Food and wine

A friend recently told me of a cookery programme she had watched on UK television.  She was intrigued by a recipe for a flan made with Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois wine, and she was very keen to try it out.

We made a date for us to cook this together, and I watched the video, to see what it was all about.  The recipe comes from Hairy Bikers’ Bakeation (pronounced like vacation?), and was first shown on Television on April 24, 2014.  The show featured recipes for an apricot tarte tatin, brioche sausage rolls, praline brioche, and the flan de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois.  Out of those recipes, I will definitely try the apricot tarte tatin, next year when apricots are in season again.  I will include the video of the flan at the end of this post, and I’ll get to our flan experiment in a moment, but first a little about the Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois wine.

As its name implies, the wine is made from muscat grapes.  The Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois is produced in a small area around the little village of Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, which is located 12 km south-west of Saint Chinian.  The vineyards are on a limestone plateau at an altitude of 220 to 270 metres.  The grapes used in the production are a variety called petit grain, and indeed the individual grapes are very small.  As you approach the village, you’ll notice the vineyards where the plants seem to rise from a white soil.  The white colour comes from limestone rocks, bleached by the sun.  It is one of the many aspects of the “terroir” for this wine.

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Harvest of the muscat grapes usually takes place during the first half of September, and I was very lucky to catch some of it.  The vineyards above had already been harvested, so there were no grapes left.  But just past the cooperative winery in Saint-Jean I spotted a tractor and several people in a vineyard.

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All of the picking of the muscat grapes is done by hand.  I imagine that the grapes are too delicate and small to be picked by machine, although an engineer could probably find a solution if that is the problem.  Still, I like the fact that it is all hand-picked!

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The view of the trailer full of grapes was delicious, and the smell….  I leave you to imagine that :)!  The grapes were perfection, with tiny little spots of brown, typical for this grape variety.

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The lady in charge of the vineyard insisted that I take some grapes with me.  She fetched some secateurs, and proceeded to look for some choice bunches of grapes.  The very small, shrivelled up grapes were the ones I enjoyed best.  They tasted like sun-dried raisins, only better!

Next I went to the cooperative winery, where I quizzed the lady behind the counter.  The Cave Cooperative produces three different kinds of muscat wine. The Cuvee Petit Grain is the entry level muscat, with a nose of ripe fruit (apricot jam) and lime flowers, and a honey like finish. This wine is good with grilled chestnuts, blue cheese and apple tart.

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Next up is the Cuvee Selection, blended from the best batches of muscat of any one year.  The colour of this wine is somewhat paler than that of the Cuvee Petit Grain, and it has a strong nose of fresh fruit (mango and litchi) and thyme flowers, with an aftertaste reminiscent of fresh figs.  Just so you don’t think I’m making this up, the information comes from the official tasting notes :)!  This wine goes well with foie gras, melon, strawberry soup, and braised turnips from Pardailhan.

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The top-notch muscat is called Eclat Blanc, and of the three is the one I like best.  It has an incredibly pale colour, and a nose of lime flower, acacia, citronella and clementine.  There is a wonderful balance of sweet and acid, and it has great freshness and finesse.  Apparently you can drink this wine with your whole meal.  I don’t think I would though, as at 15% alcohol it is rather strong.

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The reason the muscat wines are so strong lies in their vinification.  The fermentation of the wines is stopped at a certain point by adding alcohol, which preserves some of the sugar present in the grape juice.  If the grapes are harvested a little earlier, and the wine is left to ferment naturally, you end up with a Muscat Sec, a dry muscat wine, which has the wonderful floral notes on the nose, but none of the sweetness when you drink it.  The cooperative winery produces a number of other wines apart from muscat, including a sparkling wine made with muscat sec, and red and rose wines.  The picture on the left shows a selection of bottles of muscat from the winery through the years, and the display in the picture on the right shows all wines currently for sale.

By now you’re probably wondering if we will ever get to the flan!  Yes, we will – we’re starting right now!!  The ingredients are simple:  milk, eggs, sugar, muscat, lavender honey, and orange zest.

