Monday, May 18, 2015

June 5: Big Weekend in Aix for Design Lovers

Sponsored by the popular magazine Côté Sud, the 17th annual salon known as Vivre Côté Sud is coming up the weekend of June 5...a showcase of beautiful things for your home, garden and "lifestyle." 

As in years past, the Parc Jourdan in Aix (yes, the one with the lovely lime trees) will be all dressed and tented up for the occasion. More than 230 companies will be exhibiting, spread out over 10,000 square meters. The products on display will come from France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere...organized by themes such as Antiques, Decor, Savours, Creators, Talents and Home Improvement. You'll find furniture, fabric, clothing, decorative items, design services, food and wine, cooking demos, round-table discussions and much more. 
Last year's event attracted 21,403 visitors. 

The list of chefs doing cooking demos includes Anna Bini (Ecole de Cuisine à Florence), Arnaud de Grammont (Le Café des Epices, Marseille), Reine and Nadia Sammut (La Fenière, Lourmarin), Georgiana Viou (Chez Georgiana, Marseille), Daniel Hébet (Le Jardin du Quai, L’Isle sur la Sorgue), Edouard Loubet (Domaine de Capelongue, Bonnieux), Yvan Cadiou (TV chef and cooking teacher, St. Remy de Provence), Edouard Giribone (Le Bistrot d’Edouard, Marseille) and Pierre Gianetti (Le Grain de Sel, Marseille). To see the demo schedule, click here.

There will also be plenty of food products for purchase...and food trucks in a dedicated dining area. 

The salon also offers opportunities to work one-on-one with design pros. For interior projects, one-hour "Deco Coaching" appointments are available for 89€ ( or +33 1 75 55 16 88).  For garden projects, one-hour appointments are 59€ (+33 442 025 686,

Hours for Vivre Côté Sud are Friday June 5 from 10 am to 11 pm (evening session), Saturday June 6 and Sunday June 7 from 10 am to 8 pm, and Monday June 8 from 10 am to 6 pm. For more info on exhibitors, special events, the various themes and more, click here. If you read French, you can see the press kit here. Tickets are 9€ (6€ for students and groups of ten or more) and can be bought at the gate.

This year, there's another reason to visit Aix the first weekend in June. On June 5, 6 and 7, design guru Samantha Mureau and her company Trendline Europe will host Discovering Designers, in the private 18th-century manor house known as the Hotel de GallifetThe event is designed to coincide with Vivre Côté Sud and the theme is "English Garden Party." The idea is to introduce a hand-picked group of 30 British and French designers to locals and to the larger design community. The show will feature interior design, wallpaper, soft furnishings, fabric, ceramics, housewares and perfume....and all of the designers will be present. The Discovering Designers event is free and open to the public. Hours are: Friday 9 am to 7 pm, Saturday 9 am to 10 pm and Sunday, 9 am to 7 pm. The Hotel de Gallifet is located at 52 rue Cardinale in the Mazarin quarter of Aix and their phone is 09 53 84 37 61. For questions about the event, contact: 

Print and online journalists are invited to a special Discovering Designers bloggers' breakfast at 9 am on Friday 5th June. Email Samantha for details. 

For general info about Aix, the Tourist Office website is here

Photos: (1, 2) This year's Vivre Côté Sud poster...and the one for Discovering Designers, a new event in Aix for 2015. (3-8) Vignettes from past years at Vivre Côté Sud. (9) The Hotel de Gallifet, where Discovering Designers will be held. (10) The gorgeous floral fabric is from Royal College of Art-graduate Claire de Quénetain Brunse, who is launching her product range at the Discovering Designers event. (11) At Discovering Designers, London-based Anna Jacobs is showcasing her beautiful, eye-catching lampshades, lamp bases and cushions. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Transhumance in St. Remy is Monday May 25

Wool you be there? Monday May 25 is the annual Fête de la Transhumance in St. Remy, when local shepherds herd their flocks (roughly 3500 sheep and goats) three times around the village's circular "main drag" before taking them up to graze the green pastures of the Alpilles Mountains for the summer. They say the Transhumance in St. Remy is one of the "100 Prettiest Festivals in France" and even though I can't find that referenced anywhere, let's just go with it. If you haven't seen the Transhumance, it's great good friend Philippe calls it ''sheep cooking in the streets.'' An all-day flea market and goat-cheese fair starts at 9 am on the Place Republique and then the Transhumance starts around 10:30 am...but arrive by 9:30 to find parking. Other villages in Provence have Transhumance festivals but St. Remy's is one of the biggest and most popular. 

