Agen

I recently had lunch with someone who’d just moved to Paris. I gave her some places to check out and a few tips about living in her newly adopted city, including navigating some of the ups and downs, and what to do when city life became overwhelming.

paris train station poilane

But shortly after we parted, I realized that I’d forgotten to tell her my most important piece of advice for living in Paris: Whenever you see an available bathroom, use it.

my favorite thing in the world

Another vital piece of advice that I give to folks who arrive in Paris to live is that it’s important to get out of the city and see the rest of the country. Cities are great places but when you visit the smaller cities and towns in France, you see life that hasn’t changed so quickly. Paris is not France, it’s part of it – and there’s a huge, diverse country once you wheel yourself out of the city.

pears and peaches

At the local markets in the countryside, and in smaller cities and villages, farmers still bring boxes of fruits and vegetables that were just-pulled from the ground that morning, restaurants don’t require reservations three-to-six weeks in advance, folks wear clothes in colors other than black (guilty!), and the pace of life is slower so the locals are more relaxed and friendly.

birdhousepâté board
Agenbeans and bread

I always insist that I’m a city-boy and I’d never live anywhere else. But then, a couple of days into life in the countryside, and you need a crowbar to get me to leave.

flower
blue laundry

So I’ve been trying to get outta town more often because it’s so easy to get wrapped up on the excitement, and stress, of city living. Leaving the frenzy of Paris always begins at the crazy-busy gare (train station), where it seems all of Paris is frenetically converging to go somewhere else, too.

duck confit

I headed to Agen to visit my friend Kate, who runs a cooking school focusing on charcuterie. And where duck..and duck fat, reign supreme. Curiously, agen in French also sounds nearly the same as à jeun, which is “fasting”, as in, having an empty stomach. Which I knew we weren’t going to be doing.

beans & wine

So what does one bring someone who has farm-fresh produce right outside her kitchen window, rows of fresh herbs, and wine-by-the-jug?

tomatoeswrinkly figs
pearskate and wine

Pain Poilâne, of course. (I brought her a box of chocolates from Jean-Charles Rochoux as well, but I told her to hide them in her bedroom to keep them away from everyone else.) But that was me, at the busy gare Montparnasse, lugging a 2 kilo (4 1/2-pound) loaf of miche Poilâne in my suitcase (up above), which literally took up a whopping 55% of the space in there.

whisks

fresh shelling beans

Fortunately another reason to travel to the countryside is that you can pack a much more casual wardrobe; just a pair of worn jeans, a few t-shirts and pullovers, and, of course, a wine opener. Although in the countryside, you might not need it. Need another reason to leave Paris? You might luck upon some kale!

kale growing

While strolling through Kate’s potager (vegetable garden), I waded through bunches of kale shooting upwards, the crinkly leaves falling gently away from the stalk, deep-green leaves with that hearty flavor that we Americans can’t seem to get enough of. And I wanted to take off all my clothes and roll around in them, covered with olive oil, fried garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes – although if I did, I might skip the red pepper flakes, for reasons obvious if you’ve ever handled hot peppers, then took a restroom break afterward.

mirabelles

But the outdoor markets in Agen are wonderful, and the majority of produce is actually sold by the growers themselves. There were burnished little Mirabelle plums, which are quite sweet, as well as Italian prune plums, and the prunes d’Ente, which make the famous pruneaux d’Agen, and are one of the best things you can pop in your mouth. Just don’t eat too many, whether you’d had a few hot red peppers before, or not.

fill 'er up!red wine a plenty!

Wine is available in eco-friendly packaging. For €6/gallon — no corkscrew required.

tomatoes plein champs

The giant, irregular tomatoes ‘plein champs’ are the real deal, – not hothouse importers posing as real tomatoes. And to those of us who live in the big city – check out those country prices!

chasellas and muscat grapes

Being fall, peaches and other stone fruits are winding up, and piled up everywhere were lugs of grapes, specifically Muscat and Chasselas, which had much more flavor than those that get packed and shipped long distances. Chasselas are classified by the French government and I’m not usually all that wild about them as others are (although I love the wine in Switzerland made from them), but there were great and along with the muscats and a few rounds of dewy-soft, gently aged goat cheeses scattered about, we had the makings of an instant dessert.

grape seller at market

grapes and cheese for dessert

I shopped heavily at a stand of folks who grow and mill their own flour. They make bread from their own wheat and spelt flours, but they also sells bags of harder to find chickpea flour and lentil flour. And speaking of heavy, in addition to a few good-sized bags of tiny green lentils, I circled back for a couple of sacks of chickpeas from this year’s harvest and some stone-ground polenta, which is difficult to find in Paris.

(Just say “no” to instant polenta, while you’re saying non to hothouse tomatoes.)

garlic at Agen market

Surprising me as well were tiny bundles of spicy red peppers. In comparison to other chili peppers, they’re not as piquante as others in their family, but Kate told me they pack a little bit of a punch. There was no shortage of cured pork products, beautiful breads from a local flour mill, and some mismarked plums that too many people pointed out to me when I tweeted the picture. (Obviously they don’t have Twitter followers because otherwise, folks would have been right on them for mislabeling their quetsch plums as Reine Claudes the moment they tweeted..er, I mean, put that sign up.)

