La Ferme de Viltain

La Ferme de Viltain you-pick signs

It’s not a drag to be in Paris in August. In fact, those who stay in town always say the same thing – “This is the best time of year to be in Paris.” (Or, “Wouldn’t it be incroyable if it was like this all year?”) Even though Paris is a lot smaller, imagine if 85% of the people left New York City or San Francisco in the summer, how different the cities would be.

My friends who have kids have told me they wish they could go on vacation during another month because it’s harder to travel in August; Airfares, trains, and hotels are more expensive, and there are strikes to contend with. But for those of us who remain in the city, we have almost the whole city to ourselves.

La Ferme de Viltain fresh cheese

One paradoxical thing about August in France is that many of the vendors at the markets also go away on vacation, which is exactly when all the great summer fruits and vegetables are in season. But I guess since there are fewer customers, they figure that they may as well close up shop and hit the road, too.

Open all year is La Ferme de Viltain. Cows, goats, and sheep don’t stop producing milk just because the humans want to go away, and some of the best ice cream makers in Paris, including Martine Lambert, Berthillion (who close their shop in August), and Glazed, get their milk from the Ferme de Viltain.

La Ferme de Viltain farm in France

La Ferme de Viltain not only is a dairy and cheese producer, but is a farm. And you can pick your own produce at la cueillette, as they’re called in France, or the “you pick,” as we say in English.

La Ferme de Viltain lettuce

La Ferme de Viltain cows

I headed to the farm with Jane from La Cuisine cooking school, who’s was also remaining in Paris, for a half-day trip. Looking at the map, I saw the farm isn’t accessible to Paris by public transit. So we took Baccara up on their offer to try their driver service.

(The driver was very nice and arrived early. And the last time I saw a car that clean was when I had a summer job in Long Beach, California as a teenager, unloading brand-new cars off the boats that arrived from Japan. I felt bad stepping inside his spotless van after traipsing through the dusty farm fields with my grubby sneakers.)

La Ferme de Viltain Berthillion ice cream

The farm offers tours of the dairy facilities daily, where you can watch the milking, which is adjacent to their store which is too big, and too well-stocked to call it a shop. Featured at their store are their dairy products, which include crème fraîche, fromage blanc, butter, yogurt, and milk, available raw or pasteurized.

La Ferme de Viltain raw milk

You can also buy ice cream from Berthillon and other glaciers that use their milk and cream, although it might be tough to bring them back to Paris. (Even in August when there’s a lot less traffic clogging the roads in and around Paris than normal, it’s still at least a 35mn ride.) For those who are a lot less stressed out than I am about transporting ice cream, you could take back one of the spectacular ice cream cakes, frosted in burnished meringue. But I left them there to admire from the other side of the freezer doors.

La Ferme de Viltain- ice cream cake

The sleek store sells produce from out in the fields, as well as conventional produce – because you can’t make Rosemary gimlets without limes and I don’t think many limes grown in, or around, Paris. Judging from the other shoppers, locals use the store as their grocer, but artisanal products take up a majority of the store.

La Ferme de Viltain fruits and vegetables

Being France, and being a dairy farm and cheese-making operation, the cheese display is definitely something to behold. They’ve offer cheeses that they make, as well as top-notch cheeses from across France. The second picture in this post are fresh cow’s milk cheeses wrapped in paper that are still soft and creamy.

La Ferme de Viltain goat cheese

These goat cheese hearts dusted with ash caught my eye, as did the raw goat cheese disks crusted with grains of mustard and herbs.

La Ferme de Viltain Malvaux goat cheese

Most of the goat cheeses in France aren’t always named like other cheeses are, such as Livarot, Comté and Langres, Mimolette. They’ll often called lingots (ingots), briquettes (bricks), crottes (poops), or crottins (turds), or boutons de culottes, underwear buttons, based on their shapes.

La Ferme de Viltain goat cheese

Even though you don’t see them often in restaurants and cafés (other than the ubiquitous Dijon mustard), the French are getting into condiments, and love ketchup. Even though it’s not my favorite condiment (bring on the aïoli!) it’s nice to see some smaller companies elbowing onto the ketchup* scene, normally dominated by the big guys. This company, named Ketch’up, makes a line-up of ketchups with beets, carrots, and piment d’Espelette, dried Basque chiles that pack a moderate amount of heat.

