Pascal and I grew up in Provence in the middle of the Cote du Rhone wineries . My little home town of 2000 people , Sainte Cecile les Vignes ...is obviously all about vineyards. I don't know what went "wrong" but both of us do not drink wine or any kind of alcohol as the matter fact !! This is a serious social issue when you live there ... How can you not like wine or not drink pastis when you were born and raised in Provence!?!?! AND to make matters even worse ...we do not smoke or drink coffee...everybody there is puzzled by this "anomaly" ....here in California we are considered healthy !
Saturday morning is Farmer's market day and the village is buzzing . A basket in one hand and my mum on the other ...off we go !
Everything looked delicious and fresh but there are very few organic produce stands . We do have really good produce in California but one huge difference was in the apricots ...so juicy and bursting in flavors . I must have eat a whole case during that trip ....
The raspberries and strawberries were amazing as well ...still warm from just being picked up
Dried linden blossom and lemon verbena my favorites to make herbal tea
And all the spices to make a Moroccan couscous or tajine...
Lemon confits are also a big part of north African cuisine....love them with fish or chicken. Here in San Diego ,I make my own since we have fresh lemons everywhere
All kinds of nougats , with candied fruits ....I have to try this next time!
This sign is pretty funny : eggs are not large and extra large but " medium and very big "
Hiro and I cannot resist the espadrilles . Cute and comfy !
Paella ready to go !
Morue sechee ( baccala for the Italians ) is a true specialty of Provence ...and a lot of work to desalt and prepare but you can buy some already ready to eat at the same fish stand . It is mixed with olive oil and turned into a creamy paste delicious with steamed potatoes ...ad a few truffles and it is really heaven !
This is my catch of the day ! A stingray fin ...just steam it for 10-15 minutes. It is mild , moist and just comes off the large bone like shredded meat .
This is also one of my favorite : scallops with their roe . I have never been able to find some here in the US but in France it is the only way they come ...so tasty and delicious . You just sear them the same way in a little butter ...yum !
Big raw prawns with head and shell ready to grill ...best part is to suck the skin and head where all the flavors are !
Goat or sheep cheeses ...they are all good !
But the ones I am taking home with me are these fresh fresh goat cheeses...made locally in the near by town of Valreas. Only a day old ; they are still in their liquid. Strain the cheese and eat with good "fleur de sel" and bread ...this is the most mild of all goat cheeses ...and can only be found where they are made since they are not yet aged ...this is all my childhood and the taste of home !
I make one last stop chez Thierry the very talented florist to pick up some fresh flowers .
My mum own hydrangeas and wisteria
Getting ready of a "cooking class" ...today we'll make an other recipe Pascal's grand mother taught me : " blanquette de chevreau"
A blanquette is a typical french dish made with veal in a white sauce but I much prefer this "chevreau" version. We can only find young goats in spring around Easter . It makes this dish much more moist and tender with a very mild taste .
This is what you'll need: Olive oil , butter, veal with some bone if possible so it is not dry , a shallot, 1 garlic clove crushed, corn starch, white wine, chicken or veal broth , bouquet garni ( bay leaves, thyme and parsley ), 1/2 onion studded with cloves, some whipping cream and 1 egg yolk .
Traditionally you would start the meat in cold water and bring it to a simmer before to clean the foam that comes up ....but we like to bring some more flavors so we sautee the meat in a mix of olive oil and butter , let it brown before to ad the chopped shallot and garlic. Ad a tbs of cornstarch to make a "roux" that will help thicken the sauce in the end . Ad a glass of white wine , let evaporate before to ad water to almost cover the meat . Put 1 cube of chicken or veal stock , 2 branches of celery , 2 carrots, the bouquet garni and the onion with the cloves . Salt no pepper .
Cover and let simmer for about an hour until the meat is tender .
My best student taking notes !
When the meat is cooked , remove the herbs and vegetables (except for the carrots) and ad some whipping cream. If the sauce is still too liquid ad an egg yolk being very careful not to boil the sauce at any point anymore .Mix gently not to mush the delicate meat.
I am sorry if my plate doesn't look restaurant pretty but we are so ready to eat this ...we can hardly wait !!
I am taking my friend Hiro for a stroll in Vaison la Romaine but on the way I have to stop in Pascal's home town of Tulette at the local chocolate shop to buy some chocolate/crunchy hazelnut spread ...a much more delicious and totally addictive version of "Nutella" I specially love their old truck : "tube" made by Citroen in the 50's
It would be really cool to have one for Maison En Provence !!!
Vaison la Romaine is a very pretty little town with Roman ruins , bridge and amphitheater . The best thing is to actually enjoy the theater during summer months when they have concerts, local choirs performing and watch the fireworks for Bastille Day ! The farmer's market is also the best one in the region . As a tourist , you should wander in the old part of town...nice little restaurants, B&B and hike up to the "castle"
Grignan is a hillside fortified village clustered tightly around a large Renaissance castle that dominate the top of the hill. Grignan was made famous in France by the Aristocratic Madame de Sévigné, remembered for the many letters she wrote in the 17th century. It is surrounded by lavender fields and host a very famous " festival de la correspondance" ( a book and writing event with lectures, exhibitions, vintage books market...) they also have plays and concerts in front of the castle all summer. Worth the visit if you have already been many times to Provence and want to explore an other little artist town .
Last part of the trip ...coming very soon !
It's Father's Day !
We have such fun cards made in house by our own talented Alice !
We are on our way to Provence ....enjoying a real baguette "jambon -beurre" sandwich at the train station ! and Pierre is sipping a cafe au lait ....
First breakfast at my mum .... It does not get more simple than that : just good bread , good butter and mum's made jam ...Heaven !
With my sweet little tiny mum !
I will do a lot of cooking ...so many delicious things I have been dreaming to eat all year !
A new propane tank in my grand parent's stove and we are ready ! You won't believe what great food you can cook in such an old fashion kitchen !!
First stop : Le boucher ...with the bakery , the butcher shop is the heart of the village where not only I can find everything I can't even dream of finding in a city as big as San Diego but also catch up with all the news and gossips , bump into a childhood friend as most of them still leave there and get a bunch of invitations for " l'aperitif " by people who have not seen us for a while.
It's not "just" a butcher shop ...but a "cremerie" with local cheeses ...
A great deli with all our favorites : Head pate , rillettes , vol au vent...
Real "poulets de Bresse" ...the best chicken ever ....
And what I am coming for : some "tendrons de veau" ...a more fatty part of the veal that also has gelatine to keep it moist and tender.
As well as some fresh pigeons ...what a treat ! Pascal's grand mother always cooked some when we went to visit her in Forqualquier . This is more than a meal ...it's all those great memories in a plate .
Pierre is taking notes on how to prepare the pigeons !
One stop at the patisserie to pick up some delicious "eclairs "
After a little cooking and simmering : Voila ! Tendrons de veau a la Provencale ...the french version of an Osso Bucco without the bones .
A good Coulommier ( kind of Camembert but not as strong) and our ultimate favorite creamy cheese : Boursault ( never seen any in the US ...so try it next time you are in France )
Some happy guests ! Mum and our friend Hiroko who came to stay with us for a few days and experience Provence more than visit it.
Today I am meeting with some of my potters in their "atelier" . I have to pack and ship their beautiful creations before to leave .
Lunch break in Lourmarin at the Cafe de la Fontaine . The owners are from Corsica and serve some of the region's specialties and it's all grilled in the open fireplace . Loved it .
The "charcuterie plate "
The near by "Etang " de Cucuron ...very nice spot to eat under the plane trees in summer . Lots of very good restaurants in this tiny village .
Now buying some beautiful bags made of antique hemp from grain sacs and recycled military belts .
The Mistral is blowing ....it is driving everybody crazy , me included ! I am not used to it anymore ...and the worst part is that it does not even stop at night and can go on for weeks .
Today I am going to the lavender fields on the high plateaux . It is a beautiful drive through small villages .This is where they grow most of the lavender , where bees make lavender honey , where our essential oil is made , our sachets come from ...