Italian prune plumscured pork
whole wheat breadred peppers

Photographer Tim Clinch was with us at the market and when I asked him for advice about trying to take a decent picture of some tomatoes and peppers that I was having trouble with, he helped me out by giving me some sound advice: “Well David, try getting out of the way. You’re blocking all the light.”

peppers and tomatoes

Anyhow.

tomato salad 1

Also along was food and prop stylist Libbie Summers, taking a break for putting food in front of other people’s cameras, but toting her own camera along.

grapes

She was looking for market baskets (although we were all coveting the wooden grape crates…for obvious reasons), so went to a quincaillerie which is sort of like a hardware store, but more like the old-fashioned general store we used to have since they sell items for food preparation like curing salt (for making charcuterie), vinegar urns, and screened-in cheese lockers – #want –

quail eggsshelling beans in gascony
red winefromager garde manger

– which is a little paradoxical, because French people don’t put screens on the windows of their houses to to protect themselves from bugs, but will put them on little boxes to protect their cheese from them.

(Speaking of #want, I also want that chicken salt-cellar above, too.)

sac à jambon

In addition to being duck country, the Lot is also pig country, and the quincaillerie had sacks to cure your own ham in. Although I kind of wonder if there are “truth in advertising” laws in France, because I am not convinced that a pig in that situation is actually as delighted as depicted.

chasselasvinaigrier
knit parking meter coverapples

And lest you believe the stories that the French system hinders innovation, someo enterprising locals prove those naysayers wrong with a clever parking meter-warmer.

pastis rouge et bleu

After hitting the local liquor store, to stock up on Armagnac and other spirits (the red wine got taken care of at the market), we headed back home to cook…and eat.

grapes at the market

Surrounded by tree loaded with red-fleshed peaches (called pêche de vigne), figs, multi-colored apples, and bulky pears, if you wanted to find me, I was likely standing under a fruit tree, reaching into the leafy branches trying to snag a piece of ripe, juicy fruit off the branches. Although at least now, I’m smart enough not to stand directly in front of things I’m taking a picture of, blocking all the light.

red peach

I gorged myself on fresh figs, which were drooping from the trees like something I was going to say, but decided against it. But If I bit into one and found a bead of sweet syrup in the center, I was richly rewarded with that ethereal experience of a pitch-perfect specimen of fruit at its peak. So I tried as many as I could, looking for as many perfect specimens as possible. There were a few varieties of figs and one had a curiously spicy flavor, with a pale-purple skin.

figs

I don’t know the variety, but here’s a picture so perhaps someone can fig-ure it out, if you’ll excuse the pun. And I scared the chickens, who were racing around eating some the fruit that fell before I could snatch it, but they rewarded us with lovely little eggs, along with their neighbors, les quails.

I picked (and ate) so many figs that I got dizzy from all the sugar – and I suspect a touch of alcohol from munching on a couple of overripe ones- I finally stopped, and let the birds, and the bees, have the rest.

chicken shallot sausagecooked sausagedavid and figscharcuterie

In the kitchen, we cooked up the meter-long rope of chicken and shallot sausage from the market, shelled a cassole-load of fresh beans, and gorged on the amazing pâtés from the charcuterie at the market, as well as overturning a jar of duck blood terrine, which is always fun to serve to visitors, who usually have a little trouble approaching it.

duck blood sausage

And of course, all meals begin with an apéritif. (And if they don’t, they should.) Which helps to wash down just about anything. In this case, I’d bought a spirit called L’apéritif des Soleils, a mélange of Chasselas grape juice, Martinique rum, Tahitian vanilla, and une pointe of piment d’Espelette, the somewhat local Basque pepper powder.

aperitif

grits

The next day we did brunch, cooking up a bag of grits that Libbie brought.

kate & felix
frying eggs

Our lanky British lad, who helped collect some eggs for breakfast – and whose height made him a pretty good fruit-grabber, too – fried up some streaky local bacon, nice and crisp.

bacon and eggs

Potatoes were shredded for hash browns, gravy came forth, made from the bacon drippings, the apéritif glasses were soon filled with rosé.

pâtéshredding potatoes
Gasconytomato salad

And although we didn’t have buttermilk biscuits, it’s hard to complain about pain Poilâne, no matter how untraditional.

rose

To walk it off, we went to the local village, um…well, am not sure what kind of curious rituals go on with the farm animals (or if it’s a work of art) but maybe I do belong in the city after all…

for animals

So I finally bid goodnight to my chambre on wheels, where I slept. (#want) And since I had some extra room in my suitcase from dropping off that enormous round of pain Poilâne, I had a wee bit of room to bring something back to la ville de Paris.

trailer

Then, my weekend was over, and it was time to head back to the big city. Fortunately since unloading the bread, I had a little extra room in my suitcase. Okay, a lot. So I hit Kate’s garden at Camont before heading to the train.

kale

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128 comments

  • September 21, 2012 10:20am

    Wow, what great pictures!! I am officially drooling on my keyboard. Makes me want to finish my coffee and get out to my local market down here in Antibes and do some cooking. You’ve inspired me as always, thanks!!!

