Sunday, July 1, 2012

A day of culinary delights in Rennes

This morning, I took myself off to Rennes' fantastic food market, the second biggest weekly market in France. It takes place on Saturdays, as it has done for probably hundreds of years, at the Place des Lices, a network of cobbled squares surrounded by wonky pan-de-bois houses. It was truly a banquet for the senses, with just about every type of fresh vegetable, fruit, and miles of fresh flowers on the outside stalls (which ran over several blocks) and on the inner stalls, a wondrous array of fresh seafood, artisan breads, cheeses in myriad shapes and colours (and smells!), and meat and poultry of all persuasions. I had no idea there were so many different types of artichoke, or that the varieties of shallot, garlic, and onion available in France could cover an entire stall. I loved simply wandering around looking and smelling everything, but there was plenty of action with all the  old ladies muscling their way to the front of the queues, the vendors touting their wares in fine dramatic style (no wonder they call it a 'criee'). There were also plenty of adorable pooches for me greet and give a scratch behind the ears. (Rennes is a very dog-friendly city - even the plooty Michelin-rated restuarant next door to  my hotel welcomes them!) I was also quite amused by the site of the market's rickety little tea and coffee trolley, which appeared to be made out of an old pram with a parasol stuck in the top, doing the rounds of the stallholders.

Tastebuds whetted by the sights and sounds of a morning au marche (and an afternoon of shopping), in the evening I returned to dine at Le Cour des Lices, a restaurant right on the edge of the market square that boasts the best of the day's produce. I went in on the off chance and was lucky enough to get the last table, a little one right by the window that would have been a squeeze for more than one person. This place was a real delight. It didn't look like much on the outside, being in a very narrow and somewhat run-down looking old house, but inside it was modern and cooly luxurious, with pale wood-panelled walls and leather banquettes that were warmed by splashes of bright orange in the glasses, tableware, and linen. It is family-run (the wait-staff included a kid who looked about 14! but he did a very professional job) and obviously very popular with the locals, as every second party through the door was greeted with bisous and hugs from the charming maitre d'. My meal included foie gras layered with thin shavings of artichoke, roast pigeon with today's market legumes, and some kind of miraculous caramel buerre-sale mousse-y thing with baked apples. It was seriously eye-rollingly good, and a fitting sign-off to my last weekend in France.

Tomorrow, I am off to Saint Malo for the day on the train, so will report back on this most famous of Breton port towns. Here's hoping the weather is good!

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