Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Room with a View

Designed by chef Gilles Stassart and artist Laurent Grasso, this stunning glass box sits atop the 1937 Palais de Tokyo in Paris, which became a contemporary art museum in 2002. Called Art Home or Nomiya, it's an experimental restaurant serving prix fixe meals by reservation only. It's a cooking school, for adults and kids. It's a gourmet shop. And it's also a showroom for the newest Electrolux products. It's open only for one year and today is Day #183. I haven't been to see it or eat there but I definitely will next time I'm in Paris. Meanwhile you can get all the info and make reservations HERE. To see more great photos, click HERE.

Photos top to bottom: Nomiya incoming; in the afternoon light; two nighttime views.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Wines, Old Ways

Earlier this month, Time Magazine ran an interesting story about Jean-Daniel Schlaepfer (above) and other French winemakers who ferment their high-end wines in egg-shaped vessels based on amphorae — the clay jars used by the Romans centuries ago. Schlaepfer belongs to a growing number of producers who are "returning to the wisdom of the ancients in order to achieve the truest expression of a given harvest," according to Time reporter Jeffrey Iverson. The egg-shaped vessels are known as Nomblot Eggs and were created in 2001 by Burgundy-based vatmaker Marc Nomblot (www.cuves-a-vin.com), who now sells 250 of them each year.

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

Merry Christmas!

Photo by Kevin Meredith via Flickr.com. You can see many more of his whimsical and wonderful images there and here and here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Cocktail Drinkers' Guide to Gardening: December

Born in Hampshire, England, James Clay is an artist and sculptor who settled down (somewhat) in St. Remy close to 20 years ago. Over time, 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 varieities of bamboo, flowering plants and shrubs. James knows everything about gardening in Provence. Plus, he likes to drink. So he combines both of his passions in this monthly column. It's a great idea, no? This month, the third installment, James suggests some great holiday gifts to delight the gardener in your life...and a classic cold-weather drink to go with. To read James' previous columns, click on his name in the labels at the very bottom of this post. Enjoy!

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.

Ingredients:

3 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
12 cloves
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.

Season's Greetings!

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

Success and Savoir Faire

Mireille Guiliano, who wrote French Women Don't Get Fat, is one of those women who just do things with more grace and style than most. Lucky for us, her newest book divulges more than a few of her secrets.
The author of the bestselling French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for all Seasons, Mireille spent more than 20 years as the CEO of Clicquot Inc., the American division of the celebrated French Champagne company. Under her leadership, the brand grew from less than 1% of the US market to more than 25%. She's a champion of women in business and a tireless mentor.
Mireille retired from Clicquot a few years ago to write, consult, lecture, travel and explore new opportunities. And just as she made headlines with her pleasure-oriented, common sense approach to weight control, her new book emphasizes the joie d'vivre of finding joy, balance and success in the working world. It's called Women, Work & The Art of Savoir Faire (Atria Books; $24.95; October , 2009).
Mireille is a friend of mine and I'm a huge fan. At a time when she could kick back and just coast, she's working harder than ever, always on multiple projects at once. Much of what she earns--or all of it, for all I know--goes to charity. Mireille has a complicated busy life, dashing between homes in New York, Paris and Provence, and yet I've never once heard her complain: about a delayed flight, a missing suitcase, bad meal, bad day. She maintains a huge network of interesting, artistic friends and hosts a large pack of them in Provence each summer, pampering everyone with great food and drink, delicious excursions and elegant evening parties. Plus, she has what looks like a supremely happy marriage to a man she obviously adores: Edward Guiliano, a university president. And she always looks great, of course.
Mireille's newest book has received wide publicity for its warm, no-nonsense approach...and has already been picked up by a dozen foreign publishers. It provides strategies, examples, anecdotes and valuable lessons in an easygoing, chatty style. It's an easy, fun read...a couple nights is all it will take. In it, you'll find solid tips on everything from acing a job interview to surviving the indignities of a long business trip to hosting a dinner in a restaurant...from someone who views herself not as a management consultant or career guru but rather an accomplished professional with a uniquely female perspective on business in both America and abroad.
Depending on where you live, order the book from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or amazon.fr. For more info on Mireille: mireilleguiliano.com

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Macarons: The New Cupcakes?