Afterwards, everyone flocks to the Plateau de la Crau for sheep-herding demos (starting at noon-ish) and a community lunch. Want to party like a shepherd? Here's your chance: The Repas des Bergers (Shepherds Lunch) begins at 1 pm and all are welcome. The feast includes grilled lamb chops and gigot, stewed beans, green salad, cheese, dessert and all the wine you care to drink (but don't forget: good shepherds don't let other shepherds drive drunk!) The lunch is popular and often sells out so reserve ahead if you can (call 06 16 78 61 55) or arrive early. Lunch is 25€ per person, 1/2 price for ages 5 to 12 and free for kids under 5.  To get there: leave St. Remy on the D571 direction Eyragues/Avignon; turn right on the D99 (direction Noves) which you'll find at the first rondpoint (roundabout) just outside town, then pass the BricoMarche and turn left at the next rondpoint. The street will be blocked so park at the soccer field or by the school and walk up the gentle hill about 10 or 15 minutes. Or, just walk from town, which takes about 20 minutes.

The night before the Transhumance (Sunday May 24) you can see the documentary L'Etoile des Bergeres at the Cine Palace in St. Remy at 6:30 pm. The film (in French) is just under an hour and the screening is free, compliments of Li Pastre de San Roumie and the Maison de la Transhumance. Schedules change so it's always best to pop into the theater beforehand, just to check.

For more info on Transhumance, call the St. Remy Tourist Office at +33 (0) 4 90 92 05 22.  And don't miss their fun Transhumance video here

Photos: (1) Courtesy of Philippe Donnart. (2-4) Photos courtesy of Guy Butters; see more of  his work here and here. (5) Photo courtesy of

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Another Fine French Book Giveaway!

The new Monet's Palate Cookbook is being released this week and the publisher has offered me three copies to give away.  

Produced by filmmaker Aileen Bordman and garden writer Derek Fell, the book includes 60 recipes linked to Monet's two-acre kitchen garden near his home at Giverny, France. Between the covers are lots of luscious details about the vegetables he grew, along with gorgeous photos and descriptions of the house interiors, the gardens and the artist's extraordinary lifestyle. 

“Our goal was to bring Monet's kitchen garden back to life," Aileen tells me. "His desire for fresh garden produce extended beyond the flavor and health benefits that they could provide. His need to cultivate a kitchen garden, plant seeds and work the soil with his fingers allowed him to connect with nature in a spiritual way, feed his soul and see beauty oblivious to others.”

Immersed in the world of Claude Monet since 1980, Aileen has more than 35 years of experience at the property in Giverny. Her first visit there was in 1980, when the museum first opened. Her mother, Helen Rappel Bordman, was one of the handful of Americans responsible for the renaissance of the home and garden, which had fallen into complete ruin.

In 2005, Aileen wrote and produced of the documentary film Monet's Palate: A Gastronomic View from the Garden, which was broadcast in the US through American Public Television to all 350 PBS stations...and was re-released this year. It features Meryl Streep, legendary casino operator and art patron Steve Wynn, and chefs Alice Waters, Anne Willan, Roger Vergé, Daniel Boulud and Michel Richard. It screened in Cannes and New York and was featured during the six-month "Monet's Garden" exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden in New York in 2012. The 58-minute film is available on DVD here.

The book brings the farm-to-table tradition--lived passionately by Monet--into the 21st century, with recipes inspired by his cooking journals and the places he visited. And of course, by his garden's abundance of fresh herbs and vegetables: zucchini, cherry tomatoes, radishes, pearl onions, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, rosemary, mint and more.

Aileen's partner in the book project, Derek Fell, is the author of The Magic of Monet's Garden and Secret's of Monet's Garden. One of America's most widely published garden writers, his titles on gardening, travel and art have sold more than 2.5 million copies. He divides his time between Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Sanibel Island, Florida.

