Thursday May 19
It's Market Day again and so we have planned a "light" day. As it turns out the day is mostly about food. Besides the market, we plan to go to Oulibo for olives and because it's fun, then have lunch in Capestang. Finally, we plan to hit the beach at Serignan to dip our toes into the Mediterranean. Of course, there will be aperos and dinner.
It's a no-alarm day. We're all moving a bit slowly this morning, as we have planned things close to home for the day. Hunsinger's get a load of laundry done. I work on the blog, we do a bit of straightening up from yesterday and Janis cleans the pots we left to soak last night.
We get to the market just shortly after 10 in the morning. It's the big market day and we've planned to buy eggs from the chicken man. Tony has told us these are the best eggs around, so we're ready to find out. We get more than a baker's dozen of the large eggs. The Thursday vegetable man is in fine form and is happy to have his photo taken by the paparazzi (alias Clark) this morning. We get veggies for ratatouille, lettuce, clementines, peaches and a melon. We ask if the cherry tomatoes are good, the producteur has us taste them. They are only average, so we pass. I ask about the ripeness of the peaches, he hands me a peach and a knife to try for myself. (They are juicy and sweet.) Janis picks up a melon and I ask if it is ripe for eating tonight. The vegetable "producteur" puts it back and chooses another for us. It must have a soft, flexible stem he tells us. Dave buys some jambon sec (prosciutto) for the melon from the butcher's cart and Janis and I buy cherries and apricots from a lady whose produce is all from her garden. The cherries are ripe and sweet. The apricots are the first of the season.
Next task is to pick up the lamb we plan to grill tonight. We stop at the butcher's to pick it up and get some veal for wienerschnitzel (breaded and fried veal cutlets). We have a nice visit with the butcher who is happy that her recipe for blanquette de veau was successful. We bring everything home and put away the produce and meats. I discover that we don't have the melon we bought. So, now that we are ready to head out for the day, we drive over to the market where the producteur already knows and hands me my melon that didn't get put into the bag. Now we're finally off for the day.
Our plan is to drive to Oulibo in Bize-Minervois first, then to lunch in Capestang, and finally to the beach. Olga sends us on a route different from any we've taken before (our other visits were en route from other places than Thézan). The drive through the vinyards of St Chinian and Minervois is beautiful, moving from alluvial plains to the white stony hills and ravines of the garrigue. We arrive at Oulibo at 12:15 to find that it is closed for lunch until 2 PM. Oops. We had considered and hoped that would not be the case. Plan B. Have lunch first and then go back to Oulibo.
That works well. We arrive in Capestang at the restaurant, La Galinière around 12:30 and easily get a table on the terrace.
We are warmly welcomed by a server who turns out to be the restaurant owner. He explains the 13 Euro lunch menu which we all order, salade à l'alsacienne all around, followed by fish (Dave and Lynn) and beef (Janis and Clark) with wine for each. For dessert (part of the menu) we had chocolate mousse with caramel and chantilly (whipped cream) except for Janis, who had the pears and peaches gratinée. We pronounce the restaurant excellent in taste and value and talk to the proprieter about when we can come back. He is closed Monday and Tuesday, so we'll have to come back on the weekend and order from the menu. He gives us a card so we can phone to make a reservation. We plan to come back, when exactly is not yet known. Tony and Marian's recommendation that this is the best French restaurant in the area is right on target. Yumm (with a double M, Duane)
We stop to check out the trompe l'oeil and take photos before heading back to Oulibo.
But we don't go directly to Oulibo. First we stop to photograph an amazing field of poppies. (Judy, I'll send you the photos when we get home).
Across the street we take photos of grapes setting on the vines.
Then Dave decides we should drive down the road next to the Canal du Midi (near the Domaine du Trésor where we bought wine awhile ago). However, the road is a bust, moving away from the canal so that you can't really see anything even though you are next to the canal. And then the road ends. So we turn around, but decide that it was a good thing anyway. We find a field of purple flowers
and pick up some twigs from vine prunings. (Simon at Domaine des Trinités says grape vines are the best wood for grilling and we believe him. Of course these are twigs and Simon told us to get the stumps and not the twigs, but we do what we can and maybe we'll see stumps by the side of the road tomorrow.)
Clark takes photos for me of baby vines that we hope expose the graft of the young vine to old stock. Janis asks Clark to pick up a vinyard stone for her and when presented with the requested stone, asks if Clark couldn't have found a better stone. We burst into laughter, offer to pick Clark up after a couple hours so he can search the vinyard which is nothing but stones for the perfect rock for Janis. Janis reconsiders ("just kidding") and we head off wiping the tears from our eyes.
Oulibo doesn't disappoint and we buy another LARGE jar of olives. (Dave is enjoying rubbing in my previous skepticism about the size of jar of olives we could eat.) The Luque fresh olives are definitely our favorites. I buy something to bring to Sandra and we replenish our supply of olive oil which is sorely depleted, in fact nearly gone. I buy a jar of tomato jam that I've eyed each time. I'm not sure exactly what I'll do with it yet, but Janis and I'll invent something, I'm sure. Janis and Clark do some gift shopping and we pack our treasures into the trunk and head to the beach.
We have decided to go to Serignan Plage, also a recommendation from Tony and Marian and we can see why they like it. It is wide and private and feels quite local. The beach is sand, the Mediterranean is actually warm, warm enough to swim in if one chose. There are all quite a few sunbathers which Dave and Clark find interesting since tops are optional on women in France and many women are exercising the option.
We walk the beach for a short time, investigating the shells, picking up a few. It's 6 PM and time to go home. We've decided to postpone the grilled lamb as we had a big lunch and we have all kinds of delicious fruits to eat. So aperos include melon and prosciutto. The producteur picked a perfectly sweet and juicy melon. Of course we have olives and bread. It's "de rigeur". I'm still adding photos to yesterday's blog. I have 50 I've chosen from the hundreds and have to narrow them down and put them in the right places. Janis makes us a salad of great veggies, Roquefort cheese and croutons. With homemade balsamic vinaigrette and the rest of the baguette, it is all we need for dinner. For dessert we have the peaches we bought this morning. The juice runs down our arms and they are sweet and ripe. A bit of cheese finishes the bread left from dinner. Janis has fed us all well tonight.
We decide to go to Nîmes tomorrow so must get started by 8ish. We have an agreement that we will leave by 5 PM so we can get home to grill the lamb. So it's early to bed for all tonight.