Friday, November 9, 2012

Tastes of the Luberon




It has been quite a week, hasn't it? I just finished a long, restorative yoga class on My Yoga Online (a  phenomenal resource for expats or anyone that doesn't have easy access to classes) and at the very end, my stomach finally released like a sigh. It had been clenched tightly for days and days. Now that it is nice and relaxed, all the better to tempt it with tasty things, don't you agree? And so here is a lighter, off the cuff post to soothe the nerves. I'll wait while you pour yourself a glass of something good, no rush.


In France, we call someone who loves fine food and wine gourmet. Think of that as being a foodie without the snobby connotations, Slow Food without the politics. Save that I think I have somehow gingerly tiptoed over that fine line into becoming...une gloutonne. Oops. 

I will travel far and wide anywhere in the world to taste and savour, the Luberon being no exception. And I will flat out admit it, one of the most important reasons why I so enjoy our cabanon rental is that it is located on a point that is equidistant to all of the edible treasures that the region can offer. Crucially, it is less than a ten minute drive to Banon, namesake of the fragrant goat cheese that is wrapped in the autumn leaves of a chestnut tree and aged just long enough (only around twenty days) until it melts on your plate into pungent perfection. And as the French Wikipedia graciously suggests, it is quite fine with a slice of country bread and a touch of fig jam.



Stepping out of la fromagerie and across a square that is mignon comme tout, is La Brindille Melchio, which while also offering some nice cheeses (including a very good fermier sec that I would recommend), is far more heralded for its yard long saucisson, la brindille. Of course, I was obligated to try several--the sacrifices that I make for you all--and was especially taken with the one that was stuffed with? Yes, you guessed correctly, goat cheese.



So much hunger mongering was enough to work up a thirst. Fortunately, there are several charming cafés in Banon to offer a little haven of peace, just unfortunately not the one that I chose, as I was surrounded by several young men sporting mirrored sunglasses and fauxhawks crying out over last nights game of le foot as if it were la fin du monde.


Better then to hop in the Range Rover and toodle up to Sault, for one reason above all--to partake of the magnificent deliciousness on offer at the pricey but worth it boutique of Yves and Virginie.


Not only did Ben make a friend, I do believe that he would have been willing to hang out in front of the shop all day long (I am sorry but not even in France do they let dogs inside of epiceries)! Are you trying to decide which of the tasty items on the sign board appeals to you most? I know I was and was disappointed not to have tried the fascinating ginger and olive confit. Two flavours that I adore but do they go together? I have no idea. Will I find out next time? Hopefully. Not to mention that we were a little too early for truffle season...


I will say that we were not disappointed in their products and Remi, who was over the moon to find andouillettes that were made the old-fashioned way, even brought several kilos worth back to Arles. Ah, lucky me. And as I have said before, if you don't know that word, by all means, do not look it up...


While beef is hardly the speciality of the region, we were so surprised by the low prices at the butcher's that we decided to launch into one of our rare--as in a few times a year--tastings. So, um, since we have already declared that yes, I like to eat, we splurged on a ginormous côte de boeuf worthy of Manhattan's finest chop houses.


And even less attached to the region but lest you think we are meat-chomping hooligans, Remi also served up a teriyaki Norwegian salmon (this is Europe after all) grilled à la plancha that was out of this world. Trying to assuage our guilt? Our bellies? Perhaps.


And for dessert? Well, thankfully we are not terribly sucré because really, after all of that cheese, what room remains? But even I couldn't resist this gateau aux pommes that was fresh out of the wood-fired oven at the bakery attached to Le Chapeau Rouge. We also ordered Saturday night pizzas there and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the happy banter of the locals gathered around tables in the middle of the store while we waited for our order to come out of the oven. My choice? La Simiane with Banon goat cheese and insanely good local lavender honey. You see? Glutton!


Well, as they say here "tel chien, tel maître"--yes, the dog resembles his owner. So I will leave you with this image of Ben, intent on Remi's plate and drooling so much that he has created a little hammock for the leaves below his chin. 

Bon appétit et Bon Weekend!