  • September 21, 2012 10:37am

    Great post.
    The breakfast brunch looks amazing

  • September 21, 2012 11:02am

    In addition to all the points you have so delightfully listed, using public transportation to get around and about outside Paris is so doable. We live in a small city in the southwest sans car, and we don’t miss having it. Thanks for all the enticing photos; they only remind me why I love living here.

  • September 21, 2012 11:12am

    no matter at what time of the day I read your blog it makes me hungry !
    it is so beautiful

  • Jeannette
    September 21, 2012 11:40am

    Lovely, lovely pictures! I’ve just come back from Italy but now I want to go to France……

  • Anna
    September 21, 2012 12:14pm

    Magic post! At first glance I thought the duck blood terrine was an amazing chocolate dessert…

    • Jessica
      September 21, 2012 1:39pm

      Me too! I actually gasped a little at all the chocolate I was imagining.

  • September 21, 2012 12:22pm

    Reading this makes me feel like I’ve just been to France for the weekend. What a dreamy trip. I would kill for a mouthful of that duck blood sausage right now!

  • September 21, 2012 12:27pm

    Isn’t it magical there? Loved reliving my time at Camont thorugh this post!

  • taided betancourt
    September 21, 2012 1:38pm

    amazing! the pictures tell the story beautifully. so funny, the kale at the end with all the black clothes :)

  • September 21, 2012 1:43pm

    I truly enjoy all your posts …. Thank you!
    I’m a city girl as well … But I think there is such an innocence to the country side that I find magical.
    Your photos are mouth-watering!

  • Burndett Andres
    September 21, 2012 1:48pm

    Ahhhh…David! Thanks for making the time to share all these wonders. Beautiful!

  • September 21, 2012 2:05pm

    I want a weekend like that, too! Even though France is so far away from northern Canada, you brought us right there with your words and pictures. Thank you for this glorious mini-holiday! Also on my #want list to visit.

  • Lochaber
    September 21, 2012 2:22pm

    A wonderful post, full of the essence of la France profonde.
    The bit I liked best was your gentrifying of a favourite Scottish phrase. We say ‘Never pass an open lavvy door.’ Whenever you see an available bathroom, use it is so much classier.

  • Sally
    September 21, 2012 2:30pm

    I would take one (or two) of those cassoulet dishes filled with beans… I recently returned from Paris and loved every minute of it, but have to say my favorite time was when I took a train to the little villages around Paris.

  • Carol
    September 21, 2012 2:39pm

    You live a good life David.

  • September 21, 2012 3:13pm

    I was in the French countryside for a couple of weeks a few years ago, and it was fabulous. Though, I imagine it even better if you get to be a guest on a farm!

  • September 21, 2012 3:39pm

    I’ve been envying the stories out of Kate’s kitchen and garden all over the blogs lately. Someday I’ll be lucky enough to visit! PS: did you make it to the kale party at Verjus last night with your bag of greenery?

  • September 21, 2012 3:42pm

    First of all, I want to thank you, David. I’m french and I thank you for the way you speak about france in this post. It touched me a lot.
    I live in the south of france (Toulon) and even if I love Paris, you’re right : there’s a country surrounding Paris.
    If one day, you come to the east south, I would be happy to have you for diner.

  • Katie
    September 21, 2012 3:46pm

    I’ve been looking for a great cooking school over there — looks like I found it!

  • September 21, 2012 3:49pm

    Just came back from Paris, so this is a refreshing piece. Loved reading about the countryside, wish I’d had an opportunity to take a jaunt somewhere outside of TouristeVille.

  • Emily
    September 21, 2012 3:59pm

    Where can I get a salt pig like that?!!

  • September 21, 2012 4:09pm
    David Lebovitz

    Axelle: Yes, there are so many parts of France to see. Fortunately there is a good train system so a weekend away isn’t all that difficult, although it does require a bit of planning. (Especially if you want to get a reasonably priced train ticket!) It’s always a good reminder to get out of Paris. I know a number of Europeans who’ve come to America and really enjoyed going to smaller places in the mid-west, because they’re a whole different experience than New York or San Francisco.

    Emily: When you find one, let me know, too!

    Diane: I didn’t make it to the Paris kale-fest, although I had enough to have my own at home : )

    Lochaber: I know that in most cities, it’s hard to find a place to, um, “go” – but Paris seems to be a particular challenge. The department stores usually have just one, on one of the top floors, so they ‘re not easy to access. (Printemps dept store charges €1,50 to use theirs, as does the Carrousel du Louvre shopping center – I don’t mind paying, but that seems kinda steep.) And most of the free sanisettes are usually occupied or hors service (out of service), if you can find one.

  • September 21, 2012 4:26pm

    Thanks for the “rolling in the kale” chuckle.
    Charming images, I feel like I spent a weekend in the countryside now too.
    LL

  • September 21, 2012 4:33pm

    We were following your Instagram photos along the trails in Agen, and decided we need to get back to Kate’s Camont – PRONTO! Has been too long and your journey reminded us of that. Simply wonderful, David.

  • September 21, 2012 4:35pm

    What a magical place Camont is! I was so lucky to spend nearly a month there with Kate last year during which time we held a 4-day Pig, Pie and Eye with Kate & Tim Clinch. Wonderful post! Wonderful memories! Love the pic of the lanky Felix, too!

