Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Back To The Midi Part 2

No sooner had I arrived back from the Midi it was time to return the following day. For once I am going not for a wine fair but a truffle fair, not forgetting to take Libby to Perpignan for Valentine’s Day!

No snow on the way down which was a relief as the return journey yesterday was horrendous between Narbonne and Toulouse. We made good time and arrived in Perpignan early afternoon. The weather was so lovely and sunny we decided to head to one of my favourite summer spots, the seaside fishing village Collioure, to show Libby the spectacular vineyards of Banyuls, the other great Vin Doux Naturel wine to Maury.

We headed back into the city of Perpignan to check in to the Hotel and get ready for dinner. I had booked a table at one of my favourite restaurants, Le Double Y . The place was in full Valentine’s Day mode… balloons….I better order some aperitifs quickly I thought!

The meal started with two good dishes; Mediterranean tempura style gambas for Libby and a superb grilled Rouget (red mullet) on a light cherry tomato tart for me. Mains were a perfect fillet of beef and a lovely tornedos of margret de canard. The wine of the evening was most definitely the rare Clot de l’Oum 2007 white Roussillon made from Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Roussanne, Muscat and Vermentino; really superb (the red is much widely available). Libby chose to accompany the chocolate dessert with a Mas Amiel Maury and I went for a Banyuls from Domaine de La Tour Vieille.

The next day we were up very early indeed especially for a Sunday but the best truffles go early! The drive as always from Perpignan into the Fenouillèdes was as spectacular as ever. We passed Rivesaltes, Espira d’Agly, Estagel and unbelievably didn’t stop and went through Maury and finally to the tiny village of Lesquerde.

On arriving, people were already queuing. You barely see more than two people at a time out here but today, ‘truffle day’, was like the January sales on Oxford Street! I managed to push myself to the starting blocks ready and waiting for the grand opening whilst Libby had a look around the other stalls in the fully functioning but a little worse for wear Cave CoOperative.

The truffle hunters were situated around the edge inside the cold barn fiddling with scales and calculators whilst displaying their precious truffles in baskets on bare wooden tables. The heady perfumed aroma that filled the barn was incredible! I am sure I was a bit slow off the mark because of it and I ended up behind some ‘gobelet’ vine sized locals. Although I couldn’t reach the truffles, I had a perfect view over their heads of what was going on.

It seemed you had to choose a couple of truffles that you think look good, have a touch, have a sniff, ask what terroir they were found in, politely say ‘can you weigh them and give me a price’ and finally put them straight back with horror at the figure you just heard, say thank you and move on to the next table!

This ritual goes on and on from table to table until you either find a bargain you’re happy with or you are so cold and weirdly inebriated by the truffle aroma that you pay anything for one! After a hard morning’s work I left very happy with two beautiful black truffles, can’t wait to cook something this week.

The whole ambiance of this tiny local fair was great and everyone was enjoying themselves. Music was provided throughout the morning by three eccentric musicians and other local products – and the farmers themselves – were equally fascinating with wine tasting, rustic breads, flavoured almonds, sheep cheeses, biscuits, apricot jams, saucissons, oysters, pink garlic, vegetables, walnuts, hazelnuts, dried meats, poultry, game and even whole geese!

After a bitterly cold but truly enjoyable morning we headed downhill for the sanctuary of the Café de Maury for the perfect glass of local rustic wine and a hot meal.


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