There's nothing like springtime in France. But if reality, fuel surcharges and the Euro exchange rate are keeping you on this side of the Atlantic, a visit to Central Market's Passport to France festival is the next best thing. Starting today through May 22, Central Market will feature foods, wines, cooking classes and other events that celebrate la vie française.
The tented kick-off event, "A Taste of Provence," takes place Thursday at 6 p.m., with former French embassy chef and PBS host Patrice Olivon creating a menu of his favorite childhood dishes from the region, including pizza-like pissaladiere, tomates farcies (tomatoes stuffed with beef, rice and herbs), cod with aioli, roasted lamb with ratatouille and seasonal fruit over vanilla ice cream, plus French wine pairings, bien sur!
Other French-focused classes in the Central Market Cooking School include "Favorites of the French Chef," "Souffles," "Wine 101: France" and "Discover the Wine and Food of France," the latter with culinary school founder and James Beard winner Anne Willan.
For some non-culinary French culture, Central Market is also hosting pétanque games throughout the Passport to France event, starting at the kick-off party.
There will be tons of Gallic specialties inside the store as well. Look for sweet and savory crepes — think ham and Gruyère or mushroom, rotisserie chicken, herbes de Provence and goat cheese — as well as traditional and inventive quiches in the chef's case. The bakery is debuting more than a dozen traditionally French breads and pastries during the event, from the crown-shaped pogne de romans to buttery kouign amann from Brittany, plus baguettes ranging from the bitter Germanic subröt to the wheat-like épi.
The shelves boast new imports from France, including Apidis honey, with ingredients like lavender from Provence and acacia from Côte d'Azur; Normandy's La Mère Poulard cookies; Andresy preserves (a French breakfast staple); Château d’Estoublon extra virgin olive oil; Château Paradis rosé and Henriot Brut Souverain champagne.
Add a mime, a cigarette and a red balloon and you've pretty much got the entire French experience.