January 2020 – Things to do in Toulouse, plus news and more
Here’s wishing you a wonderful and delicious year filled with all of the best things in life. I already shared this on social media, but the joke right now in France is that the year 2020, when spoken in French like 20-20 (vingt-vingt) is pronounced the same way as “vin-vin” – which means “wine-wine.” Sounds pretty auspicious to me!
In France, January is both a laid-back and a full month. “Laid back,” because people seem to be taking it a little easier after the excesses of the holiday season (I lost count of how much cheese I bought for Christmas and New Years, but it was most likely upwards of 8 kilos/17 lbs.) and quite a few market vendors are taking that as an opportunity for some much-deserved time off.
But also “full” because people are jumping back into work and school with renewed energy after the holiday break. Just this week, I organized a half-day strategic planning retreat for a few other fellow solo-preneurs that I meet with regularly to help us get a grasp on our vision and priorities for the coming year. You also have the hustle and bustle of the twice-annual “soldes” (pronounced “sold”), which are the big clearance sales in France and run from the 8th of January to the 4th of February this time around.
As if this wasn’t enough, right after the holidays comes the celebration of Epiphany on January 6, which is celebrate by the King Cake – the galette or gateau des rois (so, obviously, the bakers aren’t on holidays quite yet…). However, don’t worry, if you missed the actual date of Epiphany – this is a celebration that continues throughout the month of January, so there will be no shortages of king cakes to try from different bakeries all over town. Some of them even make these adorable little “poufs” or “pomponettes” that are personal-size versions of the orange flower water-infused brioche king cake that is popular here in the south of France!
The custom of prolonging the Epiphany celebration, just like the custom of continuing to say “Bonne année!” (Happy New Year) until the end of January is a good reminder that not everything needs to be rushed – even something like the beginning of the year – and that we can decide to give ourselves time to slow down and to enjoy the important things in life, like wishing good things for each other and savoring moments of good food and company.
À votre santé (To your health),
P.S. And speaking of slowing down and savoring things, I’ll be taking off the last week of January and the first week of February for a vacation to Taiwan and Vietnam, so there will be no tours available during that time. We’ll be visiting family in Taipei and then spending a week in/around Hanoi. I’ve already booked food tours in both cities and I’m so excited to take a deep dive into Asian food and culture! It’s our first time traveling in Asia, so I’d love to hear your recommendations if you’ve been to either of those places.
The food events you won’t want to miss in January 2020:
8 January – Bierobeer Day
The Bièrothèque in Gramont is celebrating their first birthday with over 10 craft brewers/distillers, food, music and more. Facebook event page.
9 January – GINuary (Don’t hit the gym, hit the gin!)
Hopscotch Pub is having a special evening devoted to gin cocktails made with Edinburgh Gin. Facebook event page.
16 January – Pop-up restaurant for Les 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. The first on the agenda for the year is a pop-up dinner by chef Mickaël Lecumberry of Le Rocher de la Vierge featuring lots of organ meats and other cuts that are sometimes discarded, but can be delicious when transformed by a talented hand. Facebook event page.
19 January – Super Loto Gourmand!
Toulouse à Table is hosting their 4th annual Loto Gourmand to raise money for the festival they organize in September. Come for lunch and buy a few raffle tickets for the opportunity to win delicious prizes like a gourmet getaway to Milan, your weight in wine, Michelin-star dinners, gift baskets, and more! Learn more.
What I’m reading:
9 Travel Hacks that Made Our Lives Better in 2019 (Afar magazine)
I’ve got a lot of travel coming up in the first quarter of 2020, so I’m always looking for ways to make it easier and more pleasant. My favorite idea on this list that I started using a few years ago is to always have a toiletry kit that is packed and ready to go (i.e. have duplicates of everything you normally use so you don’t have to pack everything at the last minute).
4 Ways to Travel Better in 2020 (New York Times)
More good travel advice to start the year out right. My top tip from this list is to always book directly – it can save you money (or at least be the same price) and a lot of hassle. And, as a small business owner, I know how much commission that online travel agencies (like Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia, etc.) take from each purchase.
Festival. Toulouse will once again be the French whiskey capital in 2020 (actuToulouse – in French)
The Toulouse Whiskey Festival will be returning on Sunday, May 17th and organizers have announced their plans. The capacity will increase, but I’d still recommend setting your alarm to buy tickets when they go on sale at noon on March 1st, as the last few editions of the festival have sold out quickly.
The Big Business of Holiday Pastry in France (Fortune)
The holidays may be over, but bakeries and pastry shops will probably start planning for next year in March! “Nearly half of our annual business happens between December and early January,” explains Erwan Blanche, co-owner of the popular 11th arrondissement bakery and patisserie Utopie. “For the small guys like us, it’s all hands on deck or you could screw your whole year.”
What I’m eating:
Tried the “pancake salé” (savory pancake) at Café la Fiancée in December and – WOW! – it was probably my favorite brunch item in Toulouse from the whole of 2019. A fluffy, flaky buttermilk pancake (to me, almost the texture of an American buttermilk biscuit) topped with a fried egg, bacon, and real maple syrup. I love sweet and savory combinations and I’m still dreaming of this one! They serve breakfast/brunch à la carte Monday – Saturday, with a set brunch menu on Sundays. Weekend reservations are recommended.
Started the year out right with an amazing dinner at a new restaurant in the Carmes neighborhood, Contre-pied. We tried their 5-course tasting menu with wine pairings (49 € + 25 € per person) and were absolutely blown away. The menu changes all the time based on what is available seasonally and they can happily accommodate vegetarians as well! The wine pairings were really “next-level” and you could tell they had been chosen with care – even down to having different wines for the vegetarian tasting menu. One of the owners is the sommelier and their wine list is packed with lots of high-quality organic, biodynamic, and natural wine producers. The service was also very warm and they took care to explain each of the dishes and wine pairings to us. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a nice – but not stuffy – dinner. I’m looking forward to returning for their 3-course lunch menu, which is only 22 €.