Loving Languedoc - the Irish foodie falls for delicious tastes of France
By: Maggie Griffin | Published Tuesday, December 18, 2012, 8:25 AM | Updated Tuesday, December 18, 2012, 8:25 AM
Jarret de veau
If someone asked me to close my eyes and describe the Languedoc region of France, this is the image which comes to mind. Plane trees (Platanus occidentalis) growing along roadsides with their very distinctive mottled cream and grey patterned bark. In the Languedoc, roads are most likely to be flanked with fields of vines. The primary grape varieties grown - Carignan, Mouevedre, Cinsault and Syrah amongst others. They all combine to create some of the most magical wines, two of which I really enjoyed this trip - Picpoul de Pinet and Pic St. Loup. The iconic cassoulet is the dish of the region. It's hearty, filling and oh so tasty combining haricot beans with pork, duck and sausage. Wandering around the Cité of Carcassonne I came across this poster on a wall. This trip I had lunch in the two star Michelin restaurant Le Parc in Carcassonne. The lunch was a set menu although it was possible to dine à la carte. For the quality of food we received it was incredibly reasonable for €35 with a complimentary glass of wine. I was staying in the lovely old medieval town of Pézenas, In peak season this town is thronged with tourists, but in late September it is a much more pleasant experience. My son works here as a chef and it is really a small village where all the locals know each other. For this reason you get a very different perspective on what life is like than if you breezed in on a day trip.
Aubergines of every variety
What I love most about towns like Pézenas is that even though the buildings and infrastructure are ancient, they are still used and loved. There is no sense that you need to modernise or try to improve. The old city remains as it was hundreds of years ago. Time moves on, but it remains; solid and immutable.
The produce from the region is fresh and tastes of sunshine. Fish - dorade (sea bream), loup de mer (sea bass) and morue (cod). Try brandade de morue which is a salt cod dish mixed with mashed potato, garlic and olive oil. Aubergines (egg plant) in season with their purple hues nestle between every variety of peach, tomatoes and then later figs and mangos in the market every Saturday.
It would be difficult to say that the Languedoc is better than any other region in France, but it is special and well worth a visit. I'm loving exploring and getting to know the area a little bit more on every trip.