Giving Back in Mulhouse, France
Since 2011, France has celebrated its gastronomy with a typical passion and style unheralded and this 5th annual edition of Fête de la Gastronomie, the country-wide celebration of all things French food and drink is no exception. Join followsummer along with seven Canadian bloggers as we gather in four different destinations, Nantes, Bordeaux, Bayonne, or Mulhouse. Think of a French Foodie Amazing Race: Eight Canadian bloggers, four destinations, five days of eating glorious food, sipping celebrated wine and enjoying the passion and hospitality of everything France. Bon Apetite!
And don’t forget to vote for your favourite #FestiveFrance destination (HINT Mulhouse !!) You could win two Air France Economy return tickets from a Canadian city to Paris, two 3-day France Rail Passes and 3 hôtel nights in the winning city. No purchase required. Contest open from September 23rd to October 15th, 2015. Trip value : 4,300 CAD.
Vote here: festivefrance.rendezvousenfrance.com
Day 2: Giving Back
There is a definite Alsatian chill in the air this sunny, bright morning
as we begin Day 2 of our Festive France Challenge here in Mulhouse. ‘Community’ is our keyword this morning as we work with the good folks at Atelier Épices, where parents, children, lawyers, artists AND Michelin-starred Chefs come together to promote training, social skills and community in their cooking classrooms. Am feeling honoured to be asked to be part of the important work the good people at Épices do and eagerly jump into our assignments. Our challenge today is to include ourselves in this community: help prepare lunch for 20 visiting dancers from Kinsasha, and the clock is ticking. Jonathan sets to prepping the pastry for the Tarte aux Quetsches (essential plums but very local very France and very Alsatian) and I assist by breaking in 3 eggs. The man knows what he is doing. He continues with the cleaning and prep of the quetsches in anticipation of the resting and chilling dough being ready to be rolled and tart pans filled. Chef Bernard Meyer, one of the many volunteers today at Éspice sets me to chopping and seasoning 15 avocados for a stuffing that Chef is considering. ‘What will you be stuffing, Chef?’ ‘I don’t know yet.’ I continue with my dill chopping and lemon squeezing, all the while asking Chef to approve my mélange. Chef is happy with my work. We meet and have the privilege of working alongside 17-year-old Paul, who eagerly awaits the front door opening at Épices each morning. Paul works the many stations of the kitchen under the careful yet strict guidance of Chef Meyer, his chopping skills only matched by his commitment, intelligence and apparent skill in the kitchen. Come 5 pm, Paul returns to the local jail for the night.
Épices has recently opened its communal table to lunch and dinner patrons on Fridays and they quickly book up. For all of 10 euros, you can feed your appetite with soul inspiring food and make a contribution to making sure that Épices continues to support the community with the worthy work that they do. Oh. And Jonathan’s tarte was a hit!
Vroom vroom to the Cité de l’ Automobile
I am honestly not much of a car guy. My heart doesn’t zoom at the latest Jaguar F-type R or Porsche 911 Turbo S. However, even I was impressed to discover that the history of the automobile from 1878 to present and the largest collection of cars (of all types) is housed in a former textile mill just minutes from the Place de la Réunion, right here in Mulhouse. Displaying over 400 ‘dream cars’, Cité de l’Automobile is one of the largest collections in France and indeed the world. The museum is organized into three main areas: the “Pioneers” covering the period from 1878 to 1918 and featuring Panhard, Peugeot, De Dion and Benz models. Panhard essentially designed the essentials of the modern automobile as we know it: an engine, clutch, gearbox and rear-wheel transmission. The “Classics” 1918-1938 is symbolised by the merging of two important carmakers: Mercedes and Benz and marking the beginning of the “supercar” era, when automobiles took on incredible power and size. And the “Moderns”: 1945 to present day and is marked by the appearance of light, inexpensive cars. Make sure you race by the motor racing exhibit catching the starting line-up of the famous Panhard-Levassor two-seater from 1908, the Bugatti Type 32 from 1923 and the Maserati 250F, 1957 and Lotus 33 from 1963. Gentlemen, start your engines!
We spend our free time post Cite de l ‘Automobile wandering the back lanes and side streets of Mulhouse, watching local children kick the ball, grandmothers snapping beans for an early Friday evening dinner and grabbing some early autumn pictures of churches and vistas including the Eglise Saint-Lambert, majestic in the setting sun. Jonathan pulls out the map and we decide to head directly west to a part of town called Cité Ouvrière and spend the last remaining bits of wi-fi and battery power snapping shots of Mulhouse’s industrial history from 1897 to 1952. Beautiful but abandoned red brick and architecturally significant buildings have already been converted to artists co-ops, small arty event spaces and ‘electro soirs’ while many remain ready to be salvaged and brought back to life. The entire site was the original DMC site, and sections of the factory buildings are still in use today by the famous France thread company.
Tonights dinner is at Gambrinus, a rowdy, raucous bit of an Alsatian roadhouse where the beer drinkers and smokers spill out onto the cobbled streets of Mulhouse until the wee hours. This is the busiest bar in Mulhouse, combining quick food, tasty beer and a DJ spinning a mix of house and popular music. Our challenge tonight (is eating or drinking ever a challenge?) is to sample the famous Alsatian Flammenkeuche or tarte flambées (please don’t confuse with yesterday’s initial, Kougelhopf challenge). We quickly settle into our shared communal table and order a beer tasting: Alsatian, Belgian, German Local (as in from Gambrinus) and, of course, our Flammenkeuche. Think flat bread pizza, cream, cheese and in my case, ham and potatoes and more cheese. We finish with non-traditional sweet flammenkeuche: bananas, chocolate, cream: no cheese this time.
Clémence walks us back to our hotel; we amble down quaint, quiet streets, enjoying the fresh night air, the potential for a full moon for our arrival in Paris, lighting our way home.