At Flotsam + Fork we strive to bring you novel and unfamiliar items from far flung producers. On our travels we fervently hunt for inspiring products and the stories behind them. Sometimes, though, we must stay behind to mind the shop and let our friends do the exploring. Finds From Afar is a regular feature here on the Flotsam + Fork blog where we ask figures from the culinary world to share their favorite food-related discoveries. Who knows, you might find them in our shop one day!
Adrianna Fie is the creator and customs-wrangler behind Flotsam + Fork. In addition to tracking down fine housewares from storied makers, Adrianna is a part-time seller of cheese and cured meats at the Underground Butcher in Madison, Wis.
Here are a few of her favorite finds from a recent trip to France:
Pairing knives from E.Dehillerin
Don’t even bother asking the man behind the counter who makes them---he’s not telling. From the labyrinthine restaurant supply store frequented by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Julia Childs, these lightweight and durable paring knives make the perfect Parisian souvenir. Not only is the carbon steel super sharp, it holds an edge exceptionally well. A staple in my kitchen.
Cidre Brut from the Breizh Café Epicerie
A cloudier, funkier cousin of the hard ciders currently taking America by storm (read more about American cider here). Unfortunately, a fine French cidre brut is hard to find stateside, so I always pack a bottle or four in my checked bag.
Cidre Bowls from Poterie Renault
Of course one cannot drink cidre brut from any old cup. The customary serving vessel is the low-profile, wide-mouth, stoneware bowl, like these delightful items from Poterie Renault in the Loire.
Earlier this year, we ventured into the rainy Loire valley to search out an enigmatic source of French culinary pottery. After a few missteps, including a 120 km roundtrip drive to a deserted factory, we arrived at the up-and-running Poteries Renault on the Tuesday after the Pentecostal holiday. There we were treated to a factory tour by Monsieur Renault himself, and were able to see pieces in various stages of production.
Poterie Renault has been producing iconic culinary stoneware in Argent-sur-Sauldre since 1847 when Stanislas Renault opened his workshop on the grounds of the local castle. Production at the current site started in 1865. Each piece is formed from the dark grey local clay, and finished by hand. Some pieces, like the Parisian Pitcher, are still formed entirely by hand.
As the tour finale, Monsieur Renault showed us the old brick kiln where pieces were fired until recently. They now fire all pieces in a more efficient electric kiln.
We are happy to present the fine culinary stoneware from this family-owned operation in the heart of France.