Saturday, February 26, 2011

Roundabouts - Bedoin

We like the roundabouts in the Vaucluse. Many are beautifully landscaped, have some type of art form in the center of the roundabout or reflect something about the town or village where they are located. For the past few months, I have been posting pictures of different roundabouts in the Vaucluse. Today's roundabout is at the entrance to Bédoin with the backdrop of the 6,266 foot high white-capped peak of Mont Ventoux.

Bedoin is about a 40 minute drive around the Dentelles de Montmirail from our house in Sablet. The first thing you'll notice when you get close to Bédoin is the large, imposing church of Saint Pierre with its Spanish-looking style, quite different from most others in Provence. In fact, the style is Jesuit, built in 1702 and restored in the 19th century. In spite of the different style, the church does have a wrought-iron belfry so typical of the region.

The houses of this compact old village look small compared to the church, and are clustered up against the hill. There is a very nice market in the center of the village on Monday mornings throughout the year. Bédoin is home for our friends Marianne and Loïc who look after our guests and house when we are not there. Marianne has just launched her web site Slow Provence and is adding content each day.

Located at the base of Mont Ventoux, Bédoin is the starting point of one of three routes to the summit of the mountain. The route from Bédoin will take you up 5,305 feet over 13.5 miles. This is the most famous and difficult ascent. The road to the summit has an average gradient of 7.43%. The other routes start in Malaucène and Sault.

Mont Ventoux is well known as one of the most gruelling climbs on the Tour de France. A climb up Mont Ventoux has been a stage on the Tour fourteen times since 1951; the peloton has raced to finish at the summit eight times and crossed over the summit to a finish in a town below six times.

Except for the first ascent in 1951 when the approach to the summit was from Malaucène in all other years the approach to the summit has been from Bédoin. So it is very fitting that the roundabout at the entrance to Bédoin depicts a cyclist riding up hill with the sign Bédoin Mont Ventoux.

Check back to see other roundabouts that catch my eye in the Vaucluse. I will post these between my usual posts about our dining experiences, visits to interesting places and reflections on life in Provence.

Bonne journée et a bientôt.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stephanie's Birthday at Bistro Des Copains

Last night, daughter Stephanie and two of her BFF and spouses invaded Bistro Des Copains, the small French bistro I co-own with friends Cluney and Ferney in Occidental, California to celebrate her 29th birthday. Wife Shirley and I were invited too.

I think it is fair to say we all had a great time. I didn't take any pictures of the food but as I recall starters included butter leaf salad with creamy vinaigrette, dungeness crab beignets, escargots, and roasted beet salad with micro greens.

Main courses included steak and frites, rabbit in a mustard sauce over noodles, roasted red beet and Redwood Hill Farm goat cheese ravioli with braised chard and a lemon sage butter sauce, braised lamb shank over lentils and pan roasted duck breast over mashed potatoes with a blueberry sauce.

In the picture below, daughter Stephanie in the middle with BFF Andrea on the left and BFF Katie on the right.

Darling daughter Stephanie and husband Earl.

BFF Andrea with husband Richard. Richard is a fellow blogger and writes on healthy living at Richard's Health Musings. They have an adorable baby girl named Zori.

BFF Katie and husband Brandon. They have an adorable baby boy named Brady. They are looking for tips on how to get a baby to sleep through the night.

Shirley and me. Besides darling Stephanie, we have another beautiful daughter named Tricia and we have four adorable grandchildren; Avery, Dylan, Caedon and Madison.

Stephanie with her new baby Madison. Madison was so sweet and a huge hit with the diners last night at Bistro Des Copains. Brother Dylan was home with a friend.

Stephanie is the planner in the family and makes sure we never have a chance to get bored, and that we are always looking forward to the next family vacation. She loves to eat and have a good time so it was nice to have her and her BFFs at Bistro Des Copains.

Life has been great for the first 29 years but I am quite sure the best years are still ahead. Happy birthday dear Stephanie. We love you.

Bonne journée et a bientôt.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Les Abeilles Restaurant, Sablet

It has been a little while since you heard from me; I have some good excuses I think. Take your pick; I have been busy (work, the Bistro, helping with grand kids, watching son-in-law coach basketball team - they are on a 20 game winning streak), I have been traveling for work or I wanted to do a special post for this, my 100th post on Our House in Provence blog.

I have not had time to write a special post that befits number 100 so I decided to tell you about a wonderful meal that we, wife Shirley and I enjoyed last fall. One Tuesday after the weekly market in Vaison-la-Romaine, we decided to have déjeuner - lunch at Les Abeilles Restaurant in Sablet, the village which we call home in Provence.

