About two months ago I celebrated the second anniversary of my delicatessen – L'Epicerie du Goût, 4 place Vaudémont – found in the heart of the attractive historic town of Nancy in Lorraine, North Eastern France.
Time has literally rushed past, like a TGV train, with us always looking for producers, sourcing their products and learning about their terroir.
And we give distinct priority to what comes from Lorraine. Indeed although it was never our initial idea to do this, we had to recognise that the vast majority of customers come in to see us for our "Lorraine specialities". Of course, we welcome them with the utmost pleasure and because our products are local, we can tell them all about them and why they are so good.
So here's a little bit of history about Lorraine - both political and gastronomic - to set the scene...
- The Cross of Lorraine is none other than the Cross of Anjou (I'm in fact half Lorraine and half Angevine) and if you want to see the real thing, you need to go all the way to Baugé, not far from Angers, in the Loire Valley.
- King René 1st not only left us his cross, but it was during his era that the bergamot orange essence first appeared. But in any case, he was not only Duke of Lorraine and Bar, but also Duke of Anjou, Count of Provence and of Forcalquier, King of Naples and the Two Sicilies ... and even King of Jerusalem (though he never went there). It was in honour of his second marriage, following the death of his wife Isabelle de Lorraine, that the pastry cooks of Aix en Provence created the calisson (a lozenge shaped sweet made from ground almonds and melon cream). More details on the latter in French, if you click here.
- Two centuries later, it was Stanislas who gave us flaky pastry (ideal for making a quiche) as well as baba, madeleines...
As for mirabelles (cherry plums), they owe their popularity and their quality to the fact that theirs is one of the most frost-resistant fruit trees and it likes our soil and the variations in our climate, which occur night and day at certain periods of the year. Believe me or not, a young cherry plum tree transplanted in the Anjou will give excellent yellow plums (sometimes with red blotches), but won't taste much like our typical mirabelles...
In our delicatessen, there are still some Lorraine products which are missing, but I have not given up hope that their producers will get in touch with us about them, now that we have passed the two year mark.
That's not all, by any means. There's another interest of mine... La Mélie at 91 Grande Rue in Nancy, close to the Ducal Palace and the Lorraine Museum.
Who can La Mélie be? A colourful character, whose name is inspired by our art of naming our neighbors , pads even members of our faily not "Marie" but "La Marie" (="the" Marie) – and when the first name is "Amélie" it becomes "L'Amélie" or "La Mélie", and the surname is "Mélie". To cut a long story short, it's a recently opened store (just 7 months old) selling a wide range of amusing, attractive and quality non-food products and souvenirs from the Lorraine region. The motto for the shop is simply "J'aime la Lorraine" (I love Lorraine) and in its window you'll find a giant model of La Mélie herself, described as follows in a Nancy website:
With her black square-cut hair style, her blue jeans, her two baskets of mirabelles and her tunic in the colours of Lorraine (she's put her traditional clogs to one side to wear trendy trainers), la Mélie's role is to promote all the charm and the good things from a rich and absolutely delicious region with her local products and souvenirs.
So there are two stores now to visit whenever you are in Nancy – and both will be very happy to welcome you.
L'Epicerie du Goût – 4 place Vaudémont – 54000 Nancy www.epicerie-du-gout.fr
La Mélie de Lorraine – 91 Grande Rue – 54000 Nancy www.la-melie.com