FOOD & WINE

Think of a par­tic­u­lar food or drink, and you will prob­a­bly find a town or vil­lage in France that holds a fête in its hon­our. Here is an ap­petis­ing se­lec­tion

France - - Contents - Karen Tait

Our guide to food fes­ti­vals, plus a recipe and restau­rant re­view.

FÊTE DU CHAROLAIS, CÔTE-D’OR The fa­mous creamy-white Charolais cat­tle are named af­ter an area in Bur­gundy, and you have a chance to see the breed on its home ground at a fes­ti­val in Saulieu on 18-20 Au­gust. The pro­gramme in­cludes com­pe­ti­tions, tast­ings, danc­ing and craft dis­plays, eques­trian shows and a gala din­ner. Tel: (Fr) 3 80 64 77 49 cote­dor-tourisme.com

FÊTE DU SU­CRE, BAS-RHIN The town of Erstein is home to a large sugar fac­tory, which is all the ex­cuse needed to put on a fes­ti­val, be­ing held on 26-27 Au­gust. Food stalls and con­certs are much in ev­i­dence, but the main at­trac­tion is a pa­rade of flo­ral floats – as well as one made en­tirely out of sugar. Tel: (Fr) 3 88 98 14 33 grandried.fr

FÊTE DU LAIT, NORD

The vil­lage of Le Ques­noy in the Aves­nois re­gional park of north-east­ern France high­lights the area’s dairy pro­duc­tion at the Fête du Lait on 17 Septem­ber. At­trac­tions in­clude a dis­play of 150 lo­cal Bleue du Nord cat­tle, milk tast­ings, an or­ganic food mar­ket and mu­sic. On a more un­usual note, girls from lo­cal vil­lages take part in a com­pe­ti­tion to find ‘Miss Pro­tein’. Tel: (Fr) 3 27 20 54 70 www.touris­menord­pas­de­calais.fr FÊTE DE LA COQUILLE SAINT JAC­QUES, CAL­VA­DOS Seafood en­thu­si­asts will gather in the small re­sort of Villers-sur-mer on Nor­mandy’s Côte Fleurie for the an­nual scal­lop cel­e­bra­tion. The Fête de la Coquille Saint Jac­ques, which is tak­ing place on 28-29 Oc­to­ber, fea­tures

a large mar­ket where vis­i­tors can chat to fish­er­men and pick up a va­ri­ety of shell­fish at dis­count prices. There are also wine tast­ings, mu­sic and danc­ing. Tel: (Fr) 2 31 87 01 18 www.villers-sur-mer.fr

BORDEAUX S.O GOOD, GIRONDE

The gas­tro­nomic her­itage of south-west France, in par­tic­u­lar its seafood, is be­ing show­cased at the Bordeaux S.O Good fes­ti­val from 17-19 Novem­ber. The main venues are the Hangar 14 ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tre in the Quai des Chartrons be­side the River Garonne, and the Palais de la Bourse. High­lights in­clude a huge pro­duce mar­ket, gourmet trails, a ban­quet night, and demon­stra­tions by lead­ing chefs. Tel: (Fr) 5 56 79 51 53 bor­deaux­so­good.fr

If you are pass­ing through Lon­don’s Eus­ton or King’s Cross sta­tions (home to Eurostar) and have time to spare and a hunger for au­then­tic French food, I ad­vise tak­ing a short stroll to March­mount Street in Blooms­bury. Here you will find Bon Vi­vant, a re­laxed French brasserie of­fer­ing break­fast, lunch and even ‘drunch’ (a bot­tom­less cock­tail brunch, ideal for lazy week­ends) as well as din­ner.

We were there for le dîner so kicked off with cock­tails. My choice of the sig­na­ture Dirty Pink (gin, lemon syrup, Cham­bord rasp­berry liqueur and egg white) was rather se­duc­tive, as was his­self’s es­presso mar­tini – we could eas­ily have or­dered more, but din­ner beck­oned.

Dishes are clas­si­cally French but with a twist, cour­tesy of head chef Oliver Kuehler. Seem­ingly straight­for­ward dishes of soupe de pois­sons, tartare de boeuf, salade de chèvre chaude, poulet farci and bavette have all been tweaked to cre­ate some­thing rather less or­di­nary.

My en­trée of ter­rine de fois gras, for ex­am­ple, was ac­com­pa­nied by ca­cao, quince and sauternes jelly, and brioche, while his­self went for the lob­ster spe­cial with cham­pagne sauce. Af­ter the rich starter, I de­cided a lighter fish dish would be ad­vis­able; the plaice with sam­phire, chorizo, tomato, beurre blanc and chervil was mouth-wa­ter­ing – but def­i­nitely not light on calo­ries! His­self had no such thoughts, or­der­ing the sump­tu­ous ma­gret de ca­nard (pic­tured in­set), with parsnip, ap­ples, shal­lots, hazel­nuts, honey and thyme jus. Side dishes of green beans and pos­si­bly the tasti­est gratin dauphi­nois I have ever had com­pleted our repas. The de­light­ful wait­ing staff – all French – helped with our choice of wine, a fra­grant 2015 Fleurie. Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, af­ter all this in­dul­gence, we still had room for dessert: tiramisu Bre­ton (with caramel au beurre salé and Specu­loos bis­cuit) and the tarte du jour, lemon meringue. Sea­sonal menus will en­sure you keep com­ing back to this chic eatery, but it is an equally good spot to drop in for cof­fee and a crois­sant. The stylish sur­round­ings feel French but not clichéd, and with its cor­ner plot, large win­dows and pave­ment ta­bles, it is a great place to watch the world rush by as you linger over a verre de vin and some­thing déli­cieux. Open Mon to Fri 7.30am to 10.30pm, Sat and Sun 11am to 10.30pm. En­trées from £6.50; mains from £15; cock­tails from £10. 75-77 March­mont Street, Lon­don, WC1N 1AP Tel: 0207 713 6111, bon­vi­vantrestau­rant.co.uk

ABOVE: Chefs plate up dur­ing a demon­stra­tion at the Bordeaux S.O Good fes­ti­val

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