Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Friday: Food, Friends, Fireworks, Fun...

After the Bastille Day atrocities in Nice, the City of Cannes cancelled the fireworks scheduled for July 21. Shortly thereafter, the Mayor of Cannes announced that the International Fireworks Festival--a hugely popular annual event that welcomes pyrotechnic teams from all over the world--would resume this Friday, July 29, "with new security arrangements, a specific tribute to the victims of the Nice terrorist attack, and affirmation, by the renewal of the world’s largest fireworks festival, of our resilience and defense of our way of life as the Riviera spirit." There will also be fireworks on August 7, 15 and 24...more on that below.
The American Club of the Riviera has also rescheduled the party they had planned for July it's this Friday as well. ACR president Burton Gintell tells me they have a few spots left and they'd love to have you! For this popular annual event, the ACR booked one of Cannes' finest beach restaurants, the  3.14 Plage, located very centrally on the Croisette just opposite the Carlton Hotel. The fireworks are launched from several barges moored in the Bay, just opposite the restaurant, and are beautifully choreographed to music. 
The ACR evening begins at 8 pm with a welcome drink and nibbles, followed by a three-course dinner with wine, and fireworks set to start at 10 pm. You must reserve ahead...walk ins won't be possible.  The evening is €85 for members; €90 for non-members; €40 for kids.
For reservations, parking info and more, see the ACR website here.
Questions? Contact Burton: +33 (0)6 20 40 11 28  or
The Fireworks Festival will continue with shows on August 7, 15 and 24th. The festival website in English is here.

Photos: Past fireworks in Cannes...and the restaurant called 3.14 Plage, where the American Club of the Riviera will host their party on Friday July 29.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Postcard from the Edge: A Guest Post

The approach to the Calanque de Sormiou, where chef Andy Floyd and his family had a great afternoon at the restaurant Le Chateau. His guest post about it appears below. Click any of the photos to enlarge.
On the Edge: Sormiou is one of the lesser known calanques, considered something of a locals' secret.
After a somewhat tense 4 kilometer drive down a narrow, winding'll arrive wanting wine quickly. Note, the parking lot is filled mostly with small cars.
The cove and beach that beckon you before and after lunch. Andy says the kids didn't want to leave.
Chef Andy and his wife Lucy both had fish soup followed by grilled dorade. The kids ate shrimp and pasta. The meal was excellent...and expensive.
The entrance to a private little cabanon, off the beach.
On the way home, Marseille (and civilization) loom in the distance.
The Floyd Family's Excellent Provence Adventure included this photo opp in the hills facing Les Baux de Provence. Clockwise: Lucy, Paris, Andy, Sophia and Soleil.

A note from Julie: Every now and then I ask foodie friends in France...or just back from write about one restaurant in Provence they love. When my chef pal Andy Floyd mentioned he had just been to the Le Château de Sormiou, I was all over it--I've wanted to go there for years.  As the GM of KitchenTable Cooking School and the Academic Director of the Professional Culinary Arts Program at Colorado Culinary Academy (Denver), Andy has been teaching budding chefs for more than 20 years.  For 10 of them, he directed professional programs at Culinary School of the Rockies (Boulder) and took groups of students for month-long trips to cook and to stage in some Provence’s finest restaurants. As a result, he remains intimately connected to the food world in the South of France. After a few years away, Andy recently returned for vacation with his wife Lucy and their three kids. And here's his report about their day at the Le Château...not just a restaurant but a true adventure...

No trip to Provence would be complete without a visit to the Calanques between Marseille and Cassis. The white limestone cliffs and inlets that begin in the heart of Marseille and follow the coast to the picturesque port town of Cassis are the summer playground of the Marseillais.

