Saturday, November 23, 2013

You're Invited: A Côte d'Azur Thanksgiving

Once again, the American Club of the Riviera is hosting a gala Thanksgiving luncheon on Thursday, November 28 at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco. (Capacity is around 170, there are 30 seats left and Monday is the deadline to sign up.) The menu includes all the traditional holiday dishes and the event kicks off with a Champagne reception. The Hôtel de Paris is, of course, where Alain Ducasse has his sumptuous Michelin three-star restaurant Le Louis XV.

The Thanksgiving guest list includes members of the US Air Force, who are spending this quintessentially American holiday serving their country far from home.

This year's speaker will be Dr. Os Guinness, who will discuss "What Made America Great?" Dr. Guinness was born in China--where he witnessed the end of the Chinese Revolution-- and educated in England; he holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford. He has written or edited 30 books including The Free People’s Suicide … Sustainable Freedom and the American ​F​uture. Dr. Guinness has worked for the BBC and the Brookings Institution; he's spoken on scores of university campuses, including Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Stanford. In 1759 his family began the Guinness Brewing Company in Dublin, but today he lives with his American wife Jenny, just outside Washington D.C.


*Reservations and tickets: Click here. Last call is Monday, November 25.

*Venue:  Salle Empire at The Hôtel de Paris, on the Place du Casino, Monaco (location and directions here).

*Date:  Thursday. November 28th, 2013. Champagne reception starts at 12:30, followed by lunch and presentation.

*Dress: Jacket and tie required.

*All-Inclusive Prices: € 80 per person for members of the American Club of the Riviera and their immediate families. € 90 for members of affiliated clubs. € 95 for non-members.

*More questions? Contact ACR president Burton Gintell:, 06 20 40 11 28.

Photos: The Restaurant Salle Empire and the splendid Hôtel de Paris in Monaco. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Provence Prestige in Arles: Nov 21 to 25

The 20th annual Provence Prestige show opens Thursday at the Palais des Congrès in Arles. This festive holiday-theme market fills a number of vast indoor expo halls with 3500 square meters of holiday goodies, gifts, home decor, food and wine, clothes, accessories, books and much more. And it's all made in Provence by exhibitors who agree to the terms of a special ''locally made'' charter.  This year, nearly 200 exhibitors and 30,000 attendees are expected. 

Tickets are 6€ (adults), 3€ (ages 12 to 18 and groups), and free for kids under 12. Tickets for Provence Prestige entitle you to discounted admission at the Musée Départemental de l’Arles Antique (MDAA) and the Musée Réattu but only while Provence Prestige is on. (This would be a great chance to see the 50-ton, 31-meter, roughly 2000-year-old Roman barge called Arles Rhone 3 that was pulled from the muddy depths of the Rhone River in 2011 and painstakingly restored. It was put on display in a tailor-built wing of the MDAA last month, along with 450 other artifacts linked to navigation on the Rhone in antiquity.)

Provence Prestige show hours are Thursday 21st to Monday 25th from 10 am to 7 pm, with special late hours (until 11 pm) on Friday November 22. There are also some special events and tastings, which you can see here. All the info is on the main website here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You're Invited: Millévin is Nov. 21 in Avignon

It's time again for Millévinthe annual festival in Avignon celebrating the primeur (early or new) wines and other Côtes du Rhône vintages. Primeur, in this case, refers to wines sold in the year the grapes are harvested. The idea is similar to the Beaujolais Nouveau, with the wines officially released the third Thursday in November.

This year, Millévin (Thursday, November 21) features both morning and evening events where you can taste and purchase regional wines, gourmet food chalets, a winemakers' parade and special menus in participating restaurants. The event is designed consumers, the trade and all other "adeptes de la bonne humeur."

Festivities begin at with preview tastings of the Côtes du Rhône Primeurs in the Les Halles market from 10 am to 1 pm.

Then, on the Place de l’Horloge (6 to 9 pm; 3€ per person for a glass and a breathalyzer), local wine co-ops and winemakers will be offerings tastes and bottles for sale, of both new wines and other Côtes du Rhône vintages. Chalets will be serving and selling regional products including chacuterie, oysters, sweets and more. There will be wine quizzes, a photo competition, a "Nez du Vin'' test that pits wine student against the public and of course, a lot of people hanging around sipping and shmoozing. 

