Monday, July 22, 2013

Côteaux et Fourchettes, a Wonderful Place to Dine in the Northern Vaucluse

After wandering around Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes and loading our basket with fruits and vegetables at the "marché" I told you about here, it was time for "déjeuner" (lunch). Seeing table after table piled with ripe fruits and vegetables, olives, sausages, meat and fish, and smelling chicken and pork roasting on spits and big pans of paella redolent of saffron makes you hungry.

So we headed back to Sablet by way of the village of Cairanne to see if we could get seated without a reservation at Côteaux et Fourchettes, a restaurant designated a Bib Gourmand (“Inspectors' Favorites for Good Value") in the 2013 Michelin Guide. Bib Gourmand "Restos" offer a three-course meal (starter, main course and dessert) for €31 or less. But I digress.

Cairanne is a small village in the heart of the Côtes du Rhône wine country about 8 kms northwest of Sablet. The newer part of Cairanne is below the old village on a low hilltop with great views across the landscape of fields and vineyards and tiny villages and the Dentelles de Montmirail in the distance.


Côteaux et Fourchettes restaurant is located south of Cairanne at the roundabout where the D975 and D8 intersect in an area surrounded by a sea of vineyards that stretch across the Plan de Dieu. Côteaux et Fourchettes is both a restaurant and wine store that sells wines on the restaurant's 250 bottle wine list at producer prices. The chef is Cyril Glémot.

Côteaux et Fourchettes Restaurant

We were offered the last table in the cool, understated dining room. Large sliding doors connect to an outside dining area with tables set amongst trees and shrubs.

Côteaux et Fourchettes Dining Room

Chef Glémot offers two fixed-price menus: Côteaux and Fourchette. We chose the three-course Côteaux menu for €31 and a bottle of 2010 Domaine la Soumade Rasteau.

Wine Selection

To warm up our appetites, as if we needed any help, the chef sent out shot glasses of chilled Heart of Beef Tomato Soup with Brousse de Brebis Fromage for amuse bouche.

Chilled Heart of Beef Tomato Soup with Brousse de Brebis Fromage

Shirley eats fish but no seafood, poultry or meat. There were no fish or vegetarian options for starter that day, so the chef prepared an arugula and cherry tomato salad for her.

Arugula Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

It is now illegal to produce or sell foie gras in California so I choose it almost every time I get a chance in Provence. Chef Glémot offered Foie Gras with Pineapple Ginger Marmalade that day as one of the starter options, one of the best preparations I have had in a long time.

Foie Gras with Pineapple Ginger Marmalade

For main course, Shirley chose the Pan-roasted Daurade over Quinoa with Fava Beans and Carrots.

Pan-roasted Daurade over Quinoa with Fava Beans and Carrots

I chose the 1/2 Roasted Pigeon over Sautéed Red Cabbage with Asparagus, Red Pepper and Saffron Clafoutis.

1/2 Roasted Pigeon over Sautéed Red Cabbage with Asparagus, Red Pepper and Saffron Clafoutis

To finish, I chose the Chocolate Mousse in a Tuile with Grillot Sorbet.

Chocolate Mousse in Tuile with Grillot Sorbet

Shirley chose the Plate of Cheese from Josiane Deal with two cheeses made from goats milk, two from sheep's milk and two from cow's milk.

Cheese Plate from Josiane Deal with Duos of Cheese Made From Goat, Sheep and Cows' Milk

If your live or visit the Northern Vaucluse and are looking for a very good place to eat, you should not hesitate to go to Côteaux et Fourchettes.

Côteaux et Fourchettes
Croisement de la Couronçonne
84290 Cairanne
04 90 66 35 99

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

White Bean "Brandade", a Wonderful Dish to Accompany l'Apero

Shirley and I were strolling down Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica California a while time back looking in store windows and reading menus posted in front of restaurants and keeping an eye on people, some with dogs, enjoying the picture perfect day in Southern California.

We skipped dessert at lunch and decided that now would be a good time for a coffee and dessert break with a potty stop thrown in for good measure. We climbed the steps of a pretty beach front hotel to a porch filled with tables and chairs that ran the length of the hotel along Ocean Avenue.

After being seated and we ordered desserts, Shirley went off to find a bathroom. I called friends Steve and Mary in Michigan while I waited for Shirley to return. After a few minutes, our conversation turned to Sablet, Steve and Mary love Sablet as much as we do, and then to food. Mary said she had bought some new cookbooks including "Mediterranean Harvest" by Martha Rose Shulman.

"Mediterranean Harvest" by Martha Rose Shulman

Mary mentioned several recipes her son tried, he is a personal chef, which she thought were wonderful including one for "White Bean Brandade." A little later our walk took us to a Barnes and Noble bookstore and we went in and a short time afterwards came out with my own copy of the "Mediterranean Harvest."

