tête de veau

tete a veauTête de veau is one of those delicacies you don’t find outside of France too often. (and when you do it’s more often than not something best skipped.) As the name implies it’s the head of a veal calf: boiled, braised, and roasted until the meltingly tender flesh literally falls from the skull. Often the meat is then moulded into a terrine and sliced before frying, so you get that idyllic interplay of a crispy exterior enrobing a layer of buttery soft veal. At Restaurant l’Entre Pots in Pezenas they take it further, pairing the tête with grilled squid, which mirrors the texture of the terrine and manages to create a complex dish that tastes of both land and sea.

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mickey mouse slept here?

Mickey Mouse

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hotel de charme

hotel de charmeI love a good hotel. And yet as I get older, I find myself more and more  drawn to the off beat and the one-off. Here in Pezenas, Hotel de Vigniamont is a prime example of the latter. While not a hotel in the American sense of the word, it’s a chambre d’hote, or bed and breakfast, set in a quaint 17th century hôtel particulier, an old mansion. You enter through a vine-draped door to a cool, central courtyard marked by strikingly dramatic arches. A stone staircase showing the wear of centuries winds its way up to five spacious suites and a roof terrace with chaise lounges. The individually designed rooms are immensely comfortable, stylish, and include the kind of small, thoughtful touches you’d expect from staying with friends. But best of all is the bubbly hostess, Babette. Delightfully friendly, she’s enthusiastic about both her home and her town.

Hotel de Vigniamont

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moliere is everywhere

moliere is everywhereThough by all accounts playwright-actor-stage manger Moliere spent only a few years of his early artistic life in Pezenas, the small Sud de France town has adopted him as though he were a native-born son. (Without benefit of a beach or other tourist attraction, you can’t really blame them for doing what they have to do.) There’s the Hotel Moliere, of course, and a public monument to the writer in the center of town. (The only one outside of Paris, people are quick to tell me.) In the local museum a chair used by Moliere while he was in residence is proudly displayed – a gift of cultural patrimony purchased by villagers who banded together to rescue the relic at auction.  A summer festival of his plays is one of the big cultural draws.  And though I cannot vouch for the quality of the drink produced, there is even Les Caves Moliere for anyone who likes their wine a bit on the theatrical side. Note to marketing gurus everywhere: even the most tenuous of connections can be made charming when executed with Continental panache.

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