French in a Flash: Chaussons aux Pommes with Cinnamon Crème Fraîche

RECIPE: Chaussons aux Pommes with Cinnamon Crème Fraîche
Chausson aux Pommes

Chausson aux Pommes

Did you know that in the late 1980s French version of The Little Mermaid, Ariel didn’t wear her seashell bikini top? Maman used the film to increase my French fluency, but I was so prudish and scarred that I didn’t speak another mot in French for ages.

In this week’s French in a Flash on Serious Eats, I discuss the nuances in French food language that create the ambiance around the dish. Chaussons aux Pommes are simply Apple Turnovers, but in French, they translate to Apple Slippers, a term as warming and evocative as the gooey apple-pie filling that oozes out from the crumbling, buttery puff pastry at every bitten opportunity. Served with cool cinnamon creme fraiche, this dish is all about mouth appeal: in language, and in taste. As always, click here for the full story and recipe.

Chaussons aux Pommes with Cinnamon Crème Fraîche

Chausson aux PommesIngredients for the Chaussons

  • 3 Golden Delicious apples

  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

  • 1 tablespoon flour

  • Pinch of salt

  • The juice of 1/4 lemon

  • 4 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed but cold (from 2 boxes, preferably pure butter)

  • 1 egg, beaten for an egg wash

Ingredients for the Cinnamon Crème Fraîche

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche

Procedure for the Chaussons

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Peel and core the apples, and slice them into 1/2-inch slices. Toss with the 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, a pinch of salt, and the juice of 1/4 lemon.

  3. Roll out the puff pastry, using bench flour to prevent sticking, so that you can cut 2 circles the size of tea saucers out of opposite corners of each sheet of puff pastry: you will have 8 circles in all.

  4. Transfer the chaussons to 2 baking sheets, and bake for 20 minutes. The pastry will be golden, buttery, and flakey, and the apples will be gooey, oozing, and sweet. Serve warm with cold cinnamon crème fraîche (recipe follows).

Procedure for the Cinnamon Crème Fraîche

  1. Stir everything together, and chill.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Breakfast & Brunch, Eat, French in a Flash, Pastries, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian

Papiers Provence: 7 Juin CASSIS

There was one thing I had to do, that I had been meaning to do, before I left the South of France. In last week’s French in a Flash, I wrote that maman was born in Marseille. The reputation of great women spreads the world over, and they become known for their beauty, subtlety, mystery, and magnetism. One such Marseillaise is maman; another is La Bouillabaisse. So it is no coincidence that this past Sunday, the day I ate La Bouillabaisse, was Mother’s Day in France.

Bouillabaisse is a fish stew indigenous to Marseille. There, when served traditionally, the many kinds of fish and the potatoes are served separately from the broth, which is for all intents and purposes Soupe de Poisson, flavored with saffron and espelette, fennel and garlic, bay and tomatoes. Alongside comes the traditional rouille, an aioli stained and scented with saffron and espelette, and a pile of little crisp baguette toasts.

We saved the best for last. We had heard from all the locals that Chez Gilbert was the best seafood restaurant in Cassis, and it sat perched under its red and gold canopy right on the harbor, amidst the sailboats that swayed on the waves to the beat of the guitarist humming “Moon River” on a bench by the docks. The four of us filed in, and I commanded a rose wine from the nearby winehouse town of Bandol. There were many toasts, some of which we shared with the bouillabaisse-stained table to our right.

I told the waitor, “Sir, I want your bouillabaisse!” Then I asked him if I might have a green salad to start. He smiled paternally, and denied me. “Mademoiselle,” he corrected. “When you have bouillabaisse, you have nothing else.”

I do not believe I have ever pined in anticipation more for a single plate of food. I have made versions of bouillabaisse before: a version of only shellfish with chip-sliced potatoes and clams, mussels, shrimps, scallops, calamari, and lobster, and a Seared Chilean Sea Bass in Bouillabaisse Broth with Rock Shimp and Mussels. But I had never had the real thing, only twenty minutes outside of Marseille.

First the waitor brought the platter of the fish that had been poached whole in the broth: there were six types, but monkfish is the only one I can confirm for sure. He then took them away to “prepare” them. They re-emerged, skins, heads, and (mostly) bones removed, accompanied by potatoes poached and stained in the same broth, like white linen in some dark tea. Then, hot from a steaming silver urn, the paternal waiter ladled the broth into my bowl, and after depositing a ramekin of rouille and baguette toasts beside me on the only-white-for-a-minute tablecloth, left me to my pleasure, only to return once with a hot refill of broth.