Over the years, I'd visited Cassis many times with my culinary students.  A bouillabaisse in the port followed by a boat trip to the awesome Calanque d'En-Vau is de rigueur for anyone visiting the area. But I'd often heard of another very special Calanque, a well-guarded secret of the locals called the Calanque de Sormiou and I was determined to explore this little gem on my recent family trip. But--understatement here--it's not easy to get to. If you want to avoid the hour-long hike in, your only choice is to rent one of the tiny seaside bungalows or to make reservations at the Le Château Sormiou, the little restaurant with a “to die for” view of the Sormiou Calanque and a fresh-out-of-the-water seafood menu. It's open from the first weekend in April to the last weekend in September and has been serving customers since 1948.

If you plan to go by car, make sure you reserve way ahead, as you're vying for access to this amazing spot with quite few others. When you call Le Château for reservations they'll ask for your car’s license plate number; this is mandatory or “le gardien” won't let you through the gate that takes you up and over the limestone mountain into the tight, steep descent into the Calanque.  If you don’t know your rental car’s license plate number when you make the reservation, just explain that you'll provide it closer to your arrival date. (Need I point out that good command of the French language, as well as being able to decipher the subtleties of the Marseillais patois, are a pre-requisite to making your reservation?). Once you've booked your table, you've overcome the major obstacle to getting to this little gem. Well, one of them at least.

I've been to Marseille many times and though I can easily find my way to the main landmarks, I could never have navigated my way to the entrance of this Calanque without a GPS. I felt like I was in a scene from the The French Connection as I exited from a major highway onto an elevated single lane that led me into a construction area and then into an eight-lane boulevard. Then finally, after many disorienting directional changes, I began to see signs for the Calanque de Sormiou. Much relief! We began to leave the bustle of the city into a forested area and then finally the GPS said we had reached our destination...even though we were still 4 km from the entrance. 

Once we arrived at the gate, the gardien looked from our car to his clipboard and back. No match, he proclaimed. We weren't on the list! 

Actually, we had planned to come with a friend in her car and when that plan fell through, I called to make the change....but I guess the gardien didn’t get the updated license number.  We managed to convince him that we were legit restaurant customers with a reservation and eventually he relented and lifted the gate. 

Now we started to question what kind of drive we were about to have, if such a careful selection process was required...and then a few clicks in we began to understand. But we really got the picture once we arrived at the top of Calanque and began to make our way down a one-lane road with pot holes and certain-death drop offs.  We prayed that no vehicles would be coming in the other direction and I surveyed the options ahead for any slight widening of the road. We made it down to the parking area (4€ charge) in a state of high stress and in desperate need of a glass or two of rosé.  We gathered our beach bags and gear and headed to the restaurant. 

We sat outside on the covered terrace with a gorgeous view of the sea and the Calanque.  Within minutes the empty terrace filled with clients.  It's very important to note this is a strictly cash restaurant and there are no ATMs or electricity or running water for that matter. Be prepared! We ordered up a bottle of rosé which came in a cute little plastic bag filled with ice. Lucy and I both settled in on soupe de poisson and a grilled whole dorade with vegetables and potatoes. The kids chose shrimp and pasta but there were a few meat dishes offered as well.  If you call ahead, you can order bouillabaisse, the local specialty, priced at 45€ per person, minimum two people. The food was excellent and unquestionably fresh though clearly priced with the captive audience in mind. Our lunch for five, with one bottle of wine, came to around 250€.  We changed in their restroom and after giving them a big wad of cash, headed to the beach.  Pleasantly, it was a real beach with sand (not rocky, like many coastal beaches here), and the water was perfect.  This day was without a doubt the highlight of our trip and the kids really didn't want to leave.   

The drive back up the Calanque was little less stressful though a lot busier and we did have to negotiate cars coming down at the same time. As we crested the top of the entrance to the Calanque we were presented with a stunning view of downtown Marseille and reluctantly we drove toward it, tucking away the experience of the special gem we had just uncovered. And yes, we would absolutely do it again!

Le Château Sormiou
Tel: +33 (0) 4 91 25 08 69
GPS: 226 Chemin de Sormiou, 13009 Marseille
Open seven days, first weekend in April to last weekend in Sept.
Lunch served 12 to 3; dinner 7:30 to 9:30.
Reservations required, no email, no credit cards.