Remember how, a couple years back, cupcakes became the new new thing? Just last month, in fact, I spent $5.25 on one in a tiny and very posh cupcake boutique called More in Chicago because I just had to know what a bacon-and-maple-syrup cupcake would taste like (answer: good). But now, in terms of foodie lust and adulation, I'm seeing cupcakes being nudged aside by macarons. Have you noticed? I'm seeing them everywhere, including--wait for it!--at Starbucks. Yep, from Sunday Dec 13th until Dec 26th, 3,500 Starbuck's coffee shops across the U.S. will be selling this 12-piece selection, made in France by Château Blanc. The box includes two pieces each of coffee, pistachio, raspberry, chocolate, vanilla, and lemon. I can't imagine they would give either Pierre Hermé's or Ladurée's famous ones a run for their money but you gotta give Starbuck's an "A" for effort, no? The packaging is pretty, the "limited time only" implies freshness and, considering les macarons sell in chic Parisian patisseries for 1 or 2 euro each, this $9.95 box is a pretty good deal as well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Postcards from Provence

If, like I am, you're a fan of the work of Provence-based artist Julian Merrow-Smith, you can now own a lovely 160-page book containing 140 full-color plates of his paintings.

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

This Week on the Web...


There's lots of fun stuff online this week about our favorite place. Here are a few things you might enjoy...


The First Lady of France donned a blue jumpsuit and visited the aerobatic squadron Patrouille de France at an exhibition in Salon-de-Provence on Friday. Go here.

And here's the Daily Mail on those pesky Carla rumors. (Isn't the whole "is she or isn't she?" thing sort of like buying a ticket to the circus and being surprised to find elephants?)

Canadian journalist Todd Babiak, his wife and their two young daughters are spending an educational year in France. Here, they travel to Strasbourg to explore French culture through its holy sites and cuisine.

This is fun, from the Telegraph: Anthony Peregrine tells all about leading a guided coach tour of Provence.

And from the same writer, a lovely piece about spring in Provence.

Some yummy reasonably priced rosés are reviewed in the Washington Post.

While we're on wine, the French government has approved wine tastings on university campuses.

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.

On the blog MyMelange, guest blogger Cherrye Moore shares her early expat experiences in Paris. Read it here.

And here are Peter Mayle's thoughts on, um, corkscrews.

Our favorite local body care company L'Occitane plans to go public.

The Ottowa Citizen talks about renting a villa in Provence.

The blog Why Travel To France has some cute sidewalk graffiti.

Here's a very cool new Provence tourism website. Make sure to click on both the left side and the right.

And finally, some news on endangered French cheeses. (Should you see one in your garden, don't shoot!)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pompeii...the Easy Way

Google’s Street View, which lets you zoom into Google Maps and stroll through city streets in 3D, is amazing in its own right (they've done a pretty comprehensive survey of Provence, by the way). But it just got even more amazing with the addition of the ancient ruins of Pompeii.
Pompeii —the partially buried Roman city near Naples, Italy — is one of the most amazing sights one can see in one’s lifetime. The city was destroyed during an eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., but after it was rediscovered in 1738 and excavated in the late 19th century, it became one of the most important archaeological finds (and tourist attractions) of all time.
Now, you can explore it in 3D via Google’s Street View. Check it out here. And thanks to the great tech website Mashable for this story.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Saturday in Avignon

If you'll be in Avignon Saturday Dec. 5th--perhaps to visit the charming Christmas market on the Place Horloge--you might want to check out one or both of these English-speaking events.

The first is the monthly BookShare rendezvous, when members lend and discuss current English-language books. It's 4 to 5:30 pm and visitors are welcomed. It happens at the Zeste Cafe, 62 Place des Corps Saints, Avignon. For more info, contact Dennis Shibut: 09.52.84.34.79, 06.60.84.32.31 or d.shibut@free.fr.

Then in the evening, Democrats Abroad France and the Avignon Chapter of Democrats Abroad will co-host a dinner with guest of honor and speaker Curtis Roosevelt, grandson of President FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt. (Yep, that's him with grandpa, above.) All are welcome.

