Monday, September 12, 2011

This Month: Food, History...and All That Jazz

If you're a foodie, September is a fantastic month to be in France as there are three major culinary events on the calendar. (If you're an escargot, however, this could be a very bad month indeed.)  If you're a history, architecture or French culture buff, we've got you covered as well. And if you love jazz--yep, we've got that too!

First, for the foodies.  September 19th kicks off the nationwide dining-out promotion called Tous au Restaurant, which means "Everyone to the Restaurant." Launched in 2010 by superstar chef Alain Ducasse, it's meant to get more more people out eating in restaurants, from neighborhood bistros to Michelin-starred spots and everything in between. The first Tous au Restaurant event, held in June last year, drew almost 1,000 participating restaurants and 82,000 diners. This year, I have no idea how many restaurants have signed up--but it's a lot.

So what's the deal? Diners who reserve can enjoy two prix-fixe meals (appetizer, main course and dessert) for the price of one. I know! In Valence, chef Anne Sophie Pic, who has held three Michelin stars since 2007 at her restaurant Pic,  is offering a €57 lunch menu for two at Bistro 7. Another Michelin three-star chef,  Gerard Passedat, has a €100  lunch menu for two at Le Petit Nice in Marseille. In Provence, there are 52 restaurants are participating thus far, including Alain Ducasse’s La Bastide de Moustiers  (Moustiers Sainte Marie), Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle (La Celle), La Cabro d'Or (Les Baux), Les Agassins (Le Pontet) and Restaurant Marc de Passorio at the Hotel Le Vallon de Valrugues (St. Rémy). Reservations have been available online here since September 7th and they're going pick your favorite places and book now. The promotion ends September 25th.  

OK, onward! Next we have the Fête de la Gastronomie on September 23, with more than 1,600 events planned nationwide. (Tous au Restaurant, above, is part of this larger initiative.) The idea here is to celebrate the diversity of French cuisine and food traditions. The program was inspired by the format of the nationwide Fête de la Musique, when open-air music fills streets all over France. The theme for this year is la terre or "the land"--meaning a focus on the best local, regional foods.  There are all sorts of cool events including a culinary treasure hunt, cooking classes, workshops on tableware and decor and special menus in some 47,000 restaurants. So go to the website here and plug in your postal code to see what's being offered near you. 

Then we have the The International Gastronomic Festival, September 16th to 18th. It's also called Les Etoiles de Mougins and it's being held in the village of Mougins, in the hills above Cannes. One hundred French and international chefs will be on hand, presenting demos, workshops, talks and of course, tastings--all around the theme "Art and Gastronomy." The festival guest of honor is Eric Frechon of Le Bristol in Paris; he's a Meilleur Ouvrier de France who holds three Michelin stars. Many of the events are free; others are €5, €10 or €15. Packages are available. You can get all the info and buy tickets here. Unfortunately, the festival website is in French only but the Mougins Tourist Office can answer questions in English. Their phone: 04-93-75-87-67.

 OK, enough about food. Another big nationwide event is happening September 17th and 18th.  It's called the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine and it gives you the unique opportunity to explore behind the scenes of important public buildings such as the Élysée, the Senate, government ministries and embassies. It also, in many cases, allows you free access to historic sites that normally charge a fee. (Privately owned sites may charge at their discretion but most offer some form of discount.) At some venues, there are talks or other celebrations planned. And--hold on to your hairdo now because this is big--many sites that are normally closed on Sunday will be open. You can see a list of the sites and get more info here. For the specific Provence locations, click here 

Finally, St. Remy is having a jazz festival this weekend (September 15 to 18), called Jazz a Saint Remy. Each evening (Thurs, Fri, Sat) at  8:30 p.m., there will be a performance on the Place de la Gare. (That's that gravel parking lot by the old train station, near the InterMarche.) Plus, in the afternoon and evening, musicians--solo, trios and quartets--will perform at public sites and in outdoor cafes all over town. For info and reservations click here or email:

Looking forward to seeing you all out and about!

And if you're a snail? Be afraid. Very afraid...


  1. What are you doing over the next three weeks? Lets get out there!

  2. This post is making me very hungry. Somewhere towards the end you say "enough about food." I don't understand that statement!

    Anything coming up in November or December (I know, Christmas) that a visitor might want to know about before making plans for a visit?

  3. The funny thing is, France doesn't even need to do anything to promote its stellar food and restaurants. At least not in my book... even just nibbling some bread and cheese and a fresh peach is more heavenly here than anywhere!