February 27, 2014

Snails for sale

Just a whisper over the city line from Dijon is La Boutique de l’Escargot, in Chenôve. It is easily accessible by tramline 2 to the Carraz stop. (N.B. “easily accessible” means it is really easy. Less than a three-minute walk from the tram stop, and the tram is simple to figure out.)

Stepping inside, there is no mistaking the king of the store: our old friend Helix Pomatia, the Burgundy snail. Snails on the shelves, snails in the refrigerator, snails in cans, snails in the freezer, snails on knife rests, snails on the sign...snails everywhere. The Grand Maître of the Snail Brotherhood recommends the store for its consistent quality, which is about as good as a recommendation as one can get.

But wait. That looks like jars of confit d’oignons. And that has to be foie gras. Terrines of roe deer, morels, wild boar, and chestnuts sing tempting overtures from glass shelves. 

These products make the Snail Boutique an "épicerie fine"
The shopkeeper responds to a question about the famous regional specialty of pain d’épices by diving into a low cupboard, emerging with a loaf. She explains that, contrary to the industrial breads one finds at supermarkets, which can be hard and dry, this one is moelleux (soft and supple…the French can mix sexy words with food with astounding ease). It is made with 50 percent honey by a man who has his own beehives. She recommends it with the aforementioned confit d’oignons or some foie gras, if not as a little dessert. She keeps it in the cupboard, she explains, because when she has it out in plain view, it sells too quickly.

The French have a funny relationship with capitalism.

That Gold Medal=guaranteed quality
Apparently, even at The Snail Boutique, there is more to life than snails. But don’t leave here without the star of the show. They come ready to cook. Put them in a scorching hot oven until the buttery parsley-garlic mix bubbles over the shells, astonishing your palate.

What: Specialty food store
Where: 41, avenue Roland Carraz, Chenôve, Côte d’Or, Burgundy, France
When: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00-12:00 and 2:00-7:00.
How Much: Snails are around 4 euros a dozen; pain d’épices is 4 euros; terrines from 3 euros.

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