Tuesday, January 16, 2018

So...What's Happening?

Quoi de Neuf? This week I thought I'd share a couple short, newsy things that recently caught my eye: a vintage ice cream truck, a new place to store your luggage in Avignon, a farm for fresh flowers all winter, upcoming fundraisers, the starting lineup for Jazz à Juan and some other fun things to do. We're not gonna win any Pulitzers here but hopefully you'll find some things of interest...

Scoop! Vintage Ice Cream Truck Ready to Roll 

My friend Nicola Christinger-Grant and her daughter Victoria Moss are just about ready to unveil a vintage ice cream truck named Esta, after months of restoration. The classic 1976 Renault Estafette is still in Corsica finishing serious cosmetic surgery but she'll arrive in France  at the end of the month. "We thought Provence needed a good old fashioned classic ice cream van," Nic tells me. "Given the sensational weather I can’t believe they don’t really exist! When I first found Esta, she was a total rust bucket...but I knew immediately that I loved her!" As of February, Esta will be ready to rent for all types of events (she's booked for a number of weddings already) and will be rolling up at weekly markets including Eygalieres on Friday, Uzes on Saturday and the July/August Thursday evening night market in Nimes. Esta can travel roughly one hour from Nimes and will serve a range of ice creams (whole milk, vegan, fat-free, organic). The four pix up top show the ongoing restoration; the two below them are "befores." When the work is complete, I'll post more photos because you can be sure she'll be a beauty! The website (vintage.ice.fr ) is still under construction but email Nicola for info in the meantime: nicolachristinger@me.com.

Got Baggage?

Did you know...the folks behind La Consigne in Nice have opened a second location in Avignon? It's a luggage checkroom where you can store your stuff safely (they've got scanners, cameras and alarms) at super-reasonable prices. Located close to both the Avignon Centre (city) Train Station and the Avignon Tourist Office, La Consigne also rents baby strollers and wheelchairs, offers a bike-courrier baggage delivery service and will store oversized items if you book ahead. Plus, they have free and speedy WiFi which you're welcome to hang out and use. La Consigne Avignon is open May 1st to Aug 31st, at #1 ave Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny, 84000 Avignon, +33 (0)6 63 68 91 09. Lots more info on both locations is on the website here.

Brand-New St. Remy Home for Summer Rental

Ian and Lizzie Ferris are just putting final touches on their new home in St. Remy...but have learned they'll need to spend the summer back in the UK.  That means they want to rent the house out, for the whole summer if possible, or at least for a month at a time, starting in June. You can see it here on Homeaway and on AirBnB. Located less than ten minute's walk from the historic center of the village, it has three double bedrooms, an upstairs bathroom and downstairs shower room, off-street parking in a gated community, a south-facing garden with private pool, A/C, WiFi and a nice modern kitchen. Ian says his ideal would be one family for 12 weeks (mid June to mid September,  €17,000) but will happily consider monthly rentals for June (€6000), July (€7000) and August (€8000). For info: ianferris56@gmail.com.

Shmoozing for Social and Business 

Since I first wrote about it here almost three years ago,  the women's group Network Provence has grown tremendously, thanks to the hard work and creativity of director Rebecca Ronane and the giving spirit of its members. The group now holds regular meet-ups and activities in a variety of Provencal villages (Aix, St. Remy, Maubec, Orange, Eygalieres, etc.) and continues to expand. Pay 50€ to join for a year and attend all the events you want...or pay as you go (most events are 10 each). The group's Facebook page (sign up required) has become an extremely valuable resource for info sharing among English-speaking women of all nationalities in the region. Upcoming NP events include a a crash course in pairing wine with chocolate with Sophie Bergeron in Avignon (Jan 23rd at 2 pm), a talk on happiness by Trudi Bannister in Aix (Feb 13, 3 to 5 pm) and a presentation and light lunch with Nicky Ginsberg, at her new NG Art Creative Residency Program in Eygalieres (March 23, noon to 2:30). See these and other events  (and reserve...and become a member) on the Network Provence site. Questions? Email: rebecca.ronane@me.com.

Another Super Support Group for Expat Women

Another networking group that's really gathering steam is called LiANU. It's described as "An Anglophone support group of ex-pat ladies for ex-pat ladies living in, or with strong ties to, the Avignon-Nimes-Uzès region." According to Petra Van Der Wal, one of the group's five informal leader/organizers, the first "Ladies In..." group, Ladies in Languedoc, was created in 2013 and as it grew, a need was identified for other locally-focused ex-pat groups "where you can find a local tradesman or places to buy your halloumi cheese! Ladies In groups are now in Perpignan and Carcassone too...and they've all been likened to a big, chatty, online coffee morning!"  The next LiANU event is a New Year's Dinner, to be held Jan 24 in Nimes; see all the info here. I've not been to a LiANU event yet but a few friends of mine are active in the group and they give it a hearty thumbs up. To get involved, click join on their Facebook page here. If you'd like to start a Ladies In group in another region of France, contact Nicole Hammond by messenger through the LIL group here.  

Friday Morning: Coffee and Cake for a Great Cause
Lucy Bakr will hold a "coffee morning" fundraiser for Busoga Trust this Friday Jan 19 from 10 am to noon in St. Remy, with homemade Gâteau de Roi. Entry is 5€ pp, please. Lucy will also be selling her famous homemade marmalades (including a brand-new batch of orange marmalade & Bergamot lemon marmalade--woot woot!) plus new olive oils, books, DVDs and more. All proceeds go to build wells for clean water in Uganda. The address is: 1 Av Jean Baltus;  park inside the courtyard or on the street. For more info: lucydavid@bakr.fr.

Flowers All Winter, Fresh from the Farm

People often forget about their favorite farm markets in winter but the very-popular Boutique at Ferme Fleurie, between Tarascon and Graveson, sells their beautiful home-grown blooms all year long. The prices are wholesale and the flowers are gorgeous! (Read my recent story about them here.)  Debbie, who runs the farm with her husband Marcel, tells me: "All good down on the farm this winter! And full speed ahead for the season 2018!" Deb tells me they have anemones now until May, tulips from the end of February to April,  narcissi and daffodils in March and of course their star performer, peonies, at the end of April through May. For daily hours and what's available, check their Facebook page. The Boutique at Ferme Fleurie is at 4583 Route d'Avignon, 13150 Tarascon. 

This Friday in Avignon: Cabaret at Theatre Le 9

If you're up for some entertainment in English and like to mingle with other expats, this one's for you. This Friday Jan 19 at 8 pm, the Aix-Marseille and Avignon Chapters of Democrats Abroad will team up to take in a cabaret show in Avignon with Stefan Bednarczyk, a stage and screen actor, director, choirmaster, organist and composer.  (Stefan brought the works of Noel Coward, Flanders and Swann and Comden & Green to the stage...and has worked as musical director with the most prominent theaters in the U.K., including the National and the Barbican.) His latest cabaret adventure, "Beyond a Joke," explores in piano and song the works of three of the 20th-century’s greatest satirists: Allan Sherman, Tom Lehrer and Jake Thackray. The show takes place at the splendid Théâtre Le 9; I wrote about the theater and its charming owner Hilary when it opened here.  After the show, the group will mingle and meet Stefan over a glass of wine. The theater is tiny and there are seats set aside for the DA group so make sure to mention DA when you reserve. Plus, please bring something sweet or savory to share with 30 people. Tickets are 20 pp. To reserve, call +33 (0)4 84 14 27 28 or email: le9theatreavignon@gmail.com. Then, let kwildau@gmail.com know you're coming. For more info: theatrele9.com.

Calling All Wine-Industry Insiders

All wine pros  (winemakers, retailers, restaurateurs, hotel f&b staff, etc.) are invited to a two-day "Naked Wine Fair" sponsored by the Languedoc-based Vignerons de L'Irreel, a group of local winemakers, on Jan 28 and 29 in Montpellier. Both days, there will be 50 French, Italian and Spanish winemakers present and pouring, along with five artisan brewers. A Sunday evening party will have concerts and a DJ, with lots of Italian charcuterie, the Le Duke food truck and more. More than 200 people have signed up and many more will certainly join in.  The event will be at the Dieze Warehouse, at 188 ave. du Marche Gare. Admission is 10€ and all the details are on the group's Facebook page here.  

Lenny Kravitz to Open Jazz à Juan 2018
And finally, down on the Côte d'Azur, the International Jazz Festival Jazz à Juan (the oldest jazz fest in Europe), has just announced, following a well-established tradition, the names of the first three artists who will perform this year, the 58th edition of the festival. After the opening concert on July 12 with Lenny Kravitz and his “Raise Vibration Tour,” the festival welcomes Chick Corea (one of the most important and influential pianists of his generation), Youn Sun Nah (who has led a brilliant international career exploring in risky ways the infinite possibilities of her voice), and Marcus Miller ("promising an incredible performance!"). The full program will be announced in March. For all the info: jazzajuan.com, antibesjuanlespins.com

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Deja Vu: Rencontres Photos in Marseille

Every year, the city of Arles hosts the sprawling Rencontres de la Photographie, an international photo festival which lasts all summer and takes over many of the city's historic buildings, galleries and other public and private spaces.  (My story about the 2017 Rencontres is here.)  And this year some of the very best work from the 2017 Rencontres is being shown again, in Marseille.

Called Le Monde Tel Qu'il Va! (The World As it Is!), the Marseille exhibit is comprised of eight separate Rencontres shows in their entirety, plus one new show by local photographer Monique Deregibus. Altogether 40 photographers are featured. Admission is free but the show ends on January 7 so carpe diem!
According to the press materials: "The more we think countries are closed off and mired in political or economic crises, the more photographers are there. They reveal, tell, attest, invent, repair and rebuild with their own language, that of the image. They decode the early signs of social change. The World as It Is! offers a journey from the shores of the Bosporus to sub-Saharan border areas, from the divided island of Cyprus to a Libya torn between war and refugees. Come and share this taste for other places at major exhibitions that marked the Rencontres d’Arles this summer with 40 photographers who are wondering about the state of the world."
Le Monde Tel Qu'il Va! is at the just-reopened J1 (also called MJ1) terminal building on a long pier near the ferry port in the Joliette district of the city.  The building was entirely refurbished in 2013 as part of the Marseille-Provence Capital of Culture celebrations but according to my blogger friend Sheila at Marvellous-Provence, it's been closed ever since, the victim of local politics and squabbling. "With its huge spaces and spectacular views," Sheila says, "it was easily one of the most popular and most visited venues of that year.  So the fact that it has now reopened--now called the MJ1--is excellent news."

More info on Le Monde Tel Qu'il Va! is on the Rencontres site and the MJ1 site.

If you miss this exhibit, the next show at the MJ1 will be part of the Marseille-Provence 2018 festival, featuring six months of events with love as the theme. Officially called MP2018: Quel Amour!, it launches on Valentines Day, runs through the end of August and features 200 cultural events (music, dance, art, etc.) across the region.

Le Monde Tel Qu'il Va!
Eight exhibits on view until January 7, 2018
Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm, with special hours Dec 31st.
Free admission
Hangar MJ1
Quai de la Joliette
13002 Marseille

Photos: Three views of the J1 building...and the poster for the show. Top photo by Michele Clavel, second photo by Frederic D. at Photos-Provence.fr. Third photo (inside the J1 looking out) by Alizé Almozinos. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

One Restaurant I Love: A Guest Post

You can't live in Provence and not be passionate about food.  The cliché is that the French spend much of each meal talking about what they ate at their last meal or what they'll eat at the next. The produce here is so good...and there's so much culinary talent...there aren't enough days in a month to try a fraction of the restaurants I'd like to. Many of my friends feel the same way so of course we trade notes constantly. Periodically someone will rave so enthusiastically about a meal that I'll ask them to share the info with all of us, through a guest post.  And since it had been a few years since I wrote about Jean-Luc Rabanel (one of my favorite chefs) and his outstanding restaurant, L'atelier, in Arles, I was delighted when Keith Van Sickle suggested a guest post about a recent meal there. Keith's bio appears at the end of this text; read on for his Rabanel review!

There are a lot of great restaurants in Provence, with Michelin stars galore like Le Petit Nice in Marseille and Baumanière in Les Baux. But for my money, the best fine dining in Provence is at L’atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel in Arles.

In 1999, Rabanel became the first chef in France to earn a Michelin star for an organic restaurant, Coté Garonne in the small town of Tonneins in southwest France. He later closed that restaurant and moved to Provence, renowned for its fresh produce, and opened L’atelier in 2007.  

On a quiet street just off the Place de la Republique, Rabanel works his magic. He calls his approach “Greenstronomie” – light on the meat and heavy on the abundance of Provence. As he puts it, “At the center of my cuisine is emotion and taste, a philosophy based on the vegetable. Vegetables, roots, plants, leaves, flowers and wild herbs thus become the main actors of my creations.”

L’atelier offers you just two choices: the six-course menu (95€) or the nine-course menu (123€). That’s it. On certain days, there's also a three-course option for lunch (55€). You can order wine by the glass, by the bottle, or pick one of the wine pairings chosen by the sommelier (three glasses, 45€; five glasses, 65€). 

The server will ask if you have any food allergies, which is a nice touch. I can’t eat gluten and I normally have to bring up the subject myself, which can make for an awkward moment. I appreciate that L’atelier made this discussion a comfortable one.

My wife and I went to L’atelier recently for her birthday, as it's our special occasion restaurant of choice. We usually order the six-course menu. The courses are small but you always get more than advertised (this year we counted eight courses) so there's no risk of going hungry. 

Plus there's the bread - you're served a selection of five different freshly baked varieties. And lucky me, I enjoyed the best gluten-free bread I’ve ever had.

After a glass of Champagne, the plates started arriving. My wife says that each plate is like a work of art you get to enjoy twice. First you appreciate its beauty, and then you savor the tastes. 

Our meal began with a piece of raw tuna marinated in sesame oil and laid atop sliced celery root and basil. This was sprinkled with a peanut crumble. Oh yes, there were also little pieces of smoky lardon hiding in there. And the flower on top was spicy. All those flavors were nice way to wake up the taste buds!

Next came the sweetest peas I’ve ever eaten, mixed into a fava bean puree and topped by Parmesan foam and a shrimp that had been dipped in ginger and grilled.

After that came mackerel over fava beans and then asparagus with morel mushrooms and white garlic ice cream.

While the menu changes regularly, we were thrilled to be able to enjoy one of Rabanel’s signature dishes. This is an impossibly tender filet mignon of taureau de Camargue (bull) topped with an egg yolk that's been marinated in soy sauce and rice vinegar. The combination is to die for!  It was accompanied by too many kinds of vegetable to count.

Then came the desserts, three different ones. The first was a jelly of verbena, topped by pureed Jerusalem artichoke hearts and macha ice cream. The second was a combination of fresh and sautéed fruits with tarragon sorbet. Then came the black-olive cookies and citrus macarons.

L’atelier has two Michelin stars and is unlikely to get a third, even though the food is as good as it gets. Why? Because to get a rare and coveted third star usually means you have to invest millions of dollars in the décor. Rabanel has chosen to keep the décor simple, the staff relatively young, and the focus on the food.

This is the reason that the Gault Millau guide, which rates purely on food quality, has given L’Atelier 5 toques and a score of 19 out of 20. These stratospheric ratings make it one of the top restaurants in France.

Since he first opened in Arles, Jean-Luc has grown the business organically. Once L'atelier was up and running he opened a bistro next door, called À Côté, which remains extremely popular. Then he opened a seafood spot called Iode, which has since closed. 

He also expanded L'atelier, doubling the dining space and adding accommodations. Today you can rent rooms in two flavors: “Les Confidentielles” which is a guestroom plus meals if you want them (breakfast + either lunch or dinner) and “Les Appartés,” which is four rooms with a common living-room area...which you can rent by the room or as a whole.  If you're staying in Les Appartés you can request cooking classes for your group there; classes are also available in the restaurant in the morning for would-be sous chefs who want to cook along with the restaurant's brigade. All the details are on the restaurant's website here.

So if you have a special occasion coming up, or want to taste the best that Provence has to offer, consider a meal at L’atelier in Arles. You won’t be sorry.

L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel
7, rue des Carmes
13200 Arles, France
Phone: +33 4 90 91 07 69

Photos: (1-3) A few dishes from Keith and Val's recent meal: raw, marinated tuna on celery root with smoky lardon, a sprinkle of peanut crumble and an edible, spicy flower; 
sweet-pea and a fava-bean puree topped with Parmesan foam and a grilled shrimp; and a Rabanel signature: filet mignon of taureau de Camargue (bull) topped with an egg yolk that's been marinated in soy sauce and rice vinegar, accompanied by "too many kinds of vegetable to count."  (4) Jean-Luc with a few of his favorite things. The ingredients are all organic and many are grown specifically for him by friends. Photo courtesy of Le Figaro. (5) The dining room is striking but simple, meant to keep the focus on the food. (6) You'll find hearty, Spanish-influenced bistro fare at Rabanel's restaurant À Côtéwhich is right next door. (7) The rental accommodation called Les Appartés. (8) One of Jean-Luc's many cookbooks. (10) Val and Keith in front of the Château de Vauvenargues (wondering, no doubt, where they should have lunch).

Keith Van Sickle is the author of "One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence," which was published in January, 2017 and is available on Amazon here. He grew up in Alameda, California, and got his first taste of overseas life during a college term in England and later, a six-month backpacking sojourn. Grateful for the scholarships that helped him pay for college, in 1987 he started a foundation that helps students from Alameda pursue their own educations. His career has been in tech, primarily on the finance side. During a five-year work assignment in Switzerland, where they lived in a village with more cows than people, Keith and his wife Val fell in love with the European expat lifestyle.  After returning to the US, Keith helped start a company whose product was so geeky he says he still doesn’t quite understand it. When the couple decided they wanted to live abroad again but were unable to find another expat gig, they decided to invent their own. Now they and their trusty dog split their time between Silicon Valley and Provence, where Keith does financial consulting for startups and Val consults in a variety of fields. Keith publishes a blog called Life in Provence and you can follow him on Twitter,  Facebook and Medium.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

You're Invited: Thanksgiving in France 2017

Because I totally live to please you guys, once again I've rounded up a great selection of Thanksgiving celebrations here in the South of France and in Paris. Who attends these gala soirées? The local expat community of course, but also French friends and other Europeans, travelers, house guests and, in one case, invited members of the American military stationed in the area. All nationalities are wanted and welcome!

Over the years, many of my French friends have told me they love the idea of celebrating this very-American holiday...to meet new people, to sample unusual foods, to learn the holiday traditions. At a friend's Thanksgiving in Provence a few years back, the Frenchman to my left said he loved how the various dishes were served all at once, all on one plate, rather than in courses. Another said he was looking forward to his first taste of cranberry sauce, which he called red fruits jam

While the literal translation is Action de Grâce, most French just call it Thanksgiving...except for my friend Philippe who refers to it as Merci Donnant, which he says "means absolutely nothing at all." 

If you plan to be in Paris for the holiday rather than down south, I've included a couple celebrations there, including one built around a cooking class.

And for those of you hosting Thanksgivings in France this year or sharing in the food prep, I've provided two great sources for all your ingredients including fresh cranberries, canned pumpkin, pecan pies and of course, the big juicy bird.

If you're hosting or know of a Thanksgiving celebration that's not listed here, email me the info (provenceblog@aol.com) and I'll happily add it.

And finally, while we're on the subject, I'm sending a very heartfelt thank you to all of you: for reading and supporting my blog...for sharing it with your friends....for commenting on the stories you particularly enjoy. I wish you all the most joyous and delicious Merci Donnant, wherever you plan to spend it!


*The American Club of the Riviera's Thanksgiving is a gala, annual affair...large, elegant and extremely popular. This year it's at the historic Hotel Negresco in Nice on Thursday Nov. 23, starting with a 12:30 Champagne reception under the cupola of the stunning Galerie Royale, followed by a traditional feast of turkey and trimmings.  Prior to the luncheon (at noon and 12:15 pm), the hotel is offering short guided tours of the lobby and its famous art, collected over the years by Madame Jeanne Augier, whose family has owned the hotel since 1957.  This year's special military guest will be Major William Connors, Liaison Officer between the US and French Army, and his wife Sarah. For those who'd like to take this opportunity to join the ACR, there's a special 14-month membership being offered. Book quickly as this even always sells out; 180 people are expected and it's first come, first served with priority going to member families. Last call for reservation payments is November 16th. All the info is on the ACR website here.  

*MonacoUSA will host its annual Thanksgiving dinner at StarsNBars (Monaco) on Thursday Nov. 23, starting at 7 pm. Seating is family style at communal tables. The menu? Stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, peas, creamed onions, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and cornbread. Desserts will be apple tart, pecan pie and brownies. Cost: 50€ members, 55€ non members, 25€ for kids under 12. To reserve: rsvpmcusa@gmail.com.


* My great friend Jon Chiri, an American chef with 20 years experience working in Provence, has just taken over the cooking school at Les Halles, the wonderful indoor food market in Avignon. (Jon ran the popular Le Marmiton cooking school at the nearby Hotel La  Mirande for many years.) This is a brand new enterprise for Jon--he hasn't even posted his offerings or pricing online yet--but he does have a name: Cuisine Centr'Halles. On Thursday Nov. 23, Jon invites you to join his family for a special holiday lunch at Les Halles from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm; choose from a Thanksgiving Plat du Jour (turkey with Jon's version of accoutrements) for 20€...or 25€ with pumpkin pie. Wine will be extra; final menu details are still to come. To reserve or be added to Jon's mailing list: jonavandno@gmail.com.

* The Anglo-American Group of Provence once again welcomes the community to celebrate Thanksgiving in Aix "with a spirit of appreciation for all that we share." The party is Sunday, Nov. 26 at 4 pm (aperitif) and 5 pm (dinner) at Restaurant Le Verguetier, 7 chemin d'Eguilles in Celony (Aix), across from the Maison de Ste-Victoire. The'll have all the traditional foods: turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Cost: 29€ members, 10€ for their kids under 12; 36€ for non-member guests and 18€ for their kids under 12. To book: Please specify number of adults and kids, write a check payable to AAGP and send it to Mari-Luz Saboui, 25 Chemin de Masse, 13710 Fuveau. Checks must be received by Nov 20. Questions? Email to: bobkeltz@aol.com

Biocoop - La Coumpagnie in Aix will host two Thanksgivings on Thursday Nov. 23. The first is a lunch which owner Rick Harrison says is "mostly for our curious French clientele - and it's always our biggest lunch turnout of the year!" The lunch will be less than 20€ pp.  (To reserve, see below.) Then comes the main event: a dinner starting at 7:30 pm. "We have a wide diversity of Americans, French and English people excited to attend," Rick says. As they did last year, the Marseille Chapter of Democrats Abroad will have their own space at the event and 40 to 50 of their members are likely to attend.  The meal will be 100% organic, 0% GMOs and 100% homemade from American family recipes! The evening starts with spiced wine and appetizers (stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs), then moves on to turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole (with cream of mushroom soup...yes!), pumpkin and pecan pies and a classic cheesecake. Prices are 27 € adults and 19 € kids under 12; wine and beer are available for purchase. Reservations required for both lunch and dinner: +33 (0)6 81 34 85 74,  rick@biocoop-lacoumpagnie.fr. 

* Near Forcalquier, the restaurant Le Bistrot de Pierrerue in Pierrerue celebrates its annual Thanksgiving on Friday Nov. 24 at 8 pm. On the menu: an amuse bouche, brined and roasted turkey with dressing (made from bio sausage and chestnuts), homemade gravy and cranberry chutney, mashed potatoes, roasted local Brussels sprouts,  pumpkin pie, apple crumble, chocolate pumpkin-seed torte and vanilla ice cream. Price is 25€ per person, without drinks. To book: +33 (0)4 92 75 33, 00, maryvonne.kutsch@orange.fr.

*At the restaurant L'Epicerie de Cecile in Beaucaire, chef/owner Cécile Guillo is all fired up to serve her two annual Thanksgiving fêtes: a dinner for the general public and a lunch for members and guests of the Avignon Chapter of Democrats Abroad.  You can attend either but the DA one is almost full up...just a couple spots left. The public dinner is Thursday Nov. 23 and seating is communal at large tables for 12. Price: 28€ for a three-course dinner with wine and live music. (To reserve for the public dinner, contact the restaurant directly: +33 (o)6 80 04 09 04.) The Democrats Abroad lunch is Sunday Nov. 26 at 12:30 pm. The price is €23 but wine and drinks are extra. To reserve for the DA lunch: joandarcnyc@gmail.com.


There seem to be more and more Thanksgiving celebrations in Paris each year, ranging from the very-casual one at the Hard Rock Cafe to the very-posh one at Ralph's, the restaurant in Ralph Lauren's elaborately appointed store on the Blvd. St.-Germain.  A good list of this year's offerings is here

* If you want to join a group rather than do your own thing in a Parisian restaurant, sign up for Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday Nov 22 with the American University Clubs of FranceFor the 2nd year, they're partnering with the famous Ladurée, known for elegant sweets since 1862, and will be dining in one of Maison Ladurée’s private salons with views on the Champs Elysées. You can have a drink there before but the evening officially starts at 7:30 in the restaurant, which is privatized for the occasion. Everyone gets a small gift to take home. Prices range from €60 to €75 pp and all the info is on the site hereQuestions? aucfrance@gmail.com.

If you can't decide whether to cook at home or go out, the cooking school La Cuisine Paris has the perfect solution for you: a Thanksgiving cooking class (in English)...followed by everyone eating lunch or dinner together overlooking the Seine. Timing is either 10 am to 2 pm or 4 pm to 8 pm on Thursday Nov. 23;  the price is 160€ pp for lunch or dinner. For more info or to reserve: +33 (0)1 40 51 78 18, contact@lacuisineparis.com.


The Paris shop called Thanksgiving sells a wide range of American foods year round, in person and online, so of course they're the Parisian's go-to for Thanksgiving supplies. But they also stock Canadian, British and Mexican products, too. And now, with new owners, there's an even-greater selection of products as well as a slightly new look to the store. (My sweet contact there, Gemma, says you should definitely pop in and say bonjour!) Orders are being taken now for fresh turkeys, homemade pecan and pumpkin pies and all the other ingredients you need, including Libby's canned 100% pure pumpkin. They also sell hard-to-find kitchen accessories (cheesecloth, roasting bags, pie plates, etc.). Note: Please be sure your online Thanksgiving orders are in by November 18. The store website is here and the online ordering site is here. Thanksgiving is located at 20 rue St. Paul, 75004 Paris, +33 (0)1 42 77 68 29, thanksgivingparis@orange.fr. 

MyAmericanMarket.com sells pretty much everything you need to prepare your holiday feast, except the turkey: they sell cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, cornbread mix, stuffing, gravy, corn syrup and more. They also have ingredients and treats for other holidays, too, such as eggnog and candy canes. They are 100% online and will deliver anywhere in Europe. You can order right up until noon on November 22nd and get your goodies shipped to you in France on Thanksgiving Day! "But then you'd need to be a very efficient chef!" Caitlin at the company says with a laugh. Specific Thanksgiving foods are on a special page here.

Above: The much-loved, often-parodied painting is Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" from 1942. Everyone in it was a Rockwell family member or friend; they were photographed individually and painted into the scene. Learn more about the painting and artist here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Write Your Heart Out in Provence

In all my years as a book lover I remember writing just a handful of fan letters to authors...and Richard Goodman was one of them. Something about his 1991 book, French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of Francereally grabbed me. That was maybe 15 years ago and we've stayed in touch ever since. So I was delighted when Richard told me he was returning to Provence to lead a writing workshop this coming summer...and even more delighted to learn it would be hosted by the non-profit Maine Media Workshops + College (MMW).

The school is based in Rockport, Maine and was formerly known as the Maine Photographic Workshops. While I've only been lucky enough to take one of their workshops, I know many people who've studied or taught there and the school gets top reviews all around.

Launched in 1973 offering photography only, MMW has since added a wide range of subjects such as film/video, book arts, writing, poetry and more. (School president Meg Weston describes what they teach as "the art and craft of storytelling.") They have a full calendar of courses in Maine, plus travel workshops (like the one I took in Provence in the late '90s), a 30-week certificate program and an MFA program that’s been rated in the top 100 fine arts graduate programs in the U.S. They offer courses at all levels, from absolute beginner and serious amateur to working professional. Every time their new catalog comes out I see ten classes I'd love to take!

But back to Richard's upcoming workshop...

Called Inspire Your Writing in Provence,  it's devoted to "exploring how this delicious corner of France can stir the senses and inspire the imagination with its light, its scents, its sights and sounds." The dates are June 24 to 29, 2018.

Richard tells me he designed it for anyone who loves to write...memoir, food writing, travel writing, personal essays or anything else...whether they're deep into a project or just beginning. "This is a chance for you to experience 'the magic' with like-minded people and really just write your heart out," he says.

The group will stay together at the charming hotel Clos de Buis in Bonnieux, one of the famously gorgeous hilltowns of the Luberon region. (I mention the hotel in my recent Luberon story here.) Mornings will be devoted to talks about craft and writing exercises. "And of course we’ll read about the region, about its storied history—its art, food and wine," Richard says. "And we’ll learn about the wild, lovely country nearby." Afternoons will be spent exploring Bonnieux and nearby villages, taking in scenery, history, culture, lavender and more. Most students will likely arrive early or stay on for additional travel.

Richard is currently living and teaching in New Orleans but he has twice spent a year in the South of France: first in a small village near Nîmes and then in Sanary-sur Mer on the Mediterranean coast. His stories about French food and culture have appeared in The New York Times, Saveur, Creative Nonfiction, French Review and Grand Tour. He has taught at MMW's  home base up in Maine-- and will teach there again this summer--but this will be his first workshop in Provence. 

Well-known cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins took Richard's workshop in Rockport last summer and loved it. "This is a wonderful opportunity," she says. "Richard is a fine, provocative, inspiring teacher." 

All the workshop details are on the MMW site here; please note the discount for early booking. If you have questions, Meg (mweston@mainemedia.edu) or Richard (richardgoodman711@gmail.com) will be happy to help. 

Hope to see you this summer in Provence!

Photos: (1) The workshop takes place in Bonnieuxthe highest perched village in the Luberon. Bonnieux’s steep upper streets are lined with 800-year-old buildings, most of  them built atop older structures and ancient caves; from the peak you get a spectacular view. The village has an upper and lower church, so folks who lived in the valley, back in the day, didn’t have to climb all the way up top to attend mass. This is the lower or "new" church, built in 1870. (2, 3)  Students will stay at Le Clos de Buis, a perfect little hotel with a super-warm vibeThe photos show breakfast and a guestroom. (4) The famous 86 steps leading up to the 12th-century "old" church in Bonnieux...and fantastic views. (5) The hotel has a large lovely garden and pool. (6) Looking north from Bonnieux: the mighty Mont Ventoux, “the Giant of Provence,” well known for many grueling stages of the annual Tour de France. (7) We've all see a million photos of lavender fields in Provence but this is one of my favorites; see the story behind it here.  The Luberon's lavender fields should be at their peak--or close--during the workshop dates. (8) In the nearby village of Menerbes, local rosés on display at Maison de la Truffe et du Vin. (9) The irresistible antique shop directly opposite the hotel: resistance is futile. (10) The ochre cliffs of the nearby village of Roussillon. (11) Richard and his students in Rockport this past summer; photo by Gussan Jalil.


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