TRADITIONAL PROVENCAL MARKET - AVIGNON LES HALLES

On our second day of truffle week, we headed to Avignon Les Halles, a traditional Provencal food market in Avignon. There we met Chef Julien Chauvet for a cooking instruction at his studio, Concept Chef.  On the menu were:
  • Cod Brandade with Truffles
  • Chicken Fricassée with Truffles
  • Truffle Mashed Potatoes
  • Pineapple Kiwi Carpaccio in Truffle Syrup


 

As part of the cooking instruction, we went along with Chef Julien Chauvet to gather the ingredients for the cooking session at Avignon Les Halles, which has over 40 food merchants, each specializing in such ingredients as olives, charcuterie, breads, cheeses, wines, seafood, spices, and fresh produce among others. The breadth of selection and quality of each offering immediately caught my attention. Pierre, our guide, told us that most of the locals grocery shop every morning for ingredients they cook that day. In fact, vendors start shutting down a bit before 1pm. This clearly is not Trader Joe's, which opens at 9am and closes at 9pm. My sleepy rear-end would probably starve if I relied on this market.

  

First stop was at the produce market of Le Jardin de Victor.

  

The produce shop is not big by any means but every piece of vegetable and fruit was fresh, fragrant and beautiful. We picked up artichokes, lemons, pineapples, and garlic.  


Not too far away from Le Jardin de Victor, was the poultry counter at Les Vollailes Hugon, where we headed to pick up a chicken (poulet). We were met by the poultry guy (vollailler), Frederic, who was one of the more colorful and memorable personalities from this trip. 

 

If there was ever a time that I wished I was fluent in French, this was it. I have no idea what this butcher said, but in my mind I imagined something like this, "Do you want to see this poulet? I hand plucked each one of his feathers with my bare hands." 


"What??? You don't believe me??? Just watch. You think I'm not going to pluck the feathers? Dare me." And pluck he did, and then he threw the feathers at us to fulfill the dare.

  

Before the chicken feathers even settled on the ground, he pulled something else out. "And how do you like this little canard??? He went went quack, quack, quack before he got here. You see his beak, he was a chatty one." He really did move the beak on this duck.

 

And yet again, before I could see what he did with the duck, he pulled something else out. I have a feeling he's done this a couple of times before. "Do you know what this is? He's pretty skinny guy but tasty. What do you think? It's perhaps un chat??? Meow, meow, meow."


We didn't like that, and were horrified, but we knew better, responding with a loud, "Non!" Tisk, tisk.

 

"Okay, you've got me, he's not un chat, but an overgrown rat that is a cousin to the Easter bunny. It's true I'm telling you!"


"And let me tell you about this turkey. This guy was trying to get my attention while we were on the rugby field.

"You know what this turkey had the nerve to do?"

 "The guy started charging at me! Sacre bleu! I had no other choice than to boink him with my ball!"

After that lively show, I looked through the display case to find a wide variety of poultry species such as the guinea hen (pintade), coquelet (cockerel), quail (caille), among others. Most all of the poultry was sold whole, and many times with the head and feet still intact, which is very different from the disassembled, boned, skinned segmented packaged parts that we have in our supermarkets.


Another observation was the degree specialization that each merchant had in their offerings. This particular stall mainly focused on potatoes and apparently sold the best ones. So instead of purchasing them at Le Jardin de Victor, we just walk a few yards down to just to buy potatoes from this guy.  I've sought better ingredients at different farmer's market stalls, but I'm trying to imagine myself going down the street from Trader Joe's to Whole Foods for just for one ingredient, it's something that doesn't translate well.


He's also selling Tyrell's chips, which are my favorite British chips or crisps as they call it in England.


The spice maket, Le Moulin A Epices, sold a wide variety spices in open containers. They even offered garam marsala.  

 

 There were fresh housemade pastas, which we didn't try but I bet were heavenly. 


The fish merchant, Toute La Maree, offered a wide variety of seafood, seeming to have a few of everything, even scallops in the shell!
I don't think I would know how to what to do with a scallop shell, but it sure looks neat!

The olive merchant also offered an impressive variety of olives, tapenades and pickled vegetables. Each were fantastic, but there was one item that was particularly notable, whole garlic cloves pickled in white vinegar for 8 months before storing in olive oil. It may sound weird, but it was delicious, the pickled garlic maintained the crisp texture, while the vinegar extracted much of the volatile and pungent oils, mellowing and evening out the flavors. 


I hope you enjoyed Avignon Les Halles, the next post will be about our cooking instruction.

28 comments:

Mar said...

I love markets, and this is very good... in Spain eating a lot olives....
A kiss from Spain

Angie's Recipes said...

I like visiting markets too! Look at all these fresh seafood, spice, pasta.....amazing!

KennyT said...

Omigod, the chef is funny although a bit crazy. It requires some guts to watch him holding that "bunny".

PFx said...

wish they could have this in oz or nz...

Debinhawaii said...

I think I could easily spend hours there--everything looks so wonderful!

La Table De Nana said...

I really enjoyed it..Enough to visit:)

Beth said...

One of my favorite things about traveling is visiting different markets, and this one looks fantastic. That butcher with his rugby cracks me up!

Simply Life said...

I love that photo of all the spices!

kat said...

Oh, I love markets like this. We are thinking of doing the Provence trip in the fall so this is just tempting me more...

Bob said...

I would love to shop there. Seriously.

tasteofbeirut said...

I would have stayed the longest at the olive stand! Love markets in Provence, I lived in Aix-en-Provence my first year of college and was at the market every week!

George Gaston said...

Christine, it looks like you met some colorful characters during Truffle Week. That butcher is my kind of guy... never letting anything get by even while playing games.

Oh how I wish we had markets like this in the states! There are some who try, but it is the over-all local love of food throughout the community that these shops have. And that cannot be duplicated here.

I am loving your posts. It is like being there with out sound. Many thanks...

MaryMoh said...

I love markets....so much fresh local stuff, and interesting things to see too. Poor bunny!

HT said...

I would love to claim we have a market like that in NC where I live, but I would be lying!

I think it is wonderful.

Sara said...

Haha!! This post cracks me up! Love the commentary. Although those dead animals with the heads attached would have freaked me out a little bit. :) I'd love to have a market like this close to me (but like you said, it'd definitely need to stay open much later!) to accommodate those of us that don't do mornings.

Mimi said...

Wouldn't it be lovely to have a market like this. The closest thing we have are farmers markets, but they only happen on one day of the week in my town.
Mimi

Anonymous said...

Hi, Christine! your pics of the french butcher make me want to become a vegetarian!!! i think i'll stick with the "disassembled,boned,skinned and segmented packaged parts"!!! my favorite kitchen tool would be my cutco trimmer knife. not a day goes by without using it--in fact, we own 2!! all their knives do a great job. 16+inches of snow!! so good talking to you. love,mom

Trix said...

Beautiful photos, I would certainly enjoy all of it ... except for the meat counter! Le pauvre canard!

Bellini Valli said...

Thank you for taking us on this journey with you:D

5 Star Foodie said...

The market is amazing! I loved seeing the pictures of the butcher, how fun!

OysterCulture said...

Oh I love markets and this trip just sounds exceptional. What a personality that butcher was, you could see he was passionate about his work.

Trissa said...

The market pictures are beautiful. Such fresh produce!

Kim said...

I really enjoy these posts about your recent trip to Provence! I would love nothing more than to go to these markets and be able to cook in a kitchen there in France. The butchers looks like a very lively character. Not so sure what I think about the heads and everything being attached. I think I might end up being a vegetarian. I loved the pictures of the spice market - all those spices are gorgeous! Another great post!

Katy ~ said...

What a character the butcher is; I was horrified until I realized he was was teasing. Whew!

A beautiful market that reflects the love and respect for food.

I often think of our local Wal-Mart selling frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (good for one year!).

I want to shop in Provence.

Danielle said...

omg...what a great experince...that butcher...what a character he must've been. I would've thought he was holding a squirrel! LOL

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

STUNNING pictures Christine. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

hello,

just for the record, the vollailer's name (technically not a butcher, it is a poultry shop) is Frederic, and the stand at les halles d'avignon is called 'les vollailes hugon'. grea poultry. i know because our family started and owned that business until we sold it to frederic a few uears back.

it is alos mentionned in peter mayle's first book.


olivier

Fresh Local and Best said...

Olivier,

Thank you so much for providing this information! Meeting Frederic stands among my fondest memories of the trip. He was so warm and entertaining. It is indeed a great poultry shop. I will have to make sure to distinguish a butcher and vollailer. In America, the two are often lumped together. I wish we had the great variety of poultry here that you guys have in Provence.

Thanks again!

Christine