Unwrapping the palms + a birthday treat

pain du pecheur-1This pain du pecheur was served as an extra, a tapa or an accompaniment to the main course, at lunch at La Maison du Pecheur on the quayside at Mèze yesterday. Simple and delicious, it’s definitely something we’ll be trying at home soon: slices of rustic bread topped with a spicy garlicky mix of tomato, red pepper and anchovy. Our main course was a platter of grilled shellfish – mussels and clams with breadcrumbs, herbs and garlic, mussels with Roquefort, oysters with leeks and cream, gambas – served with a baked potate and a provençale tomato.

plateau de coquillage-2

It was fun, tasty, and relaxed. We were almost the last to leave our table with a view of the port, but we didn’t feel rushed and were even offered a complimentary glass of marc de muscat, a new digestif for us, produced from the must after the sweet Muscat de Frontignan is made, very aromatic and sweet smelling. It was a lovely birthday treat for me.

As we finished eating we noticed a nice sign of spring – the palm trees along the quay were being unwrapped from their winter fleeces.


A day out in the sun


These are the oyster beds in the Etang de Thau, a sea-water lagoon where shell fish production is the main activity.  The mussel and oyster frames support strings of shells which are glued on when the shell fish are young.  They are then lowered into the water to eat and grow.  These rows of frames stretch from Marseillan, past Mèze and on to Bouzigues (to the left of this picture) and across the unpolluted water towards Sète. The water really is unpolluted – it’s the only place in France where shell fish is produced that doesn’t have to go into purification tanks before sale, a status that is zealously guarded by the producers here. And best of all, this is a sustainable method of food production which doesn’t use up the sea’s resources as other fish and sea food can.  It’s a major industry in the area, rivalled only by the Picpoul vines which grow so well along the shores of the lagoon.  The name Picpoul means ‘sting the lips’ and this white wine does have a fresh, sharp quality. By some miracle of nature, Picpoul wine is an excellent accompaniment for sea food.  I’ve noticed this convenient marrying of flavours of local products with local wine in other areas, Cahors red wine and lamb from the Causse de Limogne, for example.




The industrial area of Mèze, with the shell fish frames and Sète in the background…and no, that’s not the remains of our lunch in that huge pile of oyster shells!

There’s a beach at Mèze, although you wouldn’t want to swim there….


the port is pretty, and full of pleasure boats even in winter:



It was hot in the sun and we found a table for lunch outside at one of our favourite restaurants, Le Sanboulou, with more or less the view in this picture.  The excellent menu du jour (only 13.50 euros) gave us tapas – mussels in chilli sauce, artichoke hearts, marinaded sardines and battered squid rings – followed by pasta with scallops and gambas (large prawns) in pistou (basil and garlic sauce), and homemade tiramisu for dessert.  Of course, I had a glass of Picpoul too!


st jaques   gambas