CULINARY COTIGNAC


A COTIGNAC RESTAURANT REVIEW

by Michele Di Falco

There are bars, cafes, and restaurants all around Cotignac's lovely Cours (or Square). In fact allowing for only one visit per restaurant per day, one has at least one week's worth of wonderful restaurants to experience, in a week's vacation in Cotignac. That means in order to return to a favorite, or to try some of the neighboring village's restaurants, one has to stay here for at least two weeks!
Not to mention the incredible edibles for take out in the shops in the village or at the market in Cotignac every Tuesday. For a culinary experience of the area closer to source, visit the outdoor market. Here one can peruse the typical Provencal delights fresh from the farmers.
You will see bountiful baskets full of freshly picked produce. The rotisserie chickens at the market are perfectly cooked and ready to go. There are locally made cheeses and area grown olives cured and seasoned. The local honey comes in so many variates you will want to try them all. There are various colorful crocks of tapenade, some of olive, others of my favorite, aubergine. These are just waiting for the large, crusty rounds or loafs of freshly baked breads. Let's see.... maybe a little paté, some sausages and we have all the makings for a gourmet pique-nique extraordinare!
By now I guess you realize the absolute impossibility of going hungry here! Also as you can see one never has to cook. If that is what makes your vacation feel a little easier, gives you more time to enjoy, by all means then this is the place. What's more, if you love to cook, well, this is the place for you, also. The market is a cook's delight, chock full of ingredients that are lively, colorful and fresh. In addition to the boucheries, patisseries, boulangeries and shops, the many restaurants and cafes around the square make this village a superb destination for the traveler who loves to dine well and enjoy great food. The following will be a short paragraph describing most of the cafes and restaurants on the square.

  1. Le Clos du Vin

This special restaurant is on the outskirts of the village out in the vineyards. A little off the beaten path, you have to get back into your car to get there, but please do not leave Cotignac without going there! This dining experience out among the vines is to die for!
With a view of the hills, you are surrounded by the lovely vineyards of the area. Out under one of those impossibly perfect Provencal skies, this environment is deserving of a cuisine of equal elegance. That is, in fact, exactly what you get. The food is superb and beautifully presented. The whole experience becomes a feast for the senses. This could be one of your vacations most memorable moments.
The sumptuous, smoked duck breast salad is a perfect way to start. The lamb stew that followed is so tender, the sauce delicious. It is served with mashed potatoes garlicked and sour creamed to perfection. The cheese course is delightful, the dessert, so beautiful to look at, it takes a moment to appreciate. Then go ahead and delve into a masterpiece. The gateau au chocolate, with glace, assorted fruits and berries garnishing the plate, presents a pleasurable combination of flavors.

  1. Lou Calen

This is one of Cotignac's oldest establishments and has been mentioned in the Michelin Guide for years. Be sure to go there for their fabulous Sunday brunch. You will find yourself in some very fine surroundings indoors and out. We love to wander around and admire the beautiful garden after dinner.
While you are here at the far South end of the cours you can walk over to the bridge and have a look at the little waterfall (or ever hike way up to the waterfall in the falaise.)
The Sunday brunch begins with a buffet of appetizers then follows with an entree and dessert. Some of the most memorable items were the courgette farci and salmon mousse. I am a great fan of the local favorite, aubergine tapenade. Theirs is as good as any you might find in the area, if not better. You will also find many other items such as deliciously prepared deviled eggs, leeks, couscous, eggplant, and sausages.
After this array of delicacies, the entree was lamb with ratatouille and a squash puree. For dessert a crepe, drizzled with chocolate and a lemon creme tart. A perfect ending.

  1. Toi Marche

Just one or two doors to the right of the Lou Calen is an old favorite on the cours. It's a lovely shady spot to dine outdoors, at the south end of the square. Inside, it is cozy, comfortable and interesting. Its interior gets more cave like toward the rear and in the kitchen of the cafe. The owner has always been helpful and friendly.
They always have a delicious menu of the day. The last time we were there, the grilled lamb was outstanding. We also enjoyed the escargot. They have stopped making their crepes but the pizza (try the "Toi Marche" ) was as good as ever.

  1. Bar du Cours

Since I've never eaten there I can not comment on the sandwiches or other light fare available. However, here is an ideal spot to sit out under the trees on the cours and watch the world go by. As you sit here contemplating your good fortune to be you, at this wonderful moment in time, keep a restful but watchful eye out You never know who you're going to see. Eric Idle, of Monty Python fame, who has a house in the next village, has been spotted there on occasion enjoying one of the areas loveliest squares.

