Taste of the Coast – Occitanie, France

sete-franceWe joined her gourmet walking tour, which explores the town from a gastronomic and culinary perspective. We stepped into Sophie’s bakery, birthplace of the tielle tomato and octopus pie – a Sète speciality – before going to a fabulous cheese shop. Nancy also takes groups to buy fresh bread, cakes and wine, encouraging them to try everything. The final stop was at the covered market hall, a loud and joyful place where stalls teemed with vegetables and fresh fish. There was time to sample the local Lucques olives and `fromage de tête‘, not a cheese but a terrine made from the head of a calf or pig.

Within the market hall, stands Halles et Manger, where diners sit at a counter to eat meals that chef Magali and her husband Joel have cooked from scratch in a tiny kitchen. When she isn’t cooking for the restaurant, Magali holds classes on a raised platform opposite. It was a joy to follow her instructions as we cooked cuttlefish in chorizo with aïoli and Mediterranean vegetables.

During the class, a woman stopped to watch and ended up helping in the kitchen. With enticing smells emanating from our pots and pans, we enjoyed a tasting with an organic winemaker while chatting about the region and its food. The people here don’t just love food, they also love to talk or read about it, and to cook and share it around the table; a true testimony to the French way of life.

From tasting oysters on the Thau lagoon, sampling wine in a seaside domaine or cooking a traditional recipe, we experienced Occitanie’s heritage, which embraces many influences: the Mediterranean sea, the Spanish heat and the French elegance. Life here is sweet, salty, tangy and rich, and it seems to leave people with a constant smile.

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