The book has been earning lovely reviews...along with praise from big names in the food and gardening worlds. "There's no thrill that compares to growing one’s own food," says journalist, cooking teacher and author Patricia Wells. "Planting, caring, harvesting and bringing the treasures to the table. Monet’s Palate Cookbook provides all the inspiration anyone needs to go out and dig, plant, absorb the joys that soil offers each of us. Whether a garden novice or seasoned expert, this book offers a wealth of advice and recipes destined to improve all of our lives.”

Meryl Streep wrote the foreword and the recipes were beautifully photographed by Steven Rothfeld. 

Published May 1st by Gibbs Smith, the hardcover has 176 pages in full color and 60-plus recipes. It lists for about $30 and you can buy it on Amazon here ...or direct from the author here

To enter to win a copy of the book, just leave a comment below. Tell us about your garden. your connection to Monet, your passion for the Impressionists or anything else you care to share. Be sure to leave your email so we can reach you if you win; signing in with your Google account is not enough. Winners will be chosen and alerted towards the end of May. 

For more info about the book, click here.

To reach Aileen directly:

Claude Monet's Gardens at Giverny are open daily until November 1st, 2015. To visit, all the info is here.

Photos: (1) The new book comes out this week. How can you not want a copy? (2) Tulips, irises and water lilies in Monet's garden; today some 200,000 different flower varieties are rotated regularly by head gardener James Priest and his team, which numbers as many as 30 people working daily, year round. A
lways on the look-out for rare varieties, Monet bought young plants at great expense. "All my money goes into my garden," he said. But also: "I am in raptures." (3, 4) Two dishes from the book: moules marinière and chilled asparagus salad with olives. (5) Aileen shot this Bowl of Beauty peony at Giverny last year.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Networking Party April 30 in the Luberon

Network Provence will hold their second meeting Thursday April 30 from 5 to 7 pm in the Luberon village of Maubec, about 15 minutes east of Cavaillon and an hour north of Aix.

This is a loose organization designed for business and social networking, with English-speaking members drawn from all over Provence. A 15€ fee for the event includes wine, soft drinks and nibbles provided by Sandra Nguyen of SandKitchen.

The group was the brainchild of Rebecca Ronane, who moved to Provence from London in the mid ‘90s. Professionally Rebecca wears a number of hats, including working as a tour director throughout Europe and, more recently, providing life and business coaching to women over 50. (She works with individual clients and also offers what she calls Cappuccino Group Coaching Sessions on a monthly basis.) Her husband Alain (half French and half Dutch) works in the travel industry as well, when he’s not busy with his pet project: reviving an olive grove abandoned in 1956.

“I was looking around for opportunities and events where I could meet other English speakers, with the goal of promoting my coaching business,” Rebecca tells me. “I looked at the various groups in the region and didn’t find one that seemed like what I wanted. So I thought, ‘why not start one myself’?” The first meeting drew 26 people--25 of them women--and a mix of nationalities including French women who speak just a bit of English. “It was a nice multi-cultural mix,” Rebecca says, “and some really interesting things have already developed from it. Sometimes a bridge between cultures can be difficult unless you’re put in the right circumstances.” 

For the time being, the get-togethers will be held in Rebecca and Alain’s home and are therefore limited to 30 people max but as interest grows, different venues could be used. “Our house is rather convivial which adds a nice dimension,” she says.

At each meeting, anyone who wants to present their business or activities to the group is welcome to do so, for a minute or two each. Everyone is also encouraged to bring flyers, business cards or other promo materials.

While men are welcome, the group is really designed to help English-speaking women of all nationalities make business contacts and new friendships. “I’m not eliminating men but my goal these days is about women power,” Rebecca says. “The idea is to enable networking focused on that. And the women come because they like that idea.”

If you’re interested in attending the April 30 event, being added to the mailing list for future events or receiving info on Rebecca’s coaching: or 06 41 80 21 72. Her website is and you can follow her on Twitter here. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Caumont Art Center Opens in Aix May 6

The new Caumont Art Center opens in Aix on May 6, with a major show featuring 60 works by Venetian master Canaletto (1697-1768). The show, called Canaletto--oma, London, Venice: The Triumph of Light, runs until September 13, 2015.

Sixty paintings and drawings from international public and private collections will present the artist through all the different phases of his career. 

The Caumont Art Center (officially called Caumont Centre d’Art) was conceived to celebrate and promote a wide range of fine arts and is a major opening for this city of of 143,000, the birthplace of Paul Cézanne (1839–1906).

Each year, the Center will stage two major temporary exhibits devoted to the grand masters of art history from the 14th to the 20th century.  A summer exhibit will be dedicated to the re-discovery of great masters from a new angle. A winter exhibit will reveal treasures from private collections or from internationally renowned museums. The exhibit space comprises eight rooms, totaling 400 square meters.

The mansion itself, known as the Hôtel de Caumont and built in 1715, is located in the Mazarin neighbourhood, the southern, aristocratic quarter of Aix. Built "between court and garden,” it represents an architectural style that first appeared in Paris in the 16th century…a château and park on an urban scale. Four elements characterize the layout: the gate, the courtyard, the main building and the garden, taking visitors from public to private spaces. It was built on a square plot, with the main building to the northeast, the cour d'honneur to the northwest, an enclosed garden on the southeast and servants quarters (with an outer courtyard) on the southwest. In Aix, this type of construction disappeared in 1680, after which mansions were built on street-front sites, distinguishing them from the Parisian style.  The Hôtel de Caumont’s design, unlike anything in Aix, is considered an excellent example of French 18th-century architecture. The carriage gate, façade and wrought iron bannister are of such high quality that they were listed in a supplementary inventory for Monuments Historiques in 1925. The entire mansion was listed in 1987.

Compared to the exterior façade, the interior is much more elaborately decorated and demonstrates a mix of the Regency and Louis XV styles. More info on the architecture, design and furnishings appears on the Caumont website.

In addition to the temporary exhibits, a 20-minute film dedicated to Paul Cézanne (1839- 1906) will be screened daily in a 100-seat auditorium.  "Cézanne in the Aix Region" follows the career of the great Post-Impressionist painter who died of pneumonia in Aix in 1906 and is buried in the Saint-Pierre Cemetery.

The Art Center will also host concerts, dance performances, readings and lectures. It’s also available for private functions, meetings and social events.

Facilities include a bookstore, the ground-floor Café Caumont (open daily for breakfast, afternoon tea and sweets, with a terrace overlooking the French gardens) and the Lounge Bar Caumont, open Tuesday to Saturday evenings.

Caumont is operated by Culturespaces, which oversees 14 important French sites, museums and monuments such as the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (Saint Jean Cap Ferrat),  the Carrieres des Lumieres and Château des Baux (Les Baux)  and the Roman Theatre in Orange.

Located at #3, rue Joseph Cabassol, the Caumont Art Center is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm (October to April) and until 7 pm (April to October).

For all the info, click HERE.

Photos:  (1) The mansion housing the museum was built in 1715. (2) Canaletto's "Le Bucentaure de retour au Môle, le jour de l’Ascension." (3) Canaletto's "Caprice avec des ruines classiques et des bâtiments de la Renaissance
." (4) Restoration work on the mansion took 18 months. (5) Detail of ironwork adorning the balcony. (6) Cafe Caumont. (7) The "Chambre de Madame." (8) There are three paintings in the show not by Canaletto: two by Bellotto and one by Guardi. This is Bellotto's "Venise : Caprice avec une maison sur la lagune."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Do Good...and Win A Week in Provence!

My friend Lucy is a tireless supporter of a charity called Busoga Trust, which builds and maintains wells in rural Uganda. 

Since 1983, the group has created more than 2000 sustainable sources for clean, safe water...used by villagers for drinking, cooking, sanitation and hygiene. 

Lucy often stages benefits for the Trust here in Provence and many of us love to support the group. 

Lucy's latest project is a glorious week in Provence that the Trust will be raffling off as a fundraiser....and it's only £10 (roughly€14 or $15) to enter.

The Week in Provence contest includes accommodation for two in a charming private house in St Rémy de Provence, plus a guided mountain hike, a full day tour of Marseille and a 50€ food and drink credit at our favorite local hangout, Cafe de la Place. Plus, Lucy will be on hand to offer lots of local expertise. 

The prize package does not include flights or transport to Provence...and black out dates are June through mid September. Otherwise the winner is free to come anytime in 2015.

All proceeds go directly to Busoga Trust’s water and sanitation projects in Uganda.
To enter simply follow this link to make your £10 donation. Enter as many times as you wish to increase your chances of winning. The competition closes at midnight on April 26th and the winner will be announced on the 27th. 

