Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Photos top to bottom: Nomiya incoming; in the afternoon light; two nighttime views.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Read the article HERE.
Photo: Jean-Daniel Schlaepfer of Domaine de Lauzières in Mouriès, Provence, with his Nomblot Egg fermentation tanks. Photo courtesy of Time Magazine.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
December: Manure and Mulled Wine
I don't know about you but I love both--and this is the season to enjoy them! Not only is it party time and I get to tell my "Joke of the Year" (as often as I can), but I get to spread manure too! I don't see why you should be spared my joke so here we go.
"What did the inflatable headmaster of the inflatable school say to the inflatable schoolboy who brought a pin to school?"
"You've let me down, you've let the school down and, furthermore, you've let yourself down."
I wonder why I like this joke so much? Probably because it sums up my educational background. School was such a letdown.
If you're a gardener then you already know why I love manure. If you're not, but your partner or friends are, then I have some original ideas for Christmas presents. Go along to your local nursery or garden centre and check out the manure they have in plastic sacks. Horse manure is the Rolls Royce of manures and is always generally available; if you prefer to make the grand gesture and can find a horse riding school, a small truck load of horse manure delivered to your loved one will thrill a true gardener to his or her core.
You'll be amazed by what we gardeners consider fantastic Christmas gifts...and here are a few more ideas. No gardener is complete without a good pair of secateurs; you can make up a basket of small gifts including seed packets, balls of string (I'm always delighted to receive string!), plant labels, bulbs, flower pots, etc. Don't forget the hyacinths, daffodils and narcissi that are already potted up and almost in flower.
We are lucky here in Provence to have great weather later in the year so we can still be outside enjoying the garden. My potted citrus trees have all been taken indoors by now to protect them from the frost. I water them very infrequently at this time of year but they still need a little now and again. It is worth cutting out any dead wood and then spraying them for red spider mite, which love citrus trees.
Like many French gardeners, I am totally won over by Bouille Bordelaise (copper sulphate). I'm sure you've noticed it everywhere in the region and afar. Years ago, I always wondered why some house fronts had a blue hue to them, not realizing that in fact the owners had sprayed their vines with "bouille" as it is commonly called and, by late winter, all the leaves had gone and exposed the stained walls. My first experience with spraying bouille was unfortunate as the wind changed direction and I found myself covered from head to foot in a heavy shower of blue.
At least I had the satisfaction of knowing I was safe from getting mildew. My gardener has taught me so much over the last 13 years and one of those things is that Bouille Bordelaise is indispensable, so add that to your Christmas shopping list!
Now that the subject of manure is out of the way, then let us turn to something that smells sweeter: mulled wine. This recipe is by the bottle of wine so just add more bottles to cater for as many people as you invite over.
3 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 lemon peel
1 bottle of red wine
1/4 cup of brandy
Bring water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon peel to a boil in a stainless steel pot, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the wine; now bring back to a drinking temperature BUT DO NOT BOIL. Then add brandy.
Photo by Karen Trinko. To see and purchase her work, click here or go here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62982325@N00/
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Merrow-Smith is a British artist based in Bedoin (near Avignon), whose still- life paintings are inspired by objets trouvés, pottery and seasonal produce from local markets. His landscapes, meanwhile, represent scenes within walking distance of his studio.
The inspiration for his Postcard from Provence painting project and website came in 2004 with the arrival, deep in the French countryside, of a high-speed internet connection and Duane Keiser's "A Painting a Day" blog. The daily painting blog format has since been taken up by hundreds of artists attracted by the commitment a daily practice demands and the opportunity to share their work with people all over the world. Postcard from Provence has gone on to receive international acclaim in the media being featured in The New York Times, The London Times, USAToday, The Sunday Telegraph and The Guardian.
The 8½" x 10" book will be printed on acid free heavyweight Japanese art paper and published in Spring. When it's released, the price will be €24.95 ($34.95) +shipping but Merrow-Smith is now accepting pre-orders of signed copies for €19.95 ($29.95). If you pre-order, shipping is free. And if you decide to make a holiday gift of a pre-ordered signed copy, in addition to free shipping Merrow-Smith will send a 'Postcard from Provence' card from you to a special person in time for the holidays.
The artist is also offering free shipping on all prints.
To see details, paintings, info on ordering and more, go to: http://www.shiftinglight.com/
Monday, December 7, 2009
Chefs love the breads from this French-style bakery on Manhattan's Lower East Side, with a name that channels Provence. Now Pain d'Avignon offers retail as well, baking 50 different naturally fermented types each day.
