Saturday, January 10, 2015

Grasse truffle fair

One of the traditions I was introduced to while living here on the French Riviera is attending the annual local truffle fair. It is a 2-day event and takes place in Grasse on the Saturday and moves to the village of Le Rouret on Sunday. We like the Grasse venue better since it is hosted by the Relais et Châteaux Bastide Saint-Antoine. The restaurant’s renowned chef Jacques Chibois and his kitchen do a great job with their sampling of truffle dishes for just Euro 4.5 a plate. You can opt for the gourmet truffle lunch for Euro 130 p.p., as many of the finely turned out guests do. But not us. I am not even convinced I would want the full on truffle lunch. 






The dish that gets the crowds lined up each year, and the best without a doubt, is the truffle soup. Apart from its rich wonderful taste, you experience different textures from its velvety smooth base, the crunchy truffle shavings and the soft cubes of foie gras. Really yummy. I had two bowls but my friend Terry went for a record three. This is a once a year treat so nobody is counting and hunger doesn’t really enter into the picture. 










There is also a wheel of brie, filled with truffles, and served on crusty bread. As we were debating our choices, chef Chibois himself came out and advised on how thick the bread should be (very thick). 






The other 2 dishes I love are the ‘croque monsieur a la truffe’ and then a very creamy ‘puree de truffe’ (creamy mashed potatoes with truffles). I love savory dishes so all the truffles infused desserts were easy to pass up.



As we had our vin chaud (not really necessary as it was almost 60 degrees Fahrenheit) in hand, we wandered over towards the aromatic truffle stands and watched everyone sniffing the black tubers like dogs.


 I have done a few truffle hunts in my time and they are good fun but I think it's really all about the dog. I have no idea if a few truffles get planted in advance, just in case, but I get a kick out of watching the dog go to work. And sometimes get distracted as they go off course. In Italy once our truffle hunter told us that he named his dog Maria as it was the same name as his mistress and he would get in less trouble if he shouted her name. Probably a story for the tourists.


There are other stands besides those dedicated to truffles, all offering local produce such as olive oil, jams, wine and produce (I always buy clementines), Our usual tradition is to buy a bottle of wine from one of the producers and take our truffle feast to the lower garden area of the hotel and enjoy the time with friends and our tasty treats. A few of the group have eaten at the Bastide and all had a great dining experience so I guess that goes on my list of eventual things to do. To get the best deal in France you have to go at lunch and choose the fixed menu. You might have a 50% savings at a place like La Bastide. Except of course on truffle day.

Every year a local artist designs and draws a poster to advertise and immortalize the fair (this is the 19th year). This year's cartoonist came to sign the posters with his 'Je Suis Charlie' tag. Falling only a few days after the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris, it was quite sobering. 




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