All photos by Andy Floyd. To reach him:

Updated August 2018: Parking has gone up to 5 and rather than being open for lunch and dinner every day, the restaurant is now closed for Sunday dinner. All menu options are now on the restaurant's website. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

This Sunday: The Big Fig Shindig!

The 10th Annual Fig Festival of Caromb is an all-day celebration of food and wine, with top chefs and winemakers coming out to fête the luscious local fruit by crafting all sorts of figgy dishes and matching them with labels from local vintners. 

This year, the focus is on gastronomy. Ten chefs will be cooking, all of them big names in the region: Christian Etienne, Franck Jacquier, Alain Burnel, Michel Meissonier, Tony Tichant, Richard Bagnol, Pascal Poulain, Camille Stabholz, Thomas Richard (who won the French TV show Masterchef in 2012) and the famous nougat maker Sylvain.

You'll also have the chance to taste and buy figs directly from producers, along with fig-tree seedlings and a wide range of foods made from figs and other local produce. 

The village of Caromb, in the foothills of Mt. Ventoux, expects roughly 100 exhibitors and 6000 fig fans to attend.

The Fête de la Figue Longue Noire de Caromb runs from 9 am to 6 pm. The chefs will be at their stands from 9 to 4, cooking with figs and offering tastes.  At 11:30, there's the procession of the officials of the Confreries de la Figue de Caromb. At 12:30, everyone will be offered an apéritif by the Cave Saint Marc.

For lunch, reserve ahead (call 06 75 44 13 04) for a special menu of fig-based dishes prepared by Camille Stabholz of Restaurant Camille in Carpentras and Pascal Poulain of the brand-new restaurant Le 6 a Table in Caromb. Lunch is 15€ per person.

There will also be raffle, a jam-making contest and a "discovery of the senses" for kids at 3 pm. Entry to the festival, parking and shuttle service are all free.
The fig fest is hosted and staged by the Confrérie de la Figue Longue Noire de Caromb, 06 80 75 21 18,, You can also find them on Facebook.

If you need info in English:, 06 18 71 36 24. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Big Music Fest in Arles July 11 to 17

Every summer...for seven days and six nights...from 10 am to 4 am...the city of Arles welcomes Le Suds à Arles, a festival of world music that grows in size and reputation each year. This year (the 21st annual), 60 or so performances are scheduled and roughly 60,000 people are expected. The dates are July 11 to 17.

Venues around Arles (designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site), include the majestic Théâtre Antique (where evening concerts will be held July 12, 13, 14 and 15), the Cour de l’Archevêché and the former SNCF railway site known as the Parc des Ateliers (or just "the Ateliers"). See more info about the Ateliers below.

In addition to performances by artists from all over the world, there will be master classes (41 at last count, from beginner to professional), workshops for young people, stages (in music, dance and voice), opportunities to meet the performers and more.

Some special dates to note: On the 11th, there are free concerts in museums; on Saturday the 16th, the whole night (from 9.30 pm) will be held in the Ateliers; and the 17th is a special day in Salin-de-Giraud, in the Camargue.

All the info is on the festival website, with a complete schedule, background on the performers, ticket info, sound clips, maps, etc. The schedule in English is here

If you have questions and can't find what you need on the site, the kind folks in the festival office said you can reach out by phone or email and they'll be happy to answer in English.

Maisons des Suds
66, rue du 4 Septembre
13200 Arles
Tel +33 (0)4 90 96 06 27

Note: The old train buildings mentioned above are currently being rehabbed by the Luma Foundation, as part of the biggest "patronage" project in Europe, the centerpiece of which is a new building designed by FrankGehry. I'll have all the details on this in a future story but if you are going to Arles for music festival, consider exploring the Luma construction site with a "virtual tour" in French or English. Tours are  just over an hour and all the info is on the Luma site here.