The blog Why Travel To France has some cute sidewalk graffiti.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
For info: http://www.mamounia.com/
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
First, a bit about James: Born in Hampshire, England, he's an artist and sculptor who settled down (somewhat) in St. Remy close to 20 years ago. Over the years, he lovingly created a gorgeous one-hectare garden, filled with fruit, palm, pine, and olive trees (he has 60 olive trees, all of them transplanted), plus many varieties of bamboo, flowering plants and shrubs. James knows everything about gardening in Provence. Plus, he likes to drink. So in this monthly column, he'll serve up essential month-by-month garden tips...with cocktails. It's a great idea, no? Without further ado, James tells us what's happening in his garden--and his glass--this month.
November: Olives and Martinis
Of course it was the Romans who brought olive trees to Provence (Provincia Romana) and how lucky we are that they didn't forget to pack them! Trees are my favourite thing on this planet (apart from my partner, who may or may not actually be from this planet). I believe olive trees to be mystical, magical and so reassuring. I say this as they live so long. Some are reputed to be 700 to 800 years old; the one picture above, in Greece, is said to be 1500 years old.
Here in Provence, I find olive trees are a much discussed topic. Everyone seems to have an opinion about the planting, pruning and harvesting to the extent that, when I first arrived here, I found it all very bewildering and somewhat off putting. If I had ever thought about olives then it was only as decoration for a martini!
Have you noticed the olive trees in our area and how many seem to be made up of four or five smaller trunks forming a circle at the base? This, in fact, is unusual, as like most trees they should start growth from a single trunk. The reason they are like this is because in 1956 there was a tremendous frost and at the same time a mistral; the temperature plummeted and thousands of trees were killed over just a few days. Fortunately, all was not lost and over the next few years these trees began to produce shoots around the dead trunks (which were then cut down to ground level). As a result of careful pruning, these shoots are now what we see today, 50 years or so later, happily producing tons of olives every year.
Before I start on about Saint Cecilia (Ste. Cecile), it's time to knock together quickly a dry martini. Pour one and a half ounces of gin and the same of dry vermouth into your shaker (or very large glass) already full of ice, leave for a few moments to chill, then serve into a V-shaped cocktail glass, adding an olive to finish.
You can't escape Saint Cecilia and neither can I, as she is the patron Saint of music and my partner always honours her with non-stop music throughout the day. But also her name day falls on November 22nd and this, by tradition, is the date when one is supposed to begin harvesting olives. Have you ever picked olives? Doing so on a cold, bright, sunny November day, it often strikes me what an ancient, timeless occupation this is. There is a feeling of time standing still and forming a mystical link with our ancestors. I do wonder at times whether it is the beauty of Provence that makes me a poet manque or just many years of cocktail drinking.
Once your crop is in, then it's off to the mill. Some mills actually ask you to make a reservation. I found a very good one some years back (no appointment required): Moulin Saint-Michel in Mouries (Cours Paul Revoil, 04-90-47-50-40). They're very friendly and well organized. It's a great experience to take your crop along and line up with all the other harvesters to have the olives weighed in. Last year I arrived late in the evening and there was a crowd waiting, everyone chatting away and swapping advice. You can collect your virgin oil after mid January.
If you're thinking of planting olives at this time of year, it's possible but better to leave it ‘til the spring as at times there can be early frosts. It is said here that you "plant olives for your grandchildren" (considering the time they take to grow) but if like me you are somewhat impatient you can buy more mature trees. I often see trucks carrying huge olive trees, which are being transplanted, and would like to follow them to see their new homes. (I wonder if I am alone in this?)
I hope now, while enjoying your dry martini, stirring it gently with an olive on a stick, that you’re able to remember all this trivia that I've imparted!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Photos: Many meals at Constant's restaurant Les Cocottes are served in homey, oven-to-table casserole dishes.Chef Christian Constant (left) and chef de cuisine Stephane Schmidt in the kitchen of Le Violon D'Ingres — one of four small, lively restaurants that Constant has opened on rue Saint-Dominique in Paris. Photos by Clay McLachlan via npr.org
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
So Jules has decided to hold a competition to find herself a blind date for the evening. To enter, you email her (email@example.com) and tell her why you would be her best dinner companion. "Points will be given for humor and creativity," she says. The deadline is Sunday November 15th. For all the details, click here:
Bon Chance and Bon Appetit!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Anthropologie if you don't know it, sells a fantastic and very unique mix of clothing, housewares, tableware, books, jewelry, fashion accessories, linens, art and crafts. At last count, they had 120 U.S. stores open; they're now expanding outside the U.S., beginning with a 10,000-square-foot London store opening tomorrow (Friday) at 158 Regent St. (anthropologie.com or anthropologie.co.uk).
And Keith is now the subject of his own TV show, called Man Shops Globe. It's on the Sundance Channel and it's great fun. In Episode #1, he runs around Paris, a large antiques fair in Avignon and the shops of Isle sur la Sorgue. He also visits with painter Aurelie Alvarez, who lives and works near Avignon, and he buys three of her pretty canvases.