60 comments:

  1. Well, clearly, you, my friend, are not starving in la Belle France :-) I spotted some favorites of mine in this scrumptious post. By the way, who had le Vittel Menthe at the cafe in Banon? It has always been my go-to summer drink (I even bought some sirop de menthe online, Tesseire, bien sur, so I can make it here in Seattle...) As for les Andouillettes, what can I say? Guilty as charged! :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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    1. Oh that was Remi who had the menthe--I am always coffee or wine! ;) And oh those andouillettes! Well, at least they aren't the stinky kind... :()

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  2. Oh Ben, how sweet. Your writing made me hungry. I am a glutton for cheese too :) Have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. You too Loree! And isn't cheese the best thing on the planet?

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  3. Salivating!! Sumptuous pics. While you're in a foodie mood may I tempt you with an interview with Marcella Hazan? I don't normally do this (as in hijack my way into comments) but Marcella is 88 now and kindly agreed to do a piece with me via email. Forgive me if I've overstepped the mark. It's meant in the spirit of sharing and she is a cracker. x One day I'm going to head to your part of the world and indulge my way around the region too. That first cheese shot! ahhh more please ...

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    1. Ooh, will head right on over Margaret, not overstepping the mark at all! Unless, you are writing about a new search engine that will change my life... :)

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    2. Forgot to mention... I know this new search engine that will change your life ;)

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  4. Oh my gosh. Heather, you are KILLING me. I just got back from the cheese monger in Pike Place Market, where I bought cheeses for a party this weekend. They are innocently sitting in the fridge... and must stay there until tomorrow night. Except after reading your post, I want to eat them now! It's going to take a heck of a lot of willpower to stay away.

    Your photos are gorgeous! Glad you're feeling relaxed going into the weekend! And I wil definitely keep you posted on travel plans next summer. If I'm successful in channeling Ben's powers of persuasion, I would love to hear your suggestions, thank you!!! XOXO

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    1. Oops. Heeheehee. That cheese is calling your name, Jeanne!! And if you don't mind my saying, be sure to take it out of the fridge at the beginning of the party--you probably already know this but cheese should always be served room temperature to be at its best.
      Have a great party!

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  5. I don't think I know anyone who doesn't like cheese. Some people are less adventurous than others & stick to the same old cheese without trying a new one. Must look out for the Banon wrapped in chestnut leaves, or is it just in your area ? Love the photo of Ben with the leaf hanging in his 'slobber' as we used to say about our Golden Labrador who sadly is no longer with us I miss her.
    Have a lovely weekend.... Barbara

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    1. Hmmm...I think that you might be able to find it in the Limousin, either at a good fromagerie or even sometimes dans les grandes surface (whew, talk about franglais!). It is worth searching for!
      I am so sorry for the loss of your Lab, our dogs are the best company.
      Bon Weekend!

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  6. As always, Heather, you make me hungry... to be right there!!!

    I hope it is a relaxing and delicious weekend.

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  7. I had just vowed to cut back on the eating and then read this. Perhaps that infamous 'tomorrow' would be a better time to start cutting back. Must go find something on which to nibble. . .

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    1. I feel like the evil diet breaker after this post---brouuaahhaahhaaaa....!

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  8. I read this in late afternoon after a swim. Swimming makes me inordinately hungry. Fortunately, there was no one around with a camera at the ready. Otherwise, they would have caught me in the act of drooling with envy. I went to the refrigerator and got a slice of the Manchego we buy at Costco. Doesn't come close the the wonderful cheeses one eats in France.

    My consolation is that we are making homemade pizza for dinner tonight, complete with sauce made from tomatoes from our local organic farm that Paul cooked and then froze.

    Yum!

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    1. Whoa! You got me beat! And the grass is always greener: we are having friends over for a casual dinner tonight and since they asked me to cook "American" I thought it would be fun to make a burrito bar (hey, it's North American, right?) and I could really use that Manchego...!

      I bow down to your greatness that you swim. You will be having the last laugh on me when we are older!