La Ferme de Viltain - French ketchup

The French are especially fond of jam. My Frenchman can go through a half-pot at breakfast, and I’ve compared notes with friends who also have French partners, who are also surprised at how their breakfast mates can quickly put away a jar of jam. Romain puts so much on his toast that most of it slides off into his café au lait. Because I’m not a jam-making machine (even though it sometimes seems that way) I’ve taken to rationing him.

La Ferme de Viltain sour cherry jam

There are jams here in every color, flavor, and fruit. These jars of griotte (sour cherry) I thought were particularly charming, but I don’t buy jam because the way it disappears in my house. Seriously, if I had to pay for it, I’d have to move to the poor house.

French people also love soup. And although I don’t buy soup either, this one does look rather tempting…especially because it comes in that great jar…

La Ferme de Viltain soup

There are also shelves of pâtés, terrines, and this Pot’je Vlees, a Flemish meat spread, which I did a bit of digging to learn more about, but my Flemish isn’t very good. However the La Grande Épicerie website says to serve it very cold, with hot French fries (is there another temperature for serving fries?), and a green salad. The label recommends almost the same accompaniments, and adds “good beer” to the meal. Sounds good.

La Ferme de Viltain pâté

Speaking of potatoes, I can’t say I’ve ever seen cooked potatoes in a jar. But these French potatoes have their own aura and some say that since they are grown near salt marshes on an île, they have the slight taste of the sea. And the skins are so fine, even some of the fussy skin-peelers here will eat them in their entirety. I recently saw three different cooks meticulously peeling tomatoes for tomato salads, and another person peeling nectarines. I wonder if they peel blueberries and cherries, too…

La Ferme de Viltain - jarred potatoes

There’s duck confit, ready to fry up. And if you don’t eat the skin of that, you have no business being in France.

La Ferme de Viltain duck confit

The store also had a great butcher market, with sausages – dry and fresh – coming from La Ferme Elizaldia, also in the Basque region.

La Ferme de Viltain sausages

I picked up a few dried sausages for summer picnics.

La Ferme de Viltain charcuterie

I didn’t pick up the ones with chorizo, although I do like spicy sausages. The large chunks of fat are not for the faint of heart. And since I recently had to squeeze myself into a Speedo swimsuit when I went to a public pool and forgot that men can’t wear regular swimsuits in pools in France (if you forget, they sell them in vending machines, as well as the bathing caps for men that many pools require you to wear…even if some of the other men have more hair on their back than you have on your head), I passed on these plump, rosy beauties.

La Ferme de Viltain chorizo

La Ferme de Viltain apple juice

We decided to do our shopping later, since we didn’t want to lug bottles and sausages around with us, and hit the fields, where people were picking away.

La Ferme de Viltain tomato picking

It must be pretty early in the season as most of the tomatoes were still green. A few people were walking by with baskets of red tomatoes although I didn’t see any on the vines, and I wasn’t ready to make green tomato chutney so early in the season.

For those who don’t want to get down and dirty, you could buy already picked produce out in the fields. This fresh garlic looked enticing although it’d be a labor of love to peel all those tiny, sticky cloves. (Believe me, I’ve done it…)

La Ferme de Viltain fresh garlic

La Ferme de Viltain cucumbers, cornichons

Am not quite sure of the difference between a cucumber and a cornichon, although cornichon seems to be a particular variety, the one that’s used to make the pickles. The ones above were the size of squat bananas and you’d need a pretty big barrel if you were going to pickle them. And if you were serving them on a platter alongside pâté and dried sausages, you’d need a very big plate to hold them.

La Ferme de Viltain cornichons sign

We scratched our heads at someone who had loaded up their wheelbarrow with a half dozen zucchini that were as long as baseball bats, and as thick as footballs. You know, the ones that neighbors with overflowing gardens try to foist on you, that don’t taste like anything and are as tough as a wooden canoe oar.