The first episode of Man Shops Globe also introduced us to Michel Barma (abilisexport.com), Keith's agent in France, who lives and works in St. Remy and accompanies Keith on shopping forays to help with sourcing, negotiating, buying, and the complicated process of getting the merchandise to the Anthropologie warehouses.
In each half-hour program, Keith will travel to a new country such as Holland, India or Turkey. Michel and his wife Gabrielle will appear in a future episode, which takes Keith to Tunisia (where the glassware above was photographed).
For video clips of the show, go here:
In conjunction with the show, Sundance is staging a contest with a shopping trip for two to France as the grand prize. To enter:
If you'd like to know more about Anthropologie, the magazine Fast Company did a terrific article a few years back. You can read it here:
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Estimated prices at the Dec. 7th and 8th sale, by French auctioneer Piasa, range from 10€ to 2,500 to 3,000€ for each bottle of the 1788 Cognac, one of which will go to charity.
Among the wines on sale are Chateau Lafite Rothschild (1970, 1982, 1997), Cheval Blanc (1928, 1949, 1966) and Chateau Margaux (1970, 1990). The total sale is expected to bring in around €1 million.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
What would a trip to Provence be without the art? I left for Provence knowing I wanted to see the Cezanne-Picasso exhibition at the Musee Granet in Aix. I never imagined that I would have a chance to see the atelier where Cezanne had worked, the bed where Van Gogh had slept and the chateau where Picasso spent the last days of his life. It's one thing to go to a museum and see great works of art. It's another to experience the places where great artists worked and lived.
I had heard about the asylum where Van Gogh lived at the end of his life (1889-1890), located near St. Remy de Provence some 32 km from Arles. I never expected to discover such a beautiful garden, building and cloister and to be so moved standing in his room seeing his small bed and seeing, with my eyes, the same view he had seen years ago. I could feel his presence and the burden of those years. I had not realized how prolific he had been while living at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, producing many paintings including the acclaimed, well known Starry Night (1889).
In Aix I discovered that Cezanne’s atelier was close to the center of town. It's as Cezanne left it. One enters the studio on the second floor, a large high space full of selected remnants of Cezanne’s life. One sees his clothes still hanging on hooks on the wall, a few still life arrangements, his easels, paints and other reminders of his presence. One wonders who made the decision to keep the place intact and if in fact the objects are exactly where he had left them. The light in the atelier is bright, north light...a place for contemplation. While walking to his studio one notices a black and white archival photo of the atelier on permanent display in the street. Today the building is virtually hidden by vegetation.
To my great disappointment, I only saw the exterior of the Chateau de Vauvernagues. Even though we arrived at the Musee Granet before 9 a.m. to purchase tickets, we were too late. Apparently they had sold out shortly after they went on sale in January 2009 and only 30 or so are available daily. Nevertheless we decided to drive to the small town of Vauvernagues situated at the foot of Mont Sainte-Victoire, so important in the work of Cezanne. We hoped to catch a glimpse of the chateau and hoped, having traveled all the way from Canada, that we would be allowed to visit once there. A naïve wish! In 1958 Picasso had moved to the chateau. Today he and Jacqueline Rogue are buried there. The chateau is furnished and decorated as Picasso left it; many bronze sculptures remain, although there are no longer any paintings either by Picasso or from his private collection.
The chateau is owned by Catherine Hutin, Jacqueline's daughter by her first marriage. She has opened the premises to the public for the first (and possibly last) time since 1973, in conjunction with the Musee Granet exhibiton.I was sad and frustrated that I was not able to visit Picasso’s last residence. I especially wanted to see the mural he had painted in the bathroom. I wondered what Picasso would have thought of these bureaucratic restrictions. What sense to have a museum that is virtually inaccessible to the public?
Artists die and leave a legacy of their work behind. We visit museums and galleries to see their work, but rarely do we see the places where they lived and worked, retrace their history and come to more intimately understand their parcours. These places of creativity give us a deeper appreciation. They remind us that these artists really existed in time and space, at once a humbling and inspiring realization.
Photos: Cezanne's Fruit, Van Gogh's Bed, Picasso's Chateau; copyright Ewa Zebrowski, 2009.
For info on the Cezanne Picasso Show and the Château de Vauvenargues: http://www.picasso-aix2009.fr/uk/exposition_granet.asp.
For info on the Atelier Paul Cezanne http://www.atelier-cezanne.com.
For info on Saint Paul de Mausole Monastery in St. Remy: 04 90 92 77 00.
To contact Ewa Zebrowski: www.ewazebrowski.com, firstname.lastname@example.org