February 2020: Foodie things to do in Toulouse
My monthly round-up is a little shorter in February because I’m eating my way through all of the street food in Asia on a much-needed vacation! Even though the newsletter will be a little shorter this month, I couldn’t leave you without my picks for the best things to do (and eat) in Toulouse in February. You’ll also want to check out what I’ve been reading and writing for some articles on the new crop of Michelin Bib Gourmand Winners in Toulouse, restaurant review debates, a podcast I’m on and more!
P.S. I’m off to Taiwan and Vietnam until February 10th, so there will be no tours available during that time. I won’t have cell reception while I’m there, but I’ll (hopefully) be posting some of my food adventures to Instagram and Facebook, so follow me there!
Foodie things to do in Toulouse in February 2020:
31 January-2 February – La Fête de la Violette
Admire violet specimens from all over the world that are grown in the municipal greenhouses, participate in workshops and get advice on growing violets, plus taste gourmet treats at this festival celebrating Toulouse’s iconic flower. Learn more.
2 February – Le Chandeleur
The day when the French go crazy for crêpes! This isn’t a big, organized event or festival, but don’t miss celebrating by visiting your favorite crêperie (here are some ideas) or do as we do and celebrate at home with friends. Why crêpes? Check out this article on The Local.
2 February – 14th annual Fête de la Truffe: Villeneuve-sur-Vère
If you go crazy for truffles (of the fungal variety), head to this town about an hour’s drive NE of Toulouse (between Albi and Cordes-sur-Ciel) for their annual truffle festival. There will be a truffle market, as well as art, wine, and other local products. Learn more.
6 February – Pop-up restaurant #4 for Halles de la Cartoucherie
In 2020, Halles de la Cartoucherie is setting up a series of pop-up restaurants at Lune Bleue in order to continue to develop and select future stands for their gourmet food hall project. For #4, they propose a Breton-Toulouse mashup with La Migoudène (crêperie stand at Place Wilson). The full menu is only 16.50 €, so it’s a great deal! Learn more. (and follow Halles de la Cartoucherie on Facebook for upcoming events that haven’t yet been announced)
6 February – Les Rendez-vous du Bar #2: Breizh Party
The hotel La Cour des Consuls (home of the 1-star Michelin restaurant Le Cénacle) is having a Breton-themed party, which includes an open bar plus a glass of champagne to start, both sweet and savory crepes and other Breton specialties, plus live music. 50 € per person. Learn more.
Thru 6 September 2020 – Code Alimentation exhibit at Quai des Savoirs
Explore the food of the future at this interactive exhibit-game at the Quai des Savoirs museum! “From the start of the visit, you will step into the shoes of a secret agent employed by “The Agency”, a group of scientists, and you will be invested with a very special mission: to go to the future, in order to carry out a food survey in the city of Trapellun. To pass incognito, the secret agent will take on the identity of an avatar. Your goal? Find and bring back to the present specimens of the future, technologies, species or new uses that you deem useful for the food of tomorrow. To do this, you will meet challenges through many games and manipulations. Good luck, the future counts on you!” Learn more. (p.s. Don’t forget that the 1st Sunday of each month is a FREE MUSEUM DAY in Toulouse!)
What I’m reading/writing/listening to:
Foodie Road Trip in Toulouse (Olive magazine)
Olive magazine takes you on a foodie road trip through Toulouse, which of course includes a tour of the Marché Victor Hugo with Taste of Toulouse. The article includes some of my best tips for shopping like the French, so read on!
Walking off the Cheese and Wine (The Enterprising Expat podcast)
Before the holidays, I sat down for an interview with Patricia from the Enterprising Expat podcast to talk about my path from Chicago to Toulouse and then to Taste of Toulouse. You can also listen on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
In Praise of French Wineglasses (Meininger’s Wine Business International)
Do you get annoyed when French restaurants serve their wine in teeny-tiny wine glasses? This article gets into the cultural and political factors that go into who uses what types of wine glasses and why. “In France, as in other nations with a long history of viticulture, there is a continual cultural tension between wine’s origins in peasant farming communities and its parallel status as a luxury product. Outside of the self-conscious luxury of a gastronomic restaurant, it is viewed as pretentious to embellish wine service with ostentatious glassware.” (I must admit myself that I like smaller wineglasses as, being a small person, it helps a bit with portion control and reminding me to sip slowly.) Does it matter to you what kind of glasses your wine is served in?
The end of the restaurant critic should worry anyone who likes to eat (Heated)
When was the last time you read a review by a paid restaurant critic (paid by a publication, not by a restaurant, that is)? Chances are, if you’re in many cities (including Toulouse), it’s been a while…Is our dining scene the poorer for it? I tend to think so, even if I wouldn’t normally eat often at the type of place frequented by a restaurant critic (maybe that’s part of the problem?). Last year, I ate as a restaurant in Toulouse that had been covered with a lot of fanfare when it opened (more of the news coverage type of story than a review) and was quite disappointed with my experience there – that might have been avoided if it had been thoughtfully reviewed by a restaurant critic (p.s. this restaurant shall remain nameless as the public has spoken and they are now closed).
The Complicated, Problematic Influence of TripAdvisor Restaurant Reviews (Eater)
Similarly, the advent of user-generated review sites has been cited as one of the downfalls of the restaurant critic, but I think the opposite is true – that we need more voices that can cut through the hype that can be generated – sometimes falsely – by online review sites. Now, Taste of Toulouse is on TripAdvisor and I ask my clients to review me there, as sites like this get a lot of traffic and many people use them when planning their travels. However, this article talks about how easy it can be to game the system. So what is a restaurant-loving traveler to do without relying on restaurant critics or review sites? Maybe search out a local, independent food tour in every city you visit! In addition to getting some great food on your tour and learning about the food culture there, most food tours are happy to give you plenty of well-vetted recommendations (even if you ask before your tour) for where to eat while you’re there (me, included!).
Michelin Bib Gourmand Restaurants in Toulouse: 2020
And speaking of restaurant reviews and critics – the Michelin Guide has just released their list of Bib Gourmand winners for 2020. These restaurants are honored for their ability to serve high quality food at a reasonable price (and are therefore much more my speed than the more well-known Michelin stars). My article rounds up the award-winning restaurants in/around Toulouse for 2020.
What I’m eating:
We treated ourselves to a raclette dinner at Fondues de la Daurade when friends came to town. It’s nothing fancy, but all-you-can-eat melted cheese scraped over potatoes, charcuterie, and bread always makes people happy and the service was very friendly. No, we did not manage to eat the whole wheel of raclette among the 4 of us.
When it comes to restaurants in Toulouse that are good at satisfying both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, I always recommend Aux Pieds sous la Table. Their vegetarian option is always as thoughtful and seasonal as their other dishes (and rightfully so, as their goal is locally-sourced, seasonal cooking). And, as a faithful dessert-aholic, I must tell you that their desserts are always simple, but absolutely delicious (this time we had their French toast with sesame caramel and a baked apple with a spiced crumble topping and whipped cream). Highly recommend.