I know that many of you love aperitifs and the tradition of l'apero. Some of you have written posts about your favorite aperitif and snacks for l'apero and my post about aperitifs here is one of my most widely viewed posts in terms of page views.

So in the spirit of adding to the enjoyment of l'apero, I offer you this tasty and very easy recipe from Martha Rose Shulman for White Bean "Brandade."

White Bean "Brandade"
Makes about 3 cups

"Brandade," a creamy purée of salt cod, is a signature dish of Provence. This version -- without the fish -- is considered a "poor man's brandade." In Marseille, the dish is often garnished with pressed dried tuna roe (poutargue, or bottarga). I sprinkle rosemary over mine.


2 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) white beans (cannellini or navy), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup milk (more as needed)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Crostini or crudités


1. In a mortar and pestle, purée the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

2. Purée the white beans with the mashed garlic in a food processor fitted with steel blade or blender. With the machine running, add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the milk, and lemon juice. Add pepper to taste and adjust the salt. The consistency should be like hummus. If the purée is too stiff, thin out with more milk. Taste and adjust seasoning.

3. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Sprinkle with the herbs. Serve warm or room temperature, with crostini or crudités.

Advance Preparation: The brandade will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator. It will become thicker with time. Thin out as desired with milk.

Ingredients for White Bean "Brandade"

White Bean "Brandade"

Here is a picture of the White Bean "Brandade" on the table ready for the arrival of our guests for l'apero.

Ready for Aperitif

I hope you will try this recipe the next time you invite friends for l'apero. As I said, the dish is very easy and tasty. I have tried a number of other recipes from the "Mediterranean Harvest" cookbook including a wonderful recipe for tomato gazpacho. I like the book so much, that I bought a second copy for the cookbook library at our house in Sablet. Thanks Mary for the recommendation.

In the words of Chef Jacques Pepin, one of my favorite television chefs and cookbook authors, I wish you happy cooking. Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Venasque, a Most Beautiful Village in France

One of our favorite day trips from Sablet is exploring the hill-top villages of the Luberon, especially Gordes and Roussillon. To get there, we take the D4, a scenic route that traverses Carpentras and then becomes a narrow winding road flanked by cherry orchards until it passes below the village of Venasque.

A few weeks back, Greg, Jennifer and baby Julia came to visit from Lake Como and we departed for the Luberon but when we got to Venasque, we turned off the road and went up the hill since we had not been there for a long time. The temperature was cool but the sun was shining and sky blue, ideal for a walk around the village.


It was the beginning of cherry season and the trees along the road were loaded with ripening fruit. The area is particularly beautiful when the cherry trees are covered with white and pink blossoms.

Cherry trees loaded with ripe fruit

Venasque is a small picturesque village that sits on top of a steep hill. It is classified as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (translated as most beautiful villages of France), one of seven villages with that designation in the Vaucluse region where we live.

The view to Venasque over the village cemetery

Venasque is one of the oldest villages of the Comtat Venaissin often referred to simply as the Comtat. Comtat means county in its original sense, or land belonging to a count and Venassin refers to Venasque, a former bishop seat which gave its name to the Comtat.

Arched doorway through the defensive walls

Venasque's location on top of the hill provided a natural defense against attacks from enemies. Nevertheless, in Roman times, a defensive wall with towers was built around the village. The arched doorways were restored at the beginning of the 20th century.

Tower and an arched doorway through the defensive walls

The thick walls of the ramparts which survive connect three Saracen towers and two arched doors "portes."

Close up view of the defensive Saracen towers

Supposedly the stones in the defensive wall that no longer exist were removed as if the wall was a sort of rock quarry and used to build the school and houses in the village.

Arched doorway through the defensive walls into the center of Venasque

Venasque is small and compact with a few shops, restaurants and hotels. It can be easily visited in a few hours.

Venasque street

There are lots of flowers and plants which decorate the stone houses and shops which line the streets of Venasque.

Venasque door

Venasque house

Water fountain

Venasque house;

As you wander the winding streets in Venasque you come upon the House with the Blue Shutters.

La Maison aux Volets Bleus

Flowers on a Venasque house

Venasque street

As you can see, Venasque is a small village, there are only 1,156 people who reside in the village. The people who live in Venasque are called Venasquais.

Venasque house

Venasque street

Arched passageway

Water was piped to houses throughout the village between 1959 and 1965. Prior to this time, villagers got their water from the various fountains throughout the village.