We weren’t sure what the point of buying them was since there were lots of smaller zukes in the fields. And since everything is sold by the kilo, rather than per fruit or vegetable, it seemed odd to load up on the larger ones. Maybe they just don’t like picking all that much?

La Ferme de Viltain fresh cornichons

Someone did pick these lovely smaller cornichons, which resembled Kirby cucumbers, which I like sliced for salads and snacking. If you want to keep it local with the fruits in your cocktails, you can skip the lime-based gimlets and make Chin Ups with cukes instead.

La Ferme de Viltain farm garlic

Amongst all the plants, dirt, garlic, and grass, I came across this recipe for Rhubarb Pie in the fields, that calls for frozen pie dough or puff pastry. I guess that’s why the prep time is only 20 minutes. And I guess if you’re spending your time picking your own produce, you can take a break from making the dough and not feel guilty about it. FYI: People shouldn’t feel guilty about not making their own puff pastry, but pie dough is one of those things that if you’re going through the trouble to make a homemade pie – and pick the fruit and berries for it – I would spend an extra ten minutes on making the rolling my own dough. (I’d also reduce the 600g/3 cups of sugar in that recipe too.) Just my 2 cents…

La Ferme de Viltain rhubarb pie recipe

One thing about Paris is that berries, with the exception of strawberries, cost a fortune at the markets. Picking berries is quite a bit of work so the lofty prices are justified. (Although I’ve not seen local raspberries or blackberries at my market.) So if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can come here and load up to your heart’s content.

La Ferme de Viltain raspberry

A nice couple walked by and I noticed their wheelbarrow was ridiculously loaded up with just-picked raspberries. When we asked what they were going to do with them all (and if they said, “We’re going to make pies with these gorgeous raspberries, with store-bought pie dough,” I would have made an offer to buy all those berries from them), they replied that they were going to make jam out of them. If Jane wasn’t there with her cameraphone at the ready, Snapchatting with me, I might have made a face-dive into them.

La Ferme de Viltain raspberries

I didn’t want to ask her if her other-half Hoovers up jam like mine does. But those would not have made it back to Paris with me. I would have eaten them all in the car on the way home. (Don’t tell, but we did eat a few in the fields. Thankfully they don’t weigh you going in to the field, then later on the way out.)

La Ferme de Viltain ass donkey

We had a pretty great morning at the farm and were back in the city by noon. We both did some shopping and while it’s a trek out here if you don’t have a car, I think if you were visiting Paris, it’s an interesting place to visit if you can get yourself here. From my place, according to Google maps, it’s three métros, a bus, an RER C train, then a forty-five minute walk from the station. So you’d have to rent or hire a car.

La Ferme de Viltain tour hours

I don’t have a car, but my jam-junkie does. So perhaps we can make a deal for rides in the future.

La Ferme de Viltain picking vegetables

La Ferme de Viltain
Chemin de Viltain
Jouy-en-Josas, France

Check the website for opening hours and times for guided visits, which vary depending on the season.


Notes

There are a number of cueillettes outside of Paris, some in the Seine-et-Marne region, which is a little more rural than this region, although Le Ferme de Viltain has a sleek store, fresh (and aged) cheese, and other foodstuffs on offer, as well as tours of the dairy facilities. You can find other “you pick” farms using a search engine along with the word “cueillette.” Many have websites that list their locations and opening hours.

The car service, Baccara, had offered my friend a ride with no talk of a mention on this site. (They didn’t even know I was going.) It’s a premium service that offers half-day and day-long trips and outings. To visit the farm, you’ll need a car or a driver.

*While ketchup is considered a sweet tomato condiment these days, closely associated with the United States (and increasingly, other western countries), it’s origins said to be in Asia, the original made with fermented fish. The first recipe for making a tomato-based ketchup appeared in 1812.

 


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35 comments

  • August 16, 2016 9:26am

    I have been longing to go to ferme de Viltain forever. Now it looks even more enticing. I must twist someone’s arm soon. Thanks for posting.

