Behind the Scenes in Provence

Provence Confidential has been blogging about restaurant launches, cooking classes, food festivals, Provençal wines and spirits as well as tradition and folklore since 2008.

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Pumpkin Possibilities

Pumpkin Possibilities

Each year several villages in Provence honour the pumpkin and other gourds. There’s nothing quite like a medieval village decorated with autumnal arrangements to celebrate the season.  In France they call the Pumpkin Festival  “La Fête de la Courge”. It promises to be a great family outing and a perfect picture opportunity.

Le Castelas

Le Castelas

The setting of this several hundred year old sheepfold is so spectacular that we were able to overlook the glacial welcome we received from the proprietor upon arrival. Nestled in the heart of the Luberon just above the hamlet of Sivergues (population 27) rests a rustic hotel and restaurant.

Pastis – The taste of Marseille

Pastis – The taste of Marseille

When you think of Provence chances are you can visualise men sitting on a shaded terrace sipping pastis. This quintessential French beverage (45°alcohol content) is made by macerating several plants including anis and liquorice. Varying quantities of water, which turn the drink a cloudy yellow, are added to complete the drink which is usually enjoyed as an aperitif.

Salt Cellars

Salt Cellars

The salt business started in Salin-de-Giraud in 1856 to produce caustic soda which is required to refine bauxite which in turn is used in the production of aluminium. It was the founder of Pechiney (now owned by the Montreal based aluminium giant Alcan) that started the salt production in the Camargue.

Olive Odyssey

Olive Odyssey

I stopped off in Roquebrune Cap Martin on my way to Menton a few weeks ago in hopes of seeing the olive wood sculptor whom I last saw in the mid 80’s. Julien was sitting in his atelier, Au Coeur de l’Olivier, exactly where he has been for the last 50 years. He now works with two other sculptors who work the wood into religious or animal figures. I have a preference for his remarkable salad bowls, cutting boards and ladles that all have beautiful flowing shapes. www.sculptures.fr

The Mimosa Route

The Mimosa Route

February is when the mimosa is in full bloom in Provence. Although not indigenous to France mimosa has taken a liking to the climate. There are over 300 different varieties apparently. Many thrive along the coast. To get a glimpse of it all, I suggest you take the Route des Mimosas which is actually a 130 km stretch of both floral coast line and back country. Driving the entire distance may not appeal to everyone so here are a few not to be missed stops along that drive.

Corked

Corked

With many French vineyards now opting for synthetic corks or alternative methods of wine closers (screw tops) I feared that real corks may disappear. There is a cork producing industry both in Provence and Corsica while Spain and Portugal retain leadership as the largest producers on the globe.