If you prefer to enter with a UK check, send it to: Busoga Trust, 1 Creed Court, 5 Ludgate Hill, London, EC4M 7AA. Please write "Provence Experience" on the envelope and  include a way for the charity to reach you if you win.

If you have questions or want to be added to Lucy's mailing list for future fundraisers in Provence:

Bonne Chance!

Photos: A typical Provencal street scene...a video about Busoga Trust...and the charming bungalow in St. Remy that's yours for a week if you win. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Another Fine French Book Giveaway!

I’ve been wanting to write about Elizabeth Bard for a while now and her new book gives me a perfect excuse. It comes out on April 7 and it looks every bit as delicious as its predecessor, Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes, which was a New York Times bestseller, an international bestseller and winner of the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best First Cookbook (USA).

And, because I live to please you, I’ve asked Elizabeth and her publisher Little, Brown and Company, for three copies of Picnic in Provence to give away. Of course, they said bien sur!

Elizabeth is an American journalist and author, born in New York City and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey. She graduated summa cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in English Literature and later earned a Masters degree in Art History from The Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

Elizabeth’s articles on food, art, travel and digital culture have appeared in The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, Wired, Marie Claire and Harper's Bazaar.

Since 2009, she and her husband Gwendal have lived in the tiny Provencal town of Céreste, where they own and operate the artisanal ice cream company Scaramouche.

The first book, Lunch in Paris, told Elizabeth’s story of cute-meeting the perfect Frenchman at a conference in London, and chucking her life plans to move to Paris to marry him. 

Picnic in Provence picks up where Lunch in Paris left off, or, as the author says, “it’s about all the things that happen after the happily ever after: marriage, motherhood, entrepreneurship...and in our case, ice cream!”

It’s about unexpected choices and how they can be the best choices we make,” she continues. “There’s no five year plan in the world that would have gotten me here. And yet it’s exactly the right place to be.”

The 336-page hardcover has 60 recipes and is also available in ebook and audiobook versions.

You can see a trailer for it here.

Elizabeth first met Gwendal at an academic conference when she was a student in London.  “I asked what his research was about,” she recalls, “which is as good a pick-up line as any in academia. He was finishing up a PhD in computer science and I was just starting a Master's in Art History. So anyone who says you can't meet the love your life in a lecture on a Hypertext Version of Finnegan's Wake is wrong...”

The crafty American soon made an excuse to come to Paris for the weekend. Next thing she knew she was back and forthing on the Eurostar--they wouldn't be married if it wasn't for the Eurostar, she tells me—and soon Elizabeth had a decision to make: go back to New York to pursue her dream of being a museum curator...or take that flying leap and move to Paris for love.

She chose Paris, of course, and the couple married in 2003.  Those first years in Paris, she worked as arts journalist and as a private museum guide.  Eventually, she realized that “everything I'd learned about France I'd learned autour de la table –around the table. So I decided to write about my experiences from the ‘market’ point of view, and include recipes with every chapter. That's how Lunch in Paris was born.”

On a last romantic jaunt before their baby arrived—he’s now five –the couple traveled down to the Luberon in Provence... and a chance encounter led them to the wartime home of the famous poet and WWII Resistance leader René Char, whom Gwendal had long admired.

“In what felt like a brush with fate, the house was for sale,” she remembers. “Something about it felt perfect--inevitable.” Under the spell of the house and its unique history—Char buried his most famous manuscript there--Elizabeth and Gwendal decide to up and move--lock, stock and Le Creuset--to the French countryside.

The full story of how they found their house is here.

‘’Almost as soon as we arrived in Céreste,’’ she continues, ‘’we knew we wanted our careers to become more local. Gwendal was working as an executive in Digital Cinema. In the spring of 2012, he got a call about a job with Warner Brothers. He’d never really wanted a studio job...he was more of an entrepreneur. We had a long think about what we really wanted and we realized we wanted to do something that would be fun for us and good for the town, something that would allow us share the amazing local flavors we’d discovered here: melons so juicy they drip down to your elbows, strawberries that taste like sunshine.” They spent a year getting things together--six months of vanilla testing!--and opened Scaramouche on a rainy day in April, 2013.

Word spread quickly and in August 2014, TripAdvisor published their list of the top ten ice cream parlors in France: Scaramouche was tied for #5.