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  9. Sister, all of that food looks and sounds delicious (YUM), but nothing beats the picture of Ben with a leaf in his drool!! I am SO glad that you caught that on camera!! Can't wait until you are here, eating yummy stuff with ME! : )

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    1. Yipppeeeee!!! Cottage Inn pizza, here we come! :)

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  10. Interesting pics Heather, especially of la fromagerie avec les saucissons and the plate of oozy runny cheese begging to be eaten! Always love it when you include a photo of Ben, he has such a handsome smiley face, even when he has leaves attached, which ain't important when the smell of food so close, demands absolute attention! Nice post! Cheers, Deborah - Melbourne.

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    1. Thanks Deborah! And I know that Ben photos make ME happy so I try to spread the love as often as I can. My good friend Virginia is in Melbourne as well--she has the blog Glamour Drops. It seems like an amazing city!!

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  11. What wonderful deli's ...... How hard is it!! Pity you can't freight it down the Blog!! Enjoy!!

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    1. I feel really lucky that we live less than two hours from these places, Wyn. I know that if I ever get really, really desperate we can hop in the car and go!

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  12. Dear Heather,

    I'm glad you and Remi are having a nice time.

    Hereabouts?....Herve's gone to Brussels for five days, and I've kept myself and my own dogs utterly corralled (sp?) within this property.

    I don't know what it's like elsewhere in the USA since Tuesday night, but in this town you can't walk ten feet down a public sidewalk without some Republican's head suddenly exploding and splattering brains all over your sweater. These folks are understandably frustrated and upset.

    So, we're staying within the property.

    Could you send us some cheese and maybe some of that bread?...it might be a couple more weeks before I and these Obama-supporting terriers dare to venture out to the grocery store....

    yours in self-imposed quarantine,

    David Terry
    www.davidterryart.com


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    1. David! How many times do I need to ask you, nicely, to please warn me when you are going to say something so funny! I literally had to put my hand over my mouth to keep from doing a spit-take with my coffee.

      And oh, I would be more than happy to send a care package but I think that it is most likely that Herve will return, hopefully with sustaining Belgian chocolates, before it would arrive. Perhaps FEMA could be of help?

      Good Luck and please keep the dogs in doors, things could get even uglier out there...
      H

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    2. Actrually, Heather?....(and I'm not making this up)....we went up the street to a new friend's house for an election night party. We were walking back into our own house at about 11:30 when I heard a loud "BAM!" sound (which is very odd for a tiny, quiet town such as this). I asked Herve "What's THAT?"

      He replied "Oh...probably just Sarah Palin's head exploding somewhere up in Alaska..."

      I thought that was amusing.

      ----david

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    3. HYSTERICAL!!!!!!!!!!!!HERVE>>>>>BRAVO!

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  13. I don't think I've ever seen saucisson as long as those. I can imagine a recipe, "sautée a whole chopped onion, add a foot of sausage..." Those cheeses looked divine. I loved the White Heather glass. Would have been tempting to tuck that in me purse, heh heh.

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    1. Now see? I didn't even think of that! Shame on you...

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  14. I just saw David Terry's comment and almost woke up husband and 3 dogs with my laughter out loud!

    It is UNIVERSAL!! My dogs and I were all for Obama! And we won!

    I just have to plug my ears!

    I am proud of us!

    Penelope

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    1. I am proud of us too, Penelope. :) And I wonder if your puppers were members of "Dogs against Romney"? http://www.dogsagainstromney.com/

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  15. Heather, your whole entire post is getting me very hungry. I'm going to head to the pantry and fridge to get a midnight snack. Andouillettes made in France, I'm sure it's delicious. Once in North Carolina, a friend got me to try the fried chitterlings at a little hole in the wall soul food restaurant. That one was an acquired taste but everything else I had was delicious. I see the creme de courgette is listed twice on the menu. I hope a hunk of deliciousness from Remi's plate fell into Ben's waiting mouth...:)

    Have a great weekend!

    Amelia xo

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    1. Ooh, my dear Amelia please don't go snacking at midnight on my account! :)

      I think it is good to try new foods and I am fairly adventurous but when the textures are strange that is where I draw the line...

      And don't you worry, Ben always get a small treat for being the good boy that he is.
      Have a great weekend you too!
      xo,
      H

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    2. LOL...having that midnight snack was a treat to keep me from salivating all over the keyboard. Your Ben is a handsome dog. I better keep my admiration for Ben on the down low, or both my dogs will be so jealous...:)

      Amelia

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  16. Hello Heather:
    You have us with our mouths positively watering at the sound and sight of all this 'gourmet' food. Totally delicious, absolutely divine!!

