Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Seafood Feast in Sete



"Do you want to go to Sete? He says we will have the best bouillabaisse of our lives...""Done!" I shouted out immediately from the next room. Now truly, who on earth would say no to such an offer? Who would even need to think twice? Not me. I will go an-y-where for good food. 


It turned out to be the stuff of dreams. The little family run restaurant that is so off the map that even locals get lost trying to find it. A gorgeous room filled with an eclectic art collection and low lighting. No music but the sound of the gulls bobbing on the waves just beyond the front door. Yes, please.


Our ami had called ahead to reserve bouillabaisse for four people. He knows the father, who is the owner, the son is the host and the other son the chef. We met them all. They treated us very kindly. Parce que je suis gourmande or because I am piggy, I wanted to start with oysters. We were after all sitting  at 15 yards from the place where some of my very favorites come from. Our friends shot each other a glance and then looked quickly down at their menus but said nothing. The oysters! How they were divine! So creamy. I couldn't get over it. And so perfect with the white Clairette that had a fair whiff of sea salt in its golden  bouquet. As the host/brother/son approached, hefting a silver platter, I started shaking my head in disbelief. Mais non! C'est pas possible! Mais si, it is possible. We each had our own dorade, plus enough rascasses, crevettes, encornets, rougets and some other extremely special (although alien-esque) fish that this was no mere bouillabaisse but a bouillabaisse royale. My hands trembled with excitement before...


...and were folded into a prayer of "Please, no more, I beg you" an hour later. Now kids, I can eat. I really can. I can put away enough sushi for a family of four and relish every bite. When I was invited to partake of the incredible, mind-blowing menu degustation at L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel in Arles, I was the last person partaking, even when my charming French honey was clutching the table. But here alas, I cried defeat.


Ooh la la, c'etait beaucoup. The crispy little toasts with aoïli, the saffron-perfumed gravy to dribble...all just phenomenal. A second bottle of wine washed the whole lot down and no, we did not get dessert.


Needless to say we were feeling rather...pleased with ourselves...at the end of such a meal. Certain members of the party even felt the necessity to pose "like fishhhermen!" Yep, that's right. While we finished our desperately needed coffee the chef took our Golden Retriever, Ben, for a walk on the beach, blithely ignoring the sign stating "No Dogs Allowed." The sun finally pushed the clouds out of the way. And our visit to Sete? Oh yes, it wasn't half bad either...


Le Galinette
2 Place des Mouettes, 
34140 Mèze

Tel.: 04 67 51 16 77

Open only in the evenings in the summer, a good idea to reserve and folks, Google Map it!


27 comments:

  1. Well, what can I say? If this pantagruelesque feast (yes, it is a word, at least in the French language,) took place in Mèze, then it can only be good! I am so happy for you, Mademoiselle la Gourmande, but this post made me sooooo homesick. It is bad enough to miss France, but if my blogger friends start writing about favorite locations of my childhood, I am doomed. Only a few more weeks, French Girl; only a few more weeks... Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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    1. Oh punez, Vero! Si tu commence à parler de Rabelais comme référence...! I know how exciting it is these weeks before you go home, so excited for you!

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    2. Oh punaise, Heather! Should we start calling you "Pantagruel" or better still, "Gargantua" ?! :-)

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    3. Je préfère Gargantua, merci. ;)

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  2. Hello Heather:
    We are so overcome with envy that it is almost impossible to write. What absolute perfection in every respect. From that wonderful looking dining room, the bust we adore, to the delicious food, the wine, to the walk by the sea, it is all unimaginably wonderful and, envy kicking in here, you have experienced it and we have not. Eheu! Eheu!

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    1. No, it is true this was absolutely a "diner pour les Hattatts" . One hundred percent. You would have loved every single thing about it, of that I am sure. But bah, you have nothing to be envious of, my friends. What similar stories you must have!

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  3. Ha! Only you, my clever friend, would think to take photos of the wreckage of such a meal. It sounds and looks positively divine. And, speaking of Ben (you mentioned him at least once right?) We've been telling Karina that she can't be a French dog if she doesn't learn to lie quietly under the table during dinner.

    She's such a little punk, what can I say....at least we can still say she's a 'puppy' until September 30 when she turns two.

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    1. Ah Judith, she is still a little punk! Really! Do you give her sly tastes of yumminess when she is under the table? We do with Ben and oh la, it really works!

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  4. Dylan wants to move to France where he can lay under tables and get a taste of what we're having although he gets that at home just not restaurants. Your meal looked amazing and I bumped my head on my computer trying to get a smell, sounds amazing. Ok I must have missed a post somewhere, you're in Sete? I have to go back and read.

    XX
    Debra~

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    1. We just went for a visit but I found it interesting so am blogging about it this week. :) And methinks that Dylan Dog has a miiiighty fine life!!

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  5. mmmm....i think this is perhaps my most favourite dish of all....amazingly delicious. Can almost taste it, looking at these images. Laughed at the disastrous mess left at the end of such a repast!! VB

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    1. I know, it is kind of gross, isn't it?! And yes, you would have been over the moon for the meal--nothing but the freshest fish possible. It was practically still flopping!

