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
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