Toulouse, France

[ 1 ] September 14, 2011 |

What an unforeseen delight we experienced in Toulouse!

A few weeks before this portion of our trip we received an email from a French couple that found our blog while doing some traveling of their own and had become avid followers. They saw our itinerary included some more time in France and they generously offered to have us over for dinner when we passed through their hometown. How amazing is that, right?! We were over the moon excited to have the invitation and super thrilled to know that anyone was reading this stuff! Little did we know just how much of a treat we were in for.

Roméo and Amandine

Once our timeline firmed up we made a plan to meet Roméo and Amandine Charrière in Toulouse.  They kindly offered to spend the day with us serving as our personal tour guides around the city before we all headed to their home for a lavish midday meal.  Fortunate for us they both speak excellent English so communicating wasn’t an issue. (Once again reminder that Americans (Alison & Pat) need to learn another language.)

streets of Toulouse

We started our day early with a guided walking tour of the city including three incredible markets to purchase our ingredients for lunch.  It was so fun to watch Amandine and Roméo pick out just the right produce, vegetables, meats and cheeses. We started with pastry nourishment (breakfast) at the St. Sernin Flea Market. We then made our way to an open-air fruit and vegetable market, Cristal. Lastly we enjoyed the sights and smells of the preeminent Victor Hugo market.

Amandine contemplating mushrooms

picking figs

cheesy selection

market cheese counter

fresh bread

It’s hard to explain- but the French just do food right. Every ingredient is carefully selected. The process to create something isn’t about quick preparation or simplicity- it’s about the final product being superb and worth appreciating. The entire process from planning, shopping, selecting, preparing, cooking, plating, serving, cutting, and even the order things are eaten is all intentional.  It’s fascinating!

If you don’t know, Pat and I have become semi obsessed with food the fast few years. So this experience was right down our alley of interest. For us, both health and social factors should play a role in why, what and how you eat. Eating just for the sake of having to, or worse- without thought, is really a wasted experience in our opinion. I think the French would agree.

 

After collecting the food and seeing a good bit of Toulouse we walked to Roméo and Amandine’s apartment just outside of the city. With limited space, they worked like synchronized swimmers in the kitchen not missing a beat, but each working on different tasks. Their cooperation and coordination was impeccable.  They wouldn’t let us assist but we watched with interest from the next room.

We got to watch Amandine, a French woman, make a perfect pastry crust in less than three minutes. It was fantastic. The crust was for the upside-down caramel apple tart. The perfectly shaped sides, homemade caramel base layer, freshly sliced apples…

pastry creation

Roméo was in charge of the duck.  Yes, that’s right. 20-something year olds in France serve you duck. It was prepared on the grill.

Grill Master Roméo

Mushrooms- these were special mushrooms. I’m not sure of the name of the variety- but they weren’t button or shitake or portabella- they were delicate, interesting, creamy mushrooms. I watched Roméo gently clean them by hand with a towel and laughed to myself wondering just how Pat would take on that same task.

beautiful mushrooms

Potatoes- they were based from a recipe in a famous French recipe cookbook. Roméo and Amandine take taken on the challenge of cooking every recipe in this book- they have a blog tracking their progress http://lesamantsdinent.blogspot.com/.

Then on to the figs- butter pan-seared figs! Sweet deliciousness.

The Meal:

Appetizers:

We started the meal with Roméo’s Grandmother’s homemade foie gras on toasted fresh bread, paired with a selection of thinly sliced hams on fresh baguette slices, and olives from the market.

first bites

foie gras

Main Course:

We then moved to an outdoor table set up in their garden and ate grilled duck, figs, mushrooms, potatoes and more fresh bread.

deliciousness on a plate

Cheese Course:

The next course was cheese— 4 cheeses of varying strengths. One green cheese, one brie, one goat cheese, one very stinky cheese. They were delicious! We also got a quick lesson on eating cheese. It began with 8 knives. That’s one for each cheese and one for each person. Never would you share the knife between cheeses. Next lesson- how you slice the cheese is important. It would be incredibly rude to take a slice from the wrong direction. (This is how French family feuds begin.) The gist of the logic is that the flavors are evenly spread if you slice it as it is meant to be. So from a wedge of a wheel you would slice the section you purchase with some rind on each slice and some of the center. You also should eat cheeses in order from mild to strong – so you can actually taste the weaker flavors before overwhelming your mouth and nose. Another note- eat the rind. If it’s put on your plate it should be edible- otherwise it shouldn’t be there. Final tip- only eat cheese at room temperature- you can’t taste the favor if it’s chilled.

cheese course

Dessert:

Lastly, we enjoyed the perfect apple tart made from scratch before our eyes.

apple tart dessert

It was a scrumptious meal filled with delicious flavors and wonderful conversation.

perfect garden party

After the meal we all jumped in the car and headed to Carcassonne… (see Pat’s blog).

So, “Thank You” Roméo and Amandine you were incredible ambassadors for France, Toulouse, and interesting, thoughtful, generous humans in general! We had an amazing day with you and will always remember your willingness to reach out to strangers with hospitality as an example for our lives.  We will also remember to never cross contaminate the cheese knives!

 

 

 

 

 

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Category: Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, France

Comments (1)

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  1. Hi guys !

    So many sweet memories reading this post. We’ve really spent a wondeful time with you and are definitely looking forward to seeing you again.
    We hope you’ve enjoyed this day just as much as we did and if I read english correctly, it seems like you did.
    We’ve been very busy being robbed =( and looking for a new place to move in (which we found =) but we’ve been keeping on reading your blogs extensively.

    Thanks for your nice comment on our blog, once we kinda get back on our feet, our challenge will continue !

    See you soon !
    Roméo and Amandine

    PS : we’ve only realized afterwards our stupidity for not taking our own camera to take pictures of our adventures. We’d be really grateful if you could share your photos with us !

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