Scaramouche is now a local mainstay and a destination. People come for classics like salted caramel ice cream and bitter cacao sorbet and come back for the odd ones: 1001 Nuits (Raz-el-Hanout ice cream with grilled almonds), Pastis sorbet, Rose geranium ice cream with pistachios, and a brand-new black truffle ice cream made with truffles from the nearby farm Les Pastras.

Elizabeth, Gwendal and their team make all their own ice creams and sorbets in a lab on the outskirts of town. They use raw milk from a dairy in Volx (don’t worry, the milk is pasteurized during the ice cream making process), organic eggs, and the best local fruit they can find. Flavors change with the season...and there’s always a line in June when the first tubs of cherry sorbet arrive.

For those who can’t make it to Cereste, the products can be found at La Bris de Glace in the center of Bonnieux, an ice cream shop launched a year ago by the owners of the restaurant Le Fournil next door. It’s also available at Luberon Paysan in Apt and Naturellement Paysan in Cousellet.  For more places, check the Scaramouche website.

And you can look for their ice cream truck--the "Scaramobile"--in and around Banon this summer.

Ok so what about the new book? Filled with recipes such as stuffed zucchini flowers, fig tart, and honey and thyme ice cream, Picnic in Provence is about love, family and building a business but also about a cook’s initiation into classic Provencal cuisine. Throughout, Elizabeth reminds us that life--in and out of the kitchen--is a rendezvous with the unexpected.

“If you had told me on my wedding day that, ten years later, I’d be standing in a field in Provence making small talk with skinny cows,” she writes on page 1, “I would have nodded politely and with a twist of my graduated pearls, said that you had mistaken me for someone else.” The skinny cows produce the perfect milk for the ice cream, by the way.

In advance of the book’s April 7 launch, positive reviews are streaming in. Kirkus Reviews said: "Like the Provençal food and lifestyle it celebrates, Bard's book is one to be savored slowly and with care. Delectable reading.”

Ok on to the giveaway! To enter to win a copy, just leave a comment below, under COMMENTS. Tell us about a lifelong dream of yours (fulfilled or not), or perhaps about your own experience taking a big leap of faith. Tell us your favorite summer ice cream story...or about the book you’re writing...or anything you feel like sharing! Just please be sure to leave us your email so we can reach you if you win. Bonne Chance!

If you’d like to go ahead and buy the book, it’s on Amazon here.

To contact Elizabeth, email her at: You can also find her in the following places:

Photos: The book, the shop on opening day, the happy couple.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Big Châteauneuf Wine Fest April 11 & 12

The Printemps de Châteauneuf-du-Pape, now in its sixth year, is a festive rite of spring for wine lovers here in the South of France. This year it's Saturday and Sunday, April 11 and 12, with a special day on Monday April 13 (9:30 am to 2:30 pm) for wine-industry professionals. More than 85 winemakers from Châteauneuf will be on hand, schmoozing, pouring and selling, making this a wonderful opportunity to meet local winemakers while tasting their latest releases and a few smashing older vintages. It’s also an easy way to buy the wines you love, some of them normally quite difficult to get. This year, there will also be eight winemakers from Spain (particularly the Priorat region) on hand. 

As in years past there will be tasting seminars ("ateliers degustations") for an extra charge but all three are already sold out, sorry! 

Les Printemps takes place at the Salle Dufays on the Place de la Renaissance in Châteauneuf, from 10 am to 7 pm both days. Your 8€ entry fee gets you in all weekend and includes a tasting glass. There will be free parking...indoor and outdoor play areas for the kids...and food available on site. For all the info, click here for the event website; you can also call the Tourist Office at 04 90 83 71 08.  For general info about the the wines of Châteauneuf, the village and the region, click here and here

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 19: On your Mark, Get Set, Eat French!

On Thursday, March 19, more than 1,300 restaurants in 150 countries will offer special dinner menus designed to celebrate French gastronomy in all its forms.
Participating chefs include some of the top names in French cuisine — among them Paul Bocuse, GuySavoy, Joël Robuchon, Raymond Blanc and Marc Haeberlin — along with scores of other French and non-French chefs working in France and abroad.
Known as Goût de France, the initiative was spearheaded by superstar chef Alain Ducasse and Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development. 

The duo was inspired by legendary culinarian Auguste Escoffier, who launched the “Dîners d’Épicure” in 1912. Escoffier’s idea was to promote French cuisine by serving the same menu on the same day in cities all over the globe.

