Monday, February 27, 2012

Michelin Names Its Newest Three Star

Today Michelin announced its latest restaurant ratings for France and there's a new three star in town: Flocons de Sel (Flakes of Salt), housed in a chalet in the mountains of Megève, in the Rhone-Alpes region of the southeast. Michelin calls Flocons de Sel "an indispensable destination for lovers of mountain scenery and fine cuisine." This newest addition brings the number of three-star restaurants in France to 26 but Japan still has the lead with a grand total of 32. There are just two three-stars in the Provence region: Le Petit Nice in Marseille and Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo. 

The new Guide Rouge also lists 83 restaurants in France with two stars (10 of them new), 485 with one star (58 new) and 124 new Bib Gourmand (good value) restaurants. Among the ten new two stars are two in Paris (Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx and L'Abeille) and two in Provence: Mirazur in Menton and Chantecler in the Negresco Hotel in Nice. 

The new Michelin Guide Rouge for France (in French only) will be in bookstores as of March 1st (2,016 pages, €24) and a free Michelin iPhone app is being offered (until March 31st) for each purchase of the book.  (The iPhone app, available in five languages, contains all restaurants and hotels listed in the 2012 Guide Rouge, searchable by city and name, along with customer comments, maps and more. Normally, it's €7.99.) To read the press release about the 2012 Guide Rouge, click here. To read the Flocons de Sel press release in French, click here. For a list of all the three-stars in France, Bloomberg has published that here. And for a list of all the three-stars worldwide, click here.

Meanwhile, bravo to Flocons de Sel chef Emmanuel Renaut for being named one of the very-top chefs in France

Saturday, February 25, 2012

You Get to Be on TV. I Get $500.

You know those TV shows about families who take the big leap, move abroad and then set out to renovate some old dump a charming but needy old house? Ever wonder how they find the folks to feature...or how your family could get chosen? Yes? Then you'll be interested in this email I just received... 

Hi Julie,

I came across your blog while doing some research for a new HGTV show I am working on for Debbie Travis and thought you might be able to help me out. You probably meet many people who dream of moving to--or who have recently moved to--the South of France.

Debbie Travis is well-known on the home decorating front throughout North America and around the world. She's an international television personality, bestselling author, syndicated newspaper columnist and Home Collection designer. A link to her biography is here

This is a new home reno show featuring Canadians and Americans (families, couples or individuals) who have recently moved abroad (within the last six months) or who are about to move...and whose new home needs to be "done up." A purchased property is ideal, but we are open to looking at rental situations as well.

We want to document what it's like to move to your dream country and what challenges someone who makes a big move like that faces. What's wonderful about it and what's difficult or surprising.

We haven't finalized the name of the show yet (it's brand new) and are still working with the network on that. We'll be shooting the pilot in April, then other episodes to follow in the late spring, summer, and fall.

The show will air on HGTV in Canada and the US. 

The participants will get their home made over, designed by Debbie. It will be different for each one, depending on their needs and wishes.

I know from your blog that you've been abroad too long for our show, but we're offering a finders fee of $500 to anyone who refers someone who is then chosen for the show. So I thought you may know, or run into, expats in France (or elsewhere) who might perfect.

A link to the casting call website is 

Thanks for your time - any help spreading the word would be appreciated! Your readers may also email me at:

Kind Regards,
Linda Rae
Montreal, Canada 

Photo by Navid Baraty. No word on whether this little fixer-upper is for sale...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I'm a Picker, I'm a Grinner...

My love of brocantes and antiquing goes back to childhood: my grandfather owned a used-furniture store in Milwaukee and I loved playing around in there. In Provence there are outdoor brocantes just about every weekend but also shops that sell the same stuff, often at much-lower prices. These stores often have "Troc" in the name and my friends tease me that I can smell a Troc from miles away. (I always find something fun at the one near the TGV Station in Avignon, hidden away near the carwash in the Carrefour parking lot.) 

Not far from my house, in the countryside outside Eygalières, is a big independent one called Le Dépôt Vente and even though it's been there since 2006, somehow I hadn't been in 'til this week. Abondanza! 

Owners Gilles and Manu are antique dealers who buy and sell just about anything; their warehouse (pictured) is piled high with clothing, jewelry, art, books, furniture, kitchenware, lighting, tools and chotchkies galore. (The guys from the TV show American Pickers would love this place.) I'm not an expert by any means but the prices at Le Dépôt Vente are definitely fair: I picked up two St. Remy souvenir plates (one marked Limoges, one "Porcelaine France," plate hangers attached to both) for just 3€ each. If you can't make it to the store you can also shop online...but nothing beats wandering the aisles and coming upon that perfect something. And best of all, when you grow tired of it, you can sell it back...

Le Dépôt Vente
Route du Mas de Branquay
Directions: On the website

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Gourmet Provence Bike Tour

Last week I told you about my pal Kit Golson's Chic Provence Design Tour, for lovers of interior design, décor, art and antiques. But there's another Provence trip coming up that I wanted to mention as well. This one is for bikers and it's led by another friend of mine, a terrific American chef named Jon Chiri who has lived and worked in Provence for many years. After successfully running the cooking school at the gorgeous Avignon hotel called La Mirande, Jon is now the chef at the one-of-a-kind La Verrière, a spectacular property up in Crestet, in the AOC Mont Ventoux wine region. The property encompasses a vineyard and winery, "extreme" wine school, elegant and high-tech conference center, seven-bedroom villa-style hotel, restaurant and more. (If you want to rent La Verrière for your group or a very-special occasion, it's yours for 25,000€ per week. And don't worry, there's definitely a place to land your helicopter!) The very genial owners of La Verrière give Jon a week off every now and then to lead gourmet culinary bike tours through the company Gourmet Cycling Travel.  And I can't think of a better person to bike Provence with! 

In terms of dates, you have two options: June 24 to 29, 2012, and September 2 to 7, 2012. Both trips start and finish in Avignon. You'll bike ten to 40 miles per day in rolling hills, experiencing world-class scenery, cooking classes, colorful outdoor markets, wine and chocolate tastings, gourmet restaurants, Medieval hilltop villages, lavender fields and so much more. You'll stay at La Verrière and at the Chateau de Rochegude, a Relais & Château that dates to the 12th century, overlooking the vineyards of the Côtes du Rhône. Jon will bike with you every day and be on hand to answer all your questions, about the local food, wine, culture, history, expat name it.

Travel + Leisure Magazine recently named Gourmet Cycling Travel's Provence Luxury Tour as one of "22 Best Life-Changing Trips." And who among us couldn't use a life-changing trip? Plus, as a reader of Provence Post, you get a $250-per-person discount. For more specific details, including a full itinerary and pricing, click here

But wait, there’s more. Gourmet Cycling Travel is also running a special bike trip in July (July 16 to 23) that allows serious bikers to experience four thrilling stages of the Tour de France. (Yes, that Tour de France!) Cyclists will challenge themselves up some of the most-famous mountains of the legendary bike race, like the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Portillon and the Col du Tourmalet. You’ll ride the Tourmalet just hours before the race and then relax at a prime viewing location to cheer on Cadel, Alberto and Andy as they battle for the summit. Non-cyclists are welcome and will enjoy separate guided activities on non-tour-viewing days like a full-day guided tour of Paris, a cooking class in Spain, mountain hikes in the Pyrenees and more. Full info on the Tour de France trip is here. Or, feel free to call or email for info on any Gourmet Cycling trip: or US phone 888-327-2283. 

Photos from top: Postcard-perfect views; trip leader Jon Chiri; Château de Rochegude will be one of your two hotels on the Provence Luxury Bike Tour; a Château de Rochegude guestroom; the gorgeous La Verrière in Crestet will provide your second accommodations for the week.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Another Great Big Grenache Tasting

Yep, the Grenache Gang is back at it again, buoyed by the success of their last "G-Night" event, held in Avignon in November. Occupy Grenache will be Monday, February 20 at Bab Restaurant and Lounge in the town of Lattes, 10 km south of Montpellier. My friend Kelly McAuliffe, an American sommelier and Rhône wine expert, tells me it's going to be a blast. 

The event coincides with the first night of ViniSud, the international exhibition of Mediterranean wines and spirits taking place Feb 20 to 22 at the Parc des Expositions de Montpellier. The bi-annual ViniSud is the largest wine event in the South of France; this year 35,000 people are expected. Occupy Grenache is one of many "off" events being staged during ViniSud. For a list of others, click here.

In addition to Grenache-based wines from 35 top domaines in the Rhône Valley and beyond, Occupy Grenache will feature artisinal beer, light hors d'oeuvres, music, dancing and more. The wine starts flowing at 7:30 pm; dancing and beer follow at 10:30.  If you click on the invite above, you'll be able to see the map (sort of). Admission is free but you must reserve. For info or to book: 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kit Golson's Design Tour de France

One of the many super-cool people I've met in the blogosphere is Kit Golson, a California-based interior designer who's crazy passionate about Provence.  Kit just rang up to tell me that she still has a few spots left on her upcoming Design Tour of Provence,  May 11 to 18, 2012.  Mid May is a glorious time to be in Provence and if I wasn't already living here, I'd sign up for sure. But I'm totally planning to schlep along one day if the gorgeous-and-talented Kit lets me.