Venasque fountain at Place de la Poste

Venasque B and B

Venasque fountain at Place de la Planette

The Notre Dame church in Venasque dates from the end of the 12th century. The side chapels date from the 17th and 18th century, the bell tower from the 17th century.

Notre Dame Church in Venasque

War Memorial near Notre Dame Church

Side door entrance to Notre Dame Church

Pretty house near Notre Dame Church

The fountain in the center of Venasque at Place de la Fontaine

The Venasquais are known for the cherries and table grapes (Muscat de Venasque) they grow.

View from Venasque

If you find yourself in Venasque and looking for a place to eat, you might try Les Remparts which I told you about here.

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Oh, I Meet the Nicest People Through Blogging and a Wonderful Provencal Style Lunch in the Backyard!

It has been 3 1/2 years since I started telling you about the places we discover during our sojourns in Provence. During that time, I've had the chance to meet some of you who read this blog as well as some of the bloggers I follow. I think the first person I met through this blog was Kathy from Camano Island, Washington who came to dine at our Bistro des Copains in Occidental, CA and then later rented our Sablet house.

Since then, we have met more of you at the Bistro, several of you at the Tuesday morning market and at Le Festival Café in Vaison-la-Romaine, a couple who were riding bikes through Sablet and a group shopping at a brocante market there, and at a lunch near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. This blogging has resulted in friendships with some amazing people including Barbara who teaches aspiring cooks at Cuisine de Provence.

This past week, I met Liza from Provence in Ann Arbor and her mother who were on their way to visit family in Northern California but detoured to dine at our Bistro Des Copains. Liza somehow finds time to write about food and Provence between her day job teaching Spanish and French to high school students. I'm sure kids like language classes at Liza's high school more than we liked them at mine; sorry Mrs. Butler.

Recently we met Aidan from Conjugating Irregular Verbs near the cousin's house in Clapiers France. The lead up to meeting our new friend began when I stumbled upon her charming blog a few years ago. Much more recently Aidan was interviewed on Blog Expat about living in the South of France where she said among other things that she wished there was more peanut butter in France.

Having just been to Costco and seen big jars of Skippy peanut butter, I sent an email to Aidan to tell her we would be happy to bring her peanut butter if she would meet us when we came to visit the cousins. So on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, we met Aidan with two big jars of creamy (her preference) peanut butter in hand.

I develop an impression of blog authors based upon their writing styles and stories they tell. So I wondered if we would recognize Aidan and if she would be like the person I imagined from her blog. I can answer yes to both; I recognized her at quite a distance and she is just like I thought; someone we really like.

Aidan and her husband P-Daddy came to the South of France from Texas by way of Ireland. Unfortunately, Aidan doesn't write as frequently as she used to but give her a break, she is a busy mom with three kids and a dog. Besides running kids around, she was on House Hunters International, the HGTV reality show and she is finishing up a novel set in the South of France.

Aidan came bearing a gift. We didn't expect anything but I shouldn't have been surprised based upon the type of person she is. I commented on a post about how I like the wines of Domaine L'Hortus and she arrived with a bottle of 2012 Domaine de l'Hortus Bergerie de l'Hortus Rosé. We decided to carry the bottle back to California and drink it at a Provencal style lunch in honor of our new friend.

Saturday, we invited the kids to come over for lunch. I cooked inside but we dined outside in true Provencal fashion despite it being one of the hottest days of the year; 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 Celsius for my European friends). The four grand kids splashed in the big wading pool while we ate and drank Aidan's rosé.

2012 Domaine de l'Hortus Bergerie de l'Hortus Rosé

Because of the heat, I kept the menu simple:

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Cucumbers and Fresh Basil from Shirley's Garden

Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms

Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini with Farro

Oven-Roasted Wild King Salmon Over a Fresh Sweet Corn and Cherry Tomato Salsa

Sliced Organic White and Yellow Nectarines Over Vanilla Ice Cream

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Cucumbers and Fresh Basil from Shirley's Garden

Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms

Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini with Farro

Oven-Roasted Wild King Salmon Over a Fresh Sweet Corn and Cherry Tomato Salsa

No pictures of dessert. Lunch was delicious if I say so myself. A la vôtre Aidan. Thanks for the wine! It was delicious on a very hot day.

Shirley and I say "A la vôtre"

We look forward to meeting more of you in the coming months and years. I hope to meet some of you who regularly comment about posts including Sara and her band of characters over at Sara in Le Petit Village, Tuula at Belle Provence Travels, Camille who writes from Paris over at Croque-Camille, Diane who writes from the Charente at My Life in the Charente, Heather who has a magical way with words and pictures at Lost in Arles, Meredith who lives near cousin Annick at Talking Story in Provence, and last but not least Veronique who writes from Seattle at French Girl in Seattle.

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.