  • Jeanette
    September 21, 2012 4:38pm

    C’est tous tellement merveilleux! I can smell the food from the pictures pictures. What a truly marvellous post!
    Thank you so much for posting this. It has made my day.

  • September 21, 2012 4:38pm

    Lovely post and wonderful light filled photos, David. I am so wistful and miss Camont even more

  • September 21, 2012 4:39pm

    David,
    I agree about the bathrooms and get out of the city and see the country!

    We just finished a fabulous 10 day trip in Paris, took a weekend in Normandy, stayed with a woman who has a blog on French Country Style at her chateau.
    Saw Giverny and loved the change.

    Back in Paris we ate at Apicius, Verjus, Les’amis Jean, Semilla, and stayed in a different neighborhood (the 8th) this time, so we could walk and see a different view each visit.

    I posted our trip and always appreciate your Parisian recommendations and blog. You are very famous among the Americans while we visit!

    Stacey Snacks

  • debbie in toronto
    September 21, 2012 4:41pm

    one of your best posts ever…great pictures….great food….and yes the most important point is “use the first available restroom you see at all times”….so true.

  • Matt Senger
    September 21, 2012 4:42pm

    Oh, Stop! You are making me so want to head to the airport right now. Paris and France in the fall, it doesn’t get any better than that (except in Vermont, where I live). Your photos are wonderful. I still have vivid memories of the horse chestnuts as they turn in the fall. the smell is incredible, and the chilll and fog in the morning. Thanks so much.

  • September 21, 2012 4:46pm

    Reading this was TORTURE!! How delicious everything looks! I’m starving now!

  • September 21, 2012 4:51pm

    Just loved reading this post! And thanks for documenting your visit with all of these wonderful photos. I would NEVER say no to a trip to Paris, but it’s the small villages throughout France that I’ve fallen in love with. Agen is now on my list of places I must visit.

  • Hillary
    September 21, 2012 4:54pm

    Oh, man, these photos are killing me… you’re such a great photographer! (And have amazing subject matter…)

    The one bit of advice from my mother that I actually have taken to heart is “never pass up an opportunity to use the bathroom.” I guess some things are universal! (La langue de pipi est universelle?)

  • Ann
    September 21, 2012 4:56pm

    This is brilliant. After living in Paris for 3 years, followed by 2 years in San Francisco and being from Los Angeles, your posts always make me smile. This message is so true. Paris is the most exciting city in the world but getting out from time to time will feed the soul and senses. I go pretty often but your images are a good reminder that it’s time to get back there. Thank you for always being amusing, on point, and so real.

  • Lynda
    September 21, 2012 4:56pm

    feeling really jealous right now! What a great post and beautiful photographs!

  • September 21, 2012 4:58pm

    I’m speechless! Thank you for a beautiful ending to a long week. I will read this over and over. Beautifully done – thank you so much! Byrd

  • Kathy
    September 21, 2012 5:10pm

    OMG, I want those figs and the bread and the tomatoes and everything.

  • Deborah Janetos
    September 21, 2012 5:14pm

    Love reading your posts but this one is a special one! Excellent advice when taking market photos – I’ll remember to stay out of the light!

  • September 21, 2012 5:19pm

    David, these photos tell your story with eloquence– and I believe are among your most beautiful. Thank you this respite in my day– for taking me on this beautiful journey.

    One day soon, I hope we will travel together again, and I can again learn from your discerning eye and consummate knowledge, and benefit from your ability to pull a damsel from the path of swine.

  • Claire
    September 21, 2012 5:20pm

    The government of France should pay you as their Good Will Ambassador. The beauty of your photos almost made me weep. While I love Paris with all my heart and it’s my favorite city in the world, the French countryside has a beauty all its own. You’ve captured it very well.

    And no one should ever pass up the chance to use the “facilities” whenever they find it!

    Thank you,
    Claire

  • Ann
    September 21, 2012 5:21pm

    Delightful post! I feel like I was there…thanks for the little mini vacation!

  • Mimi
    September 21, 2012 5:27pm

    Remind us how you get to live in Paris?
    After reading this entry, it’s on the minds of many of us…
    Mimi

    • September 21, 2012 6:30pm
      David Lebovitz

      Well, if you ask anyone that lives here, it’s a lot of paperwork.

      Then more, and more, and more.

      Then more…and more..and..

  • September 21, 2012 5:36pm

    Quelles belles photos! La France me manque!

  • Laurie SF
    September 21, 2012 5:37pm

    Lucky dog.

  • madeleine
    September 21, 2012 5:41pm

    I enjoyed the pictures emensley. I especially liked the picture you posted after saying one should take every opportunity to go to the bathroom!

  • Lisa
    September 21, 2012 5:51pm

    I want the yellow vinaigrier!

    • September 21, 2012 6:10pm
      David Lebovitz

      I wanted one, too, – and was going to buy one, but Kate told me that they don’t work well (something about the spigot, I think) so perhaps it’s best just to dream about having it? ; )

      • September 21, 2012 8:33pm

        Ack! She told me the same thing. Leaky spigot. But I still kind of want one.

