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Showing posts from May, 2017

LA COUR PAVEE, PEZENAS CREPERIE: QUICK TAKE

If you can find a place to park, Pezenas is worth a visit on a pleasant Saturday morning. The market is in full swing and the sheer mass of stuff offered for purchase tires out your eyes. The artisans in the old town display all manner of handmade, unique, or just plain interesting goodies. You might come upon a wordworker, jeweler, or weaver plying their craft. And there are restaurants at every turn.

Come noontime on a recent Saturday, four of us lunched at La Cour Pavee, advertising itself as a creperie bretonne. Indeed, we sat in a paved courtyard under a canopy of green with blooming bougainvillea covering a stone wall above us. Pleasant space.

We started by ordering a crisp salad featuring artichoke hearts, bleu cheese, ripe tomato slices, and toasted bread. Plenty to share and the server was happy to provide four plates and sets of utensils. Then came the galettes, savory crepes made from buckwheat flour. I don't know why these are so hard to find in the States. We each or…

L'AUBERGE DE LA CROISADE, CRUZY: RESTAURANT REVIEW

When we first arrived in our little corner of the Languedoc (now Occitanie) over a dozen years ago, L'Auberge de la Croisade was a go-to restaurant for upscale dining and special occasions. No wonder. The rural setting with boats passing almost within arm's length along the Canal du Midi was thoroughly inviting when viewed through the broad windows of the four-season room. Crisp linens, polished glassware, a comprehensive menu, and Bruno (the bubbling multi-lingual maitre d') promised a memorable French dining experience. And La Croisade and Bruno delivered more often than not.

And then, for some reason, years passed without a visit. We drove by frequently. We dined out often. But we just stopped going to La Croisade. Maybe because we were busily exploring new places to dine. Maybe because of rumors that the kitchen had been placing too much reliance on a rather muddy brown sauce. In any event, we had simply taken La Croisade out of our rotation.

A few weeks ago, a fiend w…

O VIEUX TONNEAUX, PEYRIAC-DE-MER: RESTAURANT REVIEW

Peyriac-de-Mer is one of those pretty little villages along the Med in the south of France that can be thoroughly enjoyed by folks like us, ex-pats with time on our hands and an interest in the local scenery, for about nine months out of the year. You can find a place to park. You can stroll along the seaside or through tight, quaint little alleyways at your leisure. The vendors in the square on market day have the time to give you their undivided attention, demonstrating both their wares and their charm. But come June, July, and August all bets are off. Peyriac will be packed. All day. Every day.

Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge tourists their right to experience places like Peyriac and I don't begrudge Peyriac the right to make hay while the sun shines. I'm not one of those callous transplants who doesn't understand those truths. I simply bring up the point so that you, dear reader, understand that it's probably not a good idea to visit Peyriac during hig…

ABBEY FONTFROIDE: CONTEMPLATING THE NATURE OF NATURE

It's a quiet day at Abbey Fontfroide. No special events. No crowds. I sit on a bench in the rose garden, many varieties in full flower even this early in the season. A gentle breeze whispers through the foliage, surrounding me with the perfume of a thousand blooms. Birdsong erupts, fades, erupts again. I can imagine an acolyte in this very spot a thousand years ago, more isolated from the rest of the world than a modern man can imagine, seeking spiritual guidance.

My head tells me that this confluence of sight, sound, and smell is the result of geological forces, of mutation and evolution, random acts of chemistry. My heart urges me to be thankful. My head asks, "Thankful to whom?" My heart refuses to continue the conversation.

LA CAMBUSE DU SAUNIER, GRUISSAN: RESTAURANT REVIEW

Salt has always been a valuable commodity. From preserving meat and fish to enhancing the flavor of cooked foods to enticing wild game out into the open, salt has a permanent place in human history going back millennia. And so wherever the configuration of sea and shore facilitate the large-scale evaporation of sea water over the shallows leaving sea salt behind, humans have taken advantage. One such place is outside of Gruissan along the Mediterranean coast not far from Narbonne. Salt has been harvested there for generations, hundreds if not thousands of years.

There are restaurants at destinations, restaurants that benefit from their location in an area that attracts tourists, and there are destination restaurants, restaurants that are sufficiently interesting in and of themselves to warrant going a bit out of your way to make a special visit. La Cambuse du Saunier on Gruissan's salt flats is a bit of both.

Uniquely situated directly adjacent to the salt flats, the sight of the…