The Défilé des Confréries starts at 6:15  pm, with roughly 160 winemakers and other wine-industry folks, parading along Rue de la République to the Place de l’Horloge, where they'll sing the beautiful Provencal song, La Coupo Santo.  Then, everyone heads off to various restaurants where, from 8 pm, special Côtes du Rhône menus are being offered. A list of participating restaurants and a map is here.

For all the info, go to: If you don't find what you need there, you can call the Avignon Tourist Office (04 32 74 32 74 ) or Inter-Rhone: 04 90 27 24 00,,

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Home Cooking in Provence: La Table Alonso

In July, 2012 after five years in business, Gérard and Josette Alonso sold their popular restaurant Alonso, in Sorgues, certain they were ready to retire. (The couple original hails from Lyon and previously had La Table de Chaintré in Mâcon, Southern Burgundy.) But the Alonsos quickly got bored, they told me, so they bought a charming 17th-century home in the village of Aureille and two weeks later, opened it as a small B&B and table d’hôte called La Table Alonso.  

This pretty little village in the Alpilles Mountains--15 minutes south of Eygalières,  between Mouriès and Eyguières--has a crumbling castle, about 1500 residents and a stunning, almost-surreal setting…so by the time you actually find the restaurant you’ll feel you've already had a  taste of adventure. 

The Alonsos serve dinner on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights only…and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Depending on how many are in your group, you’ll most likely eat at the one large table with strangers, which of course becomes a festive party if everyone is in the mood. (In summer, there are 10 more seats in the garden.)  The very colorful French family who joined us at the table a month or so ago had driven almost an hour  to see  Gérard and Josette in their new digs. “We’ll go wherever the Alonsos are,’’ Madame told me. ‘’We’ve been big fans of theirs since Burgundy.’’

Gérard does all the cooking--you enter through his kitchen--and Josette serves. It’s a simple menu formula with just a couple choices.  For 38€, you get two amuse-bouche (we all loved the tiny cup of squash soup topped with a silky little slab of foie gras); then a starter (ours was seared, Japanese-style swordfish with shellfish and a wild mushroom salad); then  a choice of two main courses. The night I went with friends, the mains were roasted lamb with cèpes confit or roast chicken with summer truffles and truffle jus. Next comes a serve-yourself selection of terrific cheeses, a choice of desserts, tiny mignardises and coffee. Wines are extra and Josette is happy to help you choose. 

Gérard cooks with the seasons, buying vegetables at the market in nearby Maussane, seafood in Port Saint Louis, meats in Tarascon and poultry and cheese right in Aureille. The menu changes daily and all the breads are always home baked.

The whole scene is very warm, very casual and convivial, but the food is top-rate, fine- restaurant quality…and it’s fun to pop in to the rustic kitchen and watch the always-smiling chef do his thing. If navigating twisty mountain roads in the moonlight isn’t how you want to cap your evening,  Gérard and Josette have two fully renovated guestrooms, priced at just 70€ per night (including breakfast) year round. 

A couple hours chez Alonso is a lovely experience, unique in Provence. So if you can, go soon…because when summer rolls around, a seat at Gérard and Josette’s table will no doubt be the hottest ticket in town. And please tell them I sent you...

La Table Alonso
#22,  rue de la Poste
Aureille, France
04 90 55 79 07 
Email: (French only)
Dinner: 38€ per person plus wine.
Guestrooms: 70€ per night, with breakfast.

Photos:  1. Home Alone: Gérard in his sous chef, no pastry chef, no dishwasher. 2. Gérard and Josette at Alonso at their last restaurant in Sorgues, between Avignon and Chateauneuf du Pape. They sold it in July, 2012. 3. The cozy 12 -seat dining room, with its thick stone walls and massive fireplace. 4. The roosters from the buffet in Sorgue made the move to Aureille.  5, 6. The pretty village of Aureille, in the sunshine and at sunset. 7. You've arrived! 8, 9. The two guestrooms above the restaurant rent for just 70€ per night, with breakfast. [Aureille daytime photo courtesy of Sunset photo courtesy of]