Saint Rémy de Provence is a charming village in the South of France well known for its large outdoor market, which is held each Wednesday morning when vendors line the streets offering some of the best local culinary delights.
Similar to the farmers markets in the United States, each vendor sold products only within one category such as cheeses, fruits and vegetables or meats. Interestingly it was not uncommon to find vendors that specialized even further, such as the one pictured above offering only two varieties of cheeses.
This vendor offered gigantic wheels of French Gruyère from Cantal. Sherry Page purchased a wedge that was cut with a long knife that had two handles on each side.
Also appetizing where the tables of saucisson (or dry-cured sausages) that presented some of the best salami I had ever eaten. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently published an article about chefs who attempt to smuggle sausages from Europe into America, sending the contraband to labs to analyze the ingredients in an effort to recreate them. It's astonishing the trouble, but I have to admit these salami were quite good, and definitely worth the risk for people in the food business.
Since a majority of the group on the Culinary Getaways tour didn't speak French, one vendor communicated with us by using animal toy figurines to explain the fillings to each corresponding sausage, which I found to be brilliant and entertaining. Of note is impressive variety of flavors that were available for salami. One table offered sausages that were stuffed with hazelnut, olive, black pepper, cheese, herbs, fig, duck, bull and wild boar.
Fresh artisan breads and pastries abound every corner of the market. Each loaf was crisp on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside, fulfilling the measure of a good quality bread.
Impressive were also the baskets brimming with many varieties of cured olives. The broad array of different methods of curing olives, on top of the different olive varieties that were used was exciting, and made me realize how limited my knowledge of cured olives actually is.
Although it was far from the peak of growing season, there was still a good offering of fresh winter vegetables at the market in February. Most of the vegetables at the stalls were potatoes, cabbages, leeks, artichokes, onions and garlic. Sherry Page tells me that local produce over the summer is amazing with fruits such as orange strawberries that Sherry describes as so sweet that it is almost "too sweet," plump and black cherries, oversized syrupy figs, and ambrosial melons. Every fruit is picked at its peak and is packed with so much natural sugar that it needs to be eaten within two to three days or will go bad.
Surrounding the market stalls are beautiful French shops that offer everything from knives, baskets, cheeses and wines.
Across the street of the food stalls is a parking lot where nonfood vendors sell everything from beautiful Provencal ceramic dishware, to pots, pans, and table linens.
After seeing all of the gorgeous bright colors of the quilted tablecloths, I couldn't resist, and brought one home as a souvenir to remember this beautiful historic village. I'm looking forward to revisiting Saint Rémy again, next time in the warmer season when the market is bountiful with the summer harvest.
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