Julia's kitchen

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Food

    Set among olive trees, La Pitchoune, the house built by Julia Child in Provence is now owned by another francophile with culinary aspirations. Recently listed on Airbnb for those who are looking to rent a holiday home - the owner also plans on launching a cooking school.

     Vogue, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveler and the New York Times  have all written about Julia's modest home in Provence where culinary traditions will prevail. If you want to try mastering the art of French cooking have a look www.lapeetch.com.

 

Les Oursinades

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Food

  Carry-le-Rouet, the small port city just west of Marseille along the Côte Bleue, will host the Sea Urchin Festival - Les Oursinades - this Sunday, as it has every year since the beginning of the 1960s. The festival has been so successful that it has been extended to the first 3 Sundays of February giving more and more people the opportunity to attend. 

     In addition to spiky sea urchins, oursins in French, platters of other shellfish are also available. People are encouraged to buy a platter, some white wine of-course, and settle at one of the long picnic tables set up along the port for a convivial lunch.  

   The orange flesh of the urchin is most often eaten raw but it can also be added to an omelet. Sea urchins are high in calcium as well as vitamin A and D. They taste a bit sweet and salty all at once. You can count on some of the biggest fans to eat several dozens. Legend has it that in 1952 the fisherman offered the Mayor of Carry-le-Rouet his weight in sea urchins. 

Fontenille - art, wine, cuisine & boutique hotel

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Food

     After a 14 month 10 million euro refurbishment project the Domaine de Fontenille, owned by French fashion exec Frédéric Biousse and Parisian gallerist Guillaume Foucher is now home to:

  • an organic vineyard producing award winning wine
  • an art centre with 3-4 temporary exhibits
  • 1 exquisite restaurant and a bistrot run by a Michelin star chef 
  • a boutique hotel with 17 rooms and suites

 

  Set on the edge of the Luberon in Lauris just a 1/2 hr from Aix-en-Provence,  the 18thC bastide has a contemporary décor that plays homage to Provençal tradition. The landscaped grounds are bordered by majestic ancient plane trees - a variety of sycamore and tall cypress trees. The setting is spectacular even on the dreariest drizzling day in February.

 

Chef Jérôme Faure, who obtained a Michelin star at the age of 30 and retained it for 8 years left the Vercors region to run both onsite restaurants - Le Champ des Lunes and La Cuisine d'Amélie (more of a bistrot really). His cuisine pays tribute to the seasons by working with in-season produce sourced locally. Purveyors in Tour d’Aigues provide the goat cheese, in Curcuron the olive oil and organic honey, in Puy Ste. Réparade the eggs and saffron. The portions of his authenitic and creative cuisine are generous. Jérôme said he missed the Michelin cut-off date by 3 weeks this year but you can count on him getting a star at Le Champ des Lunes in 2017. 

 

Black Diamond Month

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Food

  February is black diamond month at Le Marmiton cooking school at La Mirande -Avignon's exquisite boutique hotel overlooking the Pope's Palace.  Chefs Bruno d'Angelis, Séverine Sagnet and Julien Allano will teach you how to prepare truffles with other local in-season produce. Select from one of the four courses offered and learn how to prepare John Dory confit in olive oil with salsify and truffless, Slivers of scallops with truffles, olive oil and lemon or Chicken from Bresse stuffed with truffles and poached with stewed winter vegetables.  

www.la-mirande.fr  

 

 

 

 

Truffle season kicks off

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Food

Truffle season is about to kick off on the weekend of Nov 21st in the town of Richerenches where the price per kilo of this elusive commodity is set for all of France every Saturday morning in the presence of la Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes – the French anti-fraud squad.  Richerenches is the largest truffle market but truffles are sold at many other village markets from November through March as well , including Apt, Carpentras and Rognes. 

If you want to go behind the scenes to find out more about how the coveted fungus grows, you can take a tour of a Provençal truffle plantation with Les Pastras in Cadenet near the Luberon mountains.  You will learn how truffles are cultivated and truffle dogs are trained, hunt for truffles (known as cavage in French) with professional hunters who know all the tricks of the trade. Tours are followed up with a sampling of fresh truffle hors d'oeuvres, Champagne and a tasting of Les Pastras olive and truffle oil. 

Truffle Hunting Tour: Cost: 70€ per person Minimum of 2 people. Weekend tours at flexible hours, weekday tours 4pm. Please book at least one week in advance. Winter season: November 15 – March 15  www.lespastras.com

 

Provence Cooking Classes Part 1

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Food

Provence not only offers exceptional cuisine but many of those chefs are so passionate about the local produce they work with that they offer cooking classes. I tried and tasted my way through many classes and here is a selection of some of my favorites:

La Petite Maison de Cucuron

Michelin star chef Eric Sapet offers a journey into Provencal cooking with each of his classes. Eric personally selects each product he works with and he has found the best local purveyors. There is a good chance that one of them will drop in to make a delivery while you are there and you’ll find out more about how the produce is grown and harvested.  Local purveyors will explain the patience and perseverance needed to produce the best of the best. 

Eric lets everyone take part so it isn’t just a cooking demonstration. He is jovial and generous. He will join you for the meal you and your classmates have just prepared. During the spring and summer months you will dine on the terrace shaded by ancient plane trees that overlooks the basin in the heart of the town square or during the fall and winter months you will dine inside the wood paneled dining room with terracotta tile flooring and authentic Provençal furniture. Classes are available on Saturday mornings only.  As have probably already guessed, the classes offered are in keeping with the seasons - so this fall expect to see mushrooms, game and root vegetables. 

Eric started his career at La Tour d’Argent in Paris before returning south to Les Herbes Blanches and then the Moulin de Lourmarin. In 2007 he purchased La Petite Maison where he was awarded a Michelin star two years later. 

Classes from 10 am to 3 pm
70 euros per person including lunch and wine
60 euros per person for guests joining you for lunch
www.lapetitemaisondecucuron.com

Le Miramar - Bouillabaisse

If you want to find out what is behind Marseille’s signature dish this is your chance to do so hands on. Chef Christian Buffa hosts a Bouillabaisse – derived from the words bouillir to boil and baisser to reduce – on the 3rd Thursday of every month. Originally, fisherman prepared the meal for themselves using their unsold fish. Today it is one of the delicacies of the region.

The class begins with a walk-through of the daily fish market to familiarize yourselves with local species used in the making of Bouillabaisse including the tiny rock fish that are cooked whole for the broth. You will chop, peel, stir and sift along with your group of 5 to 8 participants before sitting down to the meal.

Christian attended the Ecole Hoteliere d'Ecully at L'Institut Paul Bocuse before working at Le Moulin de Mougin and l'Amandier. In 2003, at the age of 29, he purchased Miramar in his hometown of Marseille.

Classes from 9:30 am to 2 pm
120 euros per person
70 euros per person for guests joining you for lunch
www.bouillabaisse.com

 

Stars in the Cabbage Patch

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Food

 

The menus in Provence have always been market inspired. While the menu you order from may not seem extensive, it will always feature locally produced seasonal ingredients. Chefs pride themselves on working in rhythm with the seasons. But some have taken the words from farm-to-table a step further by growing their own fruit and vegetables. Farming does seem like the logical extension of cooking.

Armand Arnal of La Chassagnette (1 Michelin Star) in Sambuc, in the Camargue just south of Arles, not only grows his own fruit and veg but guests are invited to dine on large picnic tables in the heart of the veggie patch. There are over 2 hectares dedicated to growing over 200 varieties and last year they installed greenhouses in order to harvest 4 weeks earlier. Today 80% of the produce served in the restaurant comes from their own harvest. 

Gerard Passedat (3 Michelin Stars) has his own potager (the French word for vegetable garden) at the top of the Fort St. Jean in Marseille that supplies his new restaurant Le Môle with fresh white eggplant, zucchini and fennel – to name but a few. These sun-gorged vegetables enhance the flavours of every dish prepared.

And it seems this trend moved north a while ago where in Paris, Alain Passard’s Arpège (3 Michelin Stars), is entirely self-sufficient in terms of aromatic herbs, vegetables and red fruit. He even has a surplus for those special clients who wanted to receive weekly vegetable boxes from one of his three farms. After harvesting some young leeks in his farm in l'Eure he then prepared them in olive oil, fresh thyme, rosemary and verbena for a delicious and memorable lunch. 

And just this week we learned that the trend is moving further north where 37 year old chef of Noma (2 Michelin Stars), René Redzepi, just announced the closure of his restaurant that will reopen in as an urban farm in 2017. He too wants to adhere more closely to the seasons. 

 

Les Vendanges Etoilées

Written by Laurence Bry. Posted in Food

The 6th annual “Les Vendanges étoilées” (Harvest of the stars) takes place from September 26-27, 2015. It is a celebration between the public, Chefs of renowned restaurants and Cassis winemakers. 

Twenty seven French chefs are attending the event with a total of 14 Michelin stars. Included among them are 3 exceptional local chefs:

Lionel Levy - L’Alcyone* Intercontinental. Training with world class chefs like Eric Fréchon and Alain Ducasse he settled in Marseille in 1999 where he perfected regional cuisine which earned him his first Michelin star in 2005. Now he is at the helm of the recently refurbished Intercontinental Marseille Hotel-Dieu restaurants. 

Ludovic Turac- Une Table au Sud*. After training in Paris at the Bristol and Guy Savoy, this 27 year old Marseille native returned to his home town and earned a Michelin star making him the youngest of all Michelin Star chefs in 2015. 

Dimitri Droisneau - Villa Madie**. Originally from Normandy he worked at some of the best restaurants in Paris including La Tour d’Argent, Lucas Carton and L’Ambroisie before heading south to La Réserve de Beaulieu in the Cote d’Azur. He then took over La Villa Madie, that overlooks the sea and the Cap Canaille in Cassis, where he earned his second Michelin star in 2014.

You can sign up for the cocktail buffet (Stars & Chefs) on Saturday September 26th at 7:30 pm that will be served under a marquee on the terrace of the Oustau Calendal, overlooking the port of Cassis. It’s the perfect opportunity to taste the best Provence has to offer prepared by renowned chefs and paired with the world-class wines of Cassis. Price per person: € 60 including wine.Sign up

Willy Wonka in Provence

Written by Provence Confidential. Posted in Food

Willy Wonka in Provence

Master chocolate maker Philippe Second, who was also awarded the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (it means he is among the best pastry chefs in the country) may have been inspired by Roald Dahl when designing his 2011 Christmas promotional campaign.

Open season: Truffles!

Written by Provence Confidential. Posted in Food

Open season: Truffles!

The official opening of the 2011-2012 Tuber Melanosporum season kicked off today in the town of Richrenches with a procession by the Brotherhood of the Black Diamond and a special mass blessing these elusive gems. Interestingly truffle are placed into the collection basket as opposed to coins or bank notes. Producers, brokers and just plain old admirers were on hand to attend an entire day dedicated to the first truffles available.

Free-Range Escargots

Written by Provence Confidential. Posted in Food

Free-Range Escargots

Snail farming or héliciculture in French (from the scientific term Helix which is one of the varieties of snails that can be farmed) is making a come-back. They aren’t really completely free-range as the giant pens have an electric fence so that they don’t just wonder off and so that their natural predators, like hedge hogs and birds don’t get there first.