Roosevelt's career has included several executive positions with the United Nations and educational institutions, as well as TV documentaries and writing. He currently acts as historian for the Roosevelt family, lives in retirement near Avignon and will soon be on a U.S. tour to present his latest book Too Close to the Sun.

Roosevelt grew up in the White House with his grandparents, and was witness to many momentous events of the period. He'll address the theme: "Comparing the Political Dynamicsof the Mid-1930’s with 2009: Presidents Roosevelt and Obama," or, more informally, "Comparisons are Odious--Let’s Have Fun!"

The event will be at the Hotel Cloitre Saint Louis (Avignon) starting at 7:30 p.m. There will be 3-course prix-fixe menu, preceded by an apéritif, and with wine and coffee, for 40€ per person.

To RSVP: jack.turbiville@numericable.fr or 04 90 86 20 64.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Rebirth of Mamounia

The legendary Mamounia Hotel re-opened in Marrakesh last month following an extensive three-year €120-million restoration by French architect and interior designer Jacques Garcia. The powerful Moorish architecture is unchanged but Garcia's signatures--strong use of light, color and theatrical perspective--are evident throughout. The hotel now looks like the gorgeous Oriental palace it once was.
Built in 1923, "Mamou" has hosted a global roster of the rich and famous; Winston Churchill declared it “the most lovely spot in the whole world” and regularly used it as his winter quarters. His granddaughter is still said to be a regular visitor.
In its newest incarnation, Mamounia has two restaurants headed by Michelin star chefs: L’Italien (run by Alfonso Iaccarino of Don Alfonso 1890 in Sant’ Agata, Italy) and Le Francais (headed by Jean-Pierre Vigato of Apicius, Paris). A third restaurant, Le Marocain, is set in a modern Moroccan pavilion within the hotel’s lush gardens. Mamounia’s exec chef is Fabrice Lasnon, former exec chef at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin: the GM is Didier Picquot, from Lyford Cay Members Club in the Bahamas.
The gardens, noted for their ancient olive groves and wide array of flora, cover almost 20 acres and date to the 18th century when they were given to the Prince as a wedding gift.
Rounding out the amenities are a pool and pool restaurant, five bars, a fitness pavillion, tennis
and a 27,000-sq.-ft. spa where you can indulge in 80 different treatments.
La Mamounia has 136 rooms, 71 suites and three Riads, each with three bedrooms and private pool. Rates begin at €512.
To get there: Ryan Air flies from Marseille to Marrakech. Easy Jet flies from Paris and Lyon to Marrakech. Royal Air Maroc flies from Paris direct to Marrakech and from Marseilles to Marrakech, via Casablanca. Transavia flies from Paris to Marrakesh.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

C'est Délicieux, Non?

I was poking around online, looking for a great photo of a macaron (don't ask), when I came across this mosaic and just had to share. It was made by a Dublin-based blogger who compiled it from photos found on Flickr.com (and she credits all the photographers, so I'm thinking I don't have to). I found it here: http://lopsideddimple.wordpress.com/

Friday, November 20, 2009

Todd and Gina's Excellent Adventure: #3

Canadians Todd and Gina Babiak are spending a year in Provence with their young daughters Avia and Esme. Todd is writing about it for the Edmonton Journal and other papers. He's a terrific writer and we're following the family's adventures on Provence Post. In this weeks column, Avia (yes, she's named for a French gas station, sort of), starts school at age 3. Click
here to read it. But watch out--you might cry a little...
Photo: Classroom assistant Marie De Sousa, left, and École Maternelle teacher Amandina Doize (La maîtresse), right, with Avia at École Jules Ferry. Photo by Todd Babiak.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Looking for a Little Place in the Country?

