Southwest France: Day trip to Biarritz and Saint Jean-de-Luz

If you’re visiting the south of France, you don’t want to miss any opportunity to explore the glamorous stretch of beaches along the Bay of Biscay in the west or the French Riviera in the southeast.  While in Cere visiting family, my parents and I took a day trip to the beaches gliding along the Atlantic from Biarritz to Saint Jean-de-Luz.  The drive was about two hours from Cere.

Biarritz can become a madhouse full of tourists and locals so much like any good beach in the middle of summer, you want to get there and claim your spot early.  While France is famous for its free-spirited topless beaches and promoting a bathing suit-free environment, Biarritz’s cooler Atlantic waters along the Grande Plage attracts a laid back crowd full of bodysuit surfers compared to the more skin-revealing glitz and glam scene you would witness along the Mediterranean.

After catching some rays and waves, my mom researched a perfect little cafe near the beach called Cafe Jean.  It received excellent reviews so we thought we’d try it out.  It took a few minutes to walk from the beach up a semi-large hill along the cute cobble stone streets.  Even though the restaurant didn’t overlook the ocean, you couldn’t argue with the decadence and superiority of the food,  the seriously reasonable prices and relative portion sizes.  Like any good french déjeuner, we started with a bottle of rosé, then dined on local Marennes-Oléron oysters, calamari in squid ink rice, duck confit and warm foie gras.  Whatever you do, don’t leave without stopping in the beautiful market right next door which is full of fresh and local produce, meats, cheeses, condiments and caviar.

A twenty-five minute drive south of Biarritz is Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a fishing port known for its architecture as much as its sandy beach, with narrow pedestrian streets packed with colorful shops and residences dating back to the 16 and 1700s.  The small town is also known for its royal wedding connection inside Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste where the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria Theresa of Spain took place, and sealed the alliance between France and Spain in 1660.

There’s plenty of shopping, beach and beauty to entice me for another visit next year.

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Sunday Dinner Series: Bobby Flay’s Ancho-and-Honey-Glazed Salmon with Black Bean Sauce and Jalapeño Crema

Bobby Flay never fails to disappoint in the flavor department.  If you love the spice and bold flavors of the Southwest, you are probably a big fan of his restaurants.  After tasting many dishes of his and watching him cook on TV for years, I assumed an attempt to replicate any dish would be a recipe for failure.  B Flay is notorious for dishes involving multiple steps and many ingredients.  I was excited to receive a copy of his Mesa Grill cookbook a few years ago, but became quickly overwhelmed on where to begin.  So I started with dinner.  I was trying to eat more fish and found myself drawn to the level of flavors and balance of sweet and spicy highlighted in his ancho and honey-glazed salmon recipe with black bean sauce and jalapeño crema.

The first time I prepared this dish it seemed like it took several hours to make which was probably because I tried to prep everything at once, feeling exhausted and ravenous by the time I sat down to eat.  This time I prepped the jalapeño crema and black bean sauce that morning so by the time it came to make dinner I didn’t feel like I was slaving in the kitchen for hours.  Even so, the resulting dish was well worth the wait.  I think it’s a perfect fall/winter fish recipe – it’s a little heartier, and the jalapeño and ancho chile will be sure to warm you up on a cool evening.

I made a slight time-saving and calorie-cutting adjustment to my recipe by not making fresh black beans (in my opinion, it tastes just as good to me with the can!), using fat free sour cream and cooking the salmon differently using my no-fail salmon cooking technique.

Bobby’s recipe with my prep/cooking instructions are below but you can also find his full unadapted recipe here.

Bon appétit, my friends!

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/2 cups canned black beans
  2. 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
  3. 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  4. 1 large chipotle chile in adobo, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  5. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  6. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  7. 1 large jalapeño
  8. 1/2 cup fat free sour cream
  9. 1/3 cup honey
  10. 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  11. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  12. 8-ounce skinless center-cut salmon fillets
  13. 1/4 cup chopped scallions

Directions (Steps 1 and 2 can be done the day before or a few hours earlier)

  1. Drain 1 can of black beans under cool water.  Transfer to food processor with red onion, garlic, chipotle and cumin and chop until desired texture.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°. Roast the jalapeño directly over a gas flame until charred all over. Transfer the jalapeño to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel, seed and coarsely chop the jalapeño. In a food processor, puree the sour cream with the jalapeño until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the crema to a small bowl and refrigerate.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the honey with the ancho chile powder and mustard and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Rub the salmon fillets with the vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the cold oven and turn up to 400 degrees to cook for 20 minutes.  Take out and brunch the salmon with the glaze and place back in the oven for 5 more minutes.
  5. Spoon the black bean sauce and the jalapeño crema onto plates and arrange the salmon fillets on top or next to the sauce. Brush the salmon with a little more of the ancho-honey glaze and serve.