La Fête de Ventre – The Celebration of the Stomach!

“Finished already”, said my favourite cheese-monger this morning handing me a bag with a large wedge of oozing brie, for which he shook his head at any idea of payment. It was just 11, and I had already passed his market stall earlier in the morning with twenty americans in tow. He’s such a nice man that when he sees me approaching, he always lays out on the counter top the four “appelation controlé” normandy cheeses for me to talk about to whoever I may have with me. I grinned at him saying how hard it was for me to get up to meet today’s group having been enjoying myself at a dinner with friends the night before.

Even more unusually, there was no queue at the fruit and vegetable stall either, so after a shake of the hand and a cheery chat with the owners, I walked away with another bag on my arm and passed into the side road where all the real action was. Today is the annual “Celebration of the stomach”, and as always hundreds of local producers arrive in the town at the crack of dawn on saturday for the two day long festival. Not only was there every imaginable food and locally produced alcohol available, but an excellent 5 man band were wandering around filling the air with fabulous and cheerful music.

I already had a couple of spit-roasted chickens under my arm, and so what I really needed next was some freshly baked bread. There is no presarvative in french bread, and so it has to be bought fresh every day. Today there were at least three boulangers baking bread on the street in portable bread ovens and the smell was heavenly.


But you can’t buy bread without thinking of cheese, and the local normandy cheese called Neufchatel, traditionally in the form of a heart, was not far away!


The Neufchatel comes in varying degrees of ripeness, young smooth and white or older white with little slits in the surface. But then suddenly I noticed some brown hearts and couldn’t resist asking just how old these cheeses were. The stall owner declared that they were four months old and had the flavour of caramelised cheese. “Were they dry in the centre” asked another person. Not at all, rich and gooey in the centre, these are not cheeses for the faint-hearted!wp_20161016_002

Well only moments later I passed a stall where a huge pan of Tartiflette was bubbling away. Potatoes, onions and bacon cooked in white Savoy wine and fresh cream with a generous helping of Roblochon, a soft rind soft “appelation controlée” cheese also from the Savoy region. There was enough to feed an army.


Having got all that I really needed, there was time just to wander through the stalls and savour what was available.


fresh squashes and pumpkins, and fresh garden herbs.


abundent fresh fish and shellfish.

wp_20161016_022Roast pork,wp_20161016_020

and hot, fresh crèpes with chocolate sauce.

wp_20161016_015Macaronswp_20161016_016choux puffs of every possible flavour,wp_20161016_017and mini cup-cakes.wp_20161016_013And then, if you weren’t already overwhelmed for choice, freshly made chocolate truffles!wp_20161016_010I passed a few more stalls selling handmade cured saucisson, some flavoured with goats cheese and others with camembert,wp_20161016_007and abundent coquilles St Jaques, (scallops)wp_20161016_006and more mussels than anyone could possibly eat!wp_20161016_031And while all this was going on all around, a chocolatier was quietly carving this chocolate sculpture.

Though judging by her grimace, the poor chocolate woman is clearly agonising about her waistline in the face of all this abundence.

And i’m not suprised really – are you?

Bon Apetite!


La Fète du Ventre à Rouen – The Festival of the Stomach.

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My ‘husband à l’etranger’ flew into France yesterday, and what better way to re-immerse him into French culture and gastronomie than the Fète de Ventre. I love that the French can name a fète directly after ‘the stomach’.

After the rains of Nigeria, Normandie welcomed him back to a day of  leaden skies and endless drizzle . The damp weather didn’t hold back the crowds though, and by mid afternoon it was almost impossible to make our way through the street.

Of course one of the nicest aspects of such a fète are the ‘petits goûters’ (little tastes) on offer.

and the make-shift oyster bars were busy…

with a well placed beer bar next door!

But  there were far too many distractions to stop straight away to eat, though we did eat extremely well a bit later on!

A mobile bread oven,

and bubbling chouxcroute,

The watercress (cresson) is grown on a beautiful small-holding on the edge of the smallest river in France, right along-side the riverside path at Veules les Roses. A definite must on the ‘day-trip’ list in early summer. If you are really lucky, fresh watercress can be bought directly from the farmer tending his crop and picked from its watery meadow, ready to be made into fresh watercress soup for lunch.

But it was the chocolatier that led me astray,

and not just with his charm and good looks!

…where else would you find molten chocolate being expertly fabricated into truffles on a rainy street?

Or a whole pig wearing a bib?

Fresh vegetables,

and locally produced preserves.

‘Husband à l’etranger’ raved over the honey cake….

… and then continued on to sample the flaky pastry with goats cheese and apple.

Sadly there were no hot and oozing garlicy ‘escargots’, only ones to take away. And then we came upon the apple press..

and the finished product.

The smell of freshly baked bread coming from a second mobile bread oven drew us in.

And there, amongst all these french producers, the lone Englishman with a range of beers brewed near the Mont Saint Michel; a business started four years ago and successfully growing year on year. Because the truth of it is that as much as we adore the traditional French products and their local artisans, the French also love traditional English products, and what’s more unusual than traditional British Mobsby’s beer brewed locally in Normandy.

And after all that tasting and sampling, it was time to settle at a café for sunday lunch. It was, after all..

…The Fète of the Stomach!

Bon appetit!