To my shock and dismay, no one else ordered the Bouillabaisse. They all laughed and said, “We know we can have some of yours. You’ll never finish it.” “Ha!” I scoffed. That’s what they think. I got through one fish, two fish, three fish, and maybe bluefish. But I couldn’t keep up. The broth is thick from chunks of fallen filet, and the bouillon of bones. The baguette with rouille was so pungently fragrant that I couldn’t bring myself to take a bite without it. It was so complex, and yet, so delightfully simple–what must have once been a humble, frugal dish, around which only celebrations could take place.

And as for the rest of the meal? Well, you’ll get a glimpse of that too. But why talk of shoes and ships and ceiling wax, when you can have the sea, boiling hot, on the bay of Cassis?

After all, when you have bouillabaisse, you have nothing else.

La Bouillabaisse
The Six Fishes, Fileted, and Poached in the Bouillabaisse Stock

The “Soupe de Poisson” Stock

The Bouillabaisse: the white fish, the potatoes, the stock, and a baguette croute with rouille

Rouille, on Baguette

Me, in heaven
A Rose from Bandol
Les Amuses Bouches
Chez Gilbert was kind of enough to send over some petites choses to taste before and after dinner, and, besides the Bouillabaisse, they were my favorite parts of the meal.
Shelled, Chilled Mussel Salad over Tapenade

Mussels and Tapenade Spread on Baguette Toasts

Fresh Pineapple in its Juice with Coconut Creme Chantilly and Mini Financiers

The Rest of the Meal

Heart-Stamped Dried Fig Breads
Brochettes of Scallops and Foie Gras with Tropical Fruit Compote
Shrimp and Fava Risotto
Bavette Steak Echalotte with an Eggplant Stew-Stuffed Zucchini
Grilled Lobster with Chilled Herb Rice and a Zucchini-Pistou Puree-Stuffed Zucchini
Frozen Orange Souffle with Berries
Salted Sable Breton with Pistachio Cream and Raspberries
A la France! A Bientot!
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Categories: Papiers Provence, Provence, Restaurants, Series, Voyages

Papiers Provence: 5-6 Juin CASSIS, LES BAUX, AVIGNON

This Saturday, the four of us decides to step back a millennium in medieval times. The night before, Mr. English and I went out to dinner alone at a little place in Cassis I had been wanting to try called Le Chaudron, or the cauldron. I had noticed that in most of these beachfront towns, the worst restaurants had the overflowing terraces by the sea, and the ones with the good food were tucked away charmingly and quietly on little cobblestone streets. Le Chaudron was one of the latter. It wasn’t the best food I ever had, but I loved the local accents of seafood, and the ambiance, and the dark chocolate mousse which was so thick it had to be ripped from spoon like Nutella straight from the jar.

The next day, the four of us travelled inland and back in time. We began in the fortress town of Les Baux, perched above olive groves and among ruins. Looking up at it from below (you can’t drive up, you have to walk), you can hardly tell where cliffside rock ends and ruined castle begins. The pedestrian only streets, though touristic, echo with the clatter of bygone hoofbeats, and every angle of the tiny town offers spectacular views over the patchwork countryside below, and the vine-laced ruins of one of the Middle Age’s most formidable strongholds. It was one of my favorite places on this trip. We sat on a terrace in a restaurant that I was so excited by, that I forgot to even look at the name. There, we nested like birds, jutting out over a stoney cliff, and ate the best salads we’d ever seen, drench in the olive oil pressed from the groves below. While touristic in the summer, it was barely brimming when we were there, and the shops along the tiny streets offered some fabulous culinary insight: Camargue sea salt, the pastes of Provence, as I call them, flower jams, and, of course, the many shades of liquid gold olive oil. I could have stayed there forever, frozen in time.

Next we headed to St. Remy, but then left right away after taking one turn around its “typical” streets, and continued on to Avignon. If Les Baux is a medieval town, then Avignon is a medieval city. I had never been there before, but somewhere between the ancient turreted walls and the Petit Bateau shops, I fell in love. And yes, I danced sur le pont d’Avignon, and then ate a spectacular meal at a restaurant called Le Moutardier, on the site of the old mustard factory to the ancient popes of Avignon.


Le Chaudron
Roasted Red Pepper with Anchoiade, a traditional anchovy-olive oil sauce
Salmon Tartare with Fresh Tomatoes

Steak Frites

Bavette of Beef with Shallots and Frites and Mushroom Flan
Dark Chocolate Mousse with a Pirouette
Grand Marnier Creperie
Each freshly made crepe was drizzled with sugar and doused with Grand Marnier. Highly alcoholic.

Les Baux
Remains from the Time of the Lords of Baux, the militant eagles who nested in the heights of Provence
The Les Baux Olive Oils, from the groves at the base of the mountain
Poppy Jam. They also had violet, rose, and lavender varieties.

Rouille, served with Soupe de Poisson and Bouillabaisse, is a mayonnaise
flavored with garlic, saffron, and red pepper
Aioli is a garlic mayonnaise made fresh from egg yolks and oil. It is commonly served here with fish.
Black Olive Tapenade is the most common. But you can also get Green Olive Tapenade, Pistounade (a combination of green tapenade and pistou), Anchoiade, an entirely anchovy version, or Olivade, which is the olive spread without the capers and anchovies required to make tapenade.
The iconic garlic graters of Provence. An American woman saw me eyeing one in a shop and said she bought one three years ago, and still hasn’t successful removed all the garlic from her first fatal garlic swipe. So I didn’t buy one, but they are still a kitsch way to imagine starting pistou chez moi.

The view from our perched cliff-top restaurant terrace
I ordered the Salade du Chef (a far cry from American Chef’s Salad) and it came with an old family favorite! Salade Cuite, or cooked salad, which is what we call it en famille, but really it is simply roasted peppers sauted at the end in olive oil and garlic.
Salade du Chef: Mixed Greens, Cucumbers, Onions, Tomatoes, Olives. Baguette Toasts with Tapenade and Salade Cuite. And Goat Cheese Toast with Herbes de Provence. An Olive Oil and Garlic Vinaigrette.
The Goat Cheese Toasts were drenched in the gorgeous Les Baux Olive Oil. Such a treat.
Salade Nicoise: Mixed Greens, Cucumbers, Onions, Tomatoes, Olives.
Tuna, Haricot Verts, Hard-Boiled Egg, Potatoes, Anchovies. Olive Oil an Garlic Dressing.
I never drink soda, but I am a fool for sparkling waters and seltzers. At last, in France, I can have my Perrier in a can!


The Medieval Palais des Papes

Le Moutardier

A French Guacamole with Poppy Seeds
Chicken Pastilla
Chick Pea Veloute with Beet Reduction and Rosemary Cream
Lobster and Scallops with Orange-Vanilla Butter and a Bouquet of Vegetables
Roast Veal Medallion with Artichoke Lasagna and Lemon Pistou
Sesame-Crusted Bass with Tarragon Emulsion and a Zucchini and Mint Crumble
Strawberry Charlotte
Pot de Creme and a Mini Housemade Madeleine

Sur Le Pont d’Avignon…

On y Danse Tous en Rond.

Et puis on fait comme cela!

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


Some people go to the French Riveria for fun. I went for a pilgrammage. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I recently finished my Master’s in English at Oxford, and that my dissertation was written on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Over the years, I think I have read everything written by him, everything written by everyone who knew him, and everything written about him. And I still adore him the same way as I did when I finished reading The Great Gatsby for junior year English when I was seventeen nine years ago.

Being here in Provence, I couldn’t bear to be so near to Cap d’Antibes and Juan-Les-Pins, where he and Zelda lived while he was writing Tender Is the Night, and where friends Sara and Gerald Murphy had their estate, without going to see it. I was planning for going on a little drive-by photo trip to their villa, but on further investigation, I discovered that it had been made into a hotel knowns as Belles Rives. Mr. English and I passed the day there while my mom and Alain went to Biot to see the glass blowers. Along the two-day sojourn, we traveled to some of the most famous places on the Riviera: Cannes, St. Tropez, Grasse. But we all agreed at the end, that Cap d’Antibes had something special, and we all loved it best.

Cap d’Antibes


We discovered a little bistro called Le COQlicot off the beach that was swarmed with locals, though the other bistros around stayed empty. We knew this was the place. I had a simple mixed salad and some perfect French French fries. Mom and Alain had Provencal salads, an interpretation of the Caprese. And Mr. English had sticks of beef with bernaise, salad, and fries. We felt very proud of being so local, what with the three-hour lunch service, and the calf testicles on the menu.

Salade Provencale, with Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Basil, Olives, and Garlic Toasts

Salade Mixte, with lettuce, onions, peppers, and olives
Frites, perfect and twice-fried
Aigolettes de Boeuf with Sauce Bernaise, Frites, Salade

The proprietor of our little hotel recommended that we try this plein air restaurant called Le Jardin, or the garden. We sat out back and ordered yet another fish-based prix fixe menu. Just when I expected to be bored, I realized that Picasso had retired from painting and gone to work in this kitchen. The food is what would be called tame avant-garde. The Greek salad was deconstructed, and the yogurt-cucumber sauce was piped through a whipped cream canister, as was the savory whipped cream on my wine-glass gazpacho. We all ordered Truite Escabeche, or trout with a raw marinated vegetable salad. It was gorgeous–reeking of smoke, jeweled with sabayon, and crowned with, seriously, a tomato skin cracklin’. It was by far the most inveterate but imaginative dish I have had since I arrived, and was also coincidentally the most delicious. We all wanted to eat it all over again, and I will be doing some testing to resurrect it chez nous. Lastly, we all had the trio of creme brulees: chocolate, vanilla, and mint, which not only had different flavors and colors, but curiously and invitingly different textures. This restaurant is not to miss, reasonable, local, and imaginative, in the old city amidst small stone streets–charming and modern all at once.

Deconstructed Greek Salad
Gazpacho with Whipped Cream
Trout Escabeche, with fennel, peppers, onions, snow peas,
and tomatoes, with sabayon and a tomato cracklin’
Trio of Creme Brulee: Chocolate, Vanilla, Mint


We stayed at a little hotel just off the beach in Cap d’Antibes, and they offered a copious continental breakfast and a nightly new cocktail for cocktail hour. Breakfast was set for all the guests in the terraced courtyard, and we had a full basket of croissants, walnut wheat loaf, and baguette to spread with the housemade fig preserves, Nutella, butter, and BonBel cheese. My favorite were the madeleines baked in mini-muffin tins and fairydusted with colorful sparkling sugar. We also received interested French flavors of Dannon yogurt (Granny Smith, Sour Cherry, Apricot, Strawberry), freshly squeezed orange juice, French press coffee, and ripe melon. What a way to start any day.

At cocktail time, I ordered the drink du jour: Champagne Violette, champagne with violet liquor and a crucified blackberry and white-sugar rim. It came with a little tray of darling bites: a mushroom cap stuffed with caviar of peppers, salted long radished, and dried fruits. Perfect, and a pleasure, to sip under the lazy afternoon trees.


Mini-Muffin-Shaped Madeleines with Colored Sparkling Sugar
The Breakfast Bread Basket: Croissants, Baguette, Walnut Wheat Loaf
Housemade Fig Preserves

Cocktail Hour

Dried Fruits, a Pepper Caviar-Stuffed Mushrooms, and Sea Salted Radishes
Champagne Violette: Champagne, with Violet Liqueur, and a Blackberry


Here, I spent the afternoon at Scott and Zelda’s house, now the hotel Belles Rives. Though Scott’s picture hung in the foyer, I was more taken by the sheer beauty of the location, rather than the history that I thought would overwhelm me. The water is warmer here, and shallow, and it has something like mica that sparkles in it like diamonds. Water skiing was invented here, and under the globe-lit sit Belles Rives still lurks a collection of top-end ski equipement. The sky and the sea stretched out all around the jutting jetee to the mountains in the distance. The house was draped in violet bourganvilla, and the honeycomb stones that built the villa patched into the palmed landscape with grandeur and insouciance. At few places have I ever been so happy, perhaps thanks to the cocktail I ordered there: La Piscine, champagne on the rocks. When in Juan-Les-Pins…

La Piscine: Champagne on the Rocks

I had been to Cannes eleven years ago, and like I found Aix, it seems changed, overrun. But of course, still stately as ever. We passed through for lunch and found a little pizza place in Le Suquet. I highlight it here not because it was the greatest pizza of all time, but because they did fantastic cheeseless pizzas, a local interpretation of the Italian version so common to us, but far better for the Riviera heat.


Fettuccine with Roquefort and Walnuts
Fettuccine Forestier
Pizza Siciliani
Pizza Authentica

St. Tropez

We drove through St. Tropez at evening, and I found it charming. We found a high-end dealer of all fabric Provencal, and my mom bought a lovely blue and yellow medieval rooster pattern tableclotch to replace her blue and yellow olive version from a decade ago. Mr. English and I sat in Place de Lices watching the games of Petanque, and plotting our strategy to decimate each other at the game on our return to England. For dinner we went to La Table du Marche for yet another fish-based prix fixe. Everything was gorgeous and strangely large, but I have to tell you the dessert was an abomination. The fresh chilled tomato soup had that light sweetness to it that I’ve only ever seen executed in France. The frisees in the Paysanne salad were elephantine. And the mustard herb butter on the cod was perfect. But my favorite bit? The macaroni gratin that I substituted for my potatoes: gruyere, gruyere, gruyere. It was decadent, but oh so good.


Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup with Tapenade Toasts
Salade Paysanne: Frisee, Endive, Poached Egg, Lardons
Cabillaud (Cod) with Herb Butter and Potatoes Autrement (Smashed with Tomatoes and Olives)
Macaroni Gratin
Tarte Tatin
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Categories: Papiers Provence, Provence, Restaurants, Series, Voyages

French in a Flash: Whole Wheat Pissaladière Pizza with Tapenade, Pine Nuts, and Goat Cheese

RECIPE: Whole Wheat Pissaladière Pizza With Tapenade, Pine Nuts, Goat Cheese
Whole Wheat Pissaladière

Whole Wheat Pissaladière

As we are in Provence, I thought this week’s French in a Flash on Serious Eats should be reflective of the times. I have had some mediocre Nicoise pissaladiere over the last few days, but as far as street foods go, it is such a brilliant, local concoction, and I love it so much even at its lowliest form, that I wanted to try my hand at renovating it. Pissaladiere is a rectangular tart from the south of France, with a “sauce” of sweet sauted onions, laced with anchovy filets and studded with black olives. My version begins with a bought whole wheat pizza dough. I top it with the requisite onions, then decorate it with toasted, buttery pine nuts, melting pockets of fresh goat cheese, black olive studs, tapenade quenelles, anchovy filets, caper berries, and stems of fresh thyme. It can be eaten hot or cold, and is fragrant, satisfying, and beautiful. As always, the whole story and recipe can be found here. Bon app!

Whole Wheat Pissaladière Pizza With Tapenade, Pine Nuts, Goat Cheese
serves 4

Whole Wheat PissaladièreIngredients

  • 3 onions, sliced thinly into half moons

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 12-ounce ball of pizza dough, preferably half white, half whole wheat flour

  • Corn meal

  • Flour

  • 2 tablespoons tapenade

  • 8 anchovy filets in olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

  • 15 Niçoise olives

  • 2 ounces chèvre, or fresh goat cheese

  • 3 caper berries

  • 3 stems fresh thyme, plus more for garnish

A Note on some Ingredients

As for the pizza dough, please feel free to use all-white or all-wheat. I think the wheat works especially well, but for French in a Flash, it really is all about what is easy and accessible for you.


  1. In a large sauté pan, add the onions to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sitting over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté slowly for 45 minutes, until the onions are soft and jammy. Be sure to stir them often, and lower the heat if they burn too quickly.

  2. Meanwhile, dust the bottom of the pizza dough with just a touch of corn meal, to keep it from sticking. Dust the top of the dough and your rolling pin with a bit of flour for the same reason. You could just use flour for both purposes to keep it simple. Roll the dough out into a 15-inch round, and sit it on a nonstick cookie sheet or pizza pan. Brush the dough with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

  3. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

  4. When the onions have finished cooking, spread them out over the pizza dough as you would if you were using tomato sauce. Spoon 8 little quenelles (or mounds) of the tapenade around the middle of the pizza in a wide circle. Alternate the tapenade hills with anchovy valleys, laying an anchovy like a sunray between each mound of olive paste. Scatter the pine nuts all over the pissaladière, then olives. Divide the chèvre into little bits and scatter those all over as well. Place the 3 caper berries in the center of the pissaladière, and scatter fresh thyme leaves over the entire pizza.

  5. Bake the pissaladière for 15 minutes. Then garnish with extra sprigs of fresh thyme, and maybe a slight drizzle of fresh extra virgin olive oil. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Tarts, Quiches, Pizzas

Papiers Provence: 1 Juin CASSIS

Le Petit Dejeuner, Chez Nous

Breakfast at our house is always the same, whether it is in America, England, or here in France. It is always simply baguette, croissants, and sweet cream butter and good raspberry jam.

Baguettes, Ficelles, Croissants, Confiture, Beurre

La Ferme Blanche, Vineyard

Cassis has a handful of hundreds-year-old vineyards. Today we went to La Ferme Blanche, or the white farm, and tasted their whites and roses. The white was floral; the rose was fruity. We left with a bottle of white Excellence, which tastes of the smokey wood barrel in which it is aged. While at the vineyard, we also pulled berries of the nearby Platane trees, and picked apricots. It was idyllic in a Bacchanalian sort of way.

The Vineyard

The Grapes

Wine Vines, Close Up

Aging Barrel
Apricot Tree


Berries on the Platane Tree

Wines On Offer
A Glass of Excellence, which we took home for dinner

Dejeuner in Town

Before we took a boat ride throught the Calanques, we stopped at a