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The muscat we used came from Domaine Sacre Coeur in Assignan – there are a number of independent producers of Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, in addition to the cooperative winery.  None of the preparation of the flan is very complicated.  You will find the entire recipe here.  Having watched the video and read the recipe, I’m relieved to see that they do not specify a non-stick pan for making the caramel in the recipe.  To my mind using a non-stick pan when cooking sugar is a total no-no – the temperature rises far too high, potentially damaging the non-stick finish, and releasing who-knows-what in the process.

First of all we made the caramel – in a heavy stainless steel pan.  The trick with caramel is to keep your nerves: it has to be a good colour, since it won’t get any darker during the cooking process which follows.  At the same time, it will continue to cook somewhat, once you have poured it into the tin, so you have to catch it at the right moment.  Here’s what mine looked like:

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Immediately after I took the picture I poured the caramel into the waiting brioche tin, and swirled it around.  The tin did get quite hot, so oven gloves or a cloth to hold the tin with are a very good idea.  And don’t get any caramel on your hands!

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At the same time as the sugar was cooking, we heated the milk and infused it with the orange zest and the lavender honey:

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And when the caramel was cooling in the tin and the milk sufficiently infused, we cracked the eggs into a bowl, beat them well with the muscat wine, strained the infused (and slightly cooled) milk onto the beaten eggs, and then poured all of it into the prepared brioche tin.

The tin was placed inside a cast iron casserole, and boiling water poured in to a height of two thirds up the side of the flan tin.  The flan required five minutes more cooking time than the recipe indicated, and it was covered with tinfoil part way through the cooking.

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A couple of days later I had dinner with my friends, and we had the flan for dessert.  Un-moulding it was a little nerve-wracking – would it come out OK and in one piece??

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The caramel showing around the tin is a good sign – it means that the flan has released.

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But will it be all in one piece and looking pretty??  Find out:

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Yes!!!  We did it :)  And I think it looks even prettier than the flan on the TV show, but then I am biased!!  The texture was lovely and silky, the taste was good, but I could not taste the muscat, and I felt that it could have been a little sweeter.  All in all it is a great dessert, and very easy to prepare once you have mastered the caramel.

I took a piece of flan home with me, since there was too much for the three of us to eat at one meal.  I ate it a couple of days later, and felt that the flavour had improved.  If you are tempted to make this, do plan ahead and leave it to sit in the fridge for a few days, I would say up to four days is good.  I will certainly make it again!

And here is the video (e-mail subscribers, please visit the blog site to watch the video):

Spinning a yarn

I may have mentioned before that the production of fabrics played a very important part in the local economy in days gone by.  In Saint-Chinian, fabric production ceased more or less after the devastating flood of 1873, but further north the textile industry continued to flourish until the middle of the 20th century.  Labastide Rouairoux celebrates its textile heritage each year on August 15 with the Fete du Fil.  At the height of the textile industry, 50% of the town’s 6000 inhabitants were employed in the various mills and associated trades.  Today, only one mill is still in operation, and the population of the town has dropped to around 1500 persons.

The town’s textile heritage has been preserved in the local museum, the Musee departemental du Textile, where the history of the town is shown through the manufacturing processes, as well as its association with some of the biggest names in Haute Couture. The museum is appropriately located in a former factory building, and on the occasion of the Fete du Fil the entrance was free!  To access the museum one has to cross the all-important river, and on the bridge I was greeted by two very colourful animals – projects from schools in the local area:

The textile industry established itself for a number of reasons in the area, the main being that there was the river (providing water for power, and for processing the the fabrics), and the second that the raw material, i.e. wool, was close at hand in the form of sheep.  This was one of the reasons for the school project – many of the schools in the local area had created their interpretation of a sheep – here’s a selection of some more them that I found dotted around the museum:

The ground floor of the museum is taken up with heavy machinery, such as the looms and other machines used to transform the raw materials into fabrics.  The loom below is a traditional wooden loom, and to the left of it is a frame for creating the warp. Neither would have been used in recent times for the industrial production of fabrics.

