Contes d’Opale – Becoming Boulonnais

Bonjour, mes amis,

Gary and I are settling into the Boulonnais way of life – cooking chez nous and setting up house at our aptly-named apartment-hotel called “Comme a la Maison”. We have a small, but very efficient, kitchen/living-room, bedroom and bathroom. The apartment is spotless and the kitchen has microwave, toaster, a 2-element stove, coffee maker, dishes and utensils – everything you need to feel at home.

We are located in la Vielle Ville on a cobble-stoned street with plenty of restaurants and bars. We are told that our apartment building, dating from the 1500’s, is the oldest edifice in Boulogne.

 

To set ourselves up, we acquired some basic provisions at the local Casino supermarket – it was fun in and of itself to compare French products with Canadian ones. For example, while searching for 0% fat content Greek plain yogurt, we came across “fromage blanc”. While apparently different in fabrication, they are similar in appearance. We found the fromage blanc a delightful alternative and less acid than yogurt.

Even better then the traditional supermarkets, we joined the throngs of locals for the colourful Saturday farmers’ market centrally situated in Boulogne’s Place Dalton.

Here the vendors offer fresh vegetables right from the nearby fields, regional cheeses, roasted chickens (sur place), honey, jams, olives, roasted garlic (a local specialty) and other regional products as well as all kinds of prepared foods, like paella, couscous and cassoulet.

 

There is a market at Place d’Alton on Wednesday’s as well and we hope to visit it soon.

We did, however, make our way to the Sunday fish market where there were all kinds of weird and wonderful super fresh fish and seafood we rarely see in Canada, if at all. Right out of the ocean, these fish glimmered in the sunshine.

Some vendors at the Sunday market also offer salads and olive and artichoke tapenades as well as home-prepared baked goods. We remembered the “financiers” (golden brick-shaped cakes) we used to buy in Paris years ago and were delighted to find them here.

 

Today, we visited the Auchan store on the suburbs of Boulogne. Gary was in seventh heaven as he perused the extremely comprehensive beers of this northern French region (which is traditionally a beer region, ie. too far north to grow grapes) and nearby Belgium.

I’ll leave you with a glimpse of just part of the acreage devoted to beer at Auchan!

A bientot!

Libby

8 thoughts on “Contes d’Opale – Becoming Boulonnais

  1. Hi Libby, another great post which encapsulates your holiday so nicely and precisely. The food looks and sounds mouthwatering!

    Please keep these posts coming whilst Gary enjoys a break and a couple of drinks.

    Looking forward to any comments you might have on the local beers.

    All the Best

    Ben

    • Thanks Ben, and others who responded, Gary here replying on behalf of both of us. I have been commenting on beers in France for over a week on Twitter, @beeretseq, and posting images there too.

      I will do a post trip re-cap of the brews on the blog after I return to Canada. The overall scene is both better and (for me) not as interesting as at home, will explain more later.

      All best.

      • Countries that primarily import their culture will always have more variety than those who have grown an indigenous culture with deep roots – you could argue that the Czech beer culture is relatively “boring” in comparison to countries that have come more recently to beer.

        Or compare the wine section of a British supermarket with its equivalent in France – with relatively little domestic production UK retailers are free to choose wines from around the world, whereas French retailers and consumers tend to stick to their domestic favourites through a complex mix of economics, personal relationships at wholesale level, mindshare, logistics, nationalism and other factors. In fact, the UK has been importing a big chunk of all world wine for so long, UK wine imports have the kind of deep roots that make it look like a culture of its own, perhaps a better comparison would be with the Asian countries that have come more recently to (grape) wine – a fascinating subject in its own right.

        It’s fascinating to compare France with Italy, the latter imported US craft beer culture pretty much intact as it had nothing to start with, but is slowly developing its own thing, it feels like it’s been harder for France to figure out how to balance the old (albeit small and very regional) with modern trends. They’ll work it out though – it’s kinda impressive that France has more microbreweries than Germany (or any other European country bar the UK).

        I guess it’s a bit like Canadian wine – there’s the one niche in ice wine/biere de garde that’s their particular thing, otherwise there’s plenty of well-made liquid that is decent without being “vaut le voyage” for international buyers.

        Any sign of new hops like Barbe Rouge?

        • Thanks for this, good reasoning.A spin off to the “imported” culture you identified is the development of wine connoisseurs and consumer wine writing, which started in England and the U.S.

          I need to focus more on craft to see if new or different hop types are being used, will keep my eye open. I tend to gravitate to old warhorses like Northern Brewer, Golding, Fuggles, Styrian, Strisselspalt, Hallertau as I like those. I did notice use of Pewter pils malt by La Paysanne de l’Artois, a name I didn’t know.

          Gary

          • Barbe Rouge seems to be the attempt to do something “different” flavourwise qv Mandarina or Jester, as opposed to the likes of Aramis which are much closer to Strisselspalt but have been bred primarily for alpha and agronomy.

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