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  6. Oh dear Heather,
    You make me dream of Provence and France in general! It is since 2008 we visited the south of France!
    I really would love to spend our holidays there again. Maybe next year!
    And thank you my friend for all your lovely comments on my blogposts! You always make me smile!
    xx
    Greet

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    1. You are so welcome, Greet--I mean what I write!!

      And please come to visit!! I would love for you and Brooke to be here at the same time...wouldn't that be amazing? And if you do decide to come, please let me know ahead of time and I will be happy to make suggestions even though I know you know Provence well. :)
      Bisous!

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  7. Sounds like an incredible meal. Actually, I've never had a true Bouillabaisse feast. I'm bookmarking Sete as a place to go someday!

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    1. I never had either really. Just a very good marmite which is not the same thing. But you can also have a great bb in Marseille as well!

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  8. Dear Heather....what wonderful photographs....I looked at those end-of-the-dinner shots and thought you'd been awfully kind not to have shown the faces of anyone; I expect every person there had that half-lidded, intensely-gratified, muffled-yawn look of someone whose only thought is "Perfect......and now for a V-E-R-Y long nap.....where are the bedrooms, or just a comfortable couch?....don't worry, I need just a couple of hours...."

    We (Herv, me, his parents, his brother, and his sister-in-law) once had a lunch of that sort about an hour outside Tours.....at a wondrfully interesting, uttlerly unpretentious, rambling, restored rustic-manoir/farmhouse where the owners now raise organic goats (so to speak). There's a small (as in perhaps six tables?)restaurant, with a menu in which everything seems to feature their goat-cheese, their vegetables, their poultry (they also raise turkeys, chickens, and ducks) and their confitures.

    We must have eaten for three hours. I asked a million questions, of course...mostly about the garden and orchard. At the end of the meal (around 3 pm), my 70 year-old father-in-law was plain-out yawning, and the owner simply suggested that he take a nap....brother-in-law and his wife drove back to Tours (they've got babies and, therefore, their days are not their own)....Herve and his father BOTH were guided to a perfectly nice bedroom in the family's part of the house....and my mother-in-law (whom I like very much; we're quite alike, oddly enough) and I spent an hour or so exploring all the chicken coops and cherry-orchards with the owner (the wife, to be exact) before helping her a bit with the goat-feeding. After that, she went back inside to retrieve our napping husbands, and we all drove back to Tours.

    It was one of the lovliest, most intriguing summer-days I've ever passed in the country....anywhere. I can't imagine anywhere in America where the owner, noticing the grand-papa is sleepy, would invite him to go take a nap in her bedroom before driving home....and then spend an hour or so happily showing off her goats and garden to complete strangers. Or, for that matter, gladly taking a customer's dog for a walk on the beach.....

    Well, suffice it to say that this posting of yours perfectly conveyed a sense of what "Living the Good Life" really is all about.

    Thanks...wonderful way to start my morning....

    david Terry
    www.davidterryart.com

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  9. I am drooling on my keyboard. Yum! What an incredible feast - love the "after" photo showing all the carnage. What a wonderful way to spend an almost-summer evening. If I'm ever in Sete (who knows!) I'll definitely be reserving there. Delicious, Heather!

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    1. Jeanne! I know for a fact that you have mighty fine seafood in Seattle! I bet you can get a very tasty bb if only you try...

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  10. Hi Heather,
    I am almost tasting the food through your wonderful photos, and I have never even eaten bouillabaisse. I shall try it someday, but maybe only when I visit France!

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    1. I don't know Sanda, don't wait for someday! If you ever see a good tomato-based fish stew on the menu in your neck of the woods, give it a go!

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  11. Hello Heather

    What a feast and such a memorable evening too.
    This is my favourite meal of all. When we were in France for two weeks one time, we had boullabaise every 2nd day and each restaurant had their own unique recipe and always, always delicious. It is heartwarming that Ben is allowed in restaurants too.
    Thanks for sharing


    Helen xx

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    1. Helen! Oh my how fun to go on a bb hunt! Yes, I have always heard that different restaurants have their unique style--ours was just about copiousness!

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  12. Can I say: YUM? Omg - what a feast!! It looks like it was AMAZING - I'm glad you posted it to make us all jealous!!
    p.s. I love your new "popular posts" segment on the right side! I'll have to revisit some of my favorites! (but, really, they're all my favorites).

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  13. Heather how I wish I had known about this restaurant a few years ago when we shipped anchor and rested in Meze for a couple of nights. The first picture has me salivating, I love dippy things! And the aftermath shots say it all!

    Heather please could you drop me an e mail, I can't seem to find an address on your profile page, you can find my e mail on my profile page, possibility of meeting up next week, would like to discuss further.
    X

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    1. Hello Dash! My email is robinsonheather@yahoo.com.

      As I don't have my Mac email account set up, I couldn't have access to your email address. Would you mind writing me?

      I would love to meet! :)

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