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There are numerous exhibits on this floor, all of them fascinating to me – I could have spent hours poring over them all.

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A number of volunteers were on hand to demonstrate some of the machines.  The carding machine, which prepared the fibers for spinning, was fascinating!  Raw wool of two different colours went in at one end, and was turned into “pre-thread” at the other end, ready for the spinning machine.

The disks of “pre-thread” were the put on the spinning machine, where they were turned into yarn, at an incredibly high speed :)!

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The same spinning machine was also used to make fancy yarns, by twisting together two or more strands of different threads at different tensions.  The variety of what was produced in Labastide at one time, seems endless.

Next to the spinning machine was another machine, which wound the threads onto the standard cardboard cones, which are still used in the textile industry today.

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The warping frames progressed from the simple wooden frame you saw next to the loom in the earlier picture, to enormous machines capable of creating the warp for a piece of cloth 600 metres long!

The white threads ended up on a loom which produced a fancy fabric – several different types of yarn are used in both the warp and the weft.

The coloured threads were used to produce a lovely striped fabric, on a loom which had come all the way from the US!

The machine in the picture below was used for quality inspection of the woven fabric – bright lights were used to show up any irregularities in the fabric.

 

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Winding the thread onto the bobbins, so that it could be used on the looms, was also done by an ingenious machine. The drums at the top would hold empty bobbins, which would be automatically dropped down, filled up and ejected!

The room next door showed a variety of finishing processes, such as dyeing, felting, brushing, shearing, and I’m sure there were some I have forgotten.

On the first floor was an exhibition of what all the thread and cloth could be turned into.  There were rows upon rows of fabric swatches, produced for the likes of Chanel, Courrege and Dior, at the forefront of Haute Couture.

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Some of the yarns were turned into knitwear, by famous designers such as Sonia Rykiel:

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And some of the fabrics became uniforms…

The museum also has a shop, where you can buy some of the fabrics woven in the museum.  It is a truly wonderful resource for anyone interested in textiles!

The last remaining mill in Labastide Rouairoux is called SARTISS, and today this factory produces woven fabrics from natural fibers for Les Toiles de la Montagne Noire.  You can see a little of the manufacturing process in this video (e-mail subscribers, please visit the site to watch the video):

The fabrics are made from cotton or a blend of linen and cotton, and not treated in any way.  They appear to be very firm and stiff, but will soften with use and last a very long time.  I have my eyes on some of the striped deck chair fabric, to give new life to an ancient deck chair which is lingering in my garden.

The factory also produces woolen blankets, with the wool from the Lacaune sheep, which are raised locally.

The visits to the museum and the factory shop of Les Toiles de la Montagne Noire were only part of the Fete du Fil – there was much more to be seen!!  Across the river from the museum was the Puces des Couturieres, the flea market of the seamstresses.  I didn’t have any expectations, but had I had any the event would have lived up to them :).  There were all kinds of goods on offer – I think you’ll get a good idea from the pictures:

I was very taken by the hand-woven carpets of La Main des Sables.  All the wool is dyed using plants and natural dye materials, and the carpets are woven in Morocco in the traditional fashion.  The colours are beautiful and the patterns are gorgeous, as you can see.

The village hall of Labastide hosted an exhibition of textile art, as well as several workshops on textile art and jewelery making.  There were demonstrations of lace-making, as well as an exhibition of a well-known brand of sewing machines, and there was Cafe Tricot, where you bring your knitting and join fellow knitters for a cup of coffee or tea :)!  Among the art on display were some fantastic pieces by Marie-Christine Hourdebaigt, using a variety of techniques to achieve incredible effects.

So, we’ve done the round of the whole of the Fete du Fil, and come to the end of our visit.  I do hope you enjoyed your day out!  If you are in the area on August 15 next year remember the fete will be on, and the rest of the year you can always visit the museum and take a walk around the town.  There is always something to discover!

2 Beings or not 2 Beings

This week’s post has been contributed by Annie Parker, my friend and trusted proof-reader, without whom my texts would be full of grammatical errors and mistakes.  Thank you so much for sharing your Commedia dell’Arte impressions with all of us, Annie!

