Monday, December 30, 2019

We Get Our Daily Bread in Sablet, France

From the day we began our search for a house in the South of France, our top priority was for the house to be located within walking distance of village business' including a boulangerie (bakery).

As readers know, we ended up buying a house in the middle of Sablet, a small village (pop. 1,264 by last count) that sits on a hill at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail (small chain of mountains in photograph below).

Main Sablet industries are wine making and tourism so there is always life in the village in comparison to other villages where tourism is the primary business so there is little activity or life in the off-season.

Within a short walk from the house, there is: "Chez Mimi et Alain" (a well-stocked mini mart), "Chez Thierry" (a butcher shop), florist, pharmacy, tabac/presse, two hair salons, bibliothèque (library), medical offices, a bank with ATM, and post office. At "Maison des Vins et du Tourism", they offer complimentary tastings of Sablet wines and information about the area.

There is also the Café des Sports, Bistrot des Copains and La Come di Pizzeria and two boulangeries, one so close, "Le Pain Médiéval", we can sometimes smell the aroma of freshly baked bread on our terrace in the morning and the second, "Boulangerie Patisserie Pradier" is in the center of the village.

Sablet sits at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail

We knew that buying pain (bread) would become an essential part of our daily lives with a home in France. You can’t walk down the street in France without spotting at least one person with a freshly baked baguette stuck under their arm. Everyone has probably seen a picture of a stereotypical Frenchman, wearing a beret and striped shirt and carrying a baguette under his arm.

One evidence of the importance of boulangeries to the French, is the amount of data that is collected by the French government. The New York Times recently reported that according to a 2017 government report, half of the French population lives within 2.2 kilometers of a bakery as the crow flies. In cities, 73 percent of the population lives within 2,000 feet.

According to the French National Bakery and Confectionary Association, there are 35,000 boulangeries in France, one for every 1800 people in France. The New York Times reports that the average trip to a bakery takes 7.4 minutes on foot, by car, or with another mode of transportation. Specifically, it's 5 minutes in the city and 9.4 minutes in the countryside.

I should mention that according to the French government, only bakers who use proper flour and knead their own dough can call themselves boulangers (bakers) and to be called a boulangerie, a French bakery must bake bread on the premises. Outlets that sell bread baked elsewhere are called a "depot de pain".

French bread comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The following are a few of the more common types:

The baguette Ordinaire is made with quick-rising yeast and white flour and cost less than one euro.

The baguette Traditionnelle must be made according to the "Décret Pain de 1993". According to this decree, this baguette must be made with just flour, yeast, salt, and water. It’s usually hand-formed, as evident by the pointy ends and bumps in the loaves. This baguette usually costs a few cents more than a baguette ordinaire.

The Pain de Campagne is a thick-crusted loaf made with both wheat and white flour, usually oval in shape.

Pain Complet is a whole-grain loaf

Pain aux Céréales is a small rustic loaf with seeds and whole grains

Shirley entering our house in Sablet

Pain Médiéval is our favorite Sablet bakery and thankfully, it's conveniently located just a few steps from our front door behind big trees between the fountain at Place Yvan Audouard and "Chez Mimi et Alain" mini mart.

The Pain Médiéval Boulangerie is open every day of the week except on Monday and Tuesday. The two boulangeries trade days off, Boulangerie Patisserie Pradier is closed on Wednesday and Thursday, and they coordinate their vacations so one of the boulangeries is always open in Sablet.

Pain Médiéval Boulangerie in Sablet

Pain Médiéval is owned by Jeannine Moulin and her son, Julien who does the baking. When the bakery is open, there is often a line out the door and cars double-parked in front with motors running while the owner dashes into the bakery to get a freshly baked baguette or some other baked treat.

Each time another person joins the line of people waiting to buy bread, the newcomer greets those already in line with "bonjour madame, bonjour monsieur" and will be responded to in a similar fashion. When it's your turn, Madame Moulin will ask what cuisson (baking), you prefer, "bien cuite" (well cooked and crusty) or "pas trop cuite" (less well baked and softer crust)?

