Languedoc-Roussillon: Trish DeSeine's top tips for a gourmet getaway in France
Vive la France
Languedoc-Roussillon is a luscious spot for a foodie break, says food writer Trish DeSeine.
It's a wildly beautiful region of France, a little rough around the edges, but its wine industry is rapidly transforming itself to challenge the cooperatives and the globalised market threatening to destroy small producers - and the wine itself.
The local produce is simple, but abundant and fabulously good and fresh if (like everywhere in Europe) you choose your market, butcher or greengrocers carefully and avoid the big supermarkets.
What should I pack?
Sturdy walking shoes, a well-stocked Kindle and an alarm clock (you need to get up early if you insist on going to the beach and want to beat the traffic). Oh, and lots of good wine research!
First thing to do?
Head to La Cave St Martin in Roquebrun (lacavesaintmartin.fr) for tapas and wine on its shady terrasse overlooking the Orb. Enjoy the scenery, and insider knowledge on the region's natural wines.
Best food and drink?
Learn to cook (and eat and drink!) like a native at one of Martin Dwyer's residential cookery courses in his, and wife Síle's, beautiful old Presbytère maison d'hote in Murviel les Beziers (lepresbytere.net).
In Beziers, Pas comme les Autres natural wine and tapas bar (pascommelesautres-beziers.com) was recently opened by young sommelier and native Bitterois Romain Henry Niess. Romain spent quite a few years in London, working with Gordon Ramsay and Claude Bosi and there's no better man to guide you (in perfect English!) through the exciting Languedoc natural wine scene.
My favourite restaurants are the dreamy St Barth (lestbarth.com), just outside Marseillan, where you eat its exquisite oysters at the edge of long wooden pontoons which stretch out towards the oyster beds.
In Sête, Anne Majourel's La Coquerie (annemajourel.fr) has no menu, just her inspiration from the famous local fish market of the day.
What should I avoid?
I'm not much of a beach person at the best of times, but find the beaches of the region particularly unappealing. Head instead for luxury at the beautiful, peaceful pool at Chateau Les Carrasses in Capestang (lescarrasses.com) or the pool and spa at its 'little brother', Chateau St Pierre de Serjac (serjac.com) near Puissalicon.
What should I bring home?
A well scribbled notebook of new wine discoveries (find them in Ireland thanks to MaryPawleWines.com or Languedoc-Outsiders.com when you come home).
Trish's food shopping tips
For food shopping, you’ll be spoiled for choice with markets around St Chinian — especially St Chinian itself on Sunday morning.
Nearby, the best indoor/outdoor markets are magnificent Pezenas, Sête and Narbonne Halles where amongst the superb produce, you can pick out seafood, hams, tieilles and pizzas and have them cooked and served for you at tables in the aisles.
In Sête particularly, the bars and bistros serve great food from midday onwards. It makes for a fantastically colourful and lively outing, mingling with groups of local friends and families chatting noisily and playing cards.
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) starts a new, twice-weekly service from Dublin to Montpellier from May 20. Pastis serves a fabulous set menu, just off the pretty Place St Anne — dinner from €37.50 with three glasses of wine for €20. See pastis-restaurant.com.
Trish Deseine's bakery apartment in Cazouls-lès-Béziers is on airbnb.ie from €50 per night. See also trishdeseine.com.