Les Abeilles Restaurant, literally translated the bees restaurant, is owned by Marlies and Johannes Sailer who prior to opening Les Abeilles Restaurant owned L'Oustalet in neighboring Gigondas. I first became aware of chef Johannes Sailer some years before we bought our home by way of "The Provence Cookbook" by Patricia Wells who included recipes from the chef in her wonderful book.

Les Abeilles Restaurant is a short walk down the hill from the center of Sablet just after the roundabout on rue de Vaison. The entrance to the parking lot is marked by a brightly painted two-sided rooster; this is the side you see coming from Sablet

and this is the side you see when you come into Sablet on the D 7. I am not sure why the entrance is marked by a chicken and not bees.

Les Abeilles Restaurant has a large terrace shaded by plane trees that is perfect for dining alfresco on warm sunny days and a small dining room for cooler or inclement weather during the winter.

Shirley sitting on the terrace waiting for lunch looking very cute with her scarf.

We selected a bottle of 2008 Domaine de Piaugier Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet, a blend of grenache and syrah made by local winemaker Jean-Marc Autran to accompany our lunch.

Chef Sailer offers menus for a variety of prices. We chose the 3-course menu for 32,50 €. For starters, we both chose the mushroom tart, wonderful with the first local fall mushrooms topped with julienned fresh basil.

For her plat - main course, Shirley decided on pan-roasted tuna served over warm ratatouille.

For my main course, I took the pavé de bavette - fillet of beef flap steak similar to skirt or flank steak served over haricots verts and sauteed onions with red wine sauce accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes.

To finish, we chose a combination of ice creams and sorbet; vanilla and dark chocolate ice cream and strawberry sorbet.

We also chose a tasty roasted peach with vanilla ice cream.

We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful restaurant within a short walk of our house. We have eaten at Les Abeilles Restaurant on a number of occasions and I am certain you will hear about dining experiences there in the future.

We felt like we were at a friend's restaurant when upon arriving for lunch that day, the chef greeted us with "bonjour Monsieur et Madame Augsburger", recalling our names despite the fact we had not been in Sablet for 4 months.

If you are in Sablet or nearby in the Northern Vaucluse, make sure you go to Les Abeilles Restaurant.

Bon appétit mes amis et à bientôt.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bonnieux, Where Our Search for a House in Provence Began

We have decided to visit as many villages in the Vaucluse as we can rather than return to the same favorite ones every time we are in Sablet. Visits to new villages give us the chance to explore different areas, try new restaurants, and catch up with extended family members who live near by.

One Sunday morning last fall, wife Shirley and I got in the car and took off for Bonnieux, a village located a little over one hour away in the Luberon. Our plan was to visit Bonnieux and hook up for lunch with cousins Annick and Pascale who live close by.

Bonnieux is built on the a steep hill which overlooks a beautiful valley planted with a patchwork of vineyards, lavender fields and orchards. There is a church perched at the top of Bonnieux and houses and shops cascade down the hill.

There are actually two churches in the village; the Eglise Haute or Vieille Eglise - the upper or old church built in the 12th century located at the uppermost point in the village and the Eglise Neuve - new church built in 1870, located at the bottom. The upper church at nearly 1400 feet elevation is visible from every direction as you approach Bonnieux.

Bonnieux is on the road to Lourmarin and when you arrive in Bonnieux from the direction of Lourmarin, this is the beautiful view that you see.

This was not the first time we had been to Bonnieux. Our first visit occurred in January 2007 when we stopped in the village with our group from Bistro Des Copains, the small French country bistro I co-own with my friend Cluney in Occidental, California.

That day back in 2007, we had already visited Gordes and been to Roussillon where we ate lunch. Being January, there was not much open in either village so with afternoon sun remaining, we stopped in Bonnieux to walk around the village before heading back to our rented house in Mormoiron.

I have wanted to live in France ever since my first visit to the Metairie Neuve, the small family farm near Viane and then in Provence because of Peter Mayle's delightful tale "A Year in Provence" about his first year in Provence and the local events and customs.

Although I had this dream, I had never done anything about trying to make it happen except for looking at publicité - advertisements, hanging in the windows of immobilier - real estate offices in towns and villages where we visited. I had never even gone into an immobilier office, until that cold January day in 2007.

From the very first, I have always wanted an old stone village house within easy walking distance of boulangeries, boucheries, cafés and restaurants. That day in 2007, there was an advertisement in a immobilier's office for a village house in Bonnieux within our budget.

So while Shirley and the rest of our Bistro group walked around Bonnieux, pretty much deserted except for a few shops, being January and all, I walked into the office and inquired about the house in the advertisement. The immobilier lady was very happy to take me to see the house which was located close by.

