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A week in the Dauphine


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For the last week I was a guest at a friends home which is located near the village of Mens which is one hour southeast of Grenoble in the Dauphine. This is not a region that I knew anything about (other then a vague idea of gratins), so it was a pleasant experience to have no expectations other then having a few relaxing days with friends.

The view from the breakfast table. The trees in the forground were frequently shaken by visting red squirrels and crossbills.

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The familys home was full of nut and fruit trees/shrubs. A good part of the this is preserved or turned into booze. I must admit that I went a little fruit crazy and ate most of their current crop...

Sour (griotte) cherries. These looked like balls of wax when on the tree.

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For my crime of eating the wintr fruit supply, I attempted to make a clafoutis. It is quite a scary experience cooking for 12 French persons in their own home.

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There are two markets in Mens, the saturday conventional covered market pictured here and a tuesday organic market that is situated in the town square. There is pressure on the organic stalls to move to covered market, but so far they are resisting. The locals look on in interest.

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Both markets are relatively small, but with produce as good as the stalls sell there is no real need for multiples.

Veg

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Figs et al.

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I ate myself into a stupor after I discovered the excellence of the combination of fresh ripe figs and a glass or so of Pineau des Charentes.

The sausage stall. There was a hugh variety here, I bought wild boar, walnut and donkey sausages.

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This area of France is near to the epicentre of stuffed pasta. While most food travelers in France are familar with ravioli a la Nicoise, they made not have heard of Ravioles du Dauphine (discussed later) or another regional speciality "Tourtons". These are pasta squares stuffed with cheese, spinach or prunes (amoughst others) then fried. I have seen similar items in Liguria and Nice.

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These can be eaten as is or as part of a salad etc.

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Adam, great job. It all looks fantastic. I am not particularly knowledgable of this area. It certainly looks to be knowledge worthy though. What kind of figs are those? They look more elongated than what I am used to.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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Great photos, but I've been staring at one of them for several minutes trying to make sense of what I was seeing. The labels on the baskets of sausages in the foreground of the photo seem to be in English and refer to cheese! What's up with that?

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Adam, great job. It all looks fantastic. I am not particularly knowledgable of this area. It certainly looks to be knowledge worthy though. What kind of figs are those? They look more elongated than what I am used to.

They look similar to the variety I know as "Brown Turkey", but are more elongated and have a better flavour.

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Great photos, but I've been staring at one of them for several minutes trying to make sense of what I was seeing.  The labels on the baskets of sausages in the foreground of the photo seem to be in English and refer to cheese!  What's up with that?

These saucisson actually have chunks of cheese in them. As to the English, my guess is that this is one of those 'travelling' stalls that you even see in French markets in the UK. I imagine that "cheese" is put there on the label as there is a good chance that English speakers will not know what "beaufort" etc signify. Or maybe they just knew I was comming.

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I'm afraid that we only had one restaurant meal for the week and this was a quick lunch in Grenoble on the way to Chartreuse.

This is a €23 meal, which also included a selection of local cheese. A good example of what is great about food in France and why I rarely eat out in Edinburgh.

Entrees:

Rabbit terrine with prune

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Charentais melon with vin de noix. This is walnut country and many dishes come with products from this tree. The melons were excellent at this time of the year. Sometimes they are served with port which I don't like, but much to my surprise the vin de noix combination worked rather well

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Gratin of Ravioles

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Mains:

Lamb Tagine

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Veal with ravioles and a morel cream sauce

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There were numerous other dishes on offer including ombre cheveliar.

All in all great value.

What was slightly odd was the amount of pizza places (Grenoble is relatively close to the Italian border) that sold terrible looking pizza for a similar price that seemed to be packed with tourists and locals alike, compared to the restuarant that we ate at.

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One trip we made was to visit the farm of some friends of our hosts. They live in the Chartreuse valley in Savoie which is about an hours drive north from Mens

The farm and the region in general is dominated by the very impressive Massif de la Chartreuse

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The owners of the farm originally had no farming background or experience, but after putting in a great deal of effort and sacrifice they now have a beautiful productive farm and a wonderful, if very demanding, life style.

At this time of the year the goats graze a meadow during the day and are put in the barn overnight. They are milked morning and night.

The goats comming in from the meadow. The goats are rotated in a set pattern, as the are fussy eaters and wuld only eat certain plants if given the chance. In the meadow it self I noted numerous herbs including; oregano, mint, thyme, yarrow, gentian, strawberries and violets amoungst others.

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The milking

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I was given a tour of the cheese making facilities, but I was too excited to take any photos, sorry. Essentially two main tymes of cheese are made, a straight chèvre which the milk is cultured before adding rennet and moulding into various shapes and aging.

Chèvre at different stages of aging.

