Another fun part of being in the Provence region of France was taking advantage of their farmer's market. Never having been to a real Provencal market before, I was excited about the possibilities - especially since it was within an arm's reach of where we were staying.
About Le Marche Provencal:
Situated in the old part of Antibes on Cours Massena, Le Marche Provencal serves the community mostly as a daily farmers market, which runs between the hours of 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday is the biggest day for the food market, as the richest selection of vendors come out and showcase their goods, ranging from fresh produce to prepared foods such as various dips, tapenades, marinated olives, cheeses, dried sausage, spices and the like.
The atmosphere is electric and full of vigor, as each vendor proudly deals out compliments about their display of treasures - encouraging visitors to try everything. The latter part was the most enjoyable for me, as I got to interact with the food artisans directly and even got to meet a few friendly locals along the way. If you're a visitor who doesn't speak much French, not to worry, as a lot of the vendors know basic English. However, I'd suggest approaching them in French to break the ice first.
It's hard to pick just a few favorites from my market experience, as mostly everything was impressive and truly exceptional. Although it was hard to find a dud amongst greatness, a few things stood out more than others:
Socca - The only food that was made on the premises of the market, a socca is a chickpea flour pancake made in a wood fired oven. It's impressive to watch the baking process take place, as the batter is poured into a thin round pan and then swirled around in the oven until it solidifies and forms a delicate dough. Each pie is then cut into fourths, sliced quickly, seasoned with pepper and served up to curious market goers.
Tasting like a delicious polenta pancake, I devoured the socca right in the middle of the market - enjoying its thin pre-sliced bites that I rolled up and ate burrito-style!
Olives - Truly impressed by the selection of olives, it was hard to choose just one variety. After befriending a charming French artisan who sold these little jewels, I decided on two varieties including the tiny Provencal black olives and the larger/curvier green ones. Even though there were a lot more creative options to choose from such as Mexican olives, Oriental spicy olives and the like, I wanted to take home something that would be more representative of the region.
Cheese - Needless to say, the cheese selection in France is superior and the Marche Provencal didn't fall short. Enchanted by a beautiful round of fresh goat cheese sprinkled with Herbes de Provence and little lingonberries, it tasted just like the gorgeous earth from which it came.
I hope you give this charming market a go should you find yourself in the South of France. Eh voila...tres magnifique!
Le Marche Provencal - Street Cours Massena, Old Antibes