Etang de Thau

Delicious? Delicatessen!!

Is this French love affair of mine ever going to end?

The short answer is: I don’t think so!

Delicatessen - looking in

Delicatessen – looking in

Tonight TC and I decided to dine in Delicatessen, an extremely unobtrusive little restaurant in Marseillan – one of my favourite villages of all time in France. Why? The village has everything one’s heart could desire. It is situated on a lake, which means fresh coquillage every day, yes every SINGLE day, of the year. Oysters, mussels and all the rest, from the lake direct from the fishing families to your shopping bag daily, say no more.

But there is a lot more to say. Next to the lake – or “a cote d’etang” there are vineyards. Quality vineyards and lots of them. Chateau Bauvignac is a personal favourite but there are more, so many more.

So lets summarise so far… we have a quaint old village that dates to pre-roman times with its own port, fresh daily seafood from the lake, close to the beach (Mediterranean) with the climate you would expect, lots of vineyards close by. Hmm.. have I missed anything essential? Well yes… the restaurants! This town is like a little oasis of good restaurants. To the point where I almost don’t want to tell you about them because I want to keep it all to myself!

Les Toilettes

Le décore dans les toilettes

But, I can’t resist, it has to come out, so here it is. There is a good diversity of restaurants here, and Delicatessen is probably the most modern of them all. There is a delicious blend of current and past, current being the menu, fresh dishes made with pride from local produce, and past being the vintage decor and quirky items used throughout. Hey, I couldn’t even resist taking a picture in the toilets!

Tonight we wandered in just after 8pm to find we were one of the first tables in to dine. Just a small word of warning for those not used to the French way – 8pm is considered early. We might have thought the restaurant was not going to open as it appeared to be empty, but no, we were the first in to dine and by the time we left there were several other tables occupied – this is just the way it is. First time travellers be warned – don’t expect to eat early in Europe!

TC decided on the dish that is the specialite of the house, the “deliburger” while I went for “gambas sauteed avec Noilly Prat”. Translation: prawns sauteed with Noilly Prat, which is the vermouth made locally and made famous by James Bond (go on, google it, you won’t be sorry!).

He was tres impressed with his burger – it comes served (cooked to order) complete with greens, tomato, camembert, egg and cornichons all between slices of freshly toasted baguette, with a small glass of aoili and a side order of duck-fat fried chips. OK frites. He declared it to be top notch.

My gambas were sweet, juicy and tasty, grilled with garlic and herbs and served with a mashed-potato-to-die-for. When the chef came by and asked how we liked everything, I just had to ask how he cooked those potatoes… apparently with garlic oil and aioli  – carefully mixing to taste – and I have to say they tasted very VERY good. Another thing I’ll be trying in my kitchen.

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Delicatessen – de la table

The wine list allows for all tastes and budgets. Enough choice, not too confusing, just right. We managed to choose a very nice red from a region that is very reliable – Faugeres. Delicious.  

decor

Decor du velo et du vin

This is the kind of restaurant you can go to with a group of friends, as a couple,  or just on your own, and you will always be assured of finding an understated chic atmosphere that you won’t want to leave. It isn’t dolled-up formal, it is a more casual setting, but the food is quality.

Was it purely the decor, was it the music – at times laid back soul, at other times slightly hard rock – or was it just the simple understanding that this waiter, this chef, want you to enjoy what they do best? Whatever the reason, there is much to  enjoy. This was my third visit, it will not be my last!

Enjoy!

reluctantly leaving

Delicatessen, un très bon repas

Delicatessen,  4 Place Gén Guillaut  34340 Marseillan, France

Heavenly harvest…

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I CANNOT get enough of these big, tender, fresh as fresh oysters! Tonight’s entree… Harvested from the lake today, gratineed and kilpatricked by TC.

Accompanied by a lovely, chilled Beauvignac Expression Nature 2009 blanc, an award-winning blend of chardonnay, viognier and picquepoul….

Heaven.

Is it winter yet?

YES! The frozen water says so!

I have tried to find information on any ‘official’ start date to winter but haven’t had much luck. So, taking matters into my own hands, I have decided that the line is drawn loosely by the temperature, and more specifically by when I see random frozen water on my travels.

Well that is today!

Went for a 40km ride, again enjoying the environs of the Etang de Thau and our path took us across the first bridge of the Canal du Midi. The first if you count the canal as starting at this end and ending at the other end. Anyway, as the path takes us under the bridge before going up & over, there is a puddle of water that has been there in the shadow of the bridge since the last rain a few day ago. Today it was covered with a thin layer of ice. I even got off my bike & poked it with a stick to check that my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Yep, ice on the surface. Despite the sunshine. I thought it felt cold in the house last night.

Welcome to winter!

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Etang de Thau with a chilly breeze

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View of the entrance to the Canal du Midi from the first bridge – Marseillan Plage

Ps, I will return to some cooking posts soon, I have decided in the meantime that I have enough winter ‘padding’ for now so am laying off the sweet things. More to come though.

A Sete for all seasons

One of the joys of the south of France is the access to the Mediterranean and somewhere very special is the region between Sète and Marseillan Plage. Here there is a very narrow strip of land that runs between the lake (Etang de Thau) and the sea. This fragile strip was in danger of destruction from erosion, so for the past 6 years or so, a major restoration project has been underway.

Completed and opened in June this year… dah DAHHH!! We now have the absolutely fabulous “Lido de Sète à Marseillan” which has restored beaches, a new road and a fabulous new 12km pathway for pedestrians and cyclists. The area is already popular with campers and on any fine day you will see all sorts of people out enjoying the area, whether on foot, two wheels (bikes), 4 wheels (wheelchairs) or 8 wheels(rollerbladers), enjoying lunch or café, or playing in the water.

In summer the beach was dotted with a number of gorgeous pop-up restaurants right on the sand. I say pop-up because, come the first week of October, the trucks and cranes came in, and the restaurants all disappeared! I’m sure they’ll be back for next summer and I for one will be trying out as many as I can. Mmmmm, just imagine lounging back on comfy chairs or loungers, enjoying the sun, fresh seafood and lovely local chilled vin rosé. I’ll be there!

And in the meantime I know we’ll be out enjoying this wonderful facility as long as we can brave the cold (and sometimes rain). Today’s weather wasn’t so bad…on a fine day you will be dazzled by the amount of blue just everywhere. Just beautiful.
 

CLICK here to find the restaurants of the Sete beaches:   You can also see the film about the restoration here: Thau Agglo – Lido de Sète à Marseillan : découvrez le film !…. and some lovely aerial shots taken from the film

Coquillage s’il vous plait

Shellfish! Yes this means shellfish people – and today the freshest, most delicious oysters I’ve ever had were found in the Etang de Thau, an amazing lake right next to the Mediterranean,  in the south of France.

The Cook (also known as TC) bought a bag of oysters & mussels from one of the many coquillage outlets that can be found in the villages around this gorgeous lake and tonight, cooked them up for us. A little garlic here, a little parmesan there and here we are ooh lah lah-ing all over the place.

You’re a star TC! .