      Any requests? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.
    • By Duvel
      In these challenging times, a full summer vacation is not an easy task. For the last 1.5 years we have been mostly at home with the clear plan to visit Catalonia (or more precise my wife’s family) latest this summer. And it looked good for a while. Unfortunately, the recent rise in case numbers in Spain have resulted in …
      OK, let’s skip this part. Long story short - my wife and me are fully vaccinated, as are >90% of the people we care about in Catalonia. After some discussion (after all, Germans tend to prefer to be on the safe side of things) we simply fueled up the car, got each a test (for the transit through France) and started to drive …
      After a leisurely 11h drive we arrived at a small fishing town somewhat north of Barcelona around 3.00am. We unloaded the car and my wife an the little one went straight to bed. 


      I found an expired beer in the elsewise pretty empty fridge and enjoyed the cool breeze on the terrace. Holidays, here we come …

    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.

      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women, including her, wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.

      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:

      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.

      The children don't get spared either

      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.


      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.

      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.

      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.

      On a nearby table is this

      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.

      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.

      Let the eating, finally, begin.
      In no particular order:

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato

      Bamboo Shoots


      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery

      Stir fried pork and beans

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)

      Pig Ears

      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.

      Stir fried Greens
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
      Roll on dinner time.
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...