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Saint-Pons-de-Thomière is a lovely place to visit.  Thus, when we saw posters and flyers for this performance, it took very little persuasion to convince us to go:

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Before I go any further, let me forewarn you that the photos you will find here will not be in any way up to the quality that you have come to expect in this blog.  These were taken with my little, outdated cellphone, and the first several were taken through the windshield of our moving car.  (Don’t worry!  I wasn’t driving!)

The drive from Saint-Chinian to St Pons is especially beautiful, because most of it takes you through the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Languedoc.  These pictures in no way come close to showing you how truly beautiful it is, but at least they’ll give you some concept of it:

And then, almost without transition, there we were in St Pons!

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A major reason that St Pons fascinates and attracts us is that there are entire sections where the sidewalks are made of marble – not just scraps and pebbles of marble, but slabs of incredibly beautiful marble. We looked in awe at these beautiful sidewalks, wondering whether perhaps we should have removed our shoes before walking on them, but in St Pons they seem to take them thoroughly for granted.

They even have a couple of marble benches, one of which is made of the wonderful red marble that comes from this area:

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After hunting around for a bit, trying to figure out exactly where the performance was taking place, we finally saw chairs set up in a lovely courtyard behind the Mairie, complete with toilet facilities

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as well as a mini “bistrot”, serving drinks and small things to eat:

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As you can see from the photo above, we got there quite early – the seats were empty – but not for long:

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The audience was having a great time, chattering away, but some of us who were looking at the stage noticed a rather comic character sneakily attempting to get our attention:

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(Note how few people actually are focussing on him!)  But ultimately the total audience was brought to attention by a woman making announcements – and then the show started in earnest.  Almost immediately, the – well, he was something between a buffoon and a clown – captured everyone’s attention by clambering off the stage, into the audience:

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Oh!  The tension and attention that creates — the great fear (at least on my part):  will I be the next victim?!

In case you were wondering about the title, “Etre Ou Ne Pas Etre”, the show was centred around Shakespeare soliloquies:

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But it was also what my husband referred to as “a two-character show with one actor” – and thus another aspect of “to be or not to be” was created:  as the play progresses, we discover that the comic character we have gotten to know a bit is a character created by an actor who has a dream of putting on a one-man show of the most important Shakespearean soliloquies.

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He is, however, having great difficulty finding anyone to back him in this endeavour.  In an attempt to invigorate his performance, he brings his voice down to a low, hoarse, croaking quality and throws on an old hat that he has discovered – thereby becoming the comic character that we have already gotten to know.

As the show progresses, there are physical tussles between the two characters (behind the screen), each trying to take control of the other, complete with bangs and booms; curtains jostling around, ‘showing’ the struggle ensuing behind them; hands leaping up above the screen or being pulled submissively back from between the curtains; with one or another of the characters periodically appearing to the audience, only to be dragged back behind the screen by the ‘other’ character.  It was a wonderful piece of pantomime!

In the end, the comic character submits to the actor . . . or does he?

The enthusiasm of the audience, with vigorous applause, punctuated by cries of “Bravo!” brought Luca Franceschi, the actor, comic, and creator of the show back for repeated curtain calls, all immensely deserved, as far as we were concerned.

Strangely, the drive back home seemed even more beautiful, possibly because of the different perspective . . . possibly because of the evening shadows . . . possibly because we had been emotionally opened up by the performance.  Fortunately, it was still light enough outside to take a couple of additional pictures.

Good bye, St Pons!  Thank you for a wonderful afternoon!

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Blues in the night

I seem to be on a roll about fetes at the moment, but my excuse is that a) it is still summer and b) that’s when the fetes are happening in Languedoc!!   This post is about an evening of music, wine and food at the cooperative winery in Saint-Chinian.  It takes place once a year, and it always coincides with the open day at the Cave Coop, as the cooperative winery is known locally.

