Agrogast festival – “Le festival des Terroirs”
This weekend we took a trip out to a small village in Alsace called Hagenthal-le-Haut for the 2016 Agrogast festival – “Le Festival des Terroirs”, or festival of the land. This annual local food festival is a paradise for lovers of simple French cuisine. We first visited the Agrogast festival last year and were very surprised by how big it was. Back then we had been given some free tickets and gone along initially expecting a couple of stalls selling wine and not much else. However, we were so pleasantly surprised by the size and the scale of the event, and the quality and quantity of great food and drink on offer, that we decided to go again this year.
This time, armed with a camera, a notebook and a surfeit of euros to fund the multiple purchases that we pre-resigned ourselves to making. In all seriousness, when confronted by this much wine, cheese and meat in one go, it simply isn’t humanly possible to say “non, merci” and walk away without feeling like you have somehow lost out on something magnificent.
Farm animals galore – great for kids!
So we arrived at the Agrogast festival just after lunchtime and took a first look around. It being a festival of the land, of course there are some animals there as well. So we took some pictures of the cute bunnies, goats and ducks. It being a festival of the land, the cute bunnies, goats and ducks were also being sold for farming purposes. They were cute nevertheless and any meat-eater should recognise that their food at one time may have been a cute something-or-other.
This part of the Agrogast festival is a great attraction for kids, who just love to pet the different animals.
Fine French food
After starting off with local beer called Storky, we took a walk around the many food and wine stalls. We guessed that at least a third of the stalls at the Agrogast festival are selling wine, so it would theoretically be possible to spend a good while just going from stall to stall and tasting wine. We resisted that temptation and decided to put our focus on to the food. F
irst up was the fish stall, with great solid sides of smoked fish that made me yearn for winter and a thick chowdery soup. We tasted, and bought some smoked anchovies.
Salamis and cheese in all varieties
Next, we moved on to a stall selling different kinds of salami. Tom had gone a little mad on this stall at the Agrogast festival last year. Learning from the mistakes we had committed to only buying a maximum of two salamis this year. Some of them sound quite exotic (salami with blueberries, anyone?). We stuck to a meaty wild boar and the stall signature salami made with local wine.
Being in France, of course we couldn’t go away without having at least tasted some cheese. We tried some lurid-coloured red cheese flavoured with tomatoes and olives. We were eventually drawn by a creamy chevre d’Alpes (Alpine goats cheese) and a Beaufort, which is a smooth but nutty medium hard cheese.
The classic, the exotic and the surprise
We also picked up a couple of bottles of wine – a champagne and a Gewurztraminer. Gewürztraminer is a grape commonly found in Alsace (read more in our post about the Alsace wine route). It is much beloved by TripGourmet Tom but a little on the sweet side for me.
Then, we came across a very unusual stall, selling French spirits. Here we went a little bit mad and ended up buying a bottle of Alsatian single-malt whiskey, a bottle of ginger liqueur and a bottle of schnapps (made in the barrels of Gewurztraminer).
We decided to not to buy anything more under the risk we could not get it home. However, we managed to squeeze in a bottle of salted caramel sauce after the stall-holder thrust two loaded spoons in our direction. I mean, how can you say no to salted caramel sauce? Especially after she told us how good it tastes with vanilla ice cream. We tried it later at home with Mövenpick vanilla flavour. The combination of creamy, sweet and salty was to die for.
Finally, a Firecake
We finished the day at the Agrogast festival with another cold beer and a typical Alsatian dish. Flammkuche, or Tarte Flambee means “Fire cake” in English. This is like an Alsatian pizza – very thin, light dough stretched out and covered with toppings but with sour cream rather than tomato sauce. The typical recipe is with bacon and onions, and we also had one with Munster cheese. Absolutely delicious!
We can really recommend Agrogast for lovers of authentic, French rustic-style food and good wine. It runs for four days around the last weekend in August each year. The location is around 15km outside of Basel, over the border in France just outside the village of Hagenthal.
It costs €5 per adult to enter. Many stallholders do speak some English. However, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to be prepared with some basic French and/or German phrases.