Bistrot du Paradou is simply not a restaurant for everyone. In fact, let me discourage you entirely from eating here – you will hate it. It is an unpretentious, no-frills eatery with no colored gel dots festooning plates or even bizarre culinary fusions poetically listed on a whimsical menu. Actually, there isn’t even a menu; all you get is whatever the chef decides to cook for that day and that’s it. There are no fancy linens, no Riedel stemware, nor imposing sommeliers; there really isn’t even a wine list, just a single open bottle lay waiting on every table. And you had better make reservations or risk not getting a table. …
Secrecy is Everything
We met Johann Pepin at ‘Les Pastras‘, his sprawling organic farm located on a desolate mountain top near the Provencal village of Cadenet under the cloak of secrecy. He cautioned us that “thieves were everywhere”, before instructing us to lock our car doors and gather down below. I must admit I felt a bit uneasy as he slipped a black hood loosely over my head, gently guiding me into the back of an unmarked black van.
Moments later we arrived at the edge of an unnamed field in an unnamed town in an unnamed country for what was surely going to be an epic truffle hunt. Such is the way with truffle hunters where secrecy is everything. …
A Curious Market Tour in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
We met Ashley, the Queen of Curious Provence, for a quick espresso at Café de la Place, located on the edge of the bustling St. Rémy market. Any possibility of feeling awkward or weird by meeting someone you don’t know was quickly obliterated by Ashley. She was perfectly outgoing and talkative enough to make us feel like we were meeting a long lost friend rather than an unknown tour guide. Within moments of downing our coffee, we were in the thick of the bustling market, weaving through the busy stalls like regular market habitués….
We first met Pascal Wagner in front of his small wine cave on a quiet street in sleepy Puligny Montrachet. He was anxiously pacing back and forth, chatting 200 miles an hour on a cell phone, in three different languages, with a client from some far off country. I didn’t want to disturb him but I had just begun braising an AOP Bresse chicken and needed an older white wine worthy of the celebrated bird. With a lit cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of his mouth, he motioned for us to be patient while he disappeared inside. He returned a moment later, still talking on the phone, clutching two fantastic bottles of an older white Meursault (chardonnay)….
If Michelin gave four stars, Restaurant Paul Bocuse would certainly deserve it
Our meal at Restaurant Paul Bocuse at Auberge du Pont de Collonges was phenomenal, far exceeding my expectations and leaving me immediately wanting to return for more. Honestly, I would have eaten a second meal had the kitchen not closed.
Everything from the moment you pull up to the colorful historic restaurant, through the gracious welcomes by the entire staff, to the visual aesthetics of the dining room, and the stellar food, wine, and service was absolutely perfect and impeccable. Everything one would expect from a properly functioning three-star Michelin restaurant at the height of its powers.
A Vineyard Lunch
There are few things so pleasant as a picnic lunch eaten in perfect comfort.
Nothing is more pleasant than a carefree picnic. The only the thing I would add to novelist W. Somerset Maugham quote above are the words ‘in a vineyard’ tucked onto the end. Last weekend we gathered together with friends, both old and new, to enjoy a vineyard lunch at Four Graces Winery. The day could not have been more perfect, temperatures hovered in the mid 70’s as the sun shined and the sounds of merriment echoed through the vines.
Spring brings hope, gaiety and laughter. Like the buds on grapevines, we emerge from winter’s dormancy thirsting for sunshine and eager to reconnect. The air perfumed by fragrant Dutch hyacinths and Persian lilies. The long days encourage us to dawdle leisurely at the table, conversing lightheartedly into the fading sunlight. Perfect is a vineyard picnic in the spring….
Slowing down to a Provencal Rhythm
Last August we spent a transformative week in the historic hill town of Cagnes sur Mer, widely considered the ‘Montmartre’ of the South and long favored by impressionist painters for its alluring beauty. Within five days we went from our hurried, busy lives to a more relaxed, slowed down Provencal pace, hopelessly seduced by incredibly fresh seafood, perfect vegetables, and daily rounds of pastis and rosé.
I originally wrote this post for Curious Provence, but wanted to add the recipe for rouget I roasted in a wood burning oven in Cagnes Sur Mer. To read the entire article, please visit Curious Provence – Truly one of the great Provencal blogs; written by expat Ashley….
People want to reclaim what’s real. Mass tourism is no longer sufficient. ~ Jamie Wong
Culinary Adventures are the new way for travellers to experience a country and connect directly with locals and their culture through the plate. It’s an immersive way to “travel better, on a deeper emotional and more personal level”, explains The Rise of Experiential Travel Report by Skift + Peak.
For years, Lisa and I have brought friends on incredible trips to France to directly experience the real French culture by eating in regular people’s homes, touring food markets and travelling to far off small villages to taste the dishes that made them famous. What we have found is: people want to escape the homogenized trips and experience more adventurous and experiential travel. Mass tourism is dead.