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Le Best of Roussillon: The Secret Life of Oysters

One of the joys of living in the Roussillon region is the variety of amazing food it offers. And one of our favourites at La Tour Apollinaire is without any doubt, oysters. Legend has it that Aphrodite, the Goddess of beauty and love, has been born of the sea foam in an oyster. Since then, oysters have been carrying the status of “aphrodisiac,” a word derived from Aphrodite’s name. With high concentrations of calcium, selenium, and zinc, the oyster reputedly boosts sex drive, improves your immune system, heals wounds, helps get rid of acne, makes your bones stronger. and aids fertility. Famous lover Casanova was renowned to eat 60 oysters every day, and Henry the IV could easily eat a few dozen at a time.

“Before I was born my mother was in great agony of spirit and in a tragic situation. She could take no food except iced oysters and champagne. If people ask me when I began to dance, I reply: “In my mother‘s womb, probably as the result of the oysters and champagne – the food of Aphrodite.” 

— Isadora Duncan

At only 110 calories per dozen, oysters are the perfect slimming-aid food and are recommended in most of the fashionable diets, from Dukan to 5:2. The famous rule about only eating oysters in months that don’t have an “r” letter is explained by the fact that it’s harder to keep them fresh in the heat before refrigeration, so they are better in the winter months. The other reason is because in the summer months oysters are spawning, which affects their flavor and gives them a milky appearance and oily taste. So the time to enjoy this sophisticated delicacy is now and what a better occasion to do that than the coming St. Valentine’s Day?

With five species of oysters originating in France, from Normandy and Brittany to the Mediterranean Bouzigues, we are spoiled for choice here but we love to indulge in a local variety that is grown in Leucate, just a 20-minute drive from Perpignan.  Fresh out of the sea the same morning, they taste exquisite with their salty, slightly nutty flavor, with some ripe fragrant lemon squeezed over them, a sprinkle of pinky vinegar with shallots and accompanied by a glass of local white or rose wine and dark bread spread with “demi-sel” butter.

Many restaurants in Perpignan offer Leucate oysters (as well as those coming from the Atlantic coast and other varieties should you wish to have a tasting of different kinds).

Or, you can just jump in the car and go to Leucate itself. On a warm day, even in January or February, which is mostly the case as Perpignan enjoys 320 days of sunshine per year, enjoy this feast sitting outside in the sun – don’t forget to bring your sunglasses!

Chateau Valmy Rose’ AOC Cotes du Roussillon

Chateau Valmy Rose’ AOC Cotes du Roussillon

While at La Tour Apollinaire, we would never dispute the divinity of a bottle of champagne accompanying a plate of oysters, this very stylish and traditional way is not the only option. Neither is a bottle of expensive Chablis or a white wine obligatory featuring Chardonnay grapes.

In the last 3,000 years mankind has been enjoying oysters, from Roman emperors to we humble mortals, crowding at lunch time Les Deux Magots in Paris, Bibendum in London and Grand Central Station Oyster Bar in New York.  Fortunately, human genius keeps on coming up with different ways to increase the pleasures of this exquisite treat.

Unlike the French, Americans enjoy harder alcohol with oysters and since the XIX century have been pioneering booze and oyster pairing – a Bloody Mary, a Dirty Martini and a Gimlet to name a few. There are even serious rumors of pairing oysters with absinthe; who knows what kind of fantastic hallucinations that produces, Van Gogh could be the judge, but we certainly haven’t tried it yet. Here in the Roussillon region of southwest France, we like to follow the custom and take it easy – local oysters pair perfectly with local wines and this Rose’ is our pick for pairing with our local Leucate oysters.

After living in this stunning region for over 10 years, we have only managed to scratch the surface of what is available, particularly in the Roussillon area near Perpignan where hundreds of new boutique wine growers have moved in during the past decade to create some magnificent new wines. When it comes to Rosé wines, we are not big fans of pale and blend varieties; we like our wines with character and colour and one of our absolute favourites is Chateau Valmy Rosé.  (Note:  Grapes: Syrah, Grenach Noir and Morvedre. Light and fruity, with beautiful deep colour.  Serve well chilled.)

Delicious and vibrant as it is, with oysters as an appetizer, you can continue with this Rosé to your main course, be it a freshly caught dorada, a plate of scallops or even pink Pyrenees veal should you decide to turn to the meaty side of things.

The Chapel

St. Valentines Offer:

Join us at Chateau La Tour Apollinaire for the St. Valentine’ weekend or any other dates in February and receive a complimentary bottle of Chateau Valmy Rose’ wine and a bouquet of flowers. We will be very happy to assist you with reservations at our favourite restaurants to ensure you have the perfect romantic experience.  This offer is valid for a minimum stay of two nights.

Contact us for a reservation or further information: Tel: +33 (0) 468 64 45 72


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