There are very, very few things that are as relaxing, as enjoyable, as sensuously rewarding as having a summertime lunch in the Gulf of St. Tropez.
Sizzling hot day along the Gulf of St. Tropez, gazing over the gulf to the storied town, shimmery sun burning down and glaring painfully in the eyes, heat bouncing off the pavement---then you walk into the cool and comforting tiki-house shade of Mahi Plage-Restaurant, look out over the white beach and the lapping waves, watch the languid sun-bathers and the unhurried beach strollers, enjoy the ocean-cooled breezes wafting in, and you can almost feel your body slow down and your spirit calm.
When the house rosè arrives, bottle misted over and beaded with moisture, looking cool and transparent and seductive with enough luscious pastel color to be appealing but not concealing, it sits in dramatic contrast to the actinic white beach and the cool blue water and the soft, vague grays of the horizon.
But it doesn’t sit long. Soon our glasses are filled, and aggressively sipped---we are too sophisticated to gulp our rosè, after all---and then re-filled for a second and more studious consideration. Subjective delight yields to objective evaluation and categorization. Sheer satisfaction becomes shimmering pink and orange and light ruby glints; succulent aromas of strawberries, cherries, pomegranates, melon and mango; brisk, tingling acidity and tartness on the tongue that springs the tastebuds awake; and a tantalizing wisp of flavor remaining to invite another sip.
An attractive and curvaceous young lady walks past on the plage in a slight flouncing air, in a way that only a young woman walking on beach sand with eyes upon her can walk, with her body going as much this way and that way as forward, and making progress seem less necessary than process…and then, shortly later she undulates past again. When a female companion comments, “Oh, what a cute outfit,” I realize that she has a different outfit on than during her previous sashay, and figure out in my guy brain that this is a fashion show of beachwear rather than merely a young woman with many changes of clothing who happens to like to display them.
Either way seems good to me, but becomes only a momentary distraction when our food begins to arrive, and one pleasure gives way to another.
I am briefly envious as my companion receives a delicious bread-bowl containing an immaculate Salade Nicoise with fresh, crisp greens, hard boiled egg, chunks of tuna, and large filets of anchovy---what a perfect food, I think, for this day and in this place and with this wine!
But envy fades as my dish arrives, for the only thing better now could be this sea bass, this chunk of wolf of the sea, in a butter, cream and capers sauce that is placed before me. Once again, Provencal Rosè proves itself as a consummate wine with food: delicate but precise in aromas and flavors, mouth-watering on its own but accommodating to the fleshy white fish, the butter and cream, the tart green tang of capers and the softer herbal notes of the vegetables alongside. Each sip of wine enlightens and freshens the palate, and clears the oils and fats, and makes the next sip and the next bite taste as lively as the last.
And in French fashion, conversation subsides for awhile as we address ourselves to the food and the wine and the process of consumption and appreciation. It’s a pleasant silence with the clink of silverware on china and the soft susurrance of the ocean and an occasional quiet muffled hum of a tiny motorboat in the distance.
Obligatory photo of topless sunbather on the plage---hey, it's St. Tropez!
Then, after this application of cool respite and chilled wine and well-made food, we recline slightly in our chairs, stretch our legs out a bit and open ourselves to the ocean, metering out slow minutes with languorous sips and letting the cool, crisp wine trickle lightly down our throats, until we’re told it’s time to go and we, still quiet and hushed, pull ourselves away and shuffle out with one last longing look out over the beach and the water.