  1. La Fontaine

These "new kids on the block" really know how to deliver (No not that way! Not in the south of France. You do have to show up. In fact they may not even have a doggie bag, so bring your own if this is a need of yours.)
The decor is very charming with the local, colorful Provencal fabric used generously throughout the cafe. We were able to have the menu of the day on more than one occasion the last time we were there, and found it to be very good each time. Salads are generous with a lot of variety. Try the Saltimbocca. The veal rolled, strung and stuffed with Pruscuitto was most enjoyable. The sauce was very good and served with Tagliatelli. As for dessert on the three course dinner menu, it's great to now have a place where Tira Misu is one of the choices. Italy is only two hours away, you know.

  1. Bar des Sports

Right by the lovely Cotignac fountain, this old favorite has more than the best location on the square. An important spot to a coffee connoisseur like me, as it has one of the best cafe cremes in town. They also serve one of the best versions of the local favorite; pome de tere daphenois.
The cook there can really come up with some incredible stuff. I have had a lasange Provencal there that was seasoned to perfection. Really, quite good. The Veau du Sicilliana, served in a sauce with aubergine, was dance in your mouth (Tarantella! ) delicious. And when they make their Duck a la orange you will definitely not be disappointed. For a typical Provencal dessert that is both simple and scrumptious, have the Frambroise Fromage Blanc; a dessert glass filled with raspberries covered in fromage blanc and topped with a crown of chantilly (creme; pronounced: shan TEE).

  1. Bar L'Union

This is an old neighborhood hangout. A favorite for relaxing with a beverage and people watching.You can read all about its local color ambiance in one of the travel guides. You can bring in your croissants from one of the three bakeries in town and have a cafe creme in the morning. There's a place to buy postcards and a Herald Tribune (in English if you need or prefer) right across the street at the Tabac. Then with croissants, paper, and postcards in hand, head for that terrace at the far North end of the cours. You can look up to the left and get a glimpse of the magnificent falise, the rocce that adorns the village, and is, along with the Saracen Towers, one of Cotignac's principal sights.

  1. Snack Shop

Compared to many of the old established cafe's and restaurants in the village this place is relatively new. I hear that it gets going when summer is in full swing. Since I have never been there, I cannot comment on the sandwiches, salads and snack type fare that they offer here.
I know that if they would keep hours that would extend the usual French lunch hours, it would be most helpful to the traveler. It takes a while to become adjusted to the French dining schedule when you just arrive after traveling. In any case, remember that you can always get a sandwich in one of the bars if your flights arrival proves untimely.

9 Cafe du Cours

This place has made quite remarkable transformation in the past few years. You would never know it from our photos when we were there in 1985. Just across from the cours it has its own terrace. The staff here have been cordial and friendly to us, and the food has been quite memorable on several occasions.
The cocquille St. Jacque appetizer is highly recommended. Follow this with the adoulette du Canard. It is in a peppercorn sauce that is absolutely sensational. Not only served in a sauce divine, it is also accompanied by ratatouille, carrots, cauliflower and pomme frittes. Voille!

  1. Modern Bar

This cafe stands across from the square with it's own lovely flower-filled terrace. It's a great place to stop for a beverage, read and or people watch. In addition to the snack type food and beverages it also has an inexpensive daily menu. You can get a simple sandwich here anytime.
You may be very pleasantly surprised. Fresh Camembert spread on a fresh Baguette eaten out on a terrace in the Provencal sun, can be an unbelievable experience. Just be open minded and do not expect an American sandwich stacked with stuff. Simplify your expectations and just let yourself enjoy something that will never taste the same anywhere else. (The same is said of the Lavender Honey. It can not be transported and taste quite as good as it does right there, right then.)

  1. Le Gruppi

Last on the left facing South, but certainly not the least, this restaurant is off the main street, and down a side street. Named for the fish, which you'll of course find here, cooked to perfection. In fact I'm sure you'll enjoy just about anything you try here. This place is deserving of much more specific and glowing descriptions than I am able to write at this time. I'll just have to try to make up for this oversight next time and take better notes.
It certainly deserves more of a description than this though it's true; excellent entres and interesting desserts. Being off the main drag, it has quite a following of locals who don't need as much, to be out on that square soaking up every minute they can of Cotignac sky and sun, before they must depart. I know this is the only reason I spend less time at this very fine establishment. If it rains while you are there, do not despair. Head for this eatery and enjoy the excellent local cuisine.

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