That house, the front door is shown below, was the first of many fixer-uppers or houses described as in a village that weren't that we looked at during the ensuing years until we found the perfect house in Sablet. Our experience that day helped us develop our criteria for the type of house we wanted: no fixer-uppers and in a village with shops open year around.

Last fall, Shirley and I arrived in Bonnieux on a bright sunny day with a blue sky so typical of nice days in Provence. We found parking near the Eglise Neuve - new church, at the bottom of the village.

We found cousin Pascale without a problem and she and Shirley posed for me on the rond-point - roundabout near the church while we waited for cousin Annick to arrive.

We set off to walk into the village. One of the first things we noticed is that while most of the homes and businesses are well preserved, there is no center of the village or commercial hub so you don't really get a sense of a lot going on. There is a Friday morning market which is said to attract many sellers and visitors.

One of the many pretty house we walked past on our visit to Bonnieux.

There are several restaurants and cafés in Bonnieux.

We stopped to eat lunch on Place de la Liberté at Le St André, a busy café with a pleasant terrace, perfect for a warm sunny day.

Cousin Annick and Pascale waiting for lunch at Le St André.

Shirley and me hanging out with the cousins at Le St André.

We love seeing the dogs in French cafés and restaurants waiting for handouts from their owners.

To get to the the Eglise Haute or Vieille Eglise at the top of the village, you have to walk up 86 steps from the bottom of the village or you can drive on the road which winds back and forth up through the village.

Once you get to the top, you are rewarded with wonderful views out over the plains towards Mont Ventoux

and over the village below

and out towards Lacoste with its famous château which formerly belonged to the Marquis de Sade. Today the château belongs to M. Pierre Cardin, the famous stylist designer. Lacoste is a village on our list to be visited in the future.

The bell tower of the Eglise Haute or Vieille Eglise located at the top of the village.

The clock and bell tower on a Bonnieux building.

Nearby, you will find Pont Julien, a beautiful Roman bridge and the Cedar Forest, planted in 1862 from cedars imported from the Moroccan Atlas Mountains.

Bonne journée et a bientôt.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Saint Hubert Restaurant, Entrechaux

One evening last fall at the end of a gray day, wife Shirley and I headed to Entrechaux to eat in a restaurant where I had enjoyed a nice meal but Shirley had never been. Saint Hubert Restaurant is located in the village of Entrechaux about 20 minutes from Sablet 7 kms southeast of Vaison-la-Romaine.

Entrechaux is overlooked by the ruins of its feudal castle perched at the top of the village. Today Entrechaux is a peaceful village whose main activity is agriculture growing cherries, melons, apricots and grapes. There are several restaurants including Saint Hubert Restaurant located in the village.

As we arrived in Entrechaux, it began to sprinkle to the point where I had to turn on the windshield wipers. When we got out of the car, we could see diners seated at tables on the terrace. After being reassured by madame that we would be fine on the terrace in spite of the sprinkles, we were seated at a small table.

Saint Hubert has been operated by four generations of the same family since 1929. In addition to the terrace, there are two dining rooms which are used during the winter and inclement weather. I guess sprinkles don't qualify as inclement weather at Saint Hubert Restaurant.

We chose a bottle of 2007 Château Saint Estève d'Uchaux Côtes du Rhône for 10,00 Euros to accompany our meal.

Seated under the thick canopy of wisteria, we could hear the rain falling but didn't feel any drops. While we looked over the menu, we enjoyed the refreshing amuse bouche of tomato gazpacho with basil cream.

For my entrée - starter I chose Girolles Persillées - sauteed mushrooms with onions, garlic and parsley.

Shirley chose Crumble de Fromage de Chèvre a la Tapenade Verte - a delicious starter with eggplant and tomatoes topped with goat cheese and bread crumbs.

It was accompanied by a green salad with a creamy vinaigrette.

For her main course, Shirley chose Filet de Saumon en Habit Craquant - fillet of salmon baked in phyllo dough.

I chose Marmite de Coquilles St Jacques en Sauce Safranée - scallops in a tasty creamy saffron sauce.

Both main courses were accompanied by Parmesan risotto and carrot purée.

Before desserts, we enjoyed a cheese plate with Reblochon, Roquefort, chèvre, and Tomme de Savoie. For dessert, we chose an assortment of ice creams and sorbets accompanied by green grapes

and chocolate soufflé with a red berry sauce.

Reservations are definitely recommended. A couple arrived without reservations at the same time we did and were turned away with "nous sommes complet" - we're full despite the fact that several tables did not have diners.

We will definitely return sprinkles or not! The food was very good and moderately priced at 26,50 and 38,00 Euros for our four courses. Bonne journée et a bientôt.