29 Dec

ALK green in Carpentras market

In the summer, Carpentras market is a sight to behold. From the independent fruit and veg growers just outside the medieval wall to the artisanal soap merchant at the top of the town, in the cooling shade of the plane trees, there is everything you could want and even things you never knew you needed. The sheer size of this market is simply mind-boggling, and the freshness and diversity of the produce on offer staggering: cheese, meat, fish, fruit, vegetable, local olive oil and wine, and so much more. There are even hardware stalls in case you forgot the emergency triangle for your car.

The last time we went there, I didn’t buy said triangle, but some delicious saucisson that we had on the terrace that same evening, alongside some gorgeous olives, tapenade, and of course a bottle of the delicious local rosé. We also bought figs, nectarines and the biggest frisée salad I had ever seen.

But the purchase I was most proud of was some gorgeous crockery, which was the right shade of green, henceforth known as ALK green. It was love at first sight: bowls, trays, coffee ‘glasses’ and serving plates, I simply could not resist and could have bought the lot. I also had a good chat with the stallholder, and she even threw in a few pieces as a present, which made my day. She had a real passion and a deserved pride for her product, which, as it turns out, was the best reason to visit Carpentras market that day. It is a passion she shares with all stallholders there. That’s why I’m sure I will go back to Carpentras market for more ALK green.

Du vert ALK au marché de Carpentras

L’été, le marché de Carpentras vaut une visite. Des maraîchers indépendants au pied du mur médiéval aux marchands de savons artisanaux en haut de la ville, sous l’ombre fraîche des platanes, on y trouve tout ce qu’on veut et même certaines choses don st vous ignoriez le besoin. L’étendue du marché est époustouflante, la fraîcheur et diversité des produits à votre disposition hallucinantes: fromages, viandes, poissons, fruits, légumes, huile d’olive et vins de la région, et tellement plus. Il y a même des quincailliers si vous avez oublié le triangle d’urgence pour la voiture.

Lors de ma dernière visite, je n’ai pas acheté le dit triangle, mais un savoureux saucisson dévoré le soir même sur la terrasse, avec quelques superbes olives, de la tapenade et bien sûr une bouteille du délicieux rosé local. Nos autres achats: des figues, quelques nectarines et la plus grosse frisée que j’aie jamais vue.

Mais l’acquisition dont je suis le plus fier: quelques pièces de vaisselle verte, exactement de la bonne couleur, à partir de ce jour connu sous le nom de ‘vert ALK’. J’ai tout acheté: bols, plateau, verres à café et assiettes, je n’ai simplement pas pu résister et j’ai presque acheter tout le stock! J’ai aussi papoté avec la patronne, et elle m’a même donné quelques pièces en cadeau, la meilleure nouvelle de la journée. Sa passion, ainsi que sa fierté à la qualité de ses produits étaient évidentes, et la rencontrer fut la meilleure raison de visiter le marché ce jour-là. Une passion qu’elle partage avec tous les marchands présents. C’est pour ça que je sais que je retournerai au marché de Carpentras pour plus de vert ‘ALK”.


20 Dec

Pleasurable dilemmas

A little while ago, I met my good friend E in town. As we hadn’t seen each other for a while, we’d decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather to visit Oxford Street and do some shopping. When lunchtime came I found out, to my great surprise, that E had never experienced the delights of Selfridge’s Brass Rail Brasserie.

Coming back to simple pleasures, this one is one of my favourites. Explaining the choices to E, I salivated in anticipation of the salt beef on rye I was going to have (with pickle on the side for me, coleslaw for E). As it sounds like I knew what I was going to have before I got there, where’s the dilemma, I hear you ask?

Which mustard to choose, of course. American, sweet and brown, French, smooth and mellow, or English, colourful and strong? I am not ashamed to say that I opted for a great lashing of Dijon, enough of it to get up my nose and make my eyes water, but a perfect complement to the salt beef. E went for American, preferring the mellower flavour, but delicious it tired out to be, too.

So, there we are, a pleasurable dilemma leading to a simple lunch with a dear friend. Who could ask for anything more?

11 Dec

A taste of my youth

Last September, as I was browsing the aisles of the local supermarket (well, ok, I was looking for the biggest jar of Nutella I could find), I ‘fell’ on the sweets section. There, a familiar pink and yellow packet caught my eye. Carambar! Wow, now, that’s a blast from the past, I can tell you. What I can’t tell you is when was the last time I actually had one of them. Very nearly 20 years ago, give or take a couple of months, I would say.

These excessively chewy caramel sticks are delicious and ridiculously moreish. The only problem with them is that you simply cannot actually chew on them, as they’d pull your teeth out. So you have to be patient and suck on them. There are two main methods for this. You can unwrap one end of the stick and start there, feeling the caramel melt and stretch or, like me, you can fold the stick in half and stuff the whole thing in your mouth. Hmmmmmm.

The added bonus to the Carambar sticks are the jokes. Found on the inside of the wrapper and sent in by, it seems, young fans, they are simply terrible. If I were to explain how bad these are, I could only compare them to Christmas crackers jokes… Here is an example:

Qu’est-ce qu’une catapulte à salade?

Un lance roquette

(Rusties, drop me an e-mail and I’ll explain!)