Interior of Pain Médiéval Boulangerie in Sablet

In addition to buying our daily bread, I usually can not leave Pain Médiéval Boulangerie without one of the pastry's below for our "petit déjeuner" (breakfast) which we eat out on the terrace, weather permitting which is almost every day.

Croissants, flaky, layered, crescent-shaped piece of heaven.

Pain au Chocolat, sometimes called a chocolate croissant, is a sweet roll consisting of a rectangular-shaped piece of yeast-leavened laminated dough, similar in texture to a puff pastry, with one or two pieces of chocolate in the center.

Palmiers are a crunchy, buttery, sweet “cookie” made from puff pastry and sugar. These are my favorite and Madame Moulin, knows that, so she puts them on the list for Julien to bake when we are in town.

On the weekends, Pain Medieval Boulangerie has Chouquettes, bite-sized puff pastries topped with large sugar crystals which my grandchildren love and I love. To me, they are the French equivalent of donut holes.

From time to time when we have guests in Sablet, we ask Madame Moulin to bake us one of the large brioche aux raisins in the photograph below. They are delicious, but too much for Shirley and I to eat before becoming stale, so we save these to enjoy with guests.

One of Madame Moulin's made to order Brioche

French boulangeries such as Pain Médiéval Boulangerie offer up many different varieties of breads and other baked goodies, so be aware, the items I have listed is nowhere near exhaustive.

Julien et sa maman Jeannine of Pain Médiéval Boulangerie in Sablet

I would be remiss to not share a couple more observations about eating and buying bread in France. These include:

Except in upscale restaurants where you will get a bread plate and butter, French people set bread directly on the table, never on their plate. In France, bread is meant to accompany a meal and sop up sauce, it’s not a separate course, so butter isn’t usually served with bread in France.

Most Americans are germaphobes and you will notice that in boulangeries in France, the vendeuse (the person who sells you the bread) never handles bread with anything but their bare hands. If you are going to enjoy your visit to France, you can't get weird about other people handling the bread you are going to eat.

Good bread is a necessity for any meal in France. Grab it, and tear it apart, and enjoy the aroma, when it opens. Bon Appetit.

Pain Médiéval Boulangerie
6 Place Verdun
84110 Sablet
Tel: 04 90 46 91 54

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website. Our house is available for rent by the week or more. You can reach us for further information by sending an email to

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Domaine de Terrebrune, a Domaine worth Seeking Out in Bandol

You will recall that on the last day of our most recent sojourn in Sablet, I suggested to Shirley that we drive to the Bandol wine region and taste wine since we had not been there for several years. Also, it was a gloomy day in Sablet and I hoped the weather might be nicer near the Mediterranean Sea.

I emailed fellow blogger Tuula, Southern Californian raised, but now living near Bandol to ask "what are your favorite villages around Bandol"? She said Le Castellet is her favorite village, which I told you about here, and from there we went to La Cadière-d'Azur, which I told you about here.

After we finished walking around La Cadière-d'Azur, and we had not tasted Bandol wines, our primary purpose for visiting the area, we had tried at Domaine Tempier, but that Domaine is closed for tasting on weekends, so we decided to try at Domaine de Terrebrune in Ollioules.

As I told you here, we got to know some of the wines from Bandol including those of Domaine Tempier and Domaine de Terrebrune when we assembled the wine list for Bistro Des Copains, the French country bistro, now closed, I co-owned with friends in Occidental, California.

Domaine de Terrebrune Entrance

Domaine de Terrebrune is in Ollioules, a town on the eastern side of the Bandol wine appellation, framed by the Mediterranean Sea and a mountain called Gros-Cerveau (Big Brain), dotted with olive groves and scenic views.

Georges Delille, who trained as a sommelier in Paris, acquired the property that would become Domaine de Terrebrune in 1963. He spent the next ten years renovating the property; terraced hillsides, restored stone walls, and replanted vineyards following the advice of experts.

In 1975 Georges built a new subterranean wine cellar and in 1980, his son Reynald joined him after he completed his oenology studies and together they sold their first bottles of wine vinified from Domaine de Terrebrune grapes.

Domaine de Terrebrune

Today, Domaine de Terrebrune has 30 hectares (approximately 74 acres) planted in vines. The vines are planted on the terraces of the unusually named Gros-Cerveau (big brain) mountain and soils are made up of limestone and brown clay which was the inspiration for the name of the Domaine.

