Monday, July 15, 2013

A Perfect Day in Provence

Last week J and I traveled to Provence with friends of 35 years and then visited other good friends at their magnificent home in Périgord. Both are worth a post, to say the least.

My father used to describe someone in ecstasy as "happy as a pig in s__t." And then there's a nice book about two Americans who become chèvre makers in the area called A Pig in Provence. That was me: happy as a pig in Provence.

We started our perfect day with breakfast at our beautiful, tranquil hotel, Château les Alpilles, in St-Rémy de Provence.

Château les Alpilles in St-Rémy de Provence
Next, we finally took advantage of a long-standing invitation to visit our South African friend S at her beautiful home in Rustrel, near Apt in the Luberon. There we partook of a leisurely lunch that took full advantage of the seasonal bounty, prepared by S and some other lucky friends who were with us. After lunch, we went to nearby Céreste, where my friend Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes, has opened a gourmet ice cream parlor (Scaramouche) with her husband. Elizabeth graciously spent a few minutes with us, plying us with delicious samples, even though her son was celebrating his fourth birthday. Among the intriguing flavors: "1001 Nuts," made with Moroccan spices (ras-al-hanout), Henri Bardouin Pastis Sorbet,  and Fresh Lemon Verbena Sorbet.

Scaramouche ice cream parlor in Céreste
We returned by way of Apt, where I had to stop to buy preserved apricots and clementines, a local specialty that has been made the same way for 800 years, from one of the places that has been doing it for at least decades.

Traditional confiseur in Apt
Finally, we went to the famed Oustau de Beaumanière, a spectacular hotel/restaurant in the even more spectacular Les Baux de Provence. While we felt that the food quality fell a little short of its two Michelin star rating, it was very very good, prepared with attention to detail and for the most part spectacularly beautiful. It just doesn't get better than sitting on the Oustau's beautiful terrace on a perfect summer night, with great friends, excellent food and fine, experienced service.

Oustau de Baumanière's baguette - Salvador Dalí's mustache?
Oustau de Baumanière's foie gras
Oustau de Baumanière's gorgeous rouget
Oustau de Baumanière's signature millefeuille
That's it: a perfect day in Provence.

Bobby Jay

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