A luscious, lengthy breakfast at Hôtel du Castellet, in Provence, France. As extraordinary as the pastry and cheeses were, I was most amazed by the butter, which seems to be appreciated in a way I’ve never seen in North America. Tiny single-sized portions of butter, carefully held in a beautiful foil wrapper, were everywhere we went. When I was little, I used to collect the tiny jars of Bonne Maman preserves they’d give out at pancake restaurants in La Jolla. Guess my affection for adorable mini-sized things hasn’t changed at all.
As I wrote about earlier this weekend, we spent our first night in Provence at the beautiful home of Alain Pascal, the former boxer-turned-winemaker. He owns Domaine Du Gros’Noré, which produces some of my very favorite Bandol rosé. (Their Bandol rouge is life-changing, too!) His home is a classic, sprawling Provencal villa, surrounded by grape vines, the air thick with the scent of roses, rosemary, and wildflowers. I was insanely jet-lagged when we arrived, but as soon as I stepped onto his property I felt as awake as I have ever been. It’s a magical place.
I can’t believe I still haven’t finished uploading my Provence photos. Oops. Here’s some Côte d’Azur scenery to set the mood (I took these in the Var and Bandol regions). Looking at these images, I can still smell the rosemary and blossoms that enlivened my senses — and angered my allergies!
After a whirlwind 10 days in France and 4 sweet days in NYC, I am home at last! I’ve never been happier to spot the Montreal skyline from the train window. To say I have lots of things to share from our Côte d’Azur adventure would be a massive understatement — I almost don’t know where to begin. (I did pick up a few tips on how to perfect my best Brigitte Bardot impression).
Because my weekend in Nantes was spent covering the Soy Festival, I was pretty much surrounded by other Americans and Brits the entire time I was there. So while I can’t say it was all that ‘French’ of an experience, it was an insane amount of fun to hang with friends in a new place, and was my first stop on tour in consuming killer French food (obvs more important). Over two days I was able to catch: Glenn Jones, Stars Like Fleas, Animal Hospital, Mountains, The Happiness Project, Clues, Do Make Say Think, Voice of the Seven Woods. Heaven!
From top: first quiche (of so, so many) of the whole tour; rooms and rooms of dizzying rocks and gems and skeletons careening from the ceiling at the natural history museum in Nantes; Soy Festival signage sneakily added to street traffic posts; Animal Hospital followed by Benoit Pioulard; pre-show poster; my host’s delicate succulents in an otherwise all-white apartment; my very first croque monsieur (outrageously delicious!); Le violon dingue, an underground cave filled with rubies and tumblers of whiskey; gummi candy shaped like fried eggs (elasticy!); dear friend Shannon. Wish I had a photo of the homemade curry pumpkin soup I devoured shortly before the Do Make Say Think concert…
Posted in food, memory, party, people, travel
Tagged animal hospital, benoit pioulard, croque monsieur, france, le violon dingue, nantes, natural history museum, on tour, quiche, soy festival, stars like fleas
How wonderful that the final show of the tour provided the most decadent display of French food yet. We were taken out to lunch at a Rodez institution - La Taverne, a tiny, subterranean restaurant that was dark and dingy and lively, even at 2pm in the afternoon. We ripped through stone jugs of red wine and one cast iron cauldron of something that will forever haunt my waking state: jarret de porc, miel, citron, cannelle et coriandre. A thick soup/stew hybrid of pork – weird innards and chewy bits and all – and potatoes that has been braised what tasted like a mix of butter, orange juice, coriander and cloves, it was heady, aromatic, nourishing, outrageously decadent and best when eaten with chewy, sour farm bread with a firm crust and open crumb. Half-asleep and sated to the point of discomfort, I imagined Rodez villagers eating the same bowl of soup in the 1500s and felt so utterly medieval. It was basically the epitome of what I want all of my homecooking to taste like, because it wasn’t like restaurant food, not by a long stretch. It was something so much more than that, something sort of ancient and wise. I opted out of dessert, so as to avoid the fate of my elderly dining companion next to me, who passed out at the table after eating something with chocolate and cream in it.
The salad I had later that night – eaten in the conference room of this mysterious museum – had the most properly done vinaigrette I’ve had, maybe ever. It was so firm, almost standing up, opaque and tart and rich like custard. My vinaigrettes are always so… thin. Usually I just whisk olive oil, lemon and mustard together until something good happens. What am I missing? Rodez is a special place.
My entire impression of Toulouse was limited to the single block that I wandered the night that we were there, but I loved it anyway and want to go back properly and roll around in the cobbled streets and stay in a thatched house in the country for a summer. The venue was a killer combination of record store, wine/beer bar, and obscure magazine archive. I haven’t really seen anything like it in the States. Maybe the Cake Shop in NYC. Toulouse has such a small town feel, yet there were no less than three record stores on the block where Tom’s show was that night, and they were all lovely. We were served a crazy big feast, just the two of us, as in an entire quiche, a bucket of oranges, a baguette and platter of cured meats, and a beautifully dressed salad (healthy!) all to ourselves. Over a bottle of wine, I read back issues of SPIN from the early 90s and was super close to stealing an issue I browsed about Dirty-era Sonic Youth. The trip was worth it if only for the stunning train ride through the French countryside.