    • August 16, 2016 6:17pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s a pretty interesting place, especially seeing all the fromage blancs, milks, creams, and other dairy products they produce there, that you could buy. Also I liked that the meats were well-sourced, and the staff was especially friendly. It’s a shame it’s not easy to get to from Paris unless you have a car, but maybe you can brave AutoLib ; )

  • August 16, 2016 10:03am

    I grew up in Jouy-en-Josas not far from there but I didn’t realize they supplied Berthillon et al. Another place for cueillette is the Ferme de Gally near St Cyr l’École, in Versailles’ back yard.

  • August 16, 2016 10:25am

    I love lait cru. It tastes SO much better.
    Did you get a load of the ingredients on Pot’je Vlees: chicken, pork, rabbit, veal? Vlees means meat. Everything in Belgium is served with fries and beer.
    You must listen to the “Tomato Butt” monologue by Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion (from about 30 years ago but so great I still remember it). He talks about neighbors leaving giant zucchini on each other’s back steps.
    We always have gazillions of raspberries and tomatoes, which go to waste when we go to the U.S. for a month in summer. This year we didn’t go…and our garden has zip. Too cold at the beginning then too hot and dry. Sigh. Luckily, there are farms all around Carcassonne, some quite close in. But they’re more specialized—veggies at one, fruit another, cheese another. They’re very easy to get to.

  • Oonagh
    August 16, 2016 10:27am

    Love the cutie-pie donkey.

  • Dick Selwood
    August 16, 2016 10:56am

    “You pick” may be American EWnglish but English English is “Pick your own”, though I have seen nothing quite like ferme de Viltain in England

    • Chris
      August 16, 2016 5:56pm

      This American is familiar with “pick your own” and not with “you pick.” But I’m East Coast — maybe it’s a California expression?

      • tunie
        August 16, 2016 6:34pm

        Signs on the side of the road are more like, “U-Pick”… that was the phrase in the south, (North Carolina and Alabama) when I was growing up and now here in the NW. So maybe a northern thing…?

        We would FILL a stand up freezer with strawberries and have strawberry shortcake, ice cream and jam all year long!

      • jw
        August 17, 2016 6:52pm

        I’m 64 and have lived in So. California all my life. “U-Pick” and “You Pick” are reminders that my generation had a good long run culturally, but it’s over. I always say that a local would never say “Cali” for California (ugh!) but prolly I’m wrong.

  • Will
    August 16, 2016 1:15pm

    David, there is a magical land on the Upper East Side of Manhattan called Carnegie Hill where 85% of the people do leave in August, with the number approaching 100% on August weekends. It makes the stifling heat almost bearable to have the place almost entirely to myself.

  • August 16, 2016 4:20pm

    Sounds like a wonderful place to spend a few hours and boy! What a store. I would have wanted to buy everything.

  • August 16, 2016 5:26pm

    Perhaps the people who were picking zucchini aren’t familiar with them and thought bigger was better? Either way, that sounds like an idyllic farm and a wonderful morning.

    • Karen
      August 19, 2016 4:23am

      My guess is that they were hauling them to the cows!

  • Valerie
    August 16, 2016 6:32pm

    How lovely, thank you for the virtual tour! I’m drooling over those gorgeous artichokes, raspberries and of course, cheeses.

  • Shell
    August 16, 2016 7:23pm

    Fresh raspberries ARE the taste of Summer.

  • August 17, 2016 5:03am

    My boyfriend, who is Romanian, convinced me to buy fresh cornichons at the market to put in a salad with tomatoes and olive oil. I found it very bland, so I’ll be sticking to fresh cucumbers and pickled cornichons in future!

  • sillygirl
    August 17, 2016 4:40pm

    My favorite flavor of Berthillon – Creole – in the photo made me drool. I hadn’t thought I was a rum-raisin type of girl until I tasted it.

  • Loving French Food from a Distance
    August 17, 2016 5:15pm

    Talk about aspirational travel articles! Thank you, David, for those cool pix during a long, steamy heat wave in and around New York (and beyond).

  • August 17, 2016 5:31pm

    A wonderful summer post – love the pics. Must now make a burnished meringue ice cream cake.

  • Katy
    August 17, 2016 5:39pm

    Ah, David. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I feel so happy right now.