  • Kathy Weld
    September 21, 2012 5:57pm

    Perfect timing! My husband & I leave this afternoon for 10 days in the Dordogne region!

    Merci!

  • Jack Etsweiler
    September 21, 2012 6:04pm

    David,

    I was happy to see the picture of the le Creuset holding the grits – I bought the chocolate-brown version here in Ann Arbor about 35 years ago at the late, lamented Kitchen Port, and it’s still running on all cylinders. Great article, wonderful pictures! Thanks.

    • September 21, 2012 6:13pm
      David Lebovitz

      I love vintage Le Creuset, and have a Raymond Loewy casserole that I love. But I do have to remember not to cook anything with red wine in it, since it stains. I would collect more, but they’re so heavy (but I think soon, I may spring for one of their contemporary grill pans -)

  • Barbara
    September 21, 2012 6:13pm

    You certainly lead a charmed life….envious I am! Now tell us what you’re going to do with the kale you have brought back from the country!

  • Claudette Hepburn
    September 21, 2012 6:14pm

    Great show! Leaves us panting…
    Agen being the region where our beloved “pruneaux” come from, I was hoping to see some plums and there they were! BUT labelled “Reine-Claude”. In fact Reine-claude plums are green with a slight beige/pink blush on one side, when very ripe.
    The plums used for “pruneaux” are called “Prunes d’Ente” and are blueish/mauve.
    So the label on the photo seems to be wrong.
    What do you think, David?

  • September 21, 2012 6:38pm

    oh gosh; one can fully appreciate why it says somewhere that God loved France better than other places and that’s why he gave them so much gorgeous food and such fine wines – and I couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote. Glorious pixies too – and can you tell me if it’s just me but I cannot seem to break quail eggs properly – I always mess them up because they have such hard shells… so I only boil them for lovely salad decorations
    thank you for this TOP contribution.

  • Jennifer
    September 21, 2012 6:59pm

    Lovely photos and comments. We are living in the country just south of Bergerac, for 5 months. The markets are a favourite part of the experience. I am jealous though of all the figs you have found. Apparently our region was hit hard by the cold snap last winter. The fig tree in our garden produced nary a fig and half the tree is decimated. The markets have had only a few figs. I have resorted to buying Turkish figs from the supermarket because I really want to make your fig chutney recipe. Still better than the situation in Canada though!

  • Gratiela
    September 21, 2012 7:08pm

    Beautiful pictures ! Good story ! Nice peoples and places !

  • September 21, 2012 7:13pm

    You are absolutely right about the bathrooms, but I guess Americans are spoiled when it comes to public toilets. Isn’t there a book about that? I know this is a topic of conversation with fellow travelers to China/Japan.

    • September 21, 2012 7:20pm
      David Lebovitz

      A while back I read about a shopping center someone had built in Japan, but one of the complaints was that it was “too European”, which the author noted was likely a euphemism for “not enough restrooms”. And when I was in Japan, I was surprised (and as a traveler, delighted) that there were restrooms in most of the metro stations.

      When I was in Israel recently, there were bathrooms (clean!) everywhere, too. It was great, and much appreciated when out & about…

  • John Schnick
    September 21, 2012 7:21pm

    The Agen story filled me with delight: the most enjoyable blog ever. My annual sojourn in France starts in a Week, but I Can’t Wait!
    Thank-you.

  • GB
    September 21, 2012 7:22pm

    can anyone explain why French butchers only wear their aprons on one shoulder? Dumb question, I know, but I can never get an answer and my French is not good enough to get my point across to a French butcher. Merci bc.

  • September 21, 2012 8:04pm

    When we gather around the table here, the most important element is neither cold rose nor charcuterie, confit de canard nor pruneaux d’Agen (yes purple! I bet someone moved the sign) or Ronde de Bordeaux figs. Of all the important’ thing’s at our table at Camont, it’s the friends, new and old, who show up and make our work feel like play. Libbie, Josh, Tim, Felix, Steph, Vanessa, Mike, Colleen, Mick, Renee & Alvin and especially you, DL, are the good times around the old Gascon ranch. Thanks for fresh eye look at my home, the Poilane and especially the now hidden box of chocolates. See you next time when this country mouse needs a city fix! xx xx

  • Ronald Ashmore
    September 21, 2012 8:04pm

    One of your best.

  • nina
    September 21, 2012 8:08pm

    Love, love, love the french country!!
    Of all the bloggers on Paris life that I read, David, you are the best!! Writer and photographer. Period.
    Why is the restroom such an issue in France?? I don’t think it’s the same in the rest of western Europe. Or is it? Wouldn’t this be a real hygiene issue for a civilized country? (think India!)

  • Judy
    September 21, 2012 8:11pm

    The pictures are breathtaking. Thank you so much for letting me live vicariously through you. As a knitter, I especially like the parking meter that had been yarn-bombed!

  • September 21, 2012 8:19pm
    David Lebovitz

    Claudette: Considering that people comb through my tweets – and even tags on Flickr – looking for errors, I’m giving the farmers a pass on their mis-labeled plums.

    nina: I’m not sure, but one thing visitors often point out to me, which I’m now noticing, is the not-so-great cleanliness of a lot of the restrooms here. (And boy, have I seen some doozies!) I’m not sure why because the French seem to stress l’hygiène in so many other places.