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  17. Hello Heather

    Like Jane and Lance and Ben I am drooling, without a hammock!.
    I am positively tempted by your description of the goat cheeses and that apple cake I can almost smell.

    Have a wonderful weekend

    Helen xx

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  18. It's a Yummy weekend just looking at your fabulous pictures. Ben is such a handsome dog.

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  19. Wow, great photos, Heather! It looked so good. I too could tour a town or place based on food choices alone! Especially when it's fresh and delicious. Love your dog too! We had to leave ours in the States - so I'm always tugged in the heart when I see such precious dogs.

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  20. Ooh, I LOVE Banon cheese -- and I always gorge on it when we we visit the Luberon -- but somehow I never realized Banon was an actual place that one can visit??? (But of COURSE it is!) Thanks for this introduction. I think I know where I'm headed this summer... :)

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  21. Yummy - Yummy ! Looks all so appetizing! Beautiful images, Heather!
    And Ben....lovely as ever!
    Bon weekend et bisou
    karin

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  22. Heather you have won my heart with all of these fabulous yummy offerings!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  23. White Heather!

    Babe, that second image with the red leaves on the dish with blue and yellow did something really good to me on a deep level. That composition has a 'righting' power. I am happy to know that your stomach has released in a much-needed sigh. I could go for that right about now.

    Sending you love and bestest vibes across the sea.

    -S

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  24. Yummy Heather I will be getting into the wine a little later.. Coffee and breakfast first? Lol

    I like cheeses served room temperature with sliced pear or a lite cracker. I also like it a little runny if ya know what I mean.

    Enjoy your weekend. xx. Leslie

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  25. It all looks too yummy! By the way, I've just fallen in love with Yogaglo. Fantastic online classes.

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  26. Very fun post, and I love Remi's involvement in the whole feast! Be right over to join him. Thankyou, Cynthia

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  27. I tried to comment the other night but the IPAD wouldNOT let me!All I wanted to know was did you steal the WHITE HEATHER GLASS???????????Had I been there we would have accomplished that task...........by me going on and on thats your name and we need a souvenior of the day!

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  28. I just saw the walking tours!!!!BRILLANT.If I know anyone headed your way I will definately have them e-mail!

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  29. Glorious images. Thanks for inviting us for a peak. Cherry Kay

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  30. I think I might know those boys in the mirrored sunglasses and faux-hawks ;)

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  31. Banon is a cheese I have not tried yet and I can't wait as I have never met a cheese I have not liked. Andouillettes on the other hand...well Remi obviously has a strong stomach and a strong nose!

    I am loving the fact that you found a glass with your name on it.

    XXX

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    1. And to think Remi didn't understand why I posted that photo!

      If we come to visit, I promise to bring you cheese from Provence. :)

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  32. All that lovely food has me drooling (a la Ben!) I can so identify with that Golden Drool! Thanks so very much for the referral to the Yoga Online Site. On nasty days like today, when I don't want to get out for the class, I can confidently participate at home! Thanks, Heather!

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  33. J'adore aussi ces Brindilles à Banon puis la librairie,puis le salon de thé....
    Amicalement,

    Manon

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    1. Simiane la Rotonde est le village que je préfère dans le coin mais j'avoue que Banon est aussi pas mal pour toutes ces bonnes raisons...ça semble que nous avons les mêmes priorités dans la vie... :)

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  34. Leslie in Portland, OregonNovember 18, 2012 at 3:26 AM

    Your words and photographs are so evocative and, accordingly, so satisfying that I no longer am hungry (even though it is dinnertime)! Thank you for the scrumptious tour and, of course, for the fantastic photograph of Ben with his drool-hammock. Did he get a snack? And Ben with the cow...priceless. Our neighbors have in their garden a similar (but mostly pink) painted cow who never fails to intrigue Henry and Bob when they go to visit the neighbor's dogs, Rudolph Valentino and Tallulah Bankhead.

    Blue skies for your upcoming trip...we'll be thinking of you!

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