They start coming on Wednesday of each week. Over the next few days, the mailbox quickly fills up but not with regular mail or bills. We are inundated each weeks with advertising circulars! Every grocery store (and there are about five around us), every Home Depot store, every car dealership sends out these circulars. On many mailboxes, you will see "Pas de Pub" which is a short and very nice way of saying, "Don't fill my mailbox with garbage". It doesn't matter...the "Pub" still sticks out of the mailbox, waiting to be pulled out and read.
The interesting thing about these circulars is that the items are not yet on sale. This is a sort of advance warning. The businesses want you to sit down with your cup of coffee and carefully examine each and every item. They want to give you time to decide, so the promotions will actually not start until a few days from now or even a week from now. Then, if you are in a particular store on the first day of the promotion, you naturally will find individuals walking around with their circulars...searching for the items. I think this is a national sport!
I have to admit that I am sucked into this game. So imagine my surprise when last week super-sized circulars started clogging up the mailbox. Why? Evidently, the "Foire aux Vins" season has begun. And what exactly is a Wine Fair at a grocery store? Here is what I have been able to determine thus far. Each September/October, the local grocery stores start having sales on wine. The savings can be significant and each store tries to out-do the other. Normally, you do not receive case discounts when you buy in large quantities here as you do in the States. During the Foire aux Vins, you can buy any number of bottles and receive the discounted price. The promotion could be "Buy 4 and get 2 Free" or could just be a discounted price. Large spaces in each grocery store are dedicated to stocking cases of wine that the store would not normally stock.
Now, after some research, I learned that in France there is an actual website that tells you when each grocery store chain is having their Foire aux Vins. They go so far as to produce a bar chart so you can tell that the Super U's Foire aux Vins starts on September 24 and ends of October 6 or that Cora's promotion will only last a week. I have not found that convenient chart in Belgium. However, the Belgian stores provide you with much more information on each of the wines. Our largest store chain, Carrefour, produced a 70 page advertising circular that was ALL wine! The publication not only tells you the name, type and year of the wine, but it also tells you the food you should eat while drinking this wine and to go one step further - it tells you how long you can keep the wine!
Naturally, we have to participate in the festival of wines! Unfortunately, there are no tasting sessions. We do not want to buy wine that we potentially would not enjoy (I know...that would be difficult in our case). I did take a chance and bought six bottles of a Bordeaux for all of 30 Euros because the flyer said I could cellar it for 5-7 years. Last night, we tried a wine from the South of France that you could cellar for 8-10 years and we liked it. Today, I now have to go back to the store and buy six or twelve. I have a feeling that between now and the end of the month, our cellar will be growing steadily. (On a side note, I also think that this is what keeps the retired and those out of work busy. They are traveling all over the area visiting various grocery stores - in an attempt to get the best deal!)
Now on to a fast and easy dinner dish that is good enough to make for guests! I made it a few nights ago and you know that it must be good if the smells from the kitchen pulled Dear Daughter off off the couch and away from her electronic device just long enough to ask me if dinner was ready..."Because it smells really good, Mom." Maybe next time, she will offer to set the table...
Pork and Tomato Skillet Saute
From Cooking Light, July 2012
4 tsp olive oil, divided
6 (6-oz) bone-in center cut loin pork chops, trimmed (about 1/2 inch thick)
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper, divided
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp minced garlic
2 cups grape tomatoes
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Note: I did not have grape tomatoes so I used very large cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. I think it might have worked out better as it added more liquid to the sauce.
1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp oil and swirl to coat. Sprinkle chops evenly with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan.
2. Add remaining tbsp oil, shallots, vinegar and garlic to pan. Sauté one minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
3. Combine tomatoes and remaining salt and pepper in a bowl.
4. Add tomato mixture to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften. Sprinkle with basil. Serve over the pork.