The week-long tour includes plenty of antiquing, visits to design ateliers and fabric shops, an optional cooking class in a 13th-century chateau, a 12-mile electric bike ride through the vineyards, optional yoga and massage, work with a digital photography coach, market visits, plenty of shopping and sightseeing, fabulous meals with local wines and accommodations in a gorgeous villa in L'Isle sur la Sorgue, a major European antiques center.  I mean, come there anything in that list we don't love? 

You can find all the info on Kit's blog here. Or, feel free to email or call her: or US phone 650-302-6883. Hope to see you in Provence in May!

Photos from top: On Kit's trip, you'll...stay here; have breakfast here; shop here; perhaps sleep here (sleeping man not included in rate); want to buy some of this; eat lots of this; and see lots and lots of these.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

W Hotel Set to Open in Paris

W Hotels will make its debut in France on Valentines Day with the opening of W Paris-Opéra, at 4 rue Meyerbeer in the 9th arrondissement. The five-story hotel is set inside an elegant 1870s Haussman-era building, opposite the Opéra Garnier, close to the Galeries Lafayette and Place Vendôme. Historic features, such as ornamented columns, vaulted ceilings, marble staircases, stained-glass windows and fireplaces, have been partially restored and are now juxtaposed with contemporary elements. The general manager is Olivier Servat, who came over from Le Méridien Etoile. 

When it came to the kitchen, W went after and lured a big name: the exec chef is the Barcelona-born, Madrid-based Spanish chef Sergi Arola, who trained with Ferran Adria at El Bulli in Spain and with Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. He now holds two Michelin stars at La Broche (Madrid) and also runs restaurants in Barcelona, Sao Paolo and Santiago. His second in command is chef de cuisine Torsten Sällström, formerly in charge of the kitchen at Gastro in Madrid, and Sällström will oversee the kitchen when Arola is back home in SpainThe hotel restaurant, Arola, offers an "interactive" concept called Pica Pica: instead of a traditional three-course meal, there will be a variety of dishes and tapas served family style, merging Catalan cooking with French ingredients. Arola also created the menus for the W Lounge (a wide variety of tapas and montaditos) and for in-room dining as well. Behind the bar you're likely to find Aurélie Panhelleux, who was recently named France's National Cocktail Champion. (Who knew France had a National Cocktail Championship?!)

The new W Paris was designed jointly by W Global Brand Design and Rockwell Group Europe (RGe), the Madrid office of New York-based Rockwell Group. Known for world-class projects such as the sets for the 81st and 82nd Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles, two restaurants for Alain Ducasse in New York and scores of other major buildings, hotels, restaurants and theatrical venues, architect David Rockwell and his Rockwell Group have a long association with W Hotels, stretching back to 1998 and the launch of the very first W Hotel, the W New York. (I'm a huge fan of David's work and you can see a wildly impressive list of his completed projects here.)

The new five-story W Hotel has 91 rooms including 20 suites and two Extreme WOW Suites (W’s version of the Presidential Suite). With soaring ceilings up to three and a half meters high, rooms and suites feature offer stunning views of the Opéra Garnier and Parisian streets. "Our goal was to transform this historic building into a W Hotel that literally shines with innovative and unexpected details, materials and technology," RGe’s Managing and Creative Director Diego Gronda says. Rooms have pillow-top, signature W beds with 350-thread count sheets, terry robes and the Bliss-brand amenities...while the hotel itself has a fitness center, 24-hour room service, 24-hour concierge and W's signature "Whatever/Whenever" service.

Rates begin at 350€ and special packages are available, such as the "Free Nights" offer in which you pay for three and get the fourth free or pay for four and get two more free. 

Meanwhile, the next European W openings will be in Athens and Milan, both in 2013. The company is on track to reach 60 hotels worldwide by the end of 2015. 

For more info on the W Paris or to book, call +33 (0)1 44 77 10 68 or click here.  

*Interested in other recent high-end Parisian hotel openings? Click here and here. Or, if you're looking for less-expensive options in Paris, click here and here.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My New Favorite Rosé

At dinner the other night, my friends Jenny and Jean-Paul Coste poured a beautiful local rosé that I had never tasted: Domaine Guilbert. They told me how winemakers Nathalie and Guy Delacommune had purchased four hectares of vines from Dominique Hauvette in 2007 and begun making red and rosé wines under the Guilbert label. (Guilbert is Nathalie’s family name.) Madame Hauvette kept a parcel for herself, where she continues to make her highly rated wines, as she has since 1988. (But before we go further, don't you love the name Delacommune, which means "of the township"?)

