Ten Days in Provence Chapter 2

Aperitif tapenade from St Quentin

Aperitif

Local olives

Local olives

Tomato souffle tart

A cheesy souffle style tart

Tomato, mozzarella basil salad

Tomato, mozzarella and pesto salad

Delicous aperitif

Aperitif of tomato paste, black olive paste and an unusual curried melon paste

Wine with eau de vie

Wine fortified with eau de vie

Delicious peach tart

A peach tart from the boulangerie

Fig

Protecting the figs

Protecting the figs from birds; occasionally they got to one. Whilst picking figs you’d find a plump luscious one and go to pluck it only to find that the other side had a big chunk removed showing its pinky purple juicy flesh.

Rogue hand going for a fig

I love figs. I am a fig pig!

In August I spent another fabulous 10 days in Provence relaxing, eating and drinking extremely well, visiting markets and going to the city wide photography festival in Arles. Last year I blogged about my stay here. This is quite a retro blog post as I was in Provence in August and it is now December! Looking at these photos again is certainly warming me up during this crisp and chilly month.

We went to St Quentin la Poterie which is a beautiful small town famous for the potters whose studios are dotted about the winding streets. It also has a wonderful market. The market isn’t postcard pretty as it is set up in a car park but the produce is fantastic. We went there to pick up bread, cheese, pastes for aperitif, fresh vegetables and fruit and even handmade peppermint, geranium and verbena soaps. The potters’ studios are great and varied, with some allowing you to see the potters at work, so we started a little collection of crockery – to put the bread, cheese, fresh veg, etc on of course!

Every morning at the house we collected figs from the tree. One morning we collected an astonishing 41 figs! The ones that weren’t reserved for jam making only lasted until the next day’s breakfast. They were temptingly delicious!

I loved the routine during the holiday. It went something like this: wake-up, breakfast on the terrace, relax in a hammock, have aperitif by the pool then lunch in the garden, relax again, have aperitif then supper and then relax. Such a strenuous time! Eating outdoors was one of the things I loved so much. Working indoors (as most people do) means that the simple act of being outside is such a novelty (sadly) even though it is so normal. Everything is better when done outdoors in beautiful weather: drinking a glass of wine, cutting into a fresh baguette, eating a fig. It isn’t even necessary to follow any recipes there as the local produce is so good that all you need to do is eat it in different combinations. I think the photos say it all.

Always room for cheese

There is always room for cheese!

Salmon on the barbecue with red onion and lemon

Salmon, lemon and red onion cooked on the barbecue

St Quentin la Poterie

St Quentin la Poterie with the beautiful tiled detail running down the centre of the lanes.

 

Advertisements

Ten Days in Provence with Truffle Wine, Coffee in a Bowl, and Dinner at L’Artemise

Desserts in Provence

I recently spent a very relaxing ten days in Provence, near the Camargue, where I was treated to the most delicious food and wine. Food and wine featured heavily during my stay as three hours after breakfast (where coffee was drunk from a bowl with fresh croissants and fruit) aperitivo was served by the pool, straight after aperitivo and a swim was lunch, followed by relaxing in the hammock and then about three hours after that there was more aperitivo followed by dinner. It was wonderful! I love aperitivo. It varied from drinking pastis, the typically French aniseed liquor (a less lethal cousin of absinthe) served with water which turns it cloudy,  to wine flavoured with truffle to champagne with a hint of liquor from mandarin to plum. The drinks were served with slices of baguette or fougasse with tapenade, a tomato and garlic paste and the most delicious spread which was a blend of melon, mint and a touch of curry powder. These were from a stall at the market at St Quentin La Poterie which has a fantastic Friday market with local produce such as honeys and olives.

Desserts in Provence

Desserts in Provence

Delicious desserts from the local patisserie in Uzès.

Deleuze-Rochetin Vineyard, Arpaillargues, Provence

Vineyard Deleuze-Rochetin where we sampled wines and saw exhibitions in the art space.

One morning we went to one of the local vineyards, Deleuze-Rochetin, to sample wines and stock up for meals and, needless to say, aperitivo. It was such a pleasure going there and sampling wines that are straight from the region and not exported. One of my favourites was Zéphyr, 2011, with a fresh, slightly floral nose but, unfortunately I can’t remember its blend of grapes. The vineyard even has a stark art space upstairs so after sampling everything we could get our paws on we discovered the art of Denis Pondruel, Martine Lafon and Cecile Andrieu.

Thirsty Road

Thirsty Road!

Mushrooms, Provence

A beautiful array of mushrooms cooking in cream.

Tapenade and tomato and garlic spread

Aperitivo by the pool – tapenade and the most delicious tomato and garlic paste. I could eat it every day forever!

Barbecuing prawns

Barbecuing whisky soaked prawns – a Provence speciality! No, not really.

Dried fruit

Dried fruit from the market at Saint Quentin la Poterie.

Figs

Figs in the garden. I had my eye on them every day but only two ripened whilst we were there. Sigh. I could have eaten the whole tree!

Pastis and olives

Pastis and olives for aperitivo.

Howkapow scarf

My Karen Mabon swimmers scarf looked great by the pool. Find it here on Howkapow.

L'Artemise, Pont-du-Gard, Provence

A delicious cocktail to start our dinner at L’Artemise near Pont-du-Gard. It was a concoction of whisky, ginger and cubes of mashed basil.

Olive breadsticks at L'Artemise, Pont-du-Gard

Delicate olive breadsticks.

Mozzarella cream with sun dried tomato

Amuse bouche – mozzarella cream with sun-dried tomato.

Puree au petit pois.

Amuse bouche – petit pois purée.

Dessert at L'Artemise, Provence

Dessert at L’Artemise – poached apricots, meringue sticks, creme patissier and brioche.

L'Artemise, Pont-du-Gard, Provence

L’Artemise at Pont-du-Gard, Provence.

On our final night we went to a fantastic restaurant: L’Artemise. It is situated on a hill near the Roman aqueduct Pont-du-Gard with sweeping views of the stunningly green countryside with occasional yellow patches of sunflowers. The restaurant is set in a beautiful old house with tables in the garden next to the tomato patches with lights suspended between them and from trees. There isn’t a menu to speak of, you specify whether you would like meat or fish, then the evening of many courses begins. We started with a green cocktail of whisky, ginger and mashed basil cubes, followed by two amuses bouches, a starter, then the main of fish or meat. I don’t have photos of every course as night set in making it too dark but you get a good idea from the photos above. After the main was local cheese served with pickled courgette, goat’s cheese ice-cream which tasted of yoghurt and was surprisingly delicious, a dessert of poached apricots, meringue sticks, creme patissier and brioche, then plates of chocolate pots and madeleines were presented. It was all utterly delicious and the dishes change frequently so you are very much encouraged to go back. Even if the dishes remained the same I would be back in a flash many times!

Pont-du-Gard, Provence

Pont-du-Gard, Provence

Places I would recommend to visit when in Provence are:

L’Artemise

Deleuze-Rochetin

The Friday market in Saint Quentin la Poterie

The Saturday market in Uzes

La Maison de la Truffe in Uzes for truffle wine

Pont-du-Gard Roman Aqueduct 

Rencontres Arles – an enormous photography exhibition set all over Arles

A walk along the medieval fortifications at Aigues-Mortes

Relaxation

Curious Foodie Christmas Presents

I received some rather fun foodie gifts at Christmas. Amongst the usual array of jams and chocolates I unwrapped a present to find an egg box which I opened to find 6 colourful egg shaped soaps! It was a great surprise and certainly the perfect present for me since I think about food almost every waking hour. I also received this wonderful geometric chocolate box filled with individual chocolates. The facets of the chocolate box are variously coloured and have images on them such as a hand pointing a finger which makes me think of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I would love to go to the chocolatier which is based just south west of Paris to see the making process. How is the chocolate box made with so many facets and bends and how are the images placed on the facets, I wonder? Curious and curiouser! I haven’t had the heart to break apart the box yet but have eaten several of the chocolates which are delicious and unusual; one being marzipan with crunched up cardamom pods in it.

The egg soaps are by Get Fresh Cosmetics Ltd, Bournemouth

Colas Chocolatier can be found in Maule, near Paris, France

Macaron Monster in Paris

   

I went to Paris for a long weekend and my first desire was to find as many macarons as possible and eat them all. I telepathically emitted a warning to all macarons: “Macarons of Paris, I am coming to eat you, all of you. I will start with the salted caramel, move on to the rose, then perhaps pistachio. I will work my way through the colours of the rainbow and end with dark chocolate. If you want to live, hide now!”. I’m not sure they received my message but I didn’t succeed in finding as many as possible anyway. I failed! I got roped into going to the Louvre (again!) which, of course, is so enormous and you get swept up in a treadmill style experience sandwiched between others shuffling you along who just want to see the “Mona Lisa” (we overheard some tired sour faced girls asking each other “Where the f*** is the Mona Lisa?”) which is then like a squishy concert experience; cameras flashing, elbows jabbing ribs, me groaning. Ooof, after that I went to meet friends at Chez Prune along Quai Valmy for a cafe creme which meant that I missed the opening hours of the most of the shops. Macarons! I want you!

 

So I only had Sunday left for macaron hunting which meant that the choice was limited since most shops are closed on Sundays as all the French go to church, I presume. I asked French friends which macarons they felt were the best and they said Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, which are both also in London. Ah ha. But the shops in Paris have a wider range especially of the pastries and chocolates. Ladurée has teamed up with Hello Kitty and has incorporated her cutie pie face into their packaging. The Ladurée shops in Paris are even more Rococo kitsch than the ones in London which I wasn’t sure was possible. I went to the Pierre Hermé shop on Rue Bonaparte which has a beautiful window display of suspended ribboned donut shapes suggesting it could be a jewellery shop. Inside the chocolates and desserts are so delicate and ornate that they are as visually enticing as jewellery and even more satisfying because you can eat them. One of my macarons even had a pearlised surface. I enjoyed the Plénitude (chocolate and caramel); peach, apricot and saffron; Mogador (milk chocolate and passion fruit); Americano Pamplemousse (orange, campari and grapefruit confit) and some macarons are only available at certain times of the year, dictated by seasonal flavours, so I have to wait until June to try the Médélice (a curious combination of lemon and praline).

So, I didn’t find any macarons better than the ones that are in London (which is good news actually!) and on my way back on the Eurostar there was a little macaron in my trio of desserts. Macaron Monster was very happy indeed!

p.s. You can read about two fantastic exhibitions I saw in Paris on my art and design blog: Tim Burton and Louis Vuitton/ Marc Jacobs