Ducasse says that Goût de France will "honor the merits of French food, its capacity for innovation, and its values: sharing, enjoying, and respecting the principles of high-quality, environmentally responsible cuisine." (The event is also being called Good France, as opposed to the literal translation of its name, Taste of France).
In everything from rustic bistros to gilded Michelin-starred dining rooms, those lucky enough to get a table will enjoy a set-price French-style menu featuring a traditional French apéritif, a cold starter, a hot starter, fish or shellfish, meat or poultry, French cheese, a chocolate dessert, and French wines and digestifs.
The chefs are free to highlight their own culinary traditions and culture, but have been directed to base the meal upon fresh, seasonal, and local products, with an eye to lower levels of fat, sugar, salt, and protein.
Menu prices are at the chefs’ discretion, and all participants have been encouraged to donate 5% of their proceeds to a local NGO promoting health and/or environmental protection.
French embassies abroad will also be involved, staging their own Goût de France dinners with ambassadors present. A grand dinner will be held at the Château de Versailles for foreign ambassadors posted in Paris along with other dignitaries.
After an open call for applications, Ducasse and his 40-chef committee chose the finalists based on the “coherence and quality of their proposed menus.”

Here in the South of France, you can see everyone who’s participating by clicking here. Below is just a selection; most but not all have posted their special menu and price on the Goût de France site.

*Gérald Passédat (Le Petit Nice, Marseille)
*Lionel Levy (Hotel Inter Continental, Marseille)
*Ludovic Turac (Une Table au Sud, Marseille)
*Guillaume Sourrieu (L’Epuisette, Marseille)
*Marc de Passorio (L’Esprit de la Violette, Aix)
*Pierre Reboul (Restaurant Pierre Reboul, Aix)
*Mathias Dandine (Les Lodges Sainte Victoire, Aix)
*Christophe Martin (Bastide de Moustiers, Moustiers)
*Erwan Louaisil (Moulin de Mougins, Mougins)
*Ronan Kervarrec (La Chèvre d'Or, Eze)
*David Cahen (Au Petit Gari, Nice)
*Notel Mantel (Mantel, Cannes)
*Alain Llorca (Restaurant Alain Llorca, La Colle sur Loup)
*Yoric Tieche (La Passagère, Juan Les Pins)
*Benjamin Collombat (Cote Rue, Draguignan)
*Paolo Sari (Elsa, Roqeubrune Cap Martin)
*Jean-Francois Berard (Hostellerie Berard, La Cadiere d’Azur)
*Benoit Witz (L'Hostellerie De L'Abbaye De La Celle, La Celle)
*Reine Sammut (Auberge La Fenière, Lourmarin)
*Xavier Mathieu (Le Phebus, Joucas)
*Robert Lalleman (Auberge de Noves, Noves)
*Thibaut Serin-Moulin (Restaurant Valrugues, St. Remy)
 *Johan Thyriot (Meo, Tarascon)

For restaurants elsewhere in France, click here.

And to find a restaurant in another country, click here.

In the US, there were 45 restaurants participating at last count, and you can see them all listed here.

At his three Bouchon Bistros (in Las Vegas, Yountville, and Beverly Hills), Thomas Keller’s Goût de France menu starts with foie gras cromesquis (foie gras that’s been cured, poached, breaded, and fried, like a fritter), then moves on to saucisson à l’ail (garlic sausage in brioche, with marinated vegetables, Dijon mustard, and garden mâche) and selle d’agneau rotie et farcie (herb-stuffed Elysian Fields lamb saddle with spring beans and English peas with mint-scented lamb jus). The cheese will be Camembert Le Châtelain (with rhubarb compote and black pepper pistachio pain de campagne), and the dessert, an opera cake (almond sponge with coffee and chocolate butter cream). The menu is priced at $65, with wine pairings offered for an extra $45. Seats are still available at all three locations. 

“Even though this is a one-day event, for Bouchon it’s all about paying homage to the core values we embody as a French bistro every day,” Keller says. "For Americans, Goût de France is really about discovering an appreciation for French culture through cuisine that’s responsibly prepared with high-quality ingredients and execution. We’re proud to represent the United States in this worldwide celebration.” 