So yesterday morning, a sunny--but bitingly cold--day here in Provence, I ran over to the Delacommune commune to buy a case of rosé and a bottle or two of red. The charming Nathalie, who had just returned from a wine-tasting trip to South Africa, told me about the domaine and then invited me into her pretty kitchen so I could see the specatacular views. The Guilberts spent a full year renovating the huge old mas (farmhouse), parts of which date to the 17th century, and from the little I saw of it, their bon goût extends well beyond wine, to design and cuisine as well. Something tomato-ey and fantastic-smelling was simmering on the stove, two sweet dogs were running about, photos of three handsome children were pinned to the fridge and it all looked like one of those magazine articles we love, headlined "Provençal Winemakers at Home." Guy made a brief appearance but, dressed in warm work clothes and boots, was clearly busy; Nathalie told me they had just finished bottling the 2011 rosé and were trying to catch up on a million tasks.

Guilbert is the smallest domaine in the Appellation des Baux de Provence region. It sits amongst lavender, cypress and olive trees in the foothills of the Alpilles, the mountains so prominent in all those paintings Van Gogh did during his time in St. Remy.  This is a stunningly beautiful quartier (area) that most tourists never see, just off the main road (D99) leading east out of St. Remy towards Cavaillon. It's a maze of narrow, gently winding roads, with vast olive farms and vineyards on either side. Gorgeous stone farmhouses, when you can see them, are just barely visible beyond tall gates or at the end of long dirt tracks. (Today, smoke poofed out of every thick stone chimney.) The quartier La Galine is home to the wine domaines Hauvette and Henri Milan, as well as the nightclub La Galine, which despite a ridiculously remote location on a dark, dead-end road, draws huge crowds on summer evenings.  (There's also another La Galine, a welcoming roadside restaurant and bar right on the D99 that serves up good food, warm ambiance and regular boules games out back.)

The gently sloping Domaine Guilbert enjoys argil-limestone soil, natural drainage and exceptional amounts of sunshine year round. The vineyard has been organic (or biologique) for 25 of its 30 years and now produces 25% rose and 75% red from Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. (White-wine grapes will soon be planted.) The Delacommunes built a new cave/winery/bottling plant, from organic oak and pine, in 2010, where they age their reds in oak for 12 months.  If you want more specific winemaking details, you can visit the Guilbert site or the vineyard itself... however this is not one of those domaines with an elaborate tasting room or a pretty shop full of local products. Individuals and small groups are welcome to taste with Nathalie or Guy in the cave (dress warmly!), but they say it's always best to call first. (Both speak very good English.) The way to the vineyard is well-marked; you'll find the street opposite the roadhouse La Galine.

Obviously, things are going well for la famille Delacommune. Their wines are being served in top restaurants in Paris and Provence...and are selling extremely well in wine shops, where the red is around 18€ and the rosé is just 9.50€ per bottle. It's also available online. Further proof of their success: the couple has just purchased a second four-acre parcel, where they’ll plant more Grenache and Syrah along with Roussanne and Viognier for white wine. This should double their current 14,000-bottle production within four years. For the time being, the wines are only available in France.

Thank you, Guy and Nathalie, for your hospitality, hard work and lovely wines! And thank you, Jenny and Jean-Paul, for introducing me to my new favorite rosé! 

Domaine Guilbert
Chemin du Trou des Boeufs, La Haute Galine
St. Remy de Provence

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Calling All Foodies!

Béatrice Peltre, who produces the hugely popular food blog La Tartine Gourmande, was born and raised in Albestroff (population 600) in rural France, in the northeastern part of the country between Nancy and Metz. It was there that she learned to cook and bake, in a family passionate about homegrown foods. Bea now lives in Boston where she works as a writer, photographer, food stylist and recipe developer. To promote her first cookbook (which will be officially published this month by Roost Books in Boston), the company Unusually Fine created the trailer above--a piece of art in itself. After seeing it you're sure to want the book...and lucky for you, the publisher has graciously offered me three copies to give away here. Bea is so talented and passionate I can guarantee you these recipes will be wonderful. (Plus, they're all made with non-gluten flours such as almond, hazelnut, buckwheat and quinoa--although wheat flour can always be substituted.) 

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment by clicking "comments" just below this post. Be sure to include your email address in the body of your comment or we won't have a way to reach you. If you'd like to go ahead and order the book, you can do that here and of course you can always order on Amazon by clicking here

Meanwhile, to see Bea's lovely blog and lots of her recipes, click here … and her professional website is here. If you want to contact Bea directly, you can email her here.

But wait, there's more! If you really love Bea's work and want to learn how she does it, she has just announced she'll be leading a food styling and photography workshop, here in the South of France, in May. You can get all the info here. Considering the enormous interest in food writing and blogging these days, and the size of Bea’s following, the workshop is likely to fill up fast so if you’re interested, jump on it. Meanwhile, good luck in the book giveaway!