Gluten-Free in France

France is famous for its breads, like crusty baguettes, flaky croissants, and rich pain au chocolat. The best! But what if you live a gluten-free life? Can you still visit la belle France?

Bien sûr! France has plenty of gluten-free (GF) options, whether you are dining out or cooking in. Here are some pointers to get you started.

Read about how to live GF in France at Frenchly.  Bon appétit !

The Best Restaurant in Provence?

There are a lot of great restaurants in Provence, with Michelin stars galore, like Le Petit Nice in Marseille and Baumanière in Les Baux. But for my money, the best fine dining in Provence is at L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel in Arles. Val and I go there every year to celebrate her birthday and it’s always great.

Find out all about L’Atelier at The Provence Post.

Secrets of Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse is one of those magical dishes that seems to capture the spirit of Provence. So when our friend Pascal, a retired chef, invited us over for homemade bouillabaisse, we came running.

Besides serving us a magnificent meal, Pascal shared some of his secrets. Like where the name comes from. And what kind of spices to use. And what to NEVER do when preparing bouillabaisse.

You can read my story about our dinner on page 106 of The Good Life France Magazine’s Autumn Issue.

Nutella: The Key to French Greatness?

Americans love peanut butter, just as Australians love Vegemite, and Brits love Marmite. We all have our national favorites.

For the French it’s Nutella, that sweet chocolate-hazelnut spread that kids grow up eating at breakfast. So it was shocking when French philosopher Régis Debray attacked Nutella , causing a national uproar. He might as well have gone after motherhood and the 35-hour workweek while he was at it.

Author and professor Mara Goyet responded with an essay explaining the ways in which Nutella is, in fact, at the very heart of French civilization. It’s very insightful and…hilarious!

You can read the full article at Frenchly.

The Best Value Wine in France? (and a secret picnic spot)

Just ten minutes from one of France’s most famous sites, the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard, sits the tiny village of Estézargues.  There’s not much there – no charming cafés or famous monuments.  But on the edge of town you can find some astonishingly good wine— wine that you might consider the best value wine in France!

You can read the full article at France Travel Tips.

Benvengudo means Welcome

Just below the famous hilltop fortress of Les Baux sits the boutique luxury hotel Benvengudo.  The name means “welcome” in the local language and it couldn’t be more appropriate.

Walking onto the manicured grounds of Benvengudo is like stepping back in time, to a more simple and gracious era.  The hotel provides a rare mix of traditional and modern, and you’ll be reluctant to leave when your stay is over.  You’ll ask yourself – can’t we linger just a bit longer?

Benvengudo began fifty years ago as a simple, four-room country inn and restaurant, built by Daniel and Maryse Beaupied.  Daniel had trained as a chef under the legendary Paul Bocuse before earning a Michelin star of his own.

You can read more about Benvengudo here.

Going to the Butcher in France

A French town without a baker – can you imagine such a thing? Everyone would move away!

A butcher is almost as important to French village life. The butcher will sell the usual roasts and chops and chickens, as well as a variety of prepared foods. These really help when you are hosting a dinner party or are too busy to cook.

My wife Val and I live part of the year in St.-Rémy-de-Provence, a charming town between Arles and Avignon. We love going to our favorite butcher shop, a place that has been serving the good people of St.-Rémy for decades.

It is run by a husband and wife who take great care in the quality of their products and service. When you order a piece of meat, the butcher will ask you how you plan to prepare it. Then he will slice off any extra fat, trim around the bone and cut it into the size you want.

If you want hamburger, he will take a piece of beef, run it through his grinder and form it for you. Burger by burger.

Our butcher offers many things fait maison (home made) like patés, ratatouille, stuffed vegetables, salamis, and at least four kinds of sausage. The butcher’s wife dishes out the prepared items and runs the register while the butcher handles all the cutting.

Photo by Jusben at Morguefile.com

We love shopping there because the butcher takes the time to chat with every customer – waiting in line is kind of a free French lesson. How is the family? Are your bunions bothering you? How will you prepare the stew? For how many people? Do you salt your food? Here’s what my doctor says about salting food. Let me tell you, your husband puts too much salt on his food (then the butcher’s wife adds in that all husbands salt their food too much.)

It’s like watching a French sitcom.

Sometimes the phone rings and the butcher answers it – it’s usually an order for a big meal. This leads to a long discussion between the person on the phone and the butcher and his wife. How many people do they need to feed? What spices will they use? Should they pick it up at 11:00? No, maybe 12:00. No, 11:00 would be better. Okay, they’ll come at 12:00.

Once we went to the butcher to get a gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb.) We were having some friends over and figured a gigot would be easy to make in advance and would feed a large group.

We explained what we wanted. For how many people, the butcher asked. Ah, the gigot in my case is not large enough for your dinner for ten, he said.

So off he went to the back to get a larger one. He appeared two minutes later, not with a larger leg but carrying the entire back half of a lamb. Oh, my. But at least the wool had been removed.

This doesn’t happen where we live in California.

The butcher turned on his electric saw and in a couple of minutes the lamb was cut in half, feet removed, trimmed of excess fat, deboned, and tied with string.

Then came the cooking discussion. How were we preparing it? Our marinade and roasting met with his approval, but under no circumstances were we to use a temperature higher than 180 degrees Celsius. The butcher looked at us gravely to make sure we understood this important point.

And did we want the bones he had just removed? We should place them next to the lamb, cover them with some olive oil and butter, and add a full head of garlic, herbes de Provence, and salt. It would make a nice jus for the meat. This kind of advice is common in France.

If you are in a hurry, don’t go to a French butcher because you’ll be there for at least a half an hour. But if you do, the food will be delicious and the floorshow can’t be beat.