Looking for an authentic wine and tapas bar in Cassis, France? Read on!
1. to die for, killer, freakin' delicious
the original meaning of tuerie is: a massacre
LISTEN - hear Jean-Marc read the example sentence in French click here
Le gâteau au chocolat de ma maman est une tuerie!
My mom's chocolate cake is to die for!
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
"A Parade of Little Plates"
by Kristi Espinasse
As we walked down to the port of Cassis, strolling beside candy-colored buildings lit up by so much sunshine on a crisp January day, my husband quizzed me.
"So what do you think you'll have for lunch?" he grinned.
"Oh, I don't know," I played along.
"Du loup? Ou bien...du magret?..." Jean-Marc persisted. Whether in French or in English, he was taunting me!
"Peut-être..." I tried to be nonchalant, or else show my weakness for eating--especially for pan-seared French bistro cooking which I trusted was on le menu du jour. But what an assumption that turned out to be! When Jean-Marc invited me along to his noon-time meeting with a couple of wine représentants, I imagined we would lunch in a cozy resto--at least that is what my man led me to believe when he told me about his meeting in Cassis.
But as we sidled up to the comptoir in a bar formerly frequented by local drunks, I began to regret the perfectly sound meal que j'aurais pu me cuisiner! The meal I could have cooked, had I not taken the bait! But who wouldn't be tempted by a visit to Cassis? I decided to focus on that part of the equation and forget about rotisserie chicken (or lamb chops I would no longer have). And just as I let go of expectations, one of the reps looked my way:
With the kindest eyes, trentenaire Maxime said: It must get very boring to sit through these wine-fueled meetings.
The man who had the same name as our son must have caught me staring at the bar counter which was packed with opened bottles of wine. And he must have translated the expression on my face--a look that read what am I doing here? But he couldn't have read the rest of my thoughts: What--at 15 years sober--am I doing seated once again in front of a sea of open wine bottles? (I periodically asked myself the same question: what am I doing moving to a vineyard? What am I doing with a frigo full of wine samples? Married to a winemaker? Now a wine merchant? But two vineyards later, and many wine-fueled lunches (wait, where's lunch?) like this, and I've not fallen off the wagon, pas une seule fois!
Embarrassed to be caught looking so forlorn, I perked right up with the help of my bubbly drink (sparkling water, bien sûr): "C'est vrai--des fois çela me gonfle! True, sometimes it gets to be a bit much. Mais, c'est aussi un privilège d'être parmi...vous (how else to say it was a privilege to be among the movers-and-shakers in French wine?). There are so many characters in the wine industry, so many stories, so much camaraderie that even a teetotaler can manage to fit in somewhere. I pulled my barstool up a little closer, and j'ai lâché prise....
"I smell eucalyptus!" Jean-Marc was saying, swirling his rosé and dipping his nose back beneath the rim of his wine glass. I giggled to myself, of course, that's your favorite tree... isn't it true how we become more sensitive to the things we...love? Just as Jean-Marc loves eucalyptus trees (and was now tasting them) I love characters. A wonderful group surrounded us now.....
There was the gentlemanly owner, Jacques, and his wife Marie (was there ever a more beautiful face? a mixture of Greta Garbo and the author of the bestseller Mange, Prie, Aime...). Then there were the wine reps, Pierre and Maxime - jovial opposites, and obviously good friends and business partners. By the end of our meeting ("our" for I was now very much connected) we all agreed to meet up for an oursinade--a half day of sea urchin hunting. And speaking of food--the very reason I'm writing to you on the weekend--like magic it began to appear from the back of the bar... where a distinguished Spaniard appeared, with plate after plate of savory tapas!
A mouthwatering array of tapas on the bar's "ardoise" or chalkboard menu
C'était une tuerie! There were crisp-fried calamari, lightly-crisped potato disks and a creamy aïoli sauce...and there were couteaux (razor clams, pictured at the end of this post, are a "fruit of the sea" with a long "knife-like" shell), melt-in-your-mouth Iberian ham, anchovies in oil, and addictive tomato-rubbed toasts or pan con tomate. Speaking of addictive, can you get drunk on tapas? I don't know, drunk is no longer a feeling I enjoy--but I felt agreeably woozy after the delicious défilé--or parade of little plates.
le loup = bass fish
le magret (de canard) = duck breast
le menu du jour = today's menu
le comptoir = counter, bar
le trentenaire = person in their 30s
le frigo = fridge
ça me gonfle = it bugs, bothers me, I get fed up
lâcher prise = to let go
une tuerie = to die for
aïoli = Mediterranean sauce made of garlic and olive oil
le défilé = parade, procession
I forgot to say that this wine bar also hosts book signings. The walls of the bar are covered with large framed photos of French authors--but the owner happened to be reading a book by American writer Kermit Lynch. He was enthusiastically showing us the book, Adventures on the Wine Route.
17 Avenue Victor Hugo, 13260 Cassis
Téléphone : 09 80 53 24 43
Le Vingtième is open from Wednesday to Sunday (winter hours) for lunch and dinner.
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi