5 Top Provence Restaurants

I was asked recently by Taste of France Magazine to name my favorite restaurants in Provence. “Well, that’s easy,” I thought, until they told me to limit my list to five. But there are so many wonderful places to eat! Even in my village of St-Rémy I can easily come up with more than five.

But rules are rules so my wife Val and I put our heads together and came up with our list. It’s a mix of styles and prices and you might want to check it out for your next visit to beautiful Provence.

You can read all about it at Taste of France.

Tips on Avoiding Gluten in France

France might have the best bread in the world – baguettes, croissants, brioches, and much more. And don’t forget the pastries! Is there anything better than a rich French éclair?

But what if you can’t eat any of it? An estimated 7% of the population has a gluten intolerance of one sort or another. Can those unfortunate people eat safely in France? How do they navigate food stores and restaurants?

I faced this dilemma a few years ago when I was diagnosed with celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten intolerance. Given that my wife Val and I live part of the year in Provence, this was shocking news indeed—what would I eat? The good news is that we figured it out and now I eat very well! Let me share some of what we’ve learned.

Read my top tips for avoiding gluten in The Good Life France!

Wines We Love in Provence

My wife Val and I live part of the year in Provence and we love all the great local wines. They come in any color you like—red, white, and pink—and range from inexpensive quaffers to bottles you’d be proud to serve to anyone.

Over time we’ve visited many of the local wineries and some of them we go back to year after year. I’ve put together a list of our favorites, all of which have nice tasting rooms and (usually) English-speaking staff. If you are looking for some tasty bottles and a fun experience, check out my recommendations at Perfectly Provence.

What to See and Do in Beautiful Beaujolais

France is full of gorgeous wine regions. They range from Alsace, with its fairy tale villages, to Cassis, with vineyards that nearly touch the sea. And then there’s Beaujolais. Its vine-covered hillsides are as pretty as any in France. You’ll find it in the south of Burgundy, a region that’s world famous for its wines.

My wife and I recently spent some time in Beaujolais and it was wonderful. If you are curious about what it’s like to visit there, read my article in The Good Life France!

Fresh and Local in St-Rémy

Val and I love trying new restaurants in St-Rémy, and one of our recent discoveries is A la Table de Nicolas. The chef is a Master Restauranteur, always a mark of quality, and the food is fresh and delicious–mostly organic and sourced from local farmers. And they even do takeout, a rarity in France.

If you are in Provence and want some great and reasonably-pricing dining, this is a place you’ll want to check out!

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence.

An Oasis of Serenity in the Heart of Provence

It’s an oasis of serenity in the heart of Provence. The Auberge la Fenière lies at the foot of a forest-covered hillside, just beyond the charming village of Lourmarin. It’s a hotel and restaurant that have been welcoming guests for decades, with beautiful old buildings made of golden stone. Next to them is a broad, inviting lawn bordered by olive and cherry trees and a large herb garden. You can feel yourself relax the moment you walk in.

The main attraction of the auberge is undoubtedly its restaurant, the proud holder of a Michelin star since 1995. It draws food lovers from all over the world for its refined and creative cuisine. And, remarkably, there’s not a speck of gluten to be found anywhere, even in its many homemade breads.

Why no gluten? Let’s find out—it’s a fascinating story.

Read all about it in France Today!

Going to the Market in St-Rémy

One of the best things about Provence is being able to go to the outdoor markets, and there’s a market every day in one village or another near where we stay in St-Rémy. You get to taste samples, buy delicious produce, rub elbows with the locals–it’s great! And we are lucky because the best market of all is our own, held every Wednesday morning. One of our favorite things to do is to get up early and wander over to see what’s available.

What’s it like to go to our market? Follow me and find out!

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence.

Do the French Drink Too Much Wine?

The French government has decided that French people are drinking too much. And the French people (unsurprisingly) disagree.

France’s Department of Public Health has just launched a new campaign that warns of the dangers of alcohol consumption. It includes a slick commercial and an “alcoholmeter”–you tell how much you drink and it gives you back scary statistics about how you are damaging your health.

The French are not happy about this. I read an article in a leading newspaper and then went through the comments section to find the best ones for you. They are very funny!

Read all about it at Frenchly!

Christmas Traditions in Provence

Provence shares many Christmas traditions with the rest of France, like sapins de Noël (Christmas trees) and Pére Noël (Father Christmas.) But it also has some unique ones of its own.

One is the santons, those cute little figurines sold all over Provence. They depict characters from village life such as the baker, the fishwife and the scissor grinder. They are popular with tourists, kind of like Hummel figurines but with a French twist. And their origin goes back to the French Revolution.

Crèches (nativity scenes) had long been popular in France but were banned by the fiercely anti-clerical leaders of the Revolution. What to do? An artist from Marseille came up with a clever solution. He invented santons and turned the crèche into a “village scene,” using his little figurines in place of the usual Biblical characters. This passed muster with the anti-religious zealots, who somehow missed the fact that santon means “little saint,” and a new tradition was born.

Another Provencal Christmas specialty is le gros souper (the big dinner) eaten before midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It is full of religious symbolism, like the three white tablecloths representing the holy trinity and the seven dishes representing Mary’s sorrows. It also requires a great deal of preparation, so fewer families today have this big dinner than in years past.

Perhaps the most famous Provence Christmas tradition is the treize (thirteen) desserts. Wait, thirteen? Yes!

These are eaten after midnight Mass, which means in the wee hours of Christmas—what a great way to start the day! Like the gros souper, the treize desserts are full of religious symbolism. Thirteen, for example, represents the number of people at the Last Supper.

Each family can decide what to serve but the desserts usually include fruits and nuts, candies and some sort of sweetened bread. My favorites are the two kinds of nougat, one white and one black, symbolizing good and evil.

Like the gros souper, fewer families prepare the treize desserts today than in the past but they maintain a loyal following. Some people just skip the dinner and the Mass and go straight to the desserts!

So at your Christmas dinner this year, when you are debating whether to have another slice of pie—go for it! Just tell your family that you are taking part in an ancient and noble French tradition.

 

My new book is out! Are We French Yet? is available at Amazon!