  • Christine Quigley
    August 17, 2016 7:33pm

    Cannot wait to go to France next year for our biking trip! Will need to keep a list of all the places you’ve mentioned in your blogs and pick the best!
    BTW, there IS something you can do with those baseball-bat sized zucchini. You can make lovely rolls with pureed zucchini, or zucchini ‘milk’. Adds a light sweetness to the rolls. I can post the recipe if anyone would like to try it.

  • vered
    August 17, 2016 9:33pm

    August 23rd I come to Paris and want to know if there are shops at sec open in August.

  • August 17, 2016 9:38pm

    I am eating 1/4 of a large courgette – which is the proper word for what Americans will insist on calling zucchini – which my brother accidentally overlooked, and which I have stuffed with bulghur wheat, feta, olives and tomatoes. Yum!

    And yes, definitely “Pick your own”, often abbreviated to PYO.

  • amy kamm
    August 17, 2016 10:03pm

    Used to go there quite often when I lived in Paris. Loved it. Glad it is still going strong.

  • Amanda
    August 18, 2016 1:28am

    Your photograph of the raspberries is beautiful! I grew up with a massive raspberry patch so I know the work that must have gone in to getting such a beautiful bunch of berries.

    I’ve just discovered your website and have fallen in love with it. I’ve made your black currant jam, which turned out just perfect, as well as your Irish brown bread. I’ll definitely be coming back for more.

    Thank you!

  • Gavrielle
    August 18, 2016 1:39am

    Pick your own has become much harder to find in Auckland than it was in my childhood, but even in its heyday it was never as good at this. Yum. I clearly need my own Frenchman, as we have endless pots of wonderful jam from our damson tree that we can’t keep up with.

  • Barbara
    August 18, 2016 2:39am

    An enjoyable post. Regarding the gigantic zucchini, perhaps they intended to stuff them as the English do?

  • Natalie
    August 18, 2016 5:06am

    From Fiji, a dot in the Pacific Ocean I’ve been able to get your wonderful perspective of France and Food and love your recipes. Thank you David.

  • elena
    August 18, 2016 10:00am

    Very beautiful!Something I would like to have closer.
    Perhaps,one day.
    Thank you!

  • Rockyrd
    August 18, 2016 2:17pm

    Wonderful post and photos. Those raspberries were amazing.
    Here in down east Maine we take our extra zucchini and head into town to the local grocery store. There are always vehicles in the parking lot with open windows, so we gift them a few.

  • Jami
    August 18, 2016 3:33pm

    I love that place… we used to go there with my parents when i was a kid. Last week we went with my 3 kids and they loved eating the berries (mûres et fraises)… Regarding the courgettes, people pick the big ones because it is cheaper (under 2€) while the smaller courgettes (under 15cm) are much expensive (more than 8€)! That’s the reason!

  • August 19, 2016 7:45pm

    Your comment about eating duck confit skin assumes that it is lovely and crisp. I have to say that in nearly 15 years of living here, I’ve never been served it crisp in a restaurant. It’s such a shame as it’s so easy to do and when I cook magrets or confit legs, I always manage to crisp it up. In an area of foie gras production and all the by-products, it is in the menu in all the restaurants and a one that served it well, would certainly stand out. I just don’t eat it any more when I am out.

  • Arlene Savard
    August 19, 2016 7:58pm

    David; Love your blog. I have a vegetable garden and have occasionally used a giant zucchini that got away on me as a meat loaf baking container. You cut it in half, scoop out the seedy centre, put your favourite mix in and wrap the whole thing in foil. Good in the oven or out door grill. I had a boss who enjoyed using them this way so I often gifted them to him.

  • BananaBirkLarsen
    August 19, 2016 11:11pm

    I work in sort of a high end grocery store with a lot of stuffy customers and I think I might have to start directing people to the “poops” and “turds” of goat cheese!

  • August 21, 2016 4:18pm

    One of the things that I absolutely LOVE about living in Europe is visiting farms and markets!! I lived in Sardinia for four years and now visit for two months every summer and I cannot wait to visit the markets. Have you ever been to Sardinia? It’s definitely worth a visit…and you’re so close too!

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