At Jade Mountain on St. Lucia in the Caribbean, executive chef Jeffrey Forrest has infused his Goût de France menu with a wide range of local ingredients. He'll be serving roasted cabbage with toasted farro, christophene and a lime-curry nage; cured lionfish with passion-fruit caviar; fromage frais with papaya mustard; "wahoo aubergine" and a chocolate mousse made from from chocolate grown and produced onsite. (Full menu details are here.)

"Jade Cuisine embraces the French concepts of culinary exploration and the use of fresh farm-to-table ingredients," Forrest says. "Our resort runs its own organic plantation producing fruits, vegetables and spices such as turmeric, cashews, tamarind, mango, avocado, oranges, tangerines, guavas, papaya, coconut, breadfruit, yams and sweet potatoes. Cocoa plants are numerous on the grounds for guest to see and for the resort to produce their own chocolates.  We completely embrace the French philosophy and principles of high-quality, environmentally responsible cuisine."
So why this promo and why now? No one is addressing that exactly, but French chefs have come under fire in recent years, accused of serving frozen rather than freshly made food, high menu prices, failure to keep up with global culinary trends, failure to innovate, and the sin of “aesthetic snobbery” — meaning hiring only the prettiest people and seating guests according to attractiveness.
Ducasse and his culinary comrades have worked tirelessly to counter these attacks through a wide range of initiatives, of which Goût de France is the latest. ''In the space of around two months, we received and approved applications from over 1,300 restaurants throughout the world,'' he says. ''This is certainly food for thought for all those who love to talk about the decline of French cuisine.” (And what will Ducasse serve on this special night? His restaurants and their Goût de France menus and prices are here.)

“France is well known as the country of art de vivre,” says Parisian chef Guy Savoy, “and cooking, of course, belongs to that art de vivre. As cooks, our craft is to make our guests happy… and we want to share it, show it, promote it." He adds, “French cuisine is built on ancestral know-how, and is wide open to the future.” Savoy’s menu is here, but the dinner (at 380€ per person) is fully booked.

At the restaurant Pavillon in the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, Michelin-starred chef Laurent Eperon calls Goût de France an exceptional way to preserve the ideals and pleasures of French gastronomy. “In my humble opinion as a Frenchman, French is the best cuisine of all!” he proclaims. “I’d love to see Goût de France happen annually. The world could always use more French cuisine!” Eperon’s $160 menu for the occasion is here.

Quite a few chefs told me they hope this will be the start of something big, a regular event that will keep growing as time goes on. "I am so happy and proud to celebrate the French gastronomy in the world!" proclaims Laetitia Rouabah, chef at Allard restaurant in Paris. "Good France was able to gather more than 1300 chefs all around the world and that is wonderful ! I sincerely hope that after this first edition, other initiatives like this will follow to promote the French cuisine all around the world." To see Allard's 85€ menu (140€ with wine pairings), click here.

Ducasse, for his part, says the initiative has already satisfied one of his major goals: to illustrate how French-trained chefs are respecting the traditions of the French kitchen while tweaking them to make vibrant, modern and highly personal cuisine. 

“When I look at all the chefs participating,” he says, “I’m struck by their great diversity... all generations and styles of restaurant are represented. The influence of French cuisine can be seen in this human chain of men and women, whose professional roots extend far back into great French culinary traditions. It’s a brotherhood of professionals who share and uphold the same values worldwide." But, he adds, “The main point of this event is generosity and sharing, and a love for what’s beautiful and tastes good.”

For all the info, visit They’re also on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Photos: One thousand chefs in 1300 restaurants worldwide will be serving Goût de France dinners on Thursday night. Top photo: Event organizers gathered for their close up, which in this case was more like a far away. (2, 3, 4) Jade Mountain on St. Lucia, Benoit in NYC and Pavillon in Zurich will all be strutting their best culinary stuff. (5) At Thomas Keller's three Bouchon Bistros, one course will be this herb-stuffed lamb saddle with spring beans, English peas and mint-scented jus. (6) Laetitia Rouabah at Allard in Paris. (7-13) The large number of chefs participating in the South of France include: Paolo Sari (Elsa in the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel), Olivier Rathery (with wife Sylvie) at Le Gout des Choses in Marseille, Xavier Mathieu (Le Phebus, Joucas), Noel Mantel (Mantel, Cannes), Johan Thyriot (Meo, Tarascon), Alexandre Lechene (Le Roc Alto, Saint Veran) and many more. (14) The logo.


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