Wine Tasting in Provence

Provence is a wine lover’s paradise, and wines have been produced here for thousands of years. Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy-de-Provence, near many excellent wineries.

I’ve written an article about some of my favorites (all with English-speaking staff.) Would you like to sip some wine near a medieval Court of Love, where noble ladies once ruled on “questions of gallantry”? Or perhaps at a winery that the famous seer Nostradamus said would be the edge of the earth when the seas rose to great heights. And then there’s the place where you can drink like an ancient Roman! (toga not included)

Read about my favorite wineries in France Today!

Gigondas: Wine Village with a View

Are you looking for a place with beautiful views, excellent food, and fabulous wines? Then consider Gigondas in the southern Rhône Valley.

This region has been producing excellent wines for over 2,000 years, from when it was part of the Roman Empire. The Romans liked the wines from Gigondas so much that they named it Jocunditas, or “delight,” and the name evolved into the modern Gigondas. Gigondas wines are similar to those of its famous neighbor, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but much more affordable.

Perched on a mountainside, the village overlooks its famous vineyards. Above it are the jagged, rocky crests of the Dentelles de Montmirail, a small mountain range. Even in a region known for its natural beauty, Gigondas stands out. There is a walking trail above the  town, with a viewing platform, and the views from it are spectacular.

The town hosts special artworks every summer, and has excellent restaurants and one of the best wine-tasting centers anywhere. Find out what to see and do, and where to eat and drink, at Perfectly Provence!

This article is taken from my upcoming book An Insider’s Guide to Provence, available for pre-order on Amazon.

 

 

Favorite Restaurants of St-Rémy

My wife Val and I live part-time in St-Rémy-de-Provence, and over the years we’ve discovered lots of wonderful places to eat, including some that are off the beaten path. And, of course, we have our favorite boulangerie, cheese shop, and all the rest.

Would you like to dine while gazing at the Alpilles mountains, with horses in the field next door? Or while sitting under leafy sycamore trees in a beautiful park? Or maybe you’d like to try the specialities at Provence’s best chocolatièr.

I share my insider secrets with you at The Good Life France!

This article is taken from my upcoming book An Insider’s Guide to Provence, available for pre-order on Amazon.

How to Find a True French Bakery

There are thousands of boulangeries in France, offering a wide range of breads and pastries. By law, their breads have to be made by hand and on site. But the law doesn’t apply to pâtisseries and viennoiseries, all those croissants, pastries, and quiches we love so much. As a result, many boulangeries buy these items frozen, from big industrial suppliers, and bake them on site.

True artisanal breads and pastries taste better, no doubt about it, but how can you find them? Good news: a new label will make it easy. It’s called Boulanger de France.

Find out what makes this new program so special and how you can find the very best boulangeries in Taste of France!

 

The Finest Craftsmen of France

You may have read about something called Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF), or perhaps you’ve spotted someone wearing a distinctive red, white, and blue collar. Wonder what it means?

The phrase means “best craftsman of France” and it is a title bestowed on only the best of the best, those who pass a grueling series of tests. Famous title holders include the late chef Paul Bocuse and the chocolatier Jacques Torres.

The MOF was created a century ago as a way to encourage artisans and to preserve and promote traditional crafts. Awards are made in over 200 categories. Some are well known, like baking and pastry making, while others are more obscure, like boiler making and piano tuning. There’s even one for denture makers!

Read all about these elite craftsmen, including the stars of Kings of Pastry–a film about the 3-day pastry competition. It’s all there in France Today!

Discover Socca, the Delicious Specialty of Nice

“The culture of Nice is based on three things: the sea, soccer, and socca.”

In a city famous for dishes like pan bagnat and ratatouille, socca holds a special place in the hearts of the niçois. A thin, deliciously crispy bread made from chickpea flour, socca was first brought to Nice by Italian dockworkers in the late 1700s. Cheap and filling, it became known as “poor people’s food,” a favorite of workers and fishermen.

Eventually, all of Nice discovered the dish, helped by a socca maker named Thérésa. She began with a pushcart near the beach before opening her own restaurant, Madame Thérésa. Today, niçois of all ages love socca’s rich, crispy taste. You’ll find cafés full of these locals, having a chat over a plate of socca and a glass of wine. It is so popular that some call it “the national dish of Nice.”

Socca’s ingredients are simple—chickpea flour, water, oil, and salt. Its distinctive crispiness comes from the wood-fired ovens where it is baked at a roaring 750 degrees. The secret ingredient—you might call it the magic—is the loving care with which Nice’s chefs make it.

Award-winning filmmaker Scott Petersen now shares a bit of that magic with us in his short documentary We Eat Socca Here. Read all about it and watch the fun trailer at Perfectly Provence. Warning: it might make you hungry.

 

The Queen of Wine

If you look at a list of the most expensive wines in the world you’ll see it stuffed with beauties from France. Look closer and you’ll see one name pop up over and over—Leroy. You think to yourself, I don’t know who this Monsieur Leroy is but he must be quite the winemaker.

Surprise! It’s not Monsieur Leroy, it’s Madame: Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy. Another surprise: she’s in her 9th decade and still at the top of her game. You might not have heard of her but she’s famous among the cognoscenti, and for good reason.

Lalou Bize-Leroy is the fourth generation of her family to run Maison Leroy, founded by her great-grandfather in 1868. She was perhaps destined for a life in wine after her father Henri placed a few drops of Burgundy on the lips of his newborn daughter.

Read all about this fascinating lady in The Good Life France!

Dominique Crenn, Rebel Chef

Dominique Crenn is one of the world’s greatest chefs, and her flagship restaurant in San Francisco has been awarded three Michelin stars. Known for her creative cuisine, Crenn has recently published her autobiography Rebel Chef: In Search of What Matters. It’s a fascinating look at a fascinating person.

Crenn’s has been an unusual journey, and she is not your usual chef. As an infant she was adopted by a couple in Brittany, her father a Resistance hero and a friend of Charles de Gaulle. Despite being raised by a traditional French family, Crenn never quite fit into the conservative France of the 1960s. One reason was her looks—part of her heritage is North African. Plus she was a tomboy with a crush on Olivia Newton-John. And then there was the matter of cooking. Crenn longed to be a great chef, and why not? “But the top restaurants are for men!” she was told. “Women cook at home.”

Read all about this rebel chef in France Today!

Celebrity Rosé Wines of Provence

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, John Legend, and Jon Bon Jovi are just a few of the celebrities who have fallen in love with the delicious rosé wines of Provence. And not only do they love them, they make them! (well, maybe they hire someone to do the actual work…)

Who are these famous vignerons and, more important, are their wines any good? I decided to do deep research on this vital subject and am happy to share what I learned.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

My Provençal Summer Menu

Summer is a wonderful time of year in Provence, with blue skies everywhere and brilliant sunflowers and lavender in bloom. My favorite time of day is the early evening when the heat of the day is past and you can look forward to a long, lazy meal.

Even if you are not in Provence right now, here’s a menu that will bring the flavors of the region to you. We start with a refreshing aperitif, move on to an appetizer and a main dish, and finish with a cool and refreshing dessert. I’ve chosen some of my favorite dishes, all very Provençal, and I hope you’ll enjoy them.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!