Thursday, April 16, 2009

Friday Photo Shoot Outs: Local food & restaurants

I like Barry's and Si's and Reggie's contributions to the My Town Friday Photo Shoot Outs so much I decided to join up. Now I've got to get around to all the other participants! Every week there's a theme and we go out for a fresh look at our local communities.

So Hello. I'm an American living in the agro-industrial heart of central France. For this week's project I'd hoped to range a little farther than just-down-the-street, but the weather has not been at all cooperative. Next time!

Aubière is a small suburb of Clermont-Ferrand, and in the town center has very little to offer in the way of dining out. There are two restaurants in the pedestrian sector, neither of which I've been to, neither of which if French. The restaurant on the main square is open for lunch but not for dinner. In fact, the only ready-made food available in the evening is from the pizza truck that comes around Tues-Weds-Thurs. Darn good pizza. And there's a new kebab place, right next to the church.

There are three bars on the square, and three or four more on side streets. They open early and close early. Not a lot of nightlife in Aubière! Not in old Aubière that is – to the north the town limits include a vast semi-industrial and commercial area. There, there are chain restaurants and hotels and a multiplex movie complex, McDonald's. I don't go there to dine (last bus home at 7:35).

Chinese takeout truck at the Sunday market. Below, my favorite of the bakeries. From the line, which is reasonable just now, it looks like everybody's favorite.

Anyway, there's plenty to eat in Aubière. We have four or five bakeries, two butchers, a greengrocer, a portugese wine shop, and a convenience store. No cheesemonger unless it's on one of the little pedestrian alleys and I haven't discovered it yet. Take a tour around the market Sunday morning and there's every fresh food you need, and many stands with ready-made specialties. Roast chickens, meat dishes, paella, squid in a tomato-cream sauce, aligot and truffade (potatos with garlic and cheese: truffade is chunky and has onions, aligot is tricked-out mashed potatos) This is where I do my food shopping. I bring my own egg cartons. I tell the cheese people how much to cut off for me, and they'll let me taste it before I make my choice (though beware all the little taster plates on offer – taking a bit means if you like it you'll be buying some – it's not graze as you go!). At the roast chicken carts they take orders for geese, ducks, and rabbits too.

Tunisian treats. They sell ten kinds of olives, too.

One vat of paella, one vat of squid in tomato sauce.

Oysters for the Easter feast.

One of the roast chicken stands. Below the chickens on rotating spits there's a trough of potatos catching the drippings.

A vat of aligot, next to dozens of sausages mixed with onions and peppers.

So by and large, the local specialty is Fresh. You can now drive to the hypermarket down the road and get all your shopping done in one go, and save money doing it. But many people like to walk around the market with their baskets over their arms, picking and choosing, and, if not always dealing directly with the producers of what they buy, at least cutting out a step or two of middlemen. I like that. I like buying my honey this morning from the guy who keeps the bees, my fungus-covered cheese from the maker, my eggs laid by chickens not more than half an hour away from here. The strawberries did come from Morocco, but I just couldn't resist, and local fruit is still at the flowering stage.

There might be a good coat of fungus on the outside of the disks of St Nectaire, but it's great cheese. And you can taste it to choose the one you like - mild, more 'done', very 'done'. I like it in the middle.

You can taste the honey before deciding, too.



gigi said...

Oh my Markets, Bakeries, honey!! Oh, I love it so much!!!!
I just need to visit NOW!

J9 said...

I love fresh markets, and wish I had one in my town, as it is, I need to go to a nearby town to get fresh from the producer products. I miss that weekly trip, but I'm going to have to add it back to my schedule after reading your post - welcome to Friday Shoot Outs!

Gordon said...

I would love doing shopping from the producer. I would love to visit your area. It reminds me of my days of leave in the navy, visiting the local towns aroud the ports we anchored at. Thanks so much for the great post. Gordon
Visit my blog and link to as many of the group as you can and let them know that you have posted.

sciencegirl said...

thanks for the commentary, everyone! I'll get over to the other Friday Shooters once I get out of the airports and de-jetlagged (up 25 hours so far and I'm still not really in Denver)

GigiSxm said...

I enjoyed your post, now i'm in the mood for Paela

Barry said...

Now that's the way to live! And it all looks delicious!

I just have to get back to France one day.

sciencegirl said...

For Barry, and Gordon, and all my blogfriends who'd like to visit, I've got a guest room and would love to host you!
Come on over and we'll eat our way across the country and on into Italy and Spain. And other points east, west, north or south.