Wine Quote of the Week

"Days of wine and roses laugh and run away,
Like a child at play"
Johnny Mercer

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Our wine quotation winner

"Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and sigh."
William Butler Yeats, Green Helmet and Other Poems.
Roisin McCardle from Limerick, éire,  wins a wine tour for two for sending us this one
Well done Roisin! See you soon in the South of France!

Nice feedback

It was very much a highlight of my trip doing the tours with you and the vignerons, especially the lunch with the French family, whose name I cannot remember at the moment, where we lunched in the 'barn' with Mr. and Mrs., the son and his friend who spoke more English, cooking the pork chops over the grape vines.

As well, we visited Riberach with their grand plans for a hotel etc.. We have received updates via email and they are progressing nicely towards opening this summer. We bought the E11 wine and opened it last year at a dinner with several European guests (France, Denmark) and it everyone was very impressed. Ted's sister and her husband purchased the E31 bottle and found it extremely agreeable. Too bad we are limited to 2 litres!
Maureen Freeman from Canada

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring was in the air

A group of us trekked along the coastal paths between Cap Bear and Banyuls on Saturday in tee shirts and shorts. We dined al fresco in a fab restaurant in Port Vendres afterwards and enjoyed a 3 course sumptious feast in La Tramontane for a mere 16euros50. Visiting friends from the UK were astounded at the value for money and the fact that a mere two hours from the UK, they were basking in the sunshine and lashing on the suncream! Coffee in Collioure finished off the day perfectly and we all headed home replete, thinking that summer has arrived.

This morning we woke up to temperatures of 1 degrees and the snow is now falling heavily and sticking. The good news is that it is also snowing in the ski slopes and now that the school regional holidays are over, the slopes will be quiet. Just over an hour from Perpignan, we can be clicking on our skis and enjoying the fresh air of the Pyrenees. Weeee Hawww

It's a lovely time of the year to visit the region and to take in a bit of sunshine, a bit of skiing, a bit of culture and fine dining and of course a little bit of wine.
At the French Tour Co, a wine tour combined with a days skiing can be arranged with all transport, accommodation and meals included. Contact us for further information.
We now only cater for large groups of 10 or more, but do contact us if you group is smaller as we can regroup smaller numbers.
See you on the slopes!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Let's do lunch dahling

Article as printed in Accents Southwest

If brown is the new black, staying in, the new going out, well then , lunch is the new dinner. With such excellent value for lunch menus in the local restaurants in the PO, it is no wonder that you have to scramble to get a seat in most good establishments once it's twelve bells and the PO effectively shuts down.

We offer all types of tours at The French Tour Co - our most popular being the Wine Tours. However, we also get quite a few requests for our Gourmet Tours - which takes us to Oyster farms for wine tasting, fromageries, olive oil farms, yummy chocolate factories, cookery lessons with Michelin star chefs and other gourmet highlights. Of course, no gourmet tour with be complete without visiting a nice restaurant for a typically long and leisurely French lunch.
Here are the highlights of the coastal restaurants that we have tried and tested in the Pyrenees Orientales:

Leucate - just over the border in the Aude department, the Oyster farm is a MUST for those who like shucking up! Reminiscent of the shanty -like river markets in Asia, the oyster huts where they harvest the beauties, back on to basic restaurants serving Oysters and Mussels, the freshest you have ever tasted. This is not a place to go to if you are
a) a white linen table, sparkling glasses and stylish decor type or
b) you are not an oyster lover.
The restaurants are the basic, plastic tables and chairs variety - there is a string of them all offering unbelievable value :
12 oysters, a quart of wine and bread for 8 euros for example. You can also buy take away or sea food platters.
Situated between Leucate port and Leucate Village , follow the signs for Le centre ostréicole ( same turn off as the naturist resort)

Just South of Leucate, and staying on the fishy theme, we venture into Le Barcarès which boasts one of the nicest fish restaurants in the region; L'Amparo. Fresh fish, cooked simply and at excellent value, this little seafront restaurant, tucked away in front of Résidence La Sardane, is a real find. Reservation recommended, especially at the weekend. This is a local favourite and is open all year round.
L'Amparo Résidence La Sardane 66420 LE BARCARES Téléphone : 04 68 86 10 44

Canet has many many restaurants and eating there can be a bit hit and miss. After having an office there for over 4 years, I think I have tried most of them at this stage! The Rimini cannot be beaten for price and quality. Their lunch menu changes daily and if you like a good hearty lunch , the Rimini is your man. Excellent adventurous pizzas with thin crispy crusts ( try the melo mela with goats cheese, apple slices and raisins). Reservation is recommended for lunch as it is always full. Best pizzeria I have found in the region! Situated at the roundabout with the big fountain as you come into Canet from the Perpignan side :
Le Rimini, 4 Avenue Catalogne, 66140 Canet , Tél. : 0468804587

