Starting at the mouth of the mighty Girdone River in Bordeux, award-winning chef Rick Stein embarks on a trip that everyone would love to take – along the rivers of Southern France, sampling the local culinary delights on the way. In this series, Rick’s new home is called Rosa – an eighty-year-old, hundred foot long barge which has been doing the trip for the best part of thirty years. The barge’s captain, Bernard, is a good man to have aboard, not least because he knows the best bars, wine producers and restaurants along the 800 kilometre journey.
Rick is on a gastronomic odyssey to find all the glorious food and wine that France can offer – from eels in cider and buckwheat galettes to entrecôte bordelaise and shad grilled over vine trimmings, sarladaise potatoes fried in duck fat with garlic and parsley, snails Languedoc style and La Bourride, and an epic Bouillabaisse at L’Epuisette a restaurant on La Corniche in Marseille.
Rick introduces his French Odyssey with a diary where he conjures up visions of long hot French afternoons spent sipping wine in the sunshine over a lazy lunch, “Beauduc is a smudge on the map somewhere between the Mediterranean and a network of etangs, the salt-water lagoons that are all part of Rhone delta. There’s a restaurant there called Chez Jou Jou, which is any seafood lover’s dream: tellines with aioli as a starter, then loup de mer as the main course – I don’t know if there was any other choice, and I don’t care really – all washed down with copious quantities of ice-cold Picpoul de Pinet. Jack Nicholson’s been there, Dustin Hoffman’s been there, and now me.”
But what of the celebrated French food? Has the romantic picture of French cooking been usurped by the golden arches of McDonalds? Surrounded by lush vineyards and dramatic hilltop castles, Rick follows the contours of the river, visiting local markets, sea-side cafes and rustic restaurants on the way to his final goal: a small, hidden-away restaurant in Marseilles called Le Lunch where he had one of the best seafood lunches imaginable.
For more information and recipes from this series, click here.