First things first!
What do you do first when you arrive at your vacation destination? Visit the market of course! So we had to get up a bit earlier on that wonderful day to drive to Pont-l’Abbé in the Bretagne (Brittany in English) region of France to get to the market in a decent time.
The setting of the produce section of the market at the Place Gambetta is very nice as it is contoured by linden trees. The two rows of stalls were facing each other, making strolling and buying very convenient. It was off-season, still plenty of people were making their purchases on this Thursday.
When reaching a new market I am always a bit nervous and hectic. What am I going to expect? How many stalls does the market have? Will I discover something new? What is the specialty on this market? Those are all the questions coming to my mind. And then I want to take pictures without annoying people. In short: I should learn to relax a bit 🙂 One day I will.
Getting the overview
First I made a quick tour getting an idea what the market is about. The one in Pont-l’Abbé is what I call a typical French market: produce focused, predominantly from the region, often from producers themselves who are willing to have a chat and tell you about their products. There is nothing hipster like to discover, not a lot of streetfood. It seems to me that the innovations themselves have been the occurrence of organic produce and payment via credit card only. In short: the market is about seasonal quality produce for the daily cuisine which is made from scratch.
The offering is a classic one: vegetables, fruit, cheese, (salted) butter, meat & sausages, a bit of bread and pastry, mushrooms, etc. Still as a tourist who cannot store a lot of things, there is something to buy and eat. Strangely enough I did not see fish despite Pont-l’Abbé being a coastal town. It seems rather to be a business of the market halls.
What were the discoveries?
We were lucky as we had a stove, fridge and dishwasher (!) in our vacation home: no significant restrictions for shopping.
I come from sausage country, especially those you just put in the pan. And I was lucky. The producer “La ferme de Kérautret” raises his own animals, get them killed in a nearby slaughterhouse before processing them into the right cuts and sausages. The reason for the animals not being killed on site are the EU laws with their standards including hygiene which makes is hard to maintain an own small slaughterhouse. I got some duck and pork sausages which were gone instantly in the evening after a long day on the road (I am not afraid of having food away from a fridge for a longer period of time). They were certainly worth the purchase, such great taste, no need to add anything, not even my beloved mustard.
And then the tomatoes from an organic stall. At home tomatoes are usually a disappointing experience for me. It does not matter where I buy them, they never seem to have a truly great taste. A friend of mine recently went to the Romanian country side and discovered how much taste they can really have. I was jealous since I am looking for years into such an experience. Here they had different colors and shapes. Yellow, green, red, round, egg shaped. In the evening I just cooked them all in one pot for a sauce and I was surprised: such a nice play of acidity and sweetness, it was truly great. Something you could truly call a tomato.
I also purchased some nice salted butter and cheese from a small organic stall. The Bretagne cake we bought from a bread and pastry stall was rather uninteresting. The honey from buckwheat or chestnut areas had real intense aroma and made its way back home.
What is “always” to be found on French markets are a certain type of take-away food stalls. Usually they have huge pans (1m in diameter perhaps) on a stove. Classic foods are paella or couscous, but also other dishes I am less familiar with. We skipped these ones, but tried some vegetarian samosas from a Vietnamese (?!) stall. Great taste, complex and very pleasant level of heat.
By the way: it is easy to heat up your food, there is a public (?) microwave not far from the produce section, in front of the market hall.
Was it worth to have visited the market as the first thing? For sure! We got a taste of the area and had something to eat in the evening. In one of the next posts I will report about the market hall in Pont-l’Abbé.
One little remark: I described mainly the produce section at the place Gambetta, the larger part of the market is at the place de la République in front of the market hall around the corner where the majority of the stalls are to be found, but they less produce ones.
All in all: The market in Pont-l’Abbé is a classic French market with all the goodies you need for cooking and a little bit of take away food.
A little link list:
- The market mentioned on the homepage of the city of Pont-l’Abbé
- The site of the ferme de Kérautret who had such great sausages
- My other posts on French markets