La Cigale Gourmande , on the sea front in Canet does an amazing lunch as well - for 12€50 , you get starter and main or main and dessert , with a quart du vin and coffee. That’s hard to beat. The food is always imaginatively prepared and the staff are young and friendly. The chef regularly comes and out and does the rounds of the tables to ensure everyone is happy. Michelin star service at Quick prices.
La Cigale Courmande 27, promenade de la Côte Vermeille 66140 Canet, Tél : 09 65 04 12 66

The Mar I Bouddha restaurant on the jetty in Canet Nord is probably the best located bar and restaurant in Canet. Surrounded on three sides by water, this ultra moderne restaurant oozes style and sophistication. With an excellent restaurant on the ground floor favouring Catalan style dishes and lots of seafood, there is also a funky bar on the 1st floor with stunning views of the beach and the prom in Canet. Open all year round, it is advisable to book also :
Mar I Bouddha,1 boulevard de la Jetée , 66140 Canet , Téléphone : 04 68 80 33 21

L'Almandin , situated in the hotel L'ile de la Lagune in Les Capellans in St Cyprien boasts a coveted Michelin Star ( there are not many in the PO) and so for a special occasion, this restaurant is worth a visit. In a gorgeous idyllic setting , with its terrasse overlooking the marina and cool minimalistic interior, this one ticks all the boxes for those seeking la glamour!
L'Île de la Lagune "Les Capellans", 66750 Saint-Cyprien  - Tél : 04 68 21 01 02

Moving further south to Argeles sur plage and to the George and Dragon, an English pub run by the lovely Susan and her hubby Franz. You are assured a very warm welcome here at the George and Dragon and if you have been craving curries and English food, Susan offers the most delicious curries in her laid back pub. Interestingly for all you sporty types, they also have all the sports channels : Sky Sports, Setanta, Euro sports etc and all the English and Irish matches can be seen here.
George and Dragon, 24, Avenue du Général de Gaulle, 66700 Argeles, 06 11 65 56 56

Collioure, the jewel in the crown, as they say, but there are many thorns to be found in the eateries here in Collioure, who, with her abundance of tourists, doesn't really have to try too hard to get the punters in the doors. There are a few gems and The French Tour Co's favourite is L'Insolite - a little terrace restaurant, situated just behind the magnificent Notre Dame des Anges church whose most painted clock tower dominates the bay.
L'Insolite ( which is only open when the sun shines , as there is no indoor space) offers great big fresh and tasty salads , crepes and cheap and cheerful dishes served with a smile. A breath of fresh air in Collioure.
L'Insolite 2, Place de l'Eglise - 66190 Collioure, Tél: 04 68 82 08 61

Motoring down south to Port Vendres and onto the marina where La Tramontane is situated - a truly excellent restaurant with an adventurous chef, the midday menu is exceptional value : with three or four choices for every course - three courses costs 15euros. The last time I visited there for lunch, I enjoyed lobster bisque, confit de canard on a cassoulet of lentils and aubergine crumble for dessert. In a word , it was WOW. Highly recommend it.
La Tramontane, 2 Quai Forgas, 66660 Port Vendres , Tél : 04 68 82 01 51

Another very stylish restaurant on the marina front in Banyuls sur Mer, Al fanal is situated on the southern end of Banyuls sur mer, across the road from the Aquariam. Part of the charming hotel, El LLagut, this restaurant changes its menu weekly and so offers very fresh dishes. With an excellent wine list with over 300 wines to choose from, this is a serious restaurant for the gourmet lover. Again , it is lunch time which offers the best deal with menus at 18 - 21 euros. Seriously elegant dining.
La Fanal, Avenue du Fontaulé, 66650 Banyuls sur Mer , Tél : 04 68 88 00 81

Our last port of call, is in quirkly laid back Cerbere , the last bastion of french civilisation before scaling the mountian into Port Bou and diving into all things Spanish. La Dorade is a laid back family run establishment whose terrace spills out onto the street. Everybody seems to know everybody else and the atmosphere is friendly, relaxed and très catalan, just like the food. They pride themselves in their catalan recipes , handed down through the generations by their mothers and grandmothers - Actually , it feels like you are having dinner in your grannies house with your doting granny fussing over you wondering is everything ok. A comforting catalan experience.
La Dorade - Front de Mer, 66290 Cerbère. - Tél : 04 68 88 41 93
Allez , Bonne appetit tout le monde!