    Kate: That was a great weekend, in spite of the overload of Armagnac : )

  • September 21, 2012 8:27pm

    Camont love! The figs were just coming in as I left – they were quite fantastic with a little of Dominic’s noix de jamon and a drizzle of honey. Yum. Been back 2 weeks and it seems like a lifetime ago. Sorry I missed you but so happy to see all your pics. Such a wonderful place.

  • Catherine Lee
    September 21, 2012 8:53pm

    I sincerely hope that (A) something like heaven exists (B) Me and my loved ones get to go there, at some point in time (C) it is modeled after rural France.

    We have visited rural France with folding bikes, heading out on the TGV from Paris in any direction that one cares to try out, and we have enjoyed the many and varied fancies that rural life has to offer in that wonderful country.

    Your photos bring back memories galore. Missing only from your collection are the images of the cheap, quaint, village hotels which we would arrange for on a daily basis.
    ps I laughed at the happy pig in the photo “Sac a Jambon”. Many thanks for your luschious blog.

  • Coleen VanSchoyck
    September 21, 2012 8:55pm

    This is simply beautiful. Now I need to go back to Paris and to France!

  • September 21, 2012 9:05pm

    Looks like a great weekend. Though I love Paris, I’ll take the country any day over the city (as long as there is some good food about!)

  • Lee Poteet
    September 21, 2012 9:23pm

    Those red fleshed peaches reminded me of the Indian Blood peaches of my childhood, something which I would really love to have back. Thanks.

  • Denise
    September 21, 2012 9:24pm

    Totalement envieuse,.. littéralement.

    Merçi pour ce clin d’oeil, d’un village de France.

    Time to go and cook something.

  • September 21, 2012 9:41pm

    What a feast of fabulous food and pictures!
    It’s good to know a loaf of Poilane is a good gift to take to the country.
    I always take a big box of Hugo & Victor semi-sphere seasonal chocolates
    Utterly delicious post!

  • September 21, 2012 10:11pm

    You are so lucky, that’s all I’ve got to say.

  • Chuck
    September 21, 2012 10:38pm

    I lived in southwestern France for two years as a Mormon missionary, and Agen was both my first and last city. Next to Cahors, it’s my favourite. Thanks for the walk down memory lane — and for the pictures of the wonderful food at the marché.

  • Rus
    September 21, 2012 10:40pm

    The cow sculpture assemblage is in reality a hoof trimming frame for cows. They’re put in such a rig to enable farmers or specialist foot trimmers to trim the cow’s hooves. Many are now mounted on wheels so that they can be towed from farm to farm by itinerant hoof trimmer people. I’ll stick to trimming goat and sheep hooves, thank you very much.

  • Lynda Agen
    September 21, 2012 10:59pm

    David, your stories and pictures are always so enjoyable – thanks for sharing your life with me! Living in Salem, Oregon I’ve got an abundance of the most wonderful tomatoes and hopefully next year my young fig tree will produce it’s ambrosia!
    My last name is Agen and it’s on my ‘bucket list’ of places to go! Thanks again!

  • Felix King
    September 21, 2012 10:59pm

    Just chiming in to say oh gosh how wonderfully you’ve captured that kale I planted. I’m thinking of investing whatever approximation of a paycheck I leave here with in a speedlight.

    • September 22, 2012 8:31am
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for planting the kale, Felix! I stewed it briefly with fried garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, then tossed it with whole wheat paste. Delicious! (As was the streaky bacon you fried up..)

  • September 21, 2012 11:35pm

    Wow. Beautiful pictures- the figs, vinegar crock, whisks, wine and the young guy in the pink country western shirt. You have an amazing life.

  • Margie C.
    September 21, 2012 11:51pm

    Best blog post of all time! Wow, wow, wow!

  • usha
    September 22, 2012 12:10am

    What’s to love about this (and other) posts, David ?
    EVERYTHING !

  • September 22, 2012 12:15am

    Oh my goodness that chicken salt bowl might be the most fantastic thing I’ve ever seen. I think that people often forget that simple material objects can ignite a deep and genuine happiness and appreciation to be living, breathing, and eating. Cheers!

  • JenniferF
    September 22, 2012 12:33am

    What a wonderful post, as usual!

    I do have a question…how do you know when the figs are ripe enough to pick?

    I got a small fig tree at the beginning of summer and he has lovely green figs with a hint of purple on them now, but I am not sure how to tell if they are ripe yet. Any hints/tips?

    • September 22, 2012 8:30am
      David Lebovitz

      Figs are ripe when they split at the bottom and begin to develop cracks in the skin. They should feel squishy-soft, like a filled water balloon. Figs don’t ripen much after picking, so best to get ones that are already ripe – or close to ripe – if you can. Figs that don’t have a huge amount of flavor can be roasted, which are great for dessert or even with roasted meats.

  • September 22, 2012 12:40am

    …..and I thought looking at pictures of the markets in NY were painful, these were…..torturously beautiful. Is that a word?
    It sure is a verb for me. How do you walk away without buying at least one of each?