The Domaine is planted with Mourvèdre, as well as Grenache and Cinsault. Small amounts of Clairette, Ugni Blanc, and Bourboulenc is grown for the Domaine's Bandol white wine. Mourvèdre is king of grapes in the Bandol appellation, the berries are small with thick skins which give the wines their tannic structure and ability to be aged.

The Domaine follows organic farming practices and soil is worked regularly by plow and hand-hoes All grapes are harvested by hand, with sorting taking place in the vineyard instead of on a sorting table in the wine cellar.

Shirley and I in the Domaine de Terrebrune Barrel Room

The Domaine produces around 10,000 cases of wine a year including a dry Bandol White (Clairette, Ugni Blanc, Bourboulenc, from vines an average of 15 years old), a Bandol Rosé (50% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 25% Cinsault, from vines an average of 10 years old), and a Bandol Red (85% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache, 5% Cinsault, from vines an average of 25 years old).

They also make a Vin de Pays du Mont Caume Rouge “Terre d’Ombre” from declassified Bandol fruit from the Domaine's youngest vines. It is a blend of 80% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache, and 10% Cinsault.

Wines ferment in underground, temperature-controlled, gravity-fed stainless steel tanks

After we finished tasting through the wines open for tasting, the tasting room manager took us through the wine underground cellar so we could see how Domaine de Terrebrune produces their wines.

Shirley in the Domaine de Terrebrune Tasting Room

The wines of Domaine de Terrebrune are excellent and definitely worth seeking out if you are in the area. We bought a case for our cellar. The Domaine is open daily for tasting and tours except for Sundays and holidays. The Domaine also has a restaurant called "La table de Terrebrune". We didn't get to try the restaurant but we will try to do so the next time we go to the Bandol area to taste wine.

Domaine de Terrebrune
724 Chemin de la Tourelle
83190 Ollioules
Tel: 04 94 74 01 30

Saturday, December 14, 2019

La Cadière-d'Azur, Perched Village in the Var Region

La Cadière-d'Azur is a small medieval village perched on the edge of a cliff on the hill across from Le Castellet in the south-west of the Var region.

After we finished our walk-about Le Castellet, that I told you about here, we decided that since we were in the area, we should cross the valley over to La Cadière-d'Azur and take a walk through that village as well.

La Cadière-d'Azur has a panoramic view to the Mediterranean Sea. It is surrounded by pine forests and overlooks some of the famous Bandol (AOC) vineyards including Domaines Bunan that we told you about here.

The first recorded mention of La Cadière-d'Azur is in the year 977. The village was in a territory ruled by feudal lords from the Viscounts of Marseille, and later the Abbey of St-Victor.

There has been evidence of Romans dwelling in the village from quite a few traces from Gallo-Roman times such as ceramics, coins, and amphorae (vessels used to carry wine and oil), being discovered in the region, including several Roman fountains.

La Cadière-d'Azur

There are three portes, or gates along Marx Dormoy Avenue that remain from the village's historic ramparts, Saint Jean's gate in the center (built in January 1561), the Mazzarine gate to the east, and the Colle gate pictured below to the west.

La Cadière-d'Azur Porte de la Colle

While there is no shortage of tourist shops, cafes, bars and restaurants in La Cadière-d'Azur, the village seems less like a picturesque artificial enclave than other villages in the area.

La Cadière-d'Azur Street

Saint André Church shown below was built at the beginning of the 16th century on the ruins of a 12th century church. Its tall hexagonal bell tower possesses the oldest dated bell in the Var region; 1458.

Saint André Church

If you are a wine lover, there are many options for tasting locally produced wine. Just off the freeway at the exit for La Cadière-d'Azur, you will find the La Cadiérenne wine coop, where you can taste wine from almost 300 wine makers. This wine coop which dates from 1929, is the biggest producer of AOP Bandol wines.

Pretty door in La Cadière-d'Azur

Tour de l'Horloge with 16th Century Campanile

Shirley standing by the Studded Oaken Doors of Porte Saint-Jean

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website at Our house is available for rent by the week or more. You can reach us for further information by sending an email to