HOLDING AUTUMN AT BAY
A road trip! I haven’t done one of those for years, other than the regular pilgrimage to my spiritual home north of the border. So it was with great excitement and the perfect excuse that driving to the South of France would allow us to throw in any last minute things - ‘the kitchen sink’ according to my beloved – we embarked on our journey to Antibes.
So as the days were drawing in and autumn looked like it was going to take hold, we left a dull England and arrived the next morning in La Belle France. Foot to the floor, we held the encroaching weather at bay, drawn south by a booking to eat in Bordeaux. ‘La Tupina’ – highly recommended, it did not disappoint. Since opening in 1968, they have built a reputation for their defence of ‘Sud Ouest’ traditions and local produce (notably Cassoulet, hold that thought). Situated in the heart of the historic centre of Bordeaux, between “Saint Michel” and “Sainte Croix”, at the end of the charming Rue Porte de la Monnaire, it is all mellow stone and elegant windows. We entered with a bustle of customers, the convivial noise of diners and very helpful staff. We enjoyed a simple supper, tired after the long drive, but the next day returned, choosing to sit in the sunshine on the street and enjoy an early lunch at their rustic eatery 100 yards up the road – the bar, Cave. 2 birds, 1 stone! Steak Tartare to die for. ‘Oeufs au Lait’, (egg custard set in a shallow terracotta dish) – utterly sublime, but the dish was 8” in diameter and intended for one person! Even I failed and I love custard! Apricot Clafoutis and the plat du jour of Andouillette (French-style faggots) looked wonderful as they passed, en route to another table. I liked Bordeaux!
But on to Grasse … a lovely villa overlooking the pine, oak and cypress trees, tiny villages and on to the sea. Idyllic.
First stop provisions. Staying in a villa gives me the opportunity to cook, and no I never tire of it. The Mediterranean fish was, of course, plentiful – especially the joy of oysters from Valbonne market. The fishing industry in France is a key contributor to regional economies and cultural heritage. Forward-looking, fisherman are relying on ever-more innovative technologies for better knowledge and management of the sea’s resources. It is always worth having a chat with your fishmonger about where your fish is sourced – a real test for the schoolgirl French!
More autumn riches were to be found, Chanterelles and Ceps; artichokes, aubergines, tomatoes, on and on. And veal on the grill – so good! Cheeses and sunny ripe grapes from Antibes Market.
Terrines, cured meats and salad lunches… never forgetting the wines, Provençale rosé or the Gigondas red. I was in heaven. We ate out only twice, in Cabris, a charming hilltop village, and in Cap D’Antibes, on the beach. Both wonderful experiences, the highlight being Spider Crab at the latter.
So, as we begin to slide into autumn back at home, a season which I love, I remember that thought we held in Bordeaux. Cassoulet, made with lovely beans, grown here at Thyme & our own plump sausages teamed with melting confit duck. What could be more warming, a fine response to the season, a plate of glistening gorgeousness.
Bordeaux thanks for the inspiration!