I did not go to open day this year, since I’ve been several times before, but if you go to the next open day,  you will be able to visit the working side of the winery, which is normally closed to the public.  The inside looks not unlike a cathedral – incredibly tall, nave-like and with light streaming in through high windows at the end.  Instead of pews there are wine tanks everywhere!

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The reason I went inside the winery, before the fete started outside, was the unveiling of a picture.  Last year the cooperative winery started a project called L’Art en Cave. Under the project a contemporary artist is commissioned to paint a mural on one of the cement tanks in the winery, which is then used as the label on that year’s special cuvee. Here is a picture of the 2013 commission:

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This year Miss’Tic was commissioned to paint a mural on another tank, and there was a fair “buzz” before the unveiling, in the presence of the artist.  I’ve since learnt that Miss’Tic is an internationally recognised street art painter.

Miss’Tic has been creating her pictures with the help of stencils since 1985, and I found a few of her works on the walls around the cooperative winery, discreetly placed:

Before the unveiling there was a short speech, introducing the artist, and then a few words by the artist herself.  You can see they were having fun!

Then the moment came to pull on the string, to reveal the mural:

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And here it is:

The mural is also reproduced on this year’s Cuvee Miss’Tic

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A literal translation of the slogan on the picture would be “wine for a life without seed”, but the actual meaning is more along the lines of “wine for a life without problems”!! I’ve not tried that particular cuvee yet, so I can’t vouch for it:)!

After the unveiling there was of course a “verre d’amitie“, the all-important glass of wine. I joined my friends outside, who had found our allocated seats at one of the many tables, which had been set up in front of the winery.

The event is always well frequented by locals, and the wine grower members of the cooperative all work very hard each year, to make the event a success.  The band that evening was playing R&B music, and the food was all locally prepared.  Here’s a picture of the wine list:

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And here is the menu:

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The food on offer was as follows:

  • Mussels Languedoc style with a glass of white wine
  • Melon and mountain ham with a glass of rose
  • Grilled duck breast and sausage with vegetables, with a glass of red wine
  • Goat’s cheese with a glass of red wine
  • Pastries with a glass of muscat

With each course came a glass of wine, and you could buy a wine glass, with one filling included in the price of the glass.  You could of course bring your own glasses, which you had bought the year before…

The way it all worked is that tickets of a different colour for each course could be bought, either in advance at the winery, or on the night at a central till.  One part of the ticket would get you the wine, the other the food. For six wine tickets you would get a whole bottle.  And if you didn’t want to drink the regular wine, or weren’t hungry, you could just buy a regular bottle, pretty much at the shop price.

The mussels were cooked on great steel trays over an open fire, and they tasted absolutely delicious!

The sausages and duck breast were grilled over the same fire!

As the evening wore on, the atmosphere changed – the coloured lights started to twinkle magically :) .

Cheese was followed by dessert, and by then the light was getting a little too low for pictures.  The band was playing great music, and the whole evening was just wonderful!

Don’t miss this evening if you are in St Chinian in early August!

Lazy Sunday afternoon

Looking for a little diversion, one Sunday afternoon, I found myself at the Marche des Potiers, the potters’ market, in Saint Pons. The drive across the mountains was, as always, beautiful, the weather sunny and warm, and on arrival in Saint Pons I found a perfect parking spot – what could be better!!?? :)

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The market had been set up on the Place du Forail, in the shade of the plane trees.  The first stand which I came to had enormous jars and vases for sale.

The tallest of these pots came up to my collarbone!!  I wondered what the marks on the inside of the pots were from – you can see them well on the light green pot.  A nearby sign gave me a clue:

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They were in fact formed over a core made from rope!!  Here’s another example where you can see the marks of the rope particularly well!  And the wooden disks are part of the framework, around which the rope is coiled to make up the core.  Unfortunately I was too late for the demonstration of the entire technique.  Next time I’ll know to get there earlier!

On my way around the market I saw many beautiful objects – and I was sorely tempted at almost every stand!!

There was a great cross-section of techniques and styles, from simple earthenware to porcelain, from works fired in an electric kiln to works fired in a wood-fired kiln, from regular tableware to very artistic pieces.