  • trish
    September 22, 2012 12:57am

    Great post and produce looks fabulous, especially those late variety grapes in the wooden boxes….yummm. Prices are amazingly low compared to ours in Perth, Western Australia. We have great produce but it’s expensive. BTW when are you going to come this way? Now that would really be getting out of Paris for a break!

    While at Raspail Market I came across some peche de vigne sanguine. Can you possibly give me any more information about them please David? I understand that that they grow in organic vineyards to act as “markers” for mould; in that the mould will appear on the furry peche before the smoother grape skins. I’ve never been able to verify this bit of info and wonder if you may know.

  • Sandra
    September 22, 2012 1:04am

    So–yarnbombing has come to Agen!

  • Lyn
    September 22, 2012 1:31am

    I’m digging that roast turkey on a platter salt cellar. Now I have to have a funky one like you do. Ok, back to the photography.

  • Katie D
    September 22, 2012 1:48am

    Cheese lockers!!! I love it! I live in Canada and was over in Dordogne region earlier this year and saw these boxes for sale in almost every town. Unfortunately my French wasn’t good enough to understand the explanations the store keepers gave, and there were never any signs on them. Mind you my french was so poor who knows what I was really asking them! They were beautifully made, very tactile, but for what purpose?? Now I know! Thank you!
    PS I promise to learn more french before I come again.

  • ed wilson
    September 22, 2012 1:53am

    Great post I live down there Looking at your pics the chillies look to be Espelette Chilli (AOC) the ones they make the powder you mention lovely flavour

    Keep writing we enjoy it so much

  • ranchodeluxe
    September 22, 2012 3:03am

    I do declare, you have outdone yourself. I want the chicken salt cellar as well. Beauty.

  • Poornima
    September 22, 2012 3:49am

    That yellow jar and your humour! Nice.

  • Katie
    September 22, 2012 4:07am

    Why can’t you buy cassolet bowls in the US? Everyone I know wants one!!

    • September 22, 2012 8:27am
      David Lebovitz

      Kate tried to sell & ship the cassoles to the states, but the shipping was difficult; it was (very) expensive, and the bowls could break (and there was no way to insure against breakage.) So unfortunately she had to stop. Clay Coyote in the US makes a cassole, as well as a vinegar pot.

      (In France L’Atelier de la Poterie in Castelnaudary – the home of cassoulet – sells cassoles, although shipping is pricey and they are not responsible for breakage.)

  • Debbie C
    September 22, 2012 5:24am

    Parking meter warmer! I’m dying laughing. ;D
    Great post…I really, really need to go visit the French countryside. Amazing.

  • September 22, 2012 7:55am

    Haha, very funny that first vital advice! Otherwise, I share your opinion regarding France and small towns. In fact, I think this the case with many countries, like Germany or Spain. I always get tired quickly in big cities, but I find that small communities have more charm.
    From your pics that place looks amazing! I would love some grapes and french cheese right now!

  • Judith Moore
    September 22, 2012 10:02am

    Confirms my desire to uproot to France!

  • christiana
    September 22, 2012 11:50am

    What wonderful photo’s!! I can almost smell and taste the fresh produce from my lounge room couch in Australia.
    Thanks for another great post :)

  • Katie
    September 22, 2012 1:54pm

    David, thanks so much for answering about the cassoulet…

  • J.T.
    September 22, 2012 2:58pm

    One of the things that I love about your food blog is that it’s also a travel blog. I can’t wait to check out this great area of France. The countryside in France just seems to be oozy with riches from the soil.

  • Dana
    September 22, 2012 5:18pm

    Thank you so many times for so many terrific posts that have drawn me right in. I eat them all right up. I also thank you for the Paris restroom advice on behalf of my daughter heading off to Paris next summer with a school trip.

  • JenniferF
    September 22, 2012 7:57pm

    David- thank you for your answer about the figs! It sounds like mine are not quite there yet as they are still quite firm.

  • Nancy
    September 22, 2012 9:15pm

    #want to go to Camont…maybe one day! Thanks for making me drool.

  • shari
    September 22, 2012 11:26pm

    David, I love your posts! And I love the roasted chicken salt cellar! Is the little platter underneath attached or is it a separate piece?

  • Sylvie
    September 23, 2012 5:02am

    Fantastic post and pictures! Will revisit often!

  • September 23, 2012 5:25am

    i love this. i feel like i went along. thank you.

  • September 23, 2012 9:01am

    So funny, Agen is my home town, where I grew up and my parents still live. Well although I love the farmers markets there I must say I never saw it like the little paradise you describe :-) It’s really delightful to see Agen through your lenses and writing…
    Did you say Kale ? I so miss kale and baby bok choy in Paris…. I never know you could find kale in Agen, but I suspect this is only in your friend’s potager.

    • September 23, 2012 10:40am
      David Lebovitz

      The market in Agen (and nearby Nérac) are pretty amazing. So much local and regional produce; tons of plums, summer tomatoes, grapes, and charcuterie. I also was so happy to find the people who mill all their own flour, from their own wheat and grains!

  • September 23, 2012 10:49am

    An incredible experience. I want to go.

    The photo of the duck made my mouth water. I love duck confit.

