We go to the fresh produce market in Blois every Saturday in Place Louis XII no matter what the weather. You never know what you’ll find! We arrive any time between 10 am and 11 am and park in the underground parking lot nearby.
Over the last 3 years and particularly since we moved here permanently six months ago, we have developed a set routine to include our favourite vendors.
In winter, we start with the oyster vendor and buy two dozen spéciales as these are our favourites. At 7.20 euro a dozen, they are considerably cheaper than the ones we used to buy in the 1st arrondissement in Paris. Our vendor and her husband live and raise their oysters in Charentes and come to Blois three days a week. Between them, they cover the Amboise market on Friday and Sunday mornings, two markets in Blois on Saturday morning and various selling points on Friday and Saturday afternoon, from the beginning of September to the end of April.
Next stop is the saucisson seller with local varieties such as deer and wild boar. Saucisson in French corresponds to dry sausage of the salami type as opposed to saucisse of the frankfurter type. Saucisson is one of our favourite appetizers.
The chicken and rabbit vendor comes next. Rabbit is one of Jean Michel’s specialities that we buy from time to time and have with chasselas grapes or prunes depending the season.
After that, we have the mushroom man. He works with a partner who grows button mushrooms (called Parisian in French) , shitake and oyster mushrooms. He loves joking and talking to each customer. He always wants to know what you are going to do with the mushrooms and selects them accordingly – very firm to be eaten uncooked, large if they are to be sliced, tiny to accompany a roast.
The next vendor is the organic baker. The vendors (a young man or a young woman) are not very friendly, but Jean Michel prefers their baguette with his oysters – I prefer the multi-grain bread I make myself.
A large self-serve fruit and vegetable stall comes next. The owner of the stall is a farmer himself and all the produce he sells is fresh and local. In between the cardboard boxes are little signs with philosophical quotes such as “Humility is like a pair of scales. The more you make it go down on one side, the higher it goes on the other”. The lady behind the scales writes everything down on a piece of xcrap paper and then adds it up. They also sell free-range eggs so we take along our empty cartons.
Next on the list is the Italian stall. It’s very popular so we always buy four types of ravioli and some tagliatelle and freeze them so we won’t have to queue as often. You can plunge the pasta directly into boiling water still frozen and cook it like fresh pasta. The stall is run by three generations and their produce comes directly from Italy.
In winter, we often buy scallops (coquille Saint Jacques in French) from a stall run by two young men. Their hands must be frozen by the end of the morning, after opening literally hundreds of scallops. For the last two or three weeks, a young woman has been present, cooking scallop kebabs on a gas-fired griddle plate. She has a little sample plate cut into small pieces with a couple of whole scallops. Jean Michel thinks they are for sampling too ! I explain to the woman but she just laughs and says “don’t worry”.
Now comes the best bit. The coffee stand. Not only can you buy coffee grains, you can also buy fresh espresso, tea and hot chocolate. We order our two cups of black espresso and hand over our empty packets to be refilled with colombie and déca (decaffeinated coffee). There’s the usual banter between the lady who serves the coffee and the man who owns the stall. He pitches in when it get busy but spends the rest of the time talking to all his mates who stop by.
We take our coffee to the trestle tables and benches behind the stall. It’s just started to rain so we appreciate the awning. By now the tables have filled up as it’s the weekly meeting place for a group called “On Va Sortir” (let’s go out) but there are still a couple of places left. We say hello to the others at our table and listen in on a conversation about the famous Chambord brocante held the day before during which it rained solidly.
They have a friend who had a stall. She suddenly arrives with her daughter and sits down in the space next to Jean Michel. We were very keen to hear about her “wet” experience. Rendez-vous in my next post to hear her story!