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A larger tomme is also made. This is a 'cooked' cheese, fresh milk has rennet added to it and the curds are heated to 30.C befoer being strained and moulded. The temperature and humidity of the the agin rooms for the two cheeses is also different.

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To say thank you to my hosts for their generosity I nipped down to the Saturday market and bought some ingredients to make a meal. As I was too scared to cook a traditional French meal and due to the ingredients avalible I cooked a vaguely North African meal.

Grilled peppers (including an excellent green type called 'beef hearts'), zucchini and braised carrots, grilled eggplant gratin with tomato; chicken tagine with coco beans, olives, lemon and honey; potatoes roasted with lemon and garlic; baked lamb stuffed with apricots, walnuts, barberries and onion and couscous.

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The lamb was very, very good. Given the amount of damage I saw to the alpine plants when hiking that the sheep had done, I was unsure about buying the lamb at all though.

The coco beans after shelling, but before cooking. The beans become a uniform tan colour after cooking, but taste excellent.

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Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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Adam, when you were at Massif de la Chartreuse you were probably 20 miles from where I got married.

Can you tell me the name of the restaurant in Grenoble? I am always looking for more options there.

There actually is great pizza in Grenoble, probably the best in France. Grenoble has many Italians and the highest # of La Cosa Nostra in France.

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DCMark - I didn't mean to imply that all the Italian places in Grenoble were poor, just the places I saw. My friends tell me that the Italian population is quite large there and the food is also good. Sorry, bad expression by me.

I don't know the name of the restaurant at all sorry. It is in a square at the back of a large church (catherdral?) near a large park....

What also looked very good in Grenoble was the North African restuarants. I only had time to grab a mint tea though.

You know I think that the these areas are one of the most beautiful areas of France that I have seen. I have many alpine flower shots (some of which can be made into local booze, so I will post these later), birds animals etc. It seems that there things of beauty on all scales in this region. You were very lucky.

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What a beautiful report Adam!

I'm curious, is ombre chevalier a specialty of the Savoie? Is it a type of fresh water trout? Or salmon maybe?

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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What a beautiful report Adam!

I'm curious, is ombre chevalier a specialty of the Savoie? Is it a type of fresh water trout? Or salmon maybe?

Ombre Chevalier is the name of the local form of Arctic Charr (Salvelinus alpinus). These fish are salmonids, so closely related to salmon and trout. They also have the most northern distribution of all fresh water fish and they are highly varible in form, there may be several types of non-interbreeding morphs in the same lake for instance. The version found in Scotland looks like this and tastes similar to trout, if paler in flesh and a richer flavour.

For added confusion Ombre is the French name for another salmonid, known in English as a "Grayling". These taste of thyme (hence the name Thymallus arcticus I guess) and I am going fishing for them tomorrow. :smile:

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What a beautiful report Adam!

I'm curious, is ombre chevalier a specialty of the Savoie? Is it a type of fresh water trout? Or salmon maybe?

Ombre Chevalier is the name of the local form of Arctic Charr (Salvelinus alpinus). These fish are salmonids, so closely related to salmon and trout. They also have the most northern distribution of all fresh water fish and they are highly varible in form, there may be several types of non-interbreeding morphs in the same lake for instance. The version found in Scotland looks like this and tastes similar to trout, if paler in flesh and a richer flavour.

For added confusion Ombre is the French name for another salmonid, known in English as a "Grayling". These taste of thyme (hence the name Thymallus arcticus I guess) and I am going fishing for them tomorrow. :smile:

Thanks for the info and Bonne peche! I'll look forward to seeing a picture :wink:

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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I can't swear to it, but I seem to recall an omble chevalier in Régis Marcon's Auberge des Cimes that was white fleshed as well as in a cream sauce.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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I suspect that like other salmonids, the flesh colour is diet dependent. Certainly the Scottish charr have ivory coloured flesh.

It's always a treat to have some reassurance one is not necessarily delusional, in spite of what others say. :biggrin:

I have also, albeit rarely, had white salmon. Although I'm suspicious of its veracity, there is the story of some guy who bought a salmon cannery sight unseen and discovered they were canning white salmon. He feared it would not sell, but then got the bright idea of prominently labeling the cans with the following message. "This Salmon Guaranteed not to Turn Pink in the Can."

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Great photos, but I've been staring at one of them for several minutes trying to make sense of what I was seeing.  The labels on the baskets of sausages in the foreground of the photo seem to be in English and refer to cheese!  What's up with that?

These saucisson actually have chunks of cheese in them. As to the English, my guess is that this is one of those 'travelling' stalls that you even see in French markets in the UK. I imagine that "cheese" is put there on the label as there is a good chance that English speakers will not know what "beaufort" etc signify. Or maybe they just knew I was comming.

Interesting that there are enough Brits in the area to justify that. I wouldn't have thought so, but I guess they're partout.

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