  • Lesley Kramer
    September 23, 2012 11:49am

    Wonderful wonderful post ( as always)….thanks so much for all your hard work putting these posts together, it is sooooo appreciated….in Paris now and the countryside of France, somehow my photos don’t quite bring the experience home as well as yours!

  • September 23, 2012 7:14pm

    David,
    Again, thanks for the lovely write up about ‘my adopted hometown’ It’s nice to see so many comments appreciating your discerning eye and my turkey mustard pot (I’m sure it’s a turkey and I’m sure it was a mustard pot ? ). I thought your readers would also like the very complete website that the Lot-et-Garonne department #47 produces. (The Lot is to the north!) Here is a complete list of true producer’s markets …in English no less! http://www.tourisme-lotetgaronne.com/uk/local-gastronomy-markets.php
    Warm regards…from Gascony,
    Kate

  • September 24, 2012 3:46am

    Thanks for the luscious tour of a countryside I can only dream of seeing, at present.
    MM, dark blue-gree kale!

  • September 24, 2012 5:10pm

    Beautiful article AND pictures.

    On one of my next trips I plan to do a tour on France’s countryside – much to see!

    Regards!

  • Sue
    September 24, 2012 11:17pm

    I just returned from France–in and out (mostly) of Paris. Good markets were hard to find. The covered market in Reims has just been renovated to a “destination” with theatre, ballet, movies, and, OH, a market. Went to Epernay and their market was functioning, but really sad–few vendors or buyers. I had several new lists of street markets in Paris, and when I followed the schedule, there was not market.

    Dorman was a truly French market I stumbled upon and it was lovely. I asked for two peaches to eat in two days and the vendor picked the best and they were WONDERFUL with our picnic. Amazing.

    The super marches are wonderful compared to even the best US grocery stores, but I think that open air markets are losing pace. Fifteen years ago, there was an easy to find market daily. Things have changed.

    But when you find a good one, it is a remarkable experience–shopping and eating!

    • September 26, 2012 3:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      There is a list of markets in Paris on the city’s website (it’s linked on the My Paris page, here) that lists them and what day(s) they take place. It’s pretty accurate. However some visitors are surprised that the markets aren’t necessarily growers and farmers, but middlemen (négotiants). Yet at most markets in Paris, there are some producteurs and I usually scope them out and buy from them. Out in the countryside, as was the case at the markets in Agen, a huge majority of the folks there were growers, which was a treat to see.

      Supermarkets in Paris can be hit-or-miss. Some are fine while others are rather dingy. Lately many have cleaned up their acts and have better quality items, although the produce is usually rather unexceptional, and expensive to boot.

  • September 25, 2012 6:46am

    Alors, I miss France.

    There is such purity and rich goodness in French country food. The funny little strawberries that taste like flowers and sunshine, the duck fat, les fromages, the wine, the bread, the delicate lettuces, plums, olives, haricots blancs, aperitifs, etc. etc. etc.

    Thanks for bringing back beautiful memories.

  • Terry
    September 25, 2012 7:38pm

    It has been many years since my time spent in France, and because of age I will never make the trip over again, so I love reading your newsletter and seeing the beautiful photographs. It brings back many fond memories. Thank you. Terry

  • Kaite W
    September 27, 2012 5:56am

    I lived in the countryside in Rhone-Alps for a year, and visited your blog during that year for recipes, and read about your expat adventures in adapting to la France. Now I read the blog to armchair travel with you through your exploits. Thank you for your beautiful post and photos…warms my heart! Vive la campagne!

  • arline of va
    September 29, 2012 1:30am

    David, thanks for sharing your countryside adventure. How do you plan to cook the kale? Will you be serving it with anything else?

  • Manon
    September 30, 2012 6:01pm

    There are obviously a lot of knitters in that area. That parking meter warmer — it’s called yarn-bombing and is very popular in some parts of Europe and regions of the U.S. and Canada. As described on Wikipedia, it’s a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk. Nice to see an example of it in France…

  • October 1, 2012 6:16pm

    Really!!! You´re the best. Thanks so much.

  • mumbie
    October 1, 2012 9:18pm

    mouthwatering, groan, groan, #want…#want…xxx

  • Kathryn
    October 1, 2012 10:08pm

    Wonderful post David! You certainly don’t need any tips on your photography skills!

    I want to thank you for posting your love of figs in some of your posts. I love all varieties of fruits and vegetables but had never tried a fresh fig. I was intrigued and so bought some which looked nice and ripe. I couldn’t believe how delicious they were! I ate them one after the other. Within a few days I was back buying more. :)

  • Olivia
    October 12, 2012 1:02pm

    Oh, enjoying life at its best!!! Thank you, again for the descriptions and for the photos…made me feel like I was there!!
    Greetings :-)

  • October 15, 2012 9:04am

    David you really bring the country side to your blog. I felt I’m already there by just seeing those pictures above. “You need a crowbar to get me to leave”I understand what you feel for not leaving the country side. Me to wants to stay together with my mom. But I have to leave for my job. I really appreciate your blog. Thanks.

  • October 15, 2012 3:30pm

    Hello! How surprising to read a post about Agen on your blog, for it’s the town I live in – born&bred! I wish I was there to meet you all when you went to the local market. And just to let you know, the wood structure on the 3rd picture before last was used to shoe cows.