Eating in Sartène, the Heart of Corsica
*Forgive me vegetarians, this one is for the meat lovers- well, the entire island of Corsican, not just Sartène, is for the meat lovers. This is number 2 of a 5 part series about our experience eating in Corsica after a 3.5 week trip in the Autumn of 2017. Yum.
Once you’re familiar with the history of this evocative village, you look around at the buildings composed of large grey blocks of granite and can’t help but wonder about the vendettas and women dressed all in black that occupied these streets for centuries. Despite the austere history and architecture, it was in Sartène that we experienced the most welcoming locals.
Adventures Eating in Corsica: La Cave Sartènaise
In Sartène, even the bruschetta has saucisson on it.
Feeling peckish, we arrived in town after visiting the prehistoric site of Cauria nearby. We sat at tiny bar that spilled out onto a back street. The only thing on the menu was saucisson and cheese with strong red wine. No surprise there. We watched as the waiter ran back and forth across the lane to the old school epicerie. From where we were sitting, we had a view of this epic store. Dozens of sausages in varying degrees of cured variety were hanging from the vaulted ceiling. Each time the doors flung open we saw older gentleman behind the counter calmly serving himself wine as the waiter dashed back and forth, often with an entire wheel of cheese in his hands.
Un Digestif ?
Still curious after our delicious saucisson selection, we ducked into the cavern-like store. Marvelling at the range of local honey and wine on offer, our nostrils had no choice but to take in the heady scents of saucisson. The men at the till/bar (?!) waved us over. I knew our plans for afternoon sightseeing were shot when Robin asked a question about the local liquor. Well. We were made to try liquor flavoured with just about every Corsican wild plant and fruit. Yes, we were forced. Four men of varying ages recounted for us the entire detailed history of Corsica with immense pride. An hour later, we staggered out of bar/shop laden with bottles of wine and flavoured liquors made with obscure wild fruits. Suffice it to say we only really noticed the stunning view from the balcony of our airbnb after a long afternoon nap.
Dinner at Chez Jean in Sartène
Chez Jean is where we were told by the saucisson masters to go for dinner. We weren’t going to argue. After a wander around town, and walking by the restaurant a couple times before noticing the tiny sign, we stepped into this little establishment which is kind of half bar half restaurant. Is this becoming a theme? A little early, we arrived as the owner and his friends were having a little apéritif. We sat in front of the roaring fire (it was early October) and started to look around us in admiration of the red tablecloths and hunting regalia when a women abruptly pulled a chair up to our table and sat down. “Now”, she declared in French. “I am going to tell you where you need to visit. Do you have a pen?”
Obviously foreign (Robin has red hair) she had singled us out. We gratefully accepted all of her advice and cherished that little napkin with various addresses on it for the rest of our trip. What came next was even more wonderful.
The Original Open Kitchen
On the menu, there is a choice of civet de sanglier (wild boar stew with pasta) or steak. That was about it. We both ordered steak. As we sipped on our wine and watched the few local families arrive, the owner emerged from the kitchen with a plate heaving with 2 large uncooked steaks on it. I quickly glanced at Robin hoping the waiter didn’t take my meaning of “saignant” (the French way to order rare) too literally.
The older lady that was occupying the chair directly in front of the fire was grufly told to move. His wife? The owner sat down, the waiter poured him a glass of red wine on the hearth, and we watched in amazement as he placed the two seasoned steaks onto the grill towards the back of the fireplace. Everyone in the restaurant was then treated to the delicious smell and sound of sizzling coming from our dinner. You’re welcome.
Cooking with fire is still very common in Corsica. What we didn’t expect is the family living room feeling of this restaurant and the casualty with which our meal was cooked before our eyes. Wonderful. Oh, and yes, the steak, and the chestnut mousse was scrumptious.
There are numerous prehistoric sites in Corsica. Close to Sartène, you’ll find Cauria which is lesser known. Filitosa is also close and includes a museum with some explanations which is a little more helpful if you haven’t read up on the history of the island. However, discovering these erect stones with faces in the middle of nowhere is also, quite something.
For more about Corsican Food: