Papiers Provence: 26 Mai, La Cadiere d’Azur

I don’t know what other people do on vacation. I just feel the heart and soul of a place is in the food. I travel to markets, sit in restaurants, take notes on the preparations. To me, that’s how to relax. And now, I am in my personal cuisine capital, Provence and the Cote d’Azur, South of France. Last night, I ordered traditional spaghetti pistou. Provencal pistou is nothing like pesto; it lacks nuts, and is tarnished rust red with sundried tomatoes. I walked away breathing garlic like a highly seasoned dragon, and could think of nothing to quench it but oreillettes, little bits of flat fried dough covered in powdered sugar. And then I thought: in case anyone else loves the food of the South of France as much as I do, I will log it all in a little eat-along. Here is my first
entry in my Papiers Provence:

The Farm Stand

The sweet man that we rented our apartment from commanded us only to buy fruits and vegetables off the side of the road. Unorthodox, perhaps, but brilliant, as it turns out. On our way out of town today, we stumbled upon a little stand. Wine for 2.50, three artichokes for 1.50. Cheap, and very cheerful. I was ecstatic to find fresh fava beans and the Provencal signature zucchini flowers–and, of course, my currants, which I hoard when I am in France like a squirrel keeping a stash of little rubied nuts.

Zucchini Flowers

Cherry Tomatoes on the Vine

Tiny, Tart Groseilles (Red Currants)

Tiny Melons de Pays
(orange like cantaloupe, sweet like honeydew

Local Lavender Honey

Heirloom Tomatoes, Jolie-Laide (pretty ugly)

Long Radishes (for dipping in salt)

Prepared Bouquets Garnis

Fresh Beans

Endives (finally on the cheap!)

A hot and spicy Provencal Olive Blend

Signature Black Cured Olives

Green Olives with Herbes de Provence

Le Moulin de Saint Come

After spending yesterday on the coast amidst rail-thin sailing masts and tubby tourists, we were ready to get away from it all. I read in the guide book about a town called La Cadiere d’Azur. On our way there, along a highway of poppies, we found this little shop that sells its own olive oil, but also all sorts of Provencal delicacies. I was entrances by their selection of liqueurs–you could have a Mimosa or Poppy Kir if you like. My mother was spotted with a 1 Kilo tin of tapenade. Here were some gorgeous finds:

Liqueurs of Indigenous Mimosa and Poppy

Verbena Liqueur

Liqueurs of Raspberry, Black Currant, and Bitter Orange
Liqueurs of Violet, Rose, and Blackberry

Syrups of Thyme, Fig, and Poppy

Sacks of Lavender

Dejeuner in La Cadiere d’Azur

City Hall in La Cadiere d’Azur

When we drove up the clif to La Cadiere d’Azur, we were stupified. This, we exclaimed, is what we had been looking for all along: something tiny, authentic, and impossible to find. A little secret tucked away, a jewel in box. We arrived just as everything was closing for lunch, so we perched in a little outdoor, imaginative restaurant called La Chaise Bleue. It was the best meal we’ve had so far. Alain had filets of monkfish blanketed in a creamy sauce spiked with Marsala. Maman had fresh from the sea Dorade, simply grilled, head and all, punctuated by bites of charred zucchini. And as for me, it was calamari, tossed with olive oil, parsley, and chili, and grilled, served with grilled slices of golden potato. And we all shared a goat cheese salad done three ways: it was melted onto baguette, stuffed and baked into tomatoes, and chilled with herbs and rolled into eggplant. My mother, in her ecstasy, swore it was a “symphony.” It’s not my word, but it will do. All this we ate on a tiny, stone-house lined mainstreet that hung off the side of a cliff, overlooking a valley of vineyards, where it really seemed to be a world on its own. The man at the next table put it most eloquently, “Le temps s’arrete.”

Our Lunch Spot, La Chaise Bleue

A lovely, modern table in a chic, old town

Baked Tomato Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Melting Goat Cheese Croutes

Three-Ways Goat Cheese Sald with Honey, Eggplant, and Pine Nuts
Grilled Dorade with Root Vegetable Quenelles and Seared Zucchini (Maman)
Monkfish in a Marsala Cream Sauce with Mushrooms, Carrots, and Root Vegetable Quenelles (Alain)
Grilled Calamari with Parsley and Mild Red Chilis, with Grilled Potatoes and Salad (Moi)

A Cool Glass of Rose

Au Vieux Four

How can you argue with a baker who puts a sign reading “the best bread in my street is here”? Still in La Cadiere, we found a bakery that actually closed for three hours for lunch. Ah, la vie Provencale. We took home Pain au Levain, Pain d’Epice, and an Olive Loaf. But my favorite things were little tiny, crumbly navette cookies, flavored with orange flower water. I ate them overlooking the valley below, under a fig tree. It was perfect!

Varieties of Pissaladiere

Pine Nut Tart
Used for the Famous Nicoise Sandwich, Pan Bagnat

Olive Loaf

Pain d’Epice, a spiced bread that tastes of orange and honey
Orange Flower Butter Cookies

Floral, Hardly Sweet, and Perfect in Every Way

A Farmstand Dinner

After that kind of an afternoon, you can scarcely imagine ever eating again. We opted to doll up some of our farmstand finds, and I got to work in the kitchen. The vegetables were cheap, but cheerfully vibrant, assertive in their colors and flavors that unfortunately my American supermarket finds rare are at twice the price.

Cherry Tomato Salad
Asparagus with Brebis
Artichokes Vinaigrette

Mache and Fennel Salade with Tapenade Vinaigrette

Melon de Pays

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Categories: Papiers Provence, Provence, Restaurants, Series, Voyages

One Response to Papiers Provence: 26 Mai, La Cadiere d’Azur

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, that all looks so good! The really wonderful pictures really capture the spirit of other places. This is such a lovely channel!