Are you planning to buy a second home, holiday home, or permanent residence outside the U.S.? Pie Town Productions, the American producers of the hit show House Hunters International on HGTV, are looking for "lively and interesting English-speaking homebuyers from any country looking to buy outside the US...and animated, engaging English-speaking real estate agents who sell property to buyers anywhere outside the US." The company will send its crew abroad in early 2010 to tour homes with buyers and their agents. "The show will expose viewers worldwide to real estate opportunities on a global scale," says producer Holly Schwartz. "It’s fun to see all types of homes, small and large, old and new. We definitely want to give our viewers a chance to see the differences in home styles and real estate transactions. And of course, since it’s a TV show we want buyers and agents who are entertaining, fun and outgoing." Holly needs people who are seriously planning to buy in early 2010 and who would be available for filming in early 2010 for approximately 3-4 days. Buyers and agents who participate will be paid. For more info, visit the company's website here or email Holly (holly_schwartz@pietown.tv) or call US phone 1-818-205-0642. (If you're interested in the house pictured, it's located near Vichy and listed for $9 million here.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cocktail Drinkers' Guide to Gardening #2

In a post dated September 25th, I introduced you to James Clay and his new monthly column. And then I forgot to post October. So we'll pick it up again with November, and call this column #2. If you're dying to know what James wrote about in October, drop me a note or post a comment below and I'll happily send it to you.

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!

Chin Chin!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Feel The Love

Jynell St. James is a Melbourne-based artist and designer who creates small highly graphic posters and sells them through the online retailer Etsy. (If you don't know Etsy, it's great fun--check it out here.) Jynell says France is her "favorite place in the whole world" and you'll see many French-inspired designs in her collection. This poster, called Paris City of Love, is available 8" x 10" ($20) or 16" x 20"($40). It's printed onto A4 (8.26x11.7") Premium Ultra Gloss paper with Ultrachrome K3 Pigment Inks and shipped in a sturdy "stay flat" mailer or tube. (You can also order it printed archivally, in cream-on-black or black-on-cream.) Shipping ranges from $5 to $12, depending on the size and destination. For more info or to see more of Jynell's work: http://www.etsy.com/shop/theloveshop

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Want to Talk About It?


If you live here in Provence and have ever felt the need for some professional counseling, but the idea of sharing your confidences in French gives you the horrors…help is at hand.

Dr. Tracy Cooper is a British counselor and psychologist now living in Malaucène in the Vaucluse. Tracy has a PhD in Psychology and holds a BACP-accredited postgraduate diploma in counseling. She worked at the Tom Allan Counselling Centre (Glasgow) before moving to France, and set up Provence Counselling specifically to help ex-pats.

Tracy explains her particular approach: “My clients come with the problems that occur wherever one lives, e.g. depression, anxiety, bereavement, relationship difficulties, and alcohol problems. However, expats also encounter additional difficulties such as isolation from friends and family, and lack of the usual support networks that we rely on in our home country. I believe that when clients experience warmth, empathy, and a non-judgmental attitude, within a safe and secure environment, it can be pivotal in effecting personal growth and change”

Tracy works in Avignon and Malaucène with individuals and couples from around the Vaucluse. For clients who live further afield she can conduct sessions via webcam, Skype, Windows Live Messenger or phone.

Individual sessions last about an hour and Tracy charges 40€. For couples, a typical session is around 90 minutes, and the fee is 65€. To learn more about Tracy’s approach or for contact details, visit: http://www.provencecounselling.com/

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Kinder, Gentler French Food

What's the big trend in Parisian restaurants these days? Bistros, of course, run by top chefs who are cooking great food and serving it in a casual atmosphere at reasonable prices. Christian Constant, former chef of the Crillon, is one example: with two Michelin stars, he left the ritzy hotel and now runs four of his own bistros, all of them small and relatively inexpensive, on the same Parisian street. National Public Radio (U.S.) just did a nice feature on this trend. You can hear it or read it by clicking here:

npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114250336

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

Appy Alowine!


In last Sunday's New York Times, Peter Mayle wrote about Halloween in Provence and, predictably, it's funny. Read it here.

Illustration by Katia Fouquet via The New York Times.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

SWF Seeks Date for El Bulli

So is this the next big foodie romantic comedy waiting to happen or what?

Jules Clancy is a cookbook author and food blogger in Sydney, Australia and the type of girl who plans her holidays around restaurant reservations. "I'm always thinking about my next meal and have excellent table manners!" she says.

