Author Georgeanne Brennan, who splits her time between Provence and California, is happiest when she's at the table...in either place. Read on for her best Provence insider tips. (Photo by Jessica Theroux.)
Georgeanne recommends the Monday brocante market on the Cours Saleya in Nice (top), where she has bought vintage linens, ceramic asparagus dishes, an antique holder for leg of lamb...and much more. (Photo courtesy of Fleamapket.com.) She also loves the Saturday market in Riez (and the sausages!).
Georgeanne's favorite gift for friends back home is colorful soap from the market; her favorite is the lavender.
I asked Georgeanne to recommend some great wines under 10€. She loves the crisp rosé and aromatic Rolle--also known as Vermentino--from Domaine de Saint Ferreol, between Barjols and Ponteves...and often takes guests to visit the vineyard.
Favorite beach? Frejus Plage; she takes the train to avoid traffic and parking hassles.
When she wants to splurge, Georgeanne heads for Alain Ducasse's country inn Hostellerie de l'Abbaye de la Celle, for the cooking of chef Nicolas Pierantoni, the service and the elegant surroundings. (Chef photo courtesy of MarieFrance.fr.)
Georgeanne looks forward to exploring more of "the back country of Nice," including villages such as Saorge (above) and La Brigue.
In her newest book, My Culinary Journey (just out this month), Georgeanne continues to chronicle her love affair with Provence: its food, festivals and colorful characters. You can buy the book on Amazon here...but if you buy it here instead, Georgeanne will sign it and pop a jar of Herbes de Provence into your package. Read our Q&A just below.
Over the years, I’ve turned to well-known Provence insiders—people like Peter Mayle and Patricia Wells--to find out where they like to eat, to shop, to take houseguests, etc. And these Q&As have been super popular with my readers. So this week I posed some quick questions to another well-known foodie/author, Georgeanne Brennan, and asked her to share some of her favorite “addresses” and best tips.
Georgeanne is an award-winning, American cookbook author, journalist and entrepreneur who keeps a long-time home in Provence (in the Upper Var region, not far from Aups), where she once lived year-round, keeping goats and making and selling cheese. Her cookbook, The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence (1998) won a James Beard Award, and her memoir, A Pig in Provence (2008) was rated as one of the “Top 50 Best Food Memoirs” by AbeBooks. Georgeanne’s newest book, out this month, is called My Culinary Journey: Food and Fêtes of Provence (Yellow Pear Press) and it continues her memoir with 40 recipes, gorgeous photos…and stories of her favorite local fêtes and festivals including the Feast of the Fishermen in Le Brusc in June, the Lavender Festival in Sault on August 15 and the Gypsy Fête in Saintes-Maries-de-la Mer in May. These days, Georgeanne lives primarily in northern California, where she runs her on-line company, La Vie Rustic, Sustainable Living in the French Style, and is working on a cookbook of the same name. She travels several times a year to Provence and knows the region exceedingly well. Here’s our Q&A…
Q: Current favorite casual restaurant and why?
A: Auberge de la Tour in Aups. It has a large outdoor space, with deep shade, superb wood fired pizzas, and main courses such as duck with fig and honey sauce and steak frites. It’s family owned and equally good for an intimate dinner for two or a large party with children.
Q: Current favorite splurge restaurant?
A: Alain Ducasse’s Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle, in the quiet village of La Celle, adjacent to a 12th-century abbey. The food is fresh and brilliantly prepared by the young chef Nicolas Pierantoni , a native of La Celle. The service is impeccable but never fussy, and eating on the terrace of the large walled garden is so civilized yet so simple. Rustic yet elegant Provence at its very best!
Q: Favorite beach? Any tips on parking, beach clubs, best beach restaurant, etc?
A: Frejus Plage. My friends and I take the train from Les Arcs to Frejus, about a 25-minute ride, walk a few blocks from the station and arrive directly on the promenade along a long stretch of beach. We sometimes lunch at one of the restaurants bordering the sea, or, get a table at one of the restaurants directly on the beach. Great for mussels and rose wine at the end of the day before taking the return train. Taking the train means no parking or driving problems. Do bring your own umbrella and chairs, if you want them, and towels.
Q: One decor shop you love and why?
A: My favorite is not a shop but rather the all-day Nice brocante market, held every Monday in the Old City. I always find more to buy than I can possibly carry, from a vintage manche a gigot (leg-of-lamb holder) to vintage linens and ceramic asparagus dishes. Wonderful shopping! And be sure to take a break for socca and a glass of rose at one of the cafes.
Q: Tell us about one of your favorite outdoor markets.
A: I like the Saturday market in Riez, in the Alpes of Haute Provence. It has lots of food of every kind, kitchen hardware, and interesting clothing – I always find lots of things I like – and, if I get there early enough, I can buy rolls of ready-to-cut-and-fry panisse (chick pea flour fritters). The cafes are numerous. It’s a bit like an old-fashioned regional market. And, part of the allure for me is that Riez has a Roman history and was a bishop see from the 5th century to the French Revolution.
Q: One great gift you always buy in the market for friends back home?
A: How can I resist the lavender soap?
Q: Favorite local wine under 10€ per bottle?
A: Domaine de Saint Ferreol, between Barjols and Ponteves, has excellent Coteaux Varois wines for under 8 € per bottle. I especially like their clean, crisp rosé and aromatic Rolle, also known as Vermentino. And, the property has some charming B&B accommodations too.
Q: Favorite winery to take out of town friends and why?
A: See answer just above.
Q: Next place in France you're dying to check out?
A: I want to explore more deeply the back country of Nice, in the Alpes Maritimes, along the Italian border. I just spent some time in Saorge and La Brigue there. The area is mysterious and traditional foods, like ravioli stuffed with borage – delicious! – appear on the menus of the small, family hotel/restaurants.
Q: What’s one site that no traveler to Provence should miss?
A: The Papal Palace and its gardens in Avignon--and the Pont Saint Bénézet Bridge on the Rhone River there--are truly not to be missed.
Q: Favorite book or cookbook about Provence?
A: La Cuisiniere Provencale by J.B. Reboul. It was first published in 1897, has everything you need to know about Provencal cooking, as handed down through the generations from mother to daughter. This is the kind of traditional cooking I learned from my neighbors in Provence.
Q: Finally, what’s your best tip for first-time travelers to Provence?
A: Don't try to do too much! Settle in somewhere, do day trips, and enjoy being a part of the daily life of markets, cafes...and a slower pace.