St Auban sur Ouveze
The fountain is really a central place in all villages . This is where the ladies where going to do their laundry , wash the linen with big blocks of "Marseille soap" .
Pierrelongue village just before Buis les Barronies . This is the northern part of Provence not as well known and not as jammed with tourists . I use to bicycle here in the summer with my high school girl friends and go from campground to campground .
Perfect picnic spot under a linden tree in bloom . Linden trees make this thick foliage and their shade is said to get you a cold if you take a nap underneath on a hot summer day. These were smelling so sweet...bees were all over and we picked up some leaves to make some herbal tea later .
My mum's home made pate with truffles ...this is no basic picnic !"les genets" flowers were also in full bloom...entire hills were yellow !
The big hay wheels
Finally after Saint Auban sur Ouveze ...we get to the fields ...but the lavender is not yet fully open . It's been an unusual cold spring and even if we are now at the end of june , the fields are not purple . Still beautiful !
The spelt fields were dancing in the wind making big waves . I was surprised to see so much spelt growing here but someone told me that lavender fields had had diseases and farmers had switch to spelt witch is very much in demand right now like most gluten free products .
This ancient grain variety is called " Petit epautre du Ventoux" because it is grown around the Mont Ventoux . You can find it in every supermarket in Provence . I find it not as hard as spelt I find in the US and it also cooks faster .
Saint Roman de Malegarde and our old house with white shutters on the edge of the village ...
La Callade - stone street goes up to the little chapel where we got married . Last week the communion ceremony had only 2 little girls ...about 100 people live in St Roman year round .
Everybody has heard of L'Isle sur Sorgue ...this little town is just east of Avignon at the border of the parc du Luberon ....it is everything you would dream of Provence with it's canals , good restaurants, small cafes , trendy bistros ,sunday market and flea market . The quality of the antique stores is pretty phenomenal and there are a lot! You cannot see it all in one day and they are only open on the week ends . A must do on your list . Start as early as possible ...sun rise for good deal and the hopeless parking situation .
These are old "petanque" balls . At the time they were made out of wood studded with nails to get them heavier .
Chez Nicod the master of "mises en scenes " ... an eclectic mix that somehow always works .
On our way back home we stop at one of our favorite spot , the picturesque village of Seguret . They have the most beautiful live nativity scene in their little church at Christmas . Midnight mass attract so many people you actually have to book tickets to attend ...and better know some locals as seats are very limited .
In the back ground ...the "Dentelles de Montmirail" mountains that look like lace ...also near by the village of Beaume de Venise where they make some sweet aperitif wine named after the village ...delicious cold in summer .
Plane trees worked as a trellis ...amazing !
Seguret is not a tourist trap kind of village ...there is no gift shops but a few artists who have their workshops , a couple of restaurants ( "la table du comtat" is the most famous one ...with beautiful views of the valley ) a couple of smaller cafes where all you want to do is sip a coffee , eat an ice cream and enjoy the peacefulness of this place .
Make sure you subscribe to our blog to be notified when I will upload some more photos as our trip to Provence has a part 2 !
We just had a tea party this week end so people could discover the line of fine French teas that we now carry from "Le Palais des Thes " . We paired the teas with lavender honey , lavender caramel cream or chocolate caramel cream and sample some gourmet cookies ...so much fun !
Getting ready ...
My favorite sachet made with Kimono fabric, a subtle powdery scent...
Just some of the new spring and summer obi purses from my Japanese friend Yukari:
Those super soft bathrobes come in 10 happy prints ...best summer robe !
Matching night gowns....so romantic !
Easter window displays in France's fine "chocolatiers"
This year we are celebrating Easter just like in France ! We had some chocolate eggs made with high quality dark chocolate and filled with small "praline"chocolate eggs and dark chocolate candies ...about 1lbs 5oz of pure deliciousness !
Our bunnies are the cutest solid dark chocolate/almond toffee . You love our macarons and toffees so you will love these eggs made exclusively for us by Mark Lafosse !