More than a year ago, Jules and her boyfriend somehow got themselves a reservation at chef Ferran Adria's Michelin three-star El Bulli on the Costa Brava in Catalonia--thought by many to be the best restaurant in the world. They made plans for a trip to Spain and dinner on December 15th.

It's notoriously difficult to snag a table at El Bulli: in 2008 there were more than 2 million requests for 8000 reservations.
Then then the couple broke up--and Jules got custody of the reservation. "Last month, sadly, the Irishman and I parted ways," Jules wrote on her blog. "And so I found myself with a ticket to Spain, a reservation at the best restaurant in the world--and no one to share it with."

So Jules has decided to hold a competition to find herself a blind date for the evening. To enter, you email her (jules@thestonesoup.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:
thestonesoup.com/blog/2009/10/help-jules-find-a-date-for-el-bulli/
Bon Chance and Bon Appetit!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

What is it...

...about these little drawings and captions by Andre Jordan? To see his website, click here.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Man Shops Globe, Starting With France


Keith Johnson has the job everyone wants. He travels the world for the American retailer Anthropologie, buying beautiful antiques, art, decor and textiles for the stores to sell or use as display. He also commissions original pieces or finds the perfect one-of-a-kind for the company to knock off. Keith travels half the year, scouring antique fairs, flea markets, artists' ateliers, tiny shops, museums and factories.

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:

sundancechannel.com/man-shops-globe

In conjunction with the show, Sundance is staging a contest with a shopping trip for two to France as the grand prize. To enter:

sundancechannel.com/man-shops-globe/sweepstakes/

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:

fastcompany.com/magazine/65/sophisticated.html



Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tour d'Argent Cellar Sale

The landmark Parisian restaurant La Tour d'Argent, which dates back to 1582, is cleaning out its 450,000-bottle wine cellar, considered one of the best in the world. The Associated Press says the Michelin three-star is putting 18,000 bottles up for auction in December and that the event "has captured the imagination of French wine lovers." Tour d'Argent is selling mostly wine but also some very old spirits, such as three bottles of Clos du Griffier Cognac from 1788, the year before the French Revolution, as well as a bottle of 1875 Armagnac.
The cellar of the Left Bank restaurant, known for pressed duck and spectacular views of Notre Dame, is an important part of its history. A sign marks the spot where a brick wall was built in 1940 to hide the best bottles during the Nazi occupation.

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.

Chief sommelier David Ridgway says the restaurant wants to cut down on wines it has in multiples to vary and modernize its selection. Buyers can rest assured the bottles aren't counterfeit — a major problem in the industry — because the restaurant bought them directly from vintners.
For more info go here: piasa.auction.fr/UK/
Or read the AP article on the NPR website:
or in the Times:
Photo: Four bottles of 1875 Armagnac Vieux, covered in a black fungus that looks "like matted cat fur," have been unearthed from the labyrinthine wine cellar at La Tour d'Argent. The restaurant will sell 18,000 bottles at auction this December. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Todd & Gina's Excellent Adventure, Part #2

Canadian journalist Todd Babiak, his wife Gina and their two daughters, are spending a year in Provence. Todd is writing about it for newspapers back in Canada. On Sept. 20th I published his first column, the one about the stinky mattress. Here's his second, about Speedos and rules and France. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Les Baux Rocks!

Italian photographer Max Belloni lives fulltime outside Turin but shoots frequently in Provence. He often works with a technique called HDR, which involves the layering of images to create a deeply saturated effect, but says this photo was taken traditionally. Max writes: "Walking around the base of the castle of Les Baux de Provence, I saw this nice texture effect of the water flowing in the centuries on the vertical rocks, and I couldn’t resist the shot." To see more of Max's gorgeous photos: maxbelloni.com. To contact him directly: maxbelloni@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How Great Is This Photo?

I found this 2CV on FabulouslyFrench and just had to share.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso Slept Here

Ewa Zebrowski is a Montreal-based photographer who recently spent 10 "magical" days in Provence. She sent me the following photos and text, which I'm delighted to share with you here. Her contact info appears at the end of the photo essay.

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, ezebrowski@hotmail.com

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