Sète may be a small town on the French Mediterranean coast but it hits above its weight in the gastronomic arena. Home of the most sought after oysters in France, Sete is known for these specialties: the famous octopus pie (tielle), red labelled gourmet fish soup (Azais Polito ), and hearty macaronade (macaroni and sausages). Sete has a sweet tooth, too.
Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France knows Sete like the back of her hand. She’s here to tell us about sweet treats in Sete that are sought after in specialty stores from Paris to China.
The Sètois are proud of their home-grown biscuits, the Zezette and the Navette. Outsiders may think the two biscuits are the same, but those in the know beg to differ. So how do you tell a Navette from a Zezette?
The “ Navette”
Some say that the small hollow slit on top suggests a navette – a “shuttle” in French, or perhaps, a shuttle boat. These little boats, or Les ‘Navettes Cettoises’, were launched by the artisan Biscuiterie Pouget in 1913.
To this day the original machinery, including the oven, are in daily use. To be more exact, the machinery is still operated by the apprentice, Jean-Marie Fabre, who took over the business after Mr. Pouget. If you time your visit right you’ll see how a Navette is made.
The original recipe usually includes orange flower but other flavors are now available: anis, lemon, vanilla and cinnamon. Biscuiterie Pouget also bakes equally delicious madeleines and fresh macarons in the store – the owners are extremely welcoming and will be happy to let you sample their wares.
Sete has a sweet tooth
Ooh la la, sounds exotic – so what puts the zing in the Zezette? La Zezette differs from La Navette inasmuch as it has a flat top and contains the local Muscat wine. Gaston Bentata, nostalgic for his mother’s cooking and North African roots, started baking these cookies in the late 1970s. In 1994 he commercialised them and in 1995 he formed his business, La Belle Époque. You’ll find the products in major outlets not only throughout France but in the UK, China, Belgium and Germany.
To learn more about zezettes (and practice your French!) check out this mouth-watering video.
Sete has a sweet tooth
La Cure Gourmande (The Gourmet Cure)
Not only is the nearby town of Balaruc-les-Bains famous for La Cure (the cure) in its thermal spa, but also for La Cure Gourmande (the Gourmet Cure). This artisan biscuit maker founded in 1989 is a real success story of ‘local boys made good’ on an international scale. You’ll find navettes, madeleines, sweets, biscuits and chocolates in the company’s distinctive colourful stores in 60 countries (Asia, North America, Middle East and Europe) as well as its flagship store in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport.
All products in La Cure Gourmande are homemade in the south of France in a factory converted from old train station. The sweets are attractively packaged to ‘revive old-fashion and traditional presentation from the beginning of the last century’. Everything is designed to entice: the colours, the presentation, and the packaging.
All of the boutiques have the same furniture “made in France” the same candy boxes “made in France” Produce is seasonal (fruit cakes). Ingredients are local. For instance the sea salt from the Camargue is used to make the toffees.
The founder’s daughter is pictured on in the company’s visuals. She is now a 19-year-old student who found a job last summer …. at the production facility.
Plan for a guided tour of the production facility the next time you’re in Sete.
Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/