Calling all foodies—come one, come all! The month of May is a fine time to rejoice in spring’s bounty in Provence. And this year, in particular, the season has taken on special meaning for les Padgetts.
After a hectic five-week visit to the US this spring, returning to the easy, gentle rhythms of everyday life in our little Provençal patch made our hearts go pitter patter. As if savoring the pleasures of Provence for the first time, we reveled in each new day here in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. But what exactly, we pondered, makes this place so alluring?
Pinpointing what keeps us loving life here may be an impossible task, but near the top of the list rests an unlikely contender—constant decision-making. But how can seemingly never-ending deliberations be joyful? Well, when the subject centers on luscious consumables, these daily demands instantly become delicious delights. Yes, indeed, when it comes to local bounty—and how and where to enjoy them—we are spoiled for choice. Here are some of the delectable dilemmas Provence presents.
La boulangerie. Flaky croissants, pains au chocolate, and chaussons de pomme, apple-filled “slippers,” are yummy classics. Rustic, crusty baguettes arrive in various lengths, along side round loaves prepared with different flours. More hearty types laden with grains have their place too, including a super dense version called Pain Nordique. And the list goes on.
Weekly outdoor marché: Wednesday is the big market day here in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The food stalls take over Place Plessier, in front of the stately Hôtel de Ville, completely enveloping the graceful Fontaine de Quatre Dauphins. From the oversized bowls of olives smothered in herbs de Provence, garlic or exotic spices, to the piles of seasonal veggies recently harvested, to an array of fragrant cheeses, to all sorts of freshly caught poissons, and to glistening chickens rotating on spits, everything is here to satisfy your taste buds. Choices, choices!
Olive oil producers: Olive groves are ubiquitous in Provence, and, naturally, so are olive oil producers. In our neck of the woods, favorites include the nearby Moulin du Calanquet and Moulin Castelas in Maussane. But olive oil isn’t simply olive oil. At the former enterprise, several varieties are on offer such as Aglandau, Picholine, Salonenque and Grossane, each with its own subtle, yet distinctive flavor. At the latter, in addition to their “regular” olive oils, aromatic versions imbued with various herbs/flavors are available. Choices include Espelette pepper, lemongrass, and thyme and rosemary. One stunning choice is infused with basil and mint—terrific on salads and beyond.
La pâtisserie: And for dessert–a strawberry-topped tart? Multi-layered Napoleon? Or perhaps a chocolate éclair? Local pastry shops (plus most boulangeries) offer such wide variety of tempting treats, if you are a “sweet” person, you’ve got your work cut out for yourself. For something extra special, pop into the adorable Maison Gaillardet for a heavenly Troprovençale, offered in several flavors. The citron version is phenomenal.
Domaines de Vin: So how about le bon vin to accompany your meal? Wineries in the area are plentiful, but here are some favorites. A few minutes outside of St. Rémy, you’ll find Domaine du Val de L’Oule, and up and over the Alpilles, at the base of Les Baux, resides wonderful Mas Sainte-Berthe. Domaine de Valdition—with a snazzy, chic boutique right in the tasting room—never fails to please. And Domaine du Grand Fontanille, direction Arles, always satisfies. But let’s not forget other excellent local wineries such as Domaine Milan, Château Romanin, Domaine Hauvette, Domaine d’Eole, and Domaine des Terres Blanches, to name a few! So which color, then—rosé, blanc or rouge? Decisions, decisions!
When preparing a sumptuous repast chez vous is not in the cards, a heady selection of cafés, bistrots and restaurants awaits! Depending on what you are you in the mood for (and your budget), St. Rémy and environs will deliver. Something veggie-centric and inventive—Maison Favier. For salads and crepes of all types, Crêperie Lou Planet on beautiful Place Favier. For a bistrot ambience with sophisticated flavors, it’s Mas du Capoun Chez Ju in Mollégès. For an upscale experience, L’Opale at Domaine Pierre Blanche in Eygalières is a fine choice. So many flavors to savor and so little time. Eateries we have yet to try, a couple of promising newcomers—Chapeau de Paille and Têtes d’Ail, both in St. Rémy, happily, a short walk away from chez nous.
With all the extraordinary taste choices available, identifying your preferences and places may require some practice. But chances are, you’ll put in the time to do what you have to do to satisfy your inquisitive palate. Eventually, you’ll be ordering confidently—without holding up the waiter or the line—a gesture much appreciated by all. Bon appétit!
While in the US, I loved seeing the hummingbirds and roadrunners, but I missed my favorite bird, the flamant rose. But soon we’ll be making a jaunt down to the Camargue for a very happy reunion.