Monday, December 14, 2009

On my way to the Marché du gras

Today up at 6 am ,I am all excited about my trip to foie gras country. I have not done this in ………40+ years ! This is real special as old rules are still used today in the “marchés du gras” .

We take the road and it is still dark, I don’t care much for driving at night but I would not miss this for anything, I am just too excited. I do love to drive and explore the French country side for it is where real life is, at its most basic as well as at its richest in many ways. For sure mother nature has done a good job here. The drive will take about two hours considering that we will use small country roads. I am heading to the department of Gers which is the heart of Gascony or for you history buffs, Musqueteer country and lots of Armagnac. This part of France does not have highways but a good network of small country roads, so small in fact that there are no markings on most of them .

The locals are all farmers with a few city slickers here and there. Agriculture is big here and mostly corn which means also a lot of poultry and fowl.

Forget about free range as we know it in the USA , here birds of any kind of feathers roam free on large tracks of land . I did some research to choose two markets and settled on Mirande and Samatan du Gers.

We did get to go to Mirande only to find no “marché du gras” that day. Ok, no panic, let’s have café/croissant and we’ll go to plan B which was to talk to the locals. Check the local version of breakfast below. I was driving so I did not touch the stuff + it was way too early !

One farmer was critical of the markets and suggested that we go to his wife’s farm since she was now selling the goods direct from the farm. We declined and instead talked to the waitress who was helpful with directions to Samatan. Here we go ! When I said small roads I meant just that, small ! I had a small car so no problem for me but focus on driving was a must.

The canard gras and oies grasses market started at 930 am and of course we were late getting there, well tough luck, you snooze you loose ! Long story short,when we got to the hall where duck and goose were being sold, it was almost over.

I do mean FAT duck ! Above are ducks without the foie inside which are used for confits and magrets and below is a duck with the foie still inside.

I quickly surveyed the scene and only found three farmers with ducks for sale. Between the three of them, no more than 20 fat ducks. Good enough for me to sample the view, the smell, the tradition, the atmosphere, you name it and it was as close as duck heaven as a Chef could get to.

The price ? about 2.20 euros a kilo or 1.60 $ a pound at today’s exchange rate without the fattened liver inside. Are you kidding me ? This is good and it all goes to the farmer, no middle man here ! No wonder all the locals do their own confits and such ! From where I stand the price is very right. You can of course buy the fat duck with the liver inside fora different price of course but still affordable. Below is some fresh foie gras coming right out, does not get any fresher !

Looking back, I was too excited to ask not wanting to cut into the negociating I was looking at from a few feet. I am digging this very much, how can I possibly express what it means to me ? It is a passion kind of a thing, the passion for food that some of us carry and live everyday as it is what we know and what we do best. For those of you who are not sure what it is, all you have to do is hang around some of us. Chefs are really nice people and they don’t bite, so there. Just bring the wine ! I will take you inside of this room on my next post, come on back !

Chef Andre

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