Ah Le Weekend! Blogging, Swimming and Dining in Gourmet restaurants. I’m in Heaven!!

We were now settling into a nice little routine waking just after 7:30am in time for a boulangerie run to the Vieux Four, then back to the hotel for a run amongst the vines and then a dip before heading out for the day. Being away for just shy of 2 weeks and trying to travel light we’d pretty much run out of clean clothes so had to make a dash to the laverie in nearby St. Cyr-sur-Mer. Once the 2 drums were laden with our laundry it was off to the square for 30 minutes to enjoy a refreshing Monaco in the square and catch up on some Blogging!

Deux Monaco s'il vous plait

Deux Monaco s’il vous plait

I was first introduced to the Monaco whist staying with JoJo a friend of Gillian’s, in Normandy many years ago! It’s basically a Kronenburg or other lager with a large slug of Grenadine syrup in it. Colourful and refreshing and very French. I limited myself to one but as Gillian had been doing the bulk of the duty driving on the wine visits it was encore de Monaco for her!

The square in St.Cyr has a plethora of cafes and restaurants and would be a great place to lunch if using the nearby beach. However, do be warned that the beach at St. Cyr although extensive gets mobbed as there is a large campsite adjacent to it.

Instead we headed East towards Toulon to a picturesque town called Sanary-sur-Mer. If you are in this neck of the woods it’s a definite must visit for so many reasons. If you are a fan of literature you’ll be drawn by the knowledge that literary giants Thomas Mann, Berthold Brecht and Aldous Huxley all resided here in the 1930s.

Sanary-sur-Mer has one of the highest sunshine records in the South of France, is an active marina town all year round and has an interesting mix of boutiques, ateliers selling paintings and ceramics and specialist food stores. In some respects it reminds us of a warmer, sunnier version of St. Ives in Cornwall. Another similarity with the north Cornish coast but for different reasons is the wind. Sanary does get regularly affected by le Mistral. Although we’d been several time’s before to the pretty Portissol Bay beach we’d never seen it so windy as this clip shows!

Portissol Bay Beach, Sanary-sur-Mer

That still didn’t stop us wading in for a quick swim to get buffeted and tossed around by the waves!

Whilst there you have to just check out Boulangerie AvyOne of their specilaity items is the Tourtiere a Pommes et Amandes. This is made with filo pastry sheets gathered up into a purse shape and filled with apple purée and cinnamon and topped off with toasted almonds. I’m going to try to recreate my own version of this when I’m next in the kitchen at home!

Sanary Marina

Sanary Marina

You can take a boat across to the other Paul Ricard estate owned Embiez islands from here, where they grow their own grapes for their Embiez Red, White and Rose served at the Hotel le Delos on nearby Ile de Benedor. Or you may wish to go slightly further a field to the Porquerolles Islands off Hyeres. Be aware though that it’s not always a brilliant idea to book in advance because the boat trips can be affected by high winds to the Porquerolles.

Another Provencal delicacy that we always stock up on when we go to Sanary is the slightly salty and tangy Creme d’Anchoiade, a seasoned anchovy cream dip with capers, garlic and lemon. This goes perfectly with a plate of crudités of radish, carrots, celery, peppers and broccoli and of course a crisp and chilled Provencal Rose or White wine like one of those purchased yesterday from Lafran-Veyrolles!

After a brilliant afternoon spent in Sanary we headed back to La Cadiere D’Azur to scrub up for our big night gourmet dinner at the one Michelin starred Rene and Jean Francois Berard Restaurant at our hotel the Hostellerie Berard and Spa

Spruced up and ready for dinner we walked the 10 metres from our hotel to the village square where a local band were tuning up for a local concert. Gillian ordered a Monaco and I a local La Cadiere beer and we soaked up the warm and balmy atmosphere of this village like locals!

Stand by for the wow factor! This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of eating the gourmet tasting menu at this establishment and it rocks! What I really love is the fact that they take the best Provencal ingredients, keep things really simple and let the food speak for itself! The nearest I can describe this in UK Michelin star terms is the wonderful Mr Underhills in Ludlow, Shropshire.

The Hostellerie Berard restaurant also has an amazing panoramic view of the vineyards of Le Castellet.

We had their gourmet tasting menu as follows:

Vision of Summer

Olive Oil Jam with Heritage Tomatoes. The tomatoes are from the kitchen garden and sweetly ripened by the sun.
~•~
Agnoletti with Violet Artichokes and a Chicken Stock with Sage. These little ravioli stuffed with artichoke hearts with served in a dark and rich chicken bouillon reduction that was both shiny and the colour of dark caramel. Awesome!

~•~

Courgette Flower, Stuffed with Marinaded Anchovies, served with Aigo Boullido and Olive Oil. The courgettes were al denote, the anchovy farci light and the perfect contrast to the sweetness of the courgettes. The roulade you can see is made from a courgette ribbon stuffed with anchovy, tomato and basil.

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~•~
Seared locally caught Red Mullet, with Fried Baby Squid, Fregola Sarda and Pistou Sauce

~•~
Cheeses: Tonne, St. Nectaire, and one from the Pyrenees whose names escapes me!
Fresh and Refined, served with an assortment of country breads
~•~

A Moonlight Poem on the Red Fruit Theme
Rose Petals, Pistachio Chips and Rose Ice Cream.
This was a true triumph of presentation, taste and creativity. Excuding all the sweetness of the fruit and taking you to a higher level of ecstasy with each mouthful, the counterbalance being the lightness of the Rose ice cream which had both the bouquet and colour of the roses we had seen growing amongst the vines.

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We sought the assistance of Samuel Arsac, the Sommelier who is a legend! Not only did he allow me to store a weeks worth of wine purchases in his air conditioned cellar so that I didn’t have to lug them up to our room, he also set up for me to visit a friend of his in Meusault, Sebastien Magnien. On top of this he recommended some great wines for this gourmet feast.

His first suggestion which we choose was something Provencal with the meal, the Chateau de Pibarnon, which we were yet to visit;  a blend of 50% Clairette for finesse, 30% Bourboulenc for generosity and 20% “seasoning” from other grapes at the vigneron’s descretion for complexity such as Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne. This wine has wonderful aromas of white flowers such as jasmine and fruits such as pear and peach.

For the cheese course he recommended a glass of the 2011, Chateau Henri Bonnaud Red, produced by one of the oldest and smallest French wine AOC in the Provence region near Aix-en-Provence. It’s a a blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Old Carignan. It had notes of elderberry and red currant on the nose but with  a damson like long finish perfect for cheese.

Finally he recommended a fabulous Corsican dessert wine, Domaine Gentile, a Muscat du Cap Corse, a vin doux naturel from 2013. This was sweet with notes of honey and honeycombe, possessing a fat and long finish with flavours of candied fruits and dried/preserved pineapple.

On a role from our blow out dinner and with the sound of the band echoing around La Cadiere’s narrow streets we headed off to party the night away with the locals. We even drank like locals with Gillian ordering a Kir and I the French national drink of the aniseed like variety Ricard.

As the rhythm of the bands sax got our feet tapping and before we knew where we were we were up joining the locals for a late night boogie!

Baker Street – Provencal Style

As the band wound up their set and the local Cadiereans went off to their homes or another party we fell into our room after another amazing day!

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