Last year I was very disappointed when Clotilde and Pascale and their foodie fans decided to visit the Salon de Saveurs on a week day as I had to work. Why didn't I simply take a day off work? Well, because I'm stupid. Also, I didn't realize what delightful people they would all be or I'm sure I would have called in sick if necessary. (Note to any of my colleagues who might be reading this: OF COURSE I WOULD NEVER BE THAT DISHONEST; I ONLY CALL IN SICK WHEN I AM AT DEATH'S DOOR...)
The Salon de Saveurs is a strangely unpublicized event. Unless you happen to be in Paris when it is taking place and happen to notice one of the posters you wouldn't known about it. I've tried in vain to find a web site about it. If you think about it, though, this is a good thing. Producers know about it but it doesn't attract the same volume of visitors as some of the bigger events such as the Foire de Paris. It's perfect foodie heaven.
Alisa and I met up with Clotilde at the Espace Champerret, where this salon takes place twice each year. Unfortunately, Pascale wasn't able to join us as she'd had a last-minute call from TÚlÚrama (the main French TV guide) for a photo shoot - congratulations, Pascale!! I was sorry to miss out on seeing Pascale but definitely profited from the wisdom of seasoned veterans Clotilde and Alisa. On Alisa's suggestion we proceeded in an orderly fashion, systematically covering each lane. On Clotilde's suggestion, we went through the entire salon once before going back to the stands we liked best. I have to say that this is the most intelligent suggestion I've heard in a long time. I used to go to the Foire de Paris, which is a trade fair on a grander scale, every year. And I would go wild at the food and wine section, buying willy-nilly and then not having the money to buy or the energy to carry really interesting stuff I found an hour later. It doesn't actually take that much longer to go through the whole thing once and then go back and buy at the best places. You don't end up carrying stuff around for as long, you make more informed choices and, quite often, when it comes down to it you decide that some of the products that seemed absolutely essential to your kitchen...are not so important after all.
That said, there were very few duds in the exposants of the salon. We agreed not to buy preserved garlic from a Spanish stand after realizing that the couple behind the counter couldn't even tell us where any of the products hailed from. But that was the exception. We tasted Corsican cakes and olive oils and a most delicious lamb and made more than a few purchases. Despite our wise decision to do our hunting first and our gathering after we came away with arms laden.
The hands down favorite for myself (and Alisa, I think) had to be 1001 Huiles. My goodness they did seem to live up to their name (1001 oils). I tasted a nutty spread made from a North African nut I've never heard of before, argan. It was so good I bought two little pots - one mixed with almonds and honey and one with hazelnuts and honey. I intended to save one as a gift for some good foodie friend but I'm not sure I'll follow through on that thought!
And the item I bought that figures in the photo at the start of this post also came from the stand: a wonderful sweet, savoury balsamic vinegar reduction. To show off this star, I steamed some asparagus with slivers of new garlic, drizzled some of the balsamic reduction over the spears and sprinkled them with grated Parmesan. It was my first taste of asparagus this year and I think I found the perfect compliment for it. Our friend Tony, who was over for dinner that night, complimented me on the great sauce and I had to sadly admit that I was merely a good chooser of a great sauce, not the great sauce maker. I may be dishonest, but I'm not THAT dishonest!