After a leisurely walk around the market I made up my mind to buy something from two stalls – any more would have been subversive of my cupboard space :)!

Fanette Castelbou’s stand caught my eye because of the shapes and colours of her pottery.

There was something about the surface texture which made me want to pick up all the pieces and feel them.  They were beautiful to touch and to hold, and surprisingly light in weight.  I bought two of the larger mugs, the ones right in the centre, with the vertical stripes.  Fanette’s atelier is called Aux Grès de Fanette and on her website you can find pictures of many of her pots.

The other potter, who I had hoped would be there, is called Fernando Gonzalez Urrejola, of Poterie de la Flayssière.  I met Fernando some years ago, at the Saint Pons pottery market, and at that time I bought some beautiful bowls for my early morning tea from him.  Unfortunately, one of the bowls got broken, so I was very pleased to be able to replace it!!  Like Fanette, Fernando works mainly with stoneware clay, but his shapes and glazes are totally different.  You’ll get a good idea of his work by visiting his website, or better still, his workshop!

So there you have it – my pottery fix for this summer :)!!

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There are pottery markets all over France, almost throughout the year.  You can find out more about dates and locations on the website of the National Collective of Ceramists.

To round off the day, I met up for drinks and tapas with a group of friends in the village of Assignan.  In early July a wine and tapas bar, La Petite Table de Castigno had opened in this sleepy village, and I was pleased to be able to try it out!

The centre of Assignan has had a complete makeover this past spring, with the roads all being paved with limestone blocks.  Where there had only been cars parked before, there are now trees, tables and sun umbrellas.

The food was imaginative and tasty, the wine nicely chilled, and the atmosphere was fun!

Everything at the wine bar has been carefully designed and styled – all the colours are based on shades of wine!  Even the toilets are amazing!

The wine bar is open every day except Wednesday from 11:30 to 15:00 and from 18:00 to 21:30.  It’s best to book as space is limited:  +33 763 265 517.

Oh, and when you go, tell them you saw them mentioned on my blog! :)

Summer nights …

… are perfect for spending at a concert or a show in the open air.  I recently visited a few such events and want to share two with you.  The first was a show called “Off”, which was performed in the village of Causses-et-Veyran.  Last year, that village hosted another spectacle, which I wrote about here.

This year’s offering was a mixture of mime and acrobatics, and it was incredibly touching.  But before I get started on the show, I have to tell you a little about the food.  I’d gone to Causses-et-Veyran with friends and we had left ourselves plenty of time for a bite or two to eat.  Tables and chairs had been set up under the trees, the tables decked out with brightly coloured paper table cloths.  There were three stands: La Carriole Gourmande was selling savoury tarts and quiches, the stand next door was offering grilled duck & fries, and the Caravane cafe had all kinds of drinks, with or without caffeine.

We went for quiches from the Carriole Gourmande, followed by pain perdu (French toast or eggy bread) with caramelised apples.   The children also had a crepe, and the adults shared a couple of the yummy looking chocolate cakes – they tasted as good as they looked :).

As night fell, more and more spectators began to assemble, ready to take their seats.  The stage was very simply set:  a trampoline, an upturned plastic dustbin, and what looked like a metal locker, lying on its side.

When the seats began to fill up, the atmosphere took on something very special, something that felt so much like summer!

P1110777The show “Off” was inspired by the book “The man who mistook his wife for a hat” by Oliver Sacks.  The personalities on stage all have one thing in common:  they all need to express themselves through speaking, but none of them is able to do so.  Instead, they communicate their frustrations and emotions through physical expression and movement.

The show was very intense, thought-provoking and touching.  I took a video of some of it for you (e-mail subscribers, please visit the blog website to watch the video):

The still pictures from the evening are unfortunately not all that great, because of the low light levels and the capabilities of my camera, but I hope they will give you a little flavour.

At the end of the show, the five actors were very warmly applauded;  they looked exhausted, but ever so happy, and they had every reason to be.

