As a last little morsel from Provence, check out Francis Aubert deftly trimming and making beautiful french cut lamb chops – exposing the bone just a bit but without discarding any meat.
Restaurant La Bartavelle, Goult – We were fortunate enough to get a last minute table (i.e. one week in advance) at this Goult charmer. The small restaurant located down a narrow alley street seats only 25 people, with one service a night. They sat our party of six in an almost private dining area towards the front that had the feel of a rustic home – complete with antique Michelin guides, coffee table cookbooks, and a shuttered door opening to potted plants and the outside street. A decently priced 41 euro prix fix provided reinvented classic French cuisine done simply, perfect, and beautifully.
Markets – Outdoor markets are plentiful and rotate locations each and every day between the surrounding villages. The most coveted item we discovered was a reduced wine infused with truffles, délice de vin barolo a la truffe, from a stand Les Aromes Mediterraneens, selling various tapenades, reductions, and oil. The reduction accompanied salads, meats, and soft cheeses perfectly, the wine still strong but not overpowering and earthy truffles balancing the flavor. We tried looking for the item again, last minute, in a few of the gourmet shops but could only find reduced balsamic with truffles – just not the same.
Roussillon – The grand red cliffs and ocre quarries are worth the see, despite the tourist crowd. Shoes and feet will for sure be stained yellow for the rest of the day, but the vivid shades of yellow, red and brown, in contrast with an immaculate blue Provence sky, seem ethereal.
The idea of Provence conjures up either the image of an idyllic lost in lavender fields oasis possessing overwhelming rustic beauty, or an unfortunate ravaged tourist spot packed with goads of aimless camera hounds crowding its narrow antique streets.
Fortunately, we experienced more of the former and less of the latter during our stay in the hilltop village of Goult. The middle of September proved to be an ideal time to visit Provence, as tourists were starting to fade, or at least take the shape of the more mature, slowed and retired crowd.
Goult had all the makings of a quaint, picturesque, yet still working class village. Yes, the cafes and outdoor restaurant seating were generally full, and the beer loving crowd descended upon Cafe de la Poste like lazy gulls each evening that the cafe opened (we learned that opening days and times in France are never regular).
But the bakery, with its baskets of fresh bready goodness and rows of flakey buttery pastries, opened early in the mornings (though on odd days) at times a hung-over crowd would have never made. The lovely bakery owner greeted long-time customers by name and only gave a quiet smirk when we asked for the “champagne” loaf (campagne or country bread).
Luckily, our French native on hand, Lolo, quickly cleared up how to properly order meat at the boucherie – by choosing from the posted list and then, for us less educated, kindly asking the butcher to point to the cut on the cow map. Voila! Meat fetched from the refrigerated locker behind, to be cut on the spot in front.
And even though we never found the candlestick maker (or never looked, really), Provence’s subtle and hidden charm more than sufficed to make for a simply perfect stay.
Sandra and I first met back in 2007, through a gathering of mutual friends for Fourth of July weekend. The following year, the same group, plus and minus a few, decided on a trip to Napa Valley – three couples; four days of wineries; and three evenings of cooking, grilling and imbibing. At the time, I was residing in the SF Bay Area, while Sandra kept her roots in LA. We soon realized, however, that with each forthcoming get together, whether it be NoCal or SoCal, the two of us seemed to always lean towards a food-centric trip: conversations meandered towards recipes and best cooking practices, preferred shopping venues were farmer and outdoor markets, and detailed home cooked meals were always required. Of course, our men didn’t mind.
This past month, we reunited our same gang for an international trip to Provence. It was an easy and obvious choice – especially with Sandra’s boyfriend being French and that I had relocated to Spain. One balmy Provence evening, after too much food and too much wine, we kicked around the idea of starting a blog to not only keep record, but to stay in touch with each other, and to share the trip’s highlights with friends and family.
So, here we begin….