Where to shop in the Forest of Fontainebleau: Nemours, Larchant and La Chapelle

April 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

We’ve been coming to this area of France for the past 15 years now and I’ve managed to build up quite a little black book of food addresses. It’s time to write them down and share them which will be quite a magnum opus. If you happen to be staying in a gîte nearby, please don’t just rely on the supermarket but give these places a try.

I’m going to start not with Fontainebleau itself but with Nemours and its nearby villages of Larchant and La Chapelle. After all Larchant is the village we’ve been based in for the last few years thanks to our friends Alex and Elin who’ve bought a house in the village.

Nemours is a substantial market town on the Loing, a tributary of the Seine. Despite its castle and imposing church it’s a straightforward workaday sort of place not on the tourist trail and none the worse for that. The heart of the town is its marketplace. Perversely the twice-weekly market (Wednesdays and Saturday mornings – a good range of fresh food stalls) is no longer held here but in the Champ de Mars, an open area by the riverside.

The market may have moved on but the old marketplace is home to some great food shops. Let’s start with Chaffraix, the cheese and poultry shop:

This is the place to come if you want to try Brie which is the local cheese in this reqion. You will be spoilt for choice:

Next stop is Aujard Aufradet’s butcher’s shop also in the marketplace where you can have your meat prepared by a real craftsman. The guy is an absolute whizz with his boning knife and that fine string that French butchers like to use.

Keep walking just a little longer to complete your meal with a fruit tart from the best bakery in Nemours, La Fontaine Gourmande:

They have a handy little café at the back where, after your morning shopping, you can enjoy a cup of coffee and one of their incredible Bostock pastries. I haven’t found the intriguingly named Bostock anywhere else – I’m sure there’s a story behind this somewhere that I will have to look into sometime. It’s an absolutely deliciously buttery almondy affair:

And if you really do need a supermarket, your best bet is Carrefour Marché on the west side of town in the suburb of Nemours St Pierre.

Next stop is the picturesque village of Larchant a few miles outside Nemours. There’s a great local bakery here:

I like their brown Campagrain bread once I’ve had my fill of baguette à l’ancienne. The almond croissants they do are a breakfast treat but you need to get there early as they sell out fast.

And if you are into foraging for wild food the nearby forest is awash with wild violets at this time of year. They have a shy but distinct taste and make a pretty addition to a salad – just be sure to leave out garlic in your salad dressing which will otherwise overpower their delicate flavour. One year I will definitely try my hand at crystallising some for cakes and chocolate puddings.

Last port of call is the village of La Chapelle la Reine, a village in the midst of prairie-like fields on the plateau beyond Larchant. It’s home to an Atac supermarket, a convenience store and a couple of OK bakeries – useful when the Larchant bakery takes its weekly day off. There is a weekly market too but it’s sadly nothing to write home about.

Clearly signposted from the main road on a handwritten chalk board is a farm shop selling potatoes and all your onion family requirements (onions, shallots and garlic).

That’s it from the Forest of Fontainebleau for this year – I’ll continue with my shopping round-up after our next visit, Easter 2011.

If you know anything more about the mysterious Bostock pastry or if you have tips on crystallising your own violets I’d love to hear from you…

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