P1110816P.S.  in case you are wondering, the “golden” effect on the trampoline is achieved with….. corn flakes!!

Summer wouldn’t be summer for me without a visit to Chateau de Mus, near Murviel les Beziers, for one of their concert evenings.  The concerts are part of the Festival Les Nuits de la Terrasse et del Catet, which was taking place for the 14th time this year.

Chateau de Mus is a very romantic location,  and there has been a stronghold on the site since at least 800 BC.  The current Chateau was built in 1848, in the Renaissance style, and it is surrounded by a mature park with ancient cedar and pine trees.

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The beautiful facade of the Chateau is a perfect backdrop for a concert stage, and the park is absolutely perfect for a picnic!

Tables and chairs had been dotted about the park, a little away from the seating area in front of the stage.  I had arranged to meet a number of friends, and everyone brought something to share and eat.

We got there quite early, so “bagged” a great table – as you can see, it got quite busy later on!

For those who had not brought their own picnics, there were a variety of food stalls  to choose from.  We managed very well without the stalls, and in the course of the evening we ate our way pretty much through everything we had brought :).  Sorry, no food pictures this time, it all got a little out of hand :D !

The concert that evening was in two parts:  first up was Harold Lopez Nussa on piano and keyboard with his Trio of musicians:

 

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This performance was followed, after a brief interval, by the Shai Maestro Trio:

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The evening was perfect, the music very good, the food and company fantastic!!  What more could one ask for?

 

Making a dash for it

This year, the Fete du Cru Saint Chinian took place on July 20 – the Sunday after Bastille Day.  As the poster hinted, it was a jolly occasion, and to my mind, a fete not to be missed!  The Fete du Cru is a once-a-year happening, where the producers of AOC St Chinian wines have a chance to meet the public en-masse.  I have previously written about the “wine” part of this Fete, and you can find the post here.

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On Sunday morning, all 60 stands were manned by either wine makers or local food producers. My favourite goat’s cheese producer was there – Chevrerie de Combebelle – with a great selection of cheeses.

The Confrererie des Chevaliers du Saint-Chinian were inducting new members into their chapter, and they had invited other Conferereries from the area for the occasion.  All were attired in sumptuous robes – I can only imagine just how warm it must get under those robes on a hot summer’s day!  Each Confrererie has its own distinctive colours and the robes are generally designed to echo those colours.

Here are some details from the robes:

The Pena du  Languedoc were keeping up the festive atmosphere with music (e-mail subscribers, please visit the site to watch the video):

At noon members of the Rugby Club of St Chinian were offering a sit-down meal in the gardens of the town hall.  Everything had been prepared, the tables and chairs all set out under the trees, and people were getting ready to take their places when …  it started to rain!!! :(.  The rain wasn’t heavy, but there was thundering in the distance, and it looked as though we’d all get soaked if we stayed outside.  Some quick thinking was done on the part of the organizers, and tables and chairs were carried into the cloisters :) .  We decided to make a dash for it too!

 

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Outside, the cooking continued apace, despite the rain:  huge pans of potatoes and meat were cooking over a fire, the stirring being done with a very clean-looking shovel!

Once we’d taken our seats in the cloisters, the volunteers started to get going with the service.  Everyone received a small plate with a nectarine and a piece of individually wrapped camembert, a set of plastic cutlery, and a plastic cup.  Someone else came by and dropped off baguettes.  We were waiting for the wine, until we realised that we would be helping ourselves to that.   Boxes of wine had been set up, along with a stash of clean and empty bottles, so we could draw off any colour we liked :).

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The first course came in a square dish – a salad of fresh tomatoes, tuna fish, olives and egg – very tasty!

We’d seen the main course cooking outside, so there were no surprises to find potatoes and pork ( :) ) on our plates, seasoned with garlic and parsley!

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We followed that with the cheese and dessert (nectarine) which had already been served.  The whole meal was very simple but delicious, and there was a great atmosphere in the cloisters!

All the time we were eating and drinking, the wine tasting continued in the main square!

See you there next year, perhaps??