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Saturday, 29 September 2007

France: they hate vegetarians Part 2

After spending a week in drizzly Paris, we high-tailed it out of there in style with first class train seats to the picturesque, but touristy, seaside town of La Rochelle.
In terms of eating out, we experienced more of the same disappointment. But it's hard to be grumpy when the sun is shining. After perusing a popular strip of restaurants looking at each menu board - not a single one had a vegetarian dish on it - we asked a man setting up tables outside a tapas place if he knew of any restaurants that might be vegetarian friendly. His reply was "not in this town".
After some wandering around, we found a cute little restaurant near the market serving simple fare such as galettes, tarts and salads. Holding a menu and being able to choose a range of things from it was quite a refreshing change.

We decided to stop off at the market the next day and gather some provisions for a day trip to Ile d'aix.

What greeted us was every food lover's fantasy: a bustling market full of fresh seasonal produce. The stallholders were friendly, chirpy and above all, helpful. Considering that the only greenery that we had laid eyes upon was the mould on cheese that was given to us at Aux Lyonnais, oh, and the 'salad' (a.k.a bowl of dandelion leaves), we went a little crazy and by the time our tasting and buying frenzy was over, our shopping bag was full delicious goodies which included:

from the fruit and veg stall:
strawberries fragrant and sweeeeeeeeet
cherry tomatoes on the vine
butter lettuce
flat white peaches
the shape of a Breton beret and possibly my favourite fruit. Fleshy, juicy and sweet - and very, very ergonomic.

from the cheese man:
2-year-old Comte cheese
an outstanding cheese. It has an Emmental vibe with a waxy texture and a hint of sweetness and nuttiness. I hadn't tried one this old before.
a small wheel of goat's cheese mild with a delicate soft texture and a very slight sour edge.

from the baker:
brioche buttery, crumbly and soft
paprika and Parmesan biscuits like a cross between a Carr's cheesy melt cracker and a scone. Full of buttery cheesy goodness
grainy baguette

We took the boat to Ile d'Aix, via Fort Boyard, and hired bikes to find a nice beach to sit on and chow down on our very successful market haul.


Back in London it's easy to write off bought sandwiches as a lunchtime option because, well...they're horrible. Nasty preservative-packed stale bread buttered within an inch of its life bracketing some sort of filling which is unrecognisable because of all the sandwich filler they have slapped on it.
Remember the good old lettuce, tomato and cheese combination? Sounds boring - but with quality ingredients it's a taste sensation. Wherever you are - picnic, work or Ile d'Aix, it's dead simple and takes two seconds to prepare.

What you need
Swiss army knife
cherry tomatoes

The do
Split the baguette lengthways. Fill with lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes and Comte. Grind some black pepper if you have it.
Tip If you are making this for later, lay the lettuce and cheese on the outer layers so the tomato doesn't touch the bread and make it soggy.

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