Monday, August 29, 2011

Gourmet French Mustard Giveaway

So what's a nice boy from Chicago doing producing Dijon mustard in Burgundy?  Jeff Goto, an avid cook, decided to do just that when he wasn't able to find a traditional Dijon mustard that delighted him as much as those he had tasted and cooked with in France. "Dijon is one of my favorite ingredients and it's so important in so many recipes," he says. It took Jeff a couple years of research and planning (during which he traveled extensively throughout the famous French wine and gastronomy region, meeting with growers and suppliers), but finally he was ready to launch his new business and brand, Ameline Gourmet Mustards. Made with Burgundy wine and locally grown seeds, his two mustards--white wine and whole grain--have been available in the States for just about a year. He is working on expanding into the EU and Japan.  

The organizers of the Napa Valley Mustard Festival described Ameline as "hauntingly beautiful" and top Chicago-based chef Charlie Trotter is selling them in his popular boutique food shop--a fine endorsement indeed. 

These days, Jeff spends a lot of time on planes: he's in Beaune when it's production time and then back in the U.S. focusing on distribution and buzz-building. The mustards are available online (from the National Mustard Museum or or and in fine food shops nationwide. 

To introduce the readers of Provence Post to his product, Jeff wants to give away five sets of gourmet mustard (a set is one jar of each). To enter, simply share a favorite recipe with us...any recipe at all, as long as it contains mustard. Just click "comments" below and type or paste in your recipe. (Make sure to leave us your email address as well.) If you prefer, you can simply email your recipe, in English or French, to: If your recipe is not original, please credit the source. This giveaway is open to residents of North America and Europe only, please. The five winning recipes will be posted on the Ameline Facebook page

If you're a U.S. chef, food retailer or other industry professional, Jeff is happy to send you a sample. Email him at:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Provence In the Press

While you've all been out snipping lavender, drinking rosé, playing boules and being fabulous by the pool, you may have fallen a bit behind on your reading. So because I live to please you, I've gathered some recent articles you may have missed....

Top Photo: This four-bedroom restored farmhouse near Cavaillon is on the market for €1.6 million ($2.67 million). Half of the property's 4.7 acres are lavender fields. Get more info--and an update on the Provencal real estate market--in the New York Times hereCenter and Bottom Photos: Château de Sannes is a 17th-century estate, on 136 acres, for sale by Christie's. It has enchanting formal gardens, olive groves, a truffle plantation, wheat and lavender fields...and 80 acres of vineyards. For more info, click here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Chef's Tour of Toulon

Born in Toulon and raised in nearby La Farlede, chef Guillaume Delaune has worked at some of finest hotel restaurants in the South of France including Le Moulin de Mougins, La Chèvre d’Or and Villa Gallici. Today he and wife Stephanie Clemares, who hails from Lyon, live in New Brunswick, Canada, where Guillaume runs the kitchen at the gorgeous 10-room Relais & Châteaux property called Kingsbrae Arms. It's in  St.Andrews-by-the-Sea, on the Bay of Fundy.  There, Guillaume is cooking classic garden-to-table French, using an elaborate network of local farms and artisanal suppliers for lamb, boar, beef, seafood, cheese, game and caviar, among other things. Along with their two boys, Tristan, 5 and Charlie, 2, the couple returns to Toulon once or twice a year, to spend time with Guillaume's family and, of course, to eat. We asked him to tell us how growing up in Provence informed his culinary philosophy, what he misses most about France and where we should go in Toulon. Here's what Guillaume had to share.  

"I'm a country boy. I'm always attracted to what the city draws from the country and how the country is influenced by the city. My own love of food came a little late in my life. It began when I started to cook the fish I caught and the game a friend would give me. I liked the pleasure it gave to my first 'guests.' I loved wine as soon as I started cooking, because you can't have a good meal without wine.  In the South of France I lived in the middle of the vineyards of Bandol, renowned for powerful red wines, fruity rosés and spicy whites.  And the markets there were filled with the heady fragrances of herbs, fruits and vegetables.  When I was 17 it was clear to me that I wanted to start culinary school. It was a passion. It could have been no other way!  I consider myself fortunate that I now live in the 'South of Canada,' where my Kingsbrae Arms kitchen is filled daily with organic produce from our garden and local farms as well as a bounty of meats and seafood from land and sea.

"I’m not a big fan of molecular gastronomy.  For me it shifts the focus from the ingredients to the cleverly deployed re-cycling of them. Table conversation is inevitably focused on nothing but the tricks. I find that boring. Conviviality is very important to me. My style encourages that.  And when I go out I want that, whether it's with friends or my wife. That’s why I’m going to tell you about places that emphasize ingredients and their integrity around my hometown, Toulon.

"First stop is for truffles.  About an hour and a half out of Toulon you'll find the small town of Aups in the Gorge du Verdon, also known as the Grand Canyon du Verdon. It's a picture- perfect town of sun-baked stone and clay tile roofs.  Very Provence.  Best of all, if you love black truffles (and I do), this excursion is a must.  The town is famous for its black-truffle market, which takes place every Thursday morning from November to February. There's also a truffle festival in January and I've attended many times.  I caution you, however: the market is more like an auction.  The value of the truffles, set by brokers, varies according to the quality and abundance of the truffles on offer. You’ve got to be sharp at your game here!

"Back in Toulon, the Cours Lafayette winds it’s way down to the harbour where the daily marketplace is a way of life for Toulonnais. This is where I would shop for my family.  My two young boys, Tristan and Charlie, are especially fond of bouillabaisse and this market is the perfect place to find the freshest ingredients from nearby fields and the sea.  I can recall the heady smells of seafood mixed with the savoury spices and herbs that make bouillabaisse a quintessential Provencal dish--my way, of course.

"When it comes to my children’s mother and the romance of my life, I take Stephanie to my favourite restaurant l'Oursinado.  This place is all about the sea, which is so much a part of life in the South of France.  The seafood is fresh and well prepared.  I have to say it in French: Panaché de fruits de mer, Les huitres, Marinade de sardines, Crevette mayonnaise, Brochette de moules, Dorade rose Cantre (Dorade grise) à la braise, Loup au fenouil, Rougets grillés, Sole meuniere St Pierre, Dorade Royale, Sar, Chapon, Pageot, Pagre…all of the things Stephanie and I love.  When we go, we always take a table on the terrace, drenched in sunlight, with the sparkling Mediterranean before us.  Just 13 kilometers west of Toulon, this is the perfect destination when the two of us can find the rare moment to get away from our hectic lives and enjoy each other’s company.

"Did I say l'Oursinado is my favourite seaside restaurant? I did. Because my favourite hillside hideaway, between a lovely old town of Bormes-les-Mimosas and the sea, is La Rastegue, about 40 kilometers east of Toulon. Here chef Jerome Masson and his wife, Patricia, perform wonders with local game, fresh fish and produce--remarkable in every way.  The ambience is a bit more elegant and intimate, serving only 30 people at a time.  And the preparations are matchless: baby pigeon, tenderloin of pork, line-caught fish.  Jerome has the style I've embraced for my own cuisine: simple, fresh, allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves in a commune of conviviality. The Michelin Guide reflects my opinion of this starred restaurant.

"I would also like to tip my hat to a few hot spots in town.  You can never go wrong with Le Pointilliste.  This is a gastro-pub serving a market menu that is always fresh and a little sassy.

"Le Cabanon overlooks the historic seaport and has some fusion going on. The views, the decorations and the some of the Asian inspired food make this a novelty to enjoy.

"After all this eating, you may or may not want to head for the beach, depending on your confidence in a Speedo or bikini!  If you do, be sure to check out the beautiful white sandy beach of Portissol in Sanary-sur-Mer, just 12 or so kilometers west of Toulon.  The beach itself is an arc shape, bounded by walls with remnants of from the days of the Gallo-Romans.  You can scuba dive in shallow water here or, if you’ve got the stuff, you can surf when the sea is rough.

"Finally, I tip my hat to my colleague, chef Christophe Bacquie, who has elevated the cuisine of Hotel du Castellet to a high art.  He is one of the Grand Chefs of Relais & Châteaux and has earned a number of Michelin stars throughout his career. The restaurants of Hotel du Castellet are worth the trip from Toulon, just 20 minutes to the northwest.  I know from first-hand experience that the rigorous standards of being a member of Relais & Châteaux are reinforced by guest satisfaction day after day.  At this magnificent property, perhaps for a special time in your life, a celebration, an occasion of love, you will not be disappointed."

Photos: Guillaume in his kitchen at Kingsbrae Arms; the inn is in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada. The village blossomed as a resort town in the 19th century, when the Canadian Pacific Railroad laid a branch line from Montreal, making it accessible to wealthy urban families. Kingsbrae Arms, a Relais & Châteaux hotel, was built in 1897 by a prominent Nova Scotia businessman as a summer cottage for his family.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Book Giveaway: Sex! Sun! Syrah!

Shortly after moving her family to the South of France, Sophie Reed finds a lacy bra in her husband’s luggage….and it’s not hers. Her husband admits it: he’s having an affair. So what should Sophie do?  Should she give up on her dream of becoming a winemaker and move back to England with her three kids?  Or embrace her inner French woman, carry on and start a new life? Well clever thing that you are, you can probably guess which path our heroine takes, her journey eased considerably by the love and support of family and friends, bright sunshine,  just-baked bread, local wines, lots of yoga—and a French lover or two.

Author Helena Frith Powell is a journalist who contributes regularly to the Sunday TimesDaily Mail and Daily Telegraph. Love in a Warm Climate is her sixth book—she wrote the best-selling Two Lipsticks and a Lover—and her first novel. She says it’s semi-autobiographical and it came out last week.

The publisher, Gibson Square (London), alternately calls Love in a Warm Climate “a novel about the French art of love” and “a novel about the French art of having affairs”— leading one to wonder, of course, if we’re meant to believe that these are one and the same.  Each chapter begins with a “rule” such as “Pick a lover who has as much to lose as you do” or  “Remember that nothing has to last forever, or even for an afternoon” and so forth. The sub-plot is all about being sexier, more confident, more seductive….more French. What’s much more amusing, however, are all the vignettes about French village life, the travails of hunting for the perfect “old stone,” the behind-the-scenes peek into the world of French winemaking and all the challenges and culture shocks encountered on the road to becoming a contented and well-adjusted expat.

The story is set in a fictitious village in the Languedoc-Rousillon, a region the author knows well. She and her family (husband Rupert; children Olivia, Bea and Leonardo), left their home in Sussex and bought one in Pezenas in the year 2000. They lived there full time, until decamping for Abu Dhabi in 2008, and they now return each summer.

The description of the house early in the book, Helena tells me, perfectly describes her own when she first saw it--and other scenes were also drawn from first-hand experience. Fictional character Johnny Fray is based on real-life bad-boy chef Marco Pierre White, who, Helena reports, once gave her the snog of her life in a restaurant kitchen. Her friend and neighbor Jean-Claude Mas, of the highly rated Arrogant Frog, generously taught her all he could about winemaking in the South of France so she could sound convincing.

And lucky you: the kind folks at Gibson Square have given me two copies to give away. You know how this works: leave a comment below and we’ll choose the winners next week. If you have experience in “the French art of love” or pursued your own change-of-life fantasy or love the wines of Languedoc--feel free to share! And make sure to leave us an email address; simply signing in with your web address is not enough. Or, of course, you can  buy the book on Amazon here.  

Bon Chance! Cheers! Santé!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Music Festival Opens Tonight

The two-week Festival Durance-Lubéron will open its summer 2011 season this weekend, featuring a broad range of musical styles presented in unique venues under open evening skies. On the schedule are Indian folk music, classical and comic operas, and the Marseille-based Bamboo Orchestra presenting their original score for the 1932 silent film classic “Les Gosses de Tokyo.” The Festival Durance-Lubéron is led by Jean-François Héron, who also serves as vice president and principal artistic director.

This weekend, two programs in Lourmarin feature Indian folk music: the Fanfare (Aug 12) and Rajastan Gypsies (Aug 13).

The “buzz” is that the program at the Château Mirabeau  (Aug 20-21) will be exceptional, not only as an original libretto and arrangement, but as a rare opportunity to enjoy the privately owned chateau surroundings. Two other evenings of particular interest are the ApéroJazz and OpéraApéro at the Jardins Magali in Lauris (Aug 16-17) and the full choir performance of Carmina Burana among the ruins of La Tour d’Aigues (Aug 25). My friend who is volunteering says he’s particularly looking forward to the Aug 15 film projection in Mérindol.

Tickets range from free (there is no charge for the opening events in Lourmarin) to 36€ for a double concert evening with a dinner buffet included (at the Château Mirabeau). The average concert costs 15€/person. Tickets may be purchased through FNAC Tickets and France Billets
For all the info, click here.  If you have questions in English, you may contact Peter Gillespie :, 06 62 60 33 95.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

French (Bread) Revolution

A couple years ago, I wrote about a drive-through boulangerie just outside Paris where you could buy fresh-baked bread from the comfort of your car. Last week, I shared the news that McDonald's in France had just begun offering baguettes. And now I have the pleasure of reporting (thanks to an article in the Guardian), that Paris has its first 24-hour baguette dispenser. The bread is partially baked before being put in the machine, then finished off when ordered and delivered crisp and hot – for €1. Local baker Jean-Louis Hecht cooked up the idea to take advantage of the August holiday period when many of France's 33,000 bakeries are closed. But Hecht admits he was also weary of customers knocking on his apartment door at all hours, looking for fresh bread when his boulangerie downstairs was closed. "This is the bakery of tomorrow," he proclaims. "It is answering a real need. People who work at night or early in the morning can get their fresh bread. To me it's a public utility." Read the full story here

Photo: French baker Jean-Louis Hecht at his baguette dispenser in Paris, by Michel Euler/AP, via

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Palais des Papes Open Every Night in August

The magnificent Palais des Papes will once again be open at night this August, every night of the week.  The Avignon landmark, a UNESCO World Heritage Site,  is one of the most-visited monuments in all of France. Construction began in 1335 and was completed in less than 20 years under the leadership of Pope Benedict XII and his successor Clement VI. With 15,000 square meters (161,000 square feet), the Popes’ Palace is the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe--the equivalent of four Gothic cathedrals.

To visit the Palace in the evening in August, there are two options. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, you can take the sunset walk, a guided tour ending up with dinner in the cloister (48€ per person). On Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays there will be classical music concerts starting at 9 p.m. The concert program, subject to change, includes:

August 3, 5 and 7: Astoria Quartet (flute, guitar, cello, accordion, song).

August 10, 12 and 14: Giacomo Quintet (viola, violin, cellos, voice).

August 17, 19 and 21: Segovia Quartet (four guitars).

August 24, 26 and 28: In the Châtelet Courtyard at the Pont d’Avignon, the Grand Avignon Wind Quintet (flutes, clarinet, bassoon, horn).

For more info, click here and here.

You might also be interested to know that a popular two-hour guided English-language tour of the "Secret" Palais-des-Papes will be offered on Fridays at 3 p.m. in September and October. The small-group tour provides a fabulous opportunity to discover many parts of the Palace that are normally closed to the public such as the baths, papal wardrobe, private chapel, and staircases and corridors leading to gardens, terraces and private rooms. For all the info on this special tour, click here.