Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
This grape is unique; a single sniff of a single grape prepares you
for something truly exceptional; the grape has an incredible taste, a golden juice
and an unparalleled aroma. As you bite into one of these grapes the sensations
taken all together will make you realize that you are tasting a grape unlike
These grapes are virtually entirely hand raised, and they are only
available in the markets from late August through the first week of
November. The farmers who grow these
grapes also sell its fresh grape juice, a bottle will cost more than many wines in the
local supermarket! If you dine in the
area, you may be offered a cocktail made with this grape juice and brandy called
an Emoustille. Other artisan producers extract the juice to produce
conserves and more.
This table grape is one of only two French table grapes that carry
an AOP, with a little research that AOP informs the consumer how
this grape is grown and why they are unique. The only other grape is with an AOP
is the Muscat Ventoux; an equally unique, but, very different,
grape; it will require a separate post.
This is a table grape, and as you might expect, it will be on the
menu at the end of the meal without any additions; however, since the grape
juice is available you may also find this grape’s jelly accompanying foie
When you in the area close to the town of Moissac, you will
soon realize that its economy is not built on these grapes alone. The area around the town is part of the old province
of Quercy, and there is a veritable Garden of Eden here that
produces superb melons, plums, kiwi fruits, strawberries and other fruits and
vegetables. When the artist Monet needed water lilies for his famous
garden in Giverny in Normandie, he chose the best, and his water
lilies were imported from Mossaic.
lilies in Monet's Water Garden at Giverny.
Photograph courtesy of Cross Duck
Nymphéas Bleus at the Musée d'Orsay by
Photograph courtesy of wallyg
To celebrate all the wonders grown around the town you must visit on
the third Saturday and Sunday in September; then the town has its Fête de
Fruits et Légumes de Moissac; the feast of the fruits and vegetables of Moissac.
The star, of course, of course, is their unique grape, the Raisin
Chasselas de Moissac AOP. The town
has regular market days on Saturday and Sunday, but that is a different story.
Getting ready for the Fete
Other products on sale in the weekly Moissac market.
Photograph courtesy of acroll
The town of Moissac is in the département of Tarn-et-Garonne
in the Midi-Pyrénées, part of the old province of Quercy. The
River Tam and Canal de Garonne flow through the town and you may
choose to arrive in Moissac by renting a self-drive canal boat from Sète on the Mediterranean. Moissac was
once an important canal port, and from Moissac you can continue on to,
still today, to Bordeaux and the Atlantic. This is the Canal de Deux Mers,
the canal that connected the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and changed the
economy of Southern France as well as the eating habits of the French as far
north as Paris forever. This canal, before roads and trains, allowed produce to
travel in one week from the Mediterranean to Paris. More importantly it saved a
one month trip around Spain and occasional battles with the Barberry pirates.
The Port in Moissac
Photograph courtesy of Drumsara
Just 30 minutes away from Moissac is the town of Agen,
so famous for its prunes; it is less
than 40 kms (25 miles). Most North
Americans do not know, but it was Louis Pellier from Agen who came to the USA in
1849 when he heard the news of the California gold rush and in 1854, on a
return trip to France, brought cuttings of the Agen plum trees, and
cuttings from some of France most famous grape vines. At one stroke, Louis
Pellier established the California French Prune and plum industry as well
as the California wine industry.
Despite the wonderful grapes there are many visitors to Moissac whocome to see the parts of France’s medieval history. Moissac is famous around the world for
its medieval Saint-Pierre Abbey and cloisters which are part of the
UNESCO World Heritage sites. Here pilgrims passed through France, on foot, onto
the pilgrimage center of Santiago del Compostella in Spain.
The cloisters of the Saint-Pierre Abbey
Photograph courtesy of the musical photo man
If you have the time and an interest in automobile history, take a
short side trip to the nearby birth place of Antoine Laumet de
Lamothe-Cadillac (1658-1730). Lamothe-Cadillac
founded Detroit, Michigan, and his name was given to that King of American cars
the Cadillac. In the village of Saint-Nicolas
de la Grave, 8 kms, 5 miles, away is a small museum dedicated by the City
of Detroit, Michigan, USA to the memory of Antoine Laumet de