French food is known globally for its finesse and flavour. From creamy Beaufort cheese in Savoie to fresh, salty oysters in Vendée and full bodied vin de sable in Moliets-et-Maâ – it’s a cornucopia of pleasure for the palate. Accommodation provider, Summer France, offers more than 30 properties across the diverse country, allowing guests to make the most of the exquisite cuisine. Here are five regions, and their specialities, to start…
Oysters in Vendée, west-central France
With its long coastline, it’s no surprise that seafood dishes feature regularly in Vendée. Spread across 80 km of shoreline, 13,000 tonnes (approximately) of oysters are produced each year from the Loire estuary to the Bay of Aiguillon. Sample the oysters Vendée-style, by grilling them with finely chopped shallots, a knob of butter and freshly-ground pepper, alternatively, go one step further and find out where they come from on the Atlantique Oyster Route. Here, farmers will take you to the oyster beds, maturing ponds, shed and buildings and explain how oysters grow and develop, and what makes them so unique. Summer France has six residences in Vendée. Sleeping four to eight, Le Domaine de Vertmarines offers guests easy access to the shops, bars and restaurants of Saint Jean de Monts and the sweeping shores. The villas are set within 16-acres of preserved parkland with the historic city of Nantes, the pretty town of La Roche-sur-Yon and a number of friendly farms nearby. Each accommodation has a large living room, well-equipped kitchen, private pool and garden, spacious terrace and individual parking.
A week’s stay, from 1 July, costs from £139 pp (£834 total) for a three-bedroom villa sleeping up to six.
Lavender in Provence, south-east France
From the end of June until the middle of August, the fields change colour from lush green to vibrant purple as the lavender blooms. Part of the mint family, lavender is an incredibly versatile herb and has numerous uses, including mummification processes by the Egyptians, bathing purposes for the Greeks and Romans and a perfume by Queen Elizabeth I of England. However, it’s also wonderful for cooking with, and helps enhance the flavour and appearance of food. Culinary Lavender (such as Lavandula angustifolia) can also be included in bread (instead of rosemary), the spikes or stems can be used as the sticks in fruit or shrimp kebabs, plus hearty stews and wine-reduced sauces can benefit from a sprinkle of the purple plant too. Just remember the secret: as it’s so strong, a little goes a long way. Provence is renowned for its abundance of lavender, meaning a ‘sea of purple’ is never too far away. Make the most of the herb when staying at Residence Provence Country Club. Located in the heart of the Luberon Mountain Range, between the stunning riverside town of Isle sur la Sorgue and the historic rural Saumane, the apartments (sleeping two to eight) offer a tranquil atmosphere and a great base to explore south France. Each accommodation has a cosy living area, well-equipped kitchen, private balcony or terrace and access to the shared outdoor swimming pool.
A week’s stay, from 1 July, costs from £87 pp (£522 total) for a two-bedroom apartment sleeping up to six.
Vin de sable in Moliets-et-Maâ, south-west France
Moliets is a town and beach resort forming part of the extensive Atlantic Coast of south-west France, known as the Cote d’Argent. It’s also one of the places where vin de sable is produced. Directly translated as ‘sand wine’, vin de sable is fashioned from vineyards grown in the sand. The vines are planted between 100 and 800 metres from the shoreline, and bloom in the shelter of the salt winds and the warmth of the sands. The roots of the vines help keep the sand stable and the wine is remarkable for its colour, body and bouquet. Summer France owns six first-class properties in Moliets-et-Maâ. Sample the rich wine in Moliets at Villas La Clairière aux Chevreuils (sleeping eight to 12 people). The villas in this domain are designed to blend in with the woodland and natural surroundings. Each holiday home comes with an enclosed garden, including a terrace and large pool, and children receive a complimentary ice cream on arrival.
A week’s stay, from 8 July, costs from £262 pp (£3,143 total) for a four-bedroom villa plus mezzanine, sleeping up to twelve.
Gâteau à la broche in Pyrénées, south France
Also known as the ‘rock of the Pyrénées’, the gateau à la broche is one of the regions well-known (and loved) symbols. Historically, this traditional cake – cooked on a spit over a roaring fire – was created for special occasions in the farming villages nestled in the valley. Nowadays, it is made a lot more frequently, although it takes just as long. Always formed by hand, the cake mixture is poured slowly and skillfully onto a special mould that is constantly turning. Around 10-20 layers of dough are added over a few hours, with the final gateau looking a little like a fir tree in shape. Sample this unique cake when staying at Résidence Cami Réal, ideally situated in Saint Lary in the heart of the Pyrénées surrounded by lakes and mountains. The holiday apartments are open year-round on our mountain destination website, Ski France, meaning you can enjoy the accommodation year round. All apartments (sleeping three to twelve people) come with fully-equipped kitchens and access to the heated swimming pool, sauna and steam room.
A week’s stay, from 1 July, costs from £75.50 pp (£302 total) for a one-bedroom apartment sleeping up to four.
Beaufort in Chambéry, Savoie, south-east France
Produced exclusively from unpasteurised cow’s milk in the French Alps of Savoie, Beaufort has a firm, yet buttery taste, which melts easily in the mouth. Because the cows’ diets change throughout the year, the taste of the cheese changes depending on the season. Cheese manufactured from 1 June to 30 October is classed as Beaufort Summer AOP: it is made from milk produced in the alpine pastures when the cows dine on herbs and various flowers, and is a pale yellow colour with a fruity taste. The cheese created from 1 November to 31 May is called Beaufort AOP: it is made from milk harvested at the farm when the cows eat hay in the stables, and is a lighter in colour and softer in taste. Stay at the luxurious Le Château de Candie, a four-star hotel just 10 minutes (by car) from Chambéry, and try the delicious Beaufort cheese. As well as the spacious rooms (25 in total, accommodating up to four people) with soft sofas, walk-in showers, claw-footed baths and tall windows, Le Château de Candie has an opulent tower suite, ideal for couples after a quixotic retreat.
A week’s stay, from 19 July, costs from £778 pp for a Classic Room, sleeping one. Food extra.
For more information, visit Summer France (0203 475 4756, www.summerfrance.co.uk)