La Perle Groissanaise - Groissan, FR - 9-26-16

It’s my last full day in Toulouse. I fly to Lille on Wednesday for a four-day stay.

On Monday, Jean borrowed his sister’s car and took me on a day-long road trip into parts further south in France.

In Carcassonne, we had a glass of red wine and a plate of Spanish sausage, cheese, sardines and ham served on fresh bread coated with a thin layer of tomato-eee-like sauce. The wine – AOP Malpere – is made from grapes grown on land tended to by members of Jean’s family.

Like with good IPA’s, I’m ham-handed at describing positive characteristics of excellent red wine but I know one when I taste one. AOP Malpere has a zest and a depth that tingles the tongue – even after the first sip.

Another red in the same class is Leon Barral’s “Faugeres.” Jacques turned me on to Faugeres. It’s really incredible. A US-based wine seller wrote a really great description of Barral’s techniques and the link to that is here.

A bottle of Faugeres cost 28 euros at a local wine shop here in Toulouse. I bought one for the special dinner at Chez Fabian et Sonia tonight but the guys here say you can get an almost-as-delish bottle of red for under 10 euros.

After Carcassone, we drove another 50 minutes to the south and hit the Mediterranean. Jean knows a seafood shack on the water called “La Perle Groissanaise” in the town of Groissan.

You have to cut through what looks like a large community of small, densely situated beach homes on stilts to reach La Perle. Most of the homes appeared unoccupied at the moment but Jean says they’re very much abuzz during the summer months when the French take holidays. It was my first-ever visit to the Mediterranean and it was as blue as blue can be.

At La Perle, we ordered a dozen oysters and a small glass jug of the local white and sat on an inlet or cove connected to the sea (pictured above). It was very quiet. Fisherman with poles appeared to have no luck and guys in the water harvested squid? or perhaps oysters in the distance. As the sun went down, we had another small jug of white. The plate of oysters served to us contained way more than a dozen with a pile of fresh shrimp on top. It all was as fresh as fresh can be. We slurped sea out of the shells after digging out each oyster. Fantastique!

As we returned to the main roadway back to Toulouse, we were surrounded by grape fields. Some had been harvested already but many acres of almost-ready red “raisins” could be seen just hanging there to be picked.

I slept through the debate Monday night but the headline in Le Monde on Tuesday morning gave me a summarization: “Etats Unis : avantage Clinton.”

I ate lunch Tuesday on the other side of the Garonne at Solaneko. A friend here has just started working the kitchen at Solaneko. She was busy learning and preparing as I sat at a small table near the entrance.

I had the eglefin marine au miso, legumes, salade, riz and miso soupe. It was a flavorful presentation of whitefish, veggies and perhaps the best cup of miso I’ve ever had. Dessert was a small pancake stuffed with fruit.

Talk to you next from the extreme north of France.

Toulouse, France - 9-24-16

It’s day 9 in France and I’m really enjoying Toulouse.

I ran out of clean clothes at the half-way point of this adventure and so I went to the nearby laverie this afternoon to wash and dry.

My primary host Jacques has been pretty busy with both his real, every-day job – and – La Chatte a la Voisine’s commitment to staff a buvette at a multi-day arts/music festival at the big art school in Toulouse. The drawings of Scottish artist David Shrigley make up the cornerstone of the art exhibit. Shrigley’s pencil art pieces (a couple hundred of them perhaps) are stitched together on three big walls.

They’re really funny observations about problems/situations in everyday life.

Shrigley has been omnipresent during the weekend; super-accessible and enthusiastic about the event and associated musical gigs. Dubbed “Problem in Toulouse,” Shrigley’s is one of many free exhibitions that comprise the city-wide Le Printemps de Septembre.

When the crowd reached its peak Friday evening, I tried to lend a hand at the buvette. I took drink orders and was reasonably successful at both comprehension and delivery. When the beer tap malfunctioned (too foamy) at the height of the audience’s demand, I had to step away. It was taking too much time to pour a full cup of beer. I could see the patrons starting to lose patience and I didn’t know well how to face the pressure given the additional layer of insecurity with my lack of fluency. It was funny. It was actually a cool feeling when the five or six of us were scrambling simultaneously to successfully handle the rush.

I’m usually on the other side of the bar. It was interesting to see the perspective of the other side.

On Monday, I explore the countryside a bit by car with Jean.

Tuesday is my last day here. I’ve been invited to dinner that evening by new friends Fabian and Sonia. On the menu is a very special dish comprised of a part of the stomach from a local cow. Not just any cow, says Sonia. It’s a special French cow.

Un peu plus tard.