i know it’s been quite awhile since a proper post here. some of the absence was due to a delightful road trip in France, filled with not only the company of a good friend, but our enjoyment of countless delicious French goodies. over the course of a few posts, i will share some of the highlights of our gastronomic adventure, beginning here with our meal of fouées after a long drive south from Paris to the Loire valley.
now, you may be asking, “what are these fouées you speak of”? well, if you’ve never heard of them, i’m only a few months ahead of you in fouée knowledge. i learned of them probably in early March on the suggestion of a trusted, food knowledgeable French acquaintance whose hometown is in the Loire. her main recommendation for eating in the area near Saumur was to try the fouées at Les Caves de Marson. apparently her sampling of several fouée restaurants in the Loire valley area determined this one to be the best of the bunch.
naturally, further research was required to see what i was signing my friend and i up for. i was pleasantly surprised to learn that fouées were little baked flatbreads, sort of like pitas in that you cut one open and fill with a number of things such as fresh local butter, pork rillettes (a shredded pork spread), salad, and/or white beans. specifically at Les Caves de Marson, we would be eating all of this in the cozy ambiance of a candle-lit cave!
having been told that reservations were a must, the process was easy enough through the restaurant’s website (they can make do in English if you aren’t proficient enough to request in French, same goes when you are actually at the restaurant). once there, we had a choice between a few set menus. all included an aperitif, a starter of mini-mushroom tart (crust made with the fouée dough), unlimited fouées, salad and mogettes (white beans local to the Loire), goat’s cheese, wine (a bottle between two people), a dessert, plus coffee or tea. the basic menu included pork rillettes, but paying a few euros more could upgrade you to duck or foie gras pate. we decided to keep it simple and try the pork rillettes (the meal was about 23 euros per person).
the fouées were handmade and baked in batches in the wood oven. our server was charming and came around often with a basket full of fresh, hot fouées. there is no sense in taking more than you can eat in a few minutes (unless cold fouées are your thing). limitless availability of piping hot bread? if only my stomach were bigger…
cutting open the bread, feeling the steam, as we spread a bit of butter before fighting ourselves from devouring it within seconds…trying another with some rillettes…trying a third filled with just the white beans and some salad…all delicious! the contrast of the warm, slightly crunchy/slightly chewy bread with the cool, soft fillings was a treat. while all the fillings were good, the winner was probably the white beans, with some salad. a little less rich, still very tasty, and hey, a few leafy greens to boot!
the owner of the bed and breakfast we stayed in was clear to mention that fouées were “not really anything special”. i think she was trying to set our expectations correctly, after seeing my enthusiasm as we were heading out to the restaurant. she meant that the fouées themselves are not high-end or refined food, that the meal could never compare to the type of fine dining most people may associate with France. i wouldn’t want it any other way. the casualness of the meal was terrific in making us feel comfortable, especially from our long journey that day. would i say it was special? yes, i found the entire experience to be especially memorable, not only for the ability to try something local that has been made for so many years (this restaurant alone has been in business for 36!) but also due to its unique setting – sitting inside a cave, lit only be candlelight. don’t think it’s very often to get the chance to do that!
so our first day ended with quite a satisfying meal, and the anticipation of much more good food to be had on our little French road trip!
for anyone who may go to the Loire valley, i would highly recommend trying fouées, something traditional to this region of France. there are restaurants in the Anjou and Touraine regions that serve them as well, but if you are near to Saumur, Les Caves de Marson is about a 10-15min drive away.