You absolutely must arrive early. We got there at 9.15am and it was already busy, by 1130am when we left it was bordering on unbearable (as far as trying to negotiate the stalls with a pram). Next year we'll get there at 8.45am.
Even though it was early and very cold, a dozen or so truffle farmers had their little stalls set up and buyers were well into the business of sniffing, squeezing and fondling the black variety of this fungus that grows in the local area (among oak tree roots).
Here's what they look like: (very hard to photograph as truffle buying is apparently a spectator sport, everyone wants to have a sticky beak)
Oh yes, that sign does say 1200 euros a kilogram (around AU$1560 a kilo, or US$700 a pound). There was one lady giving 1300 euros a kilo a try too.
And those little suckers are quite heavy - in fact that's one of the key indicators of a good truffle, that it's heavy for its size. You also want to check it has been brushed clean; dodgy vendors have been known to stuff cracks with mud to increase the truffle's weight. It should also be free of soft spots (hence all the fondling) and have a strong truffle-y odour.
How to describe the truffle taste...it's very difficult to put in words. Much like Judge Stewart's explanation of obscenity, it's hard to define the flavour of truffles, but you know it when you taste it. Rich, pungent, earthy - all words that are often used and don't really do this food justice.
This truffle is 55 euros (around $77). Eeek!
Given that truffles were not in our budget this year, we decided to try one of the truffle omelettes on offer. Omelettes are a great vehicle as they let the truffle do all the talking. Similarly other delish ways to enjoy truffles are with mashed potato or tossed through pasta with butter. Mmm.
This nice man cooked us a truffle omelette with baguette and rosé (yes, at 10am, don't judge) for 10 euro each.
It was truly delicious.
But truffles were only one of the things on offer. The market was full of amazing fresh produce and other goods. Honey, olives, oils, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, liqueurs, wine, snails, foie gras, the list goes on...
You could buy your own truffle omelette kit - 6 eggs stored overnight with a small truffle (the eggs absorb the truffle flavour) which is then grated over the omelette:
Of course there was cheese:
Sleighfulls of salami:
Those rounds were at least 60cms (2 ft) across
All sorts of mushrooms:
Herbs and spices:
I've yet to gather enough guts to buy one of the mouldy ones
Check out this charcuterie. Can you see the little dried piggies on the left? How chewy would those ears be?
Now get a load of this.
Still haven't been in France long enough to eat this. More time in country required.
There are a lot more festivities during the day, but we were fairly frazzled after two hours of crowds, omelettes and the flirting tapenade man. Oh, and the petting zoo:
Did you say foie gras?
Here's a short video (less than 2 mins) of the Festival from the foodie perspective. It's in French but I think it captures the atmosphere perfectly.
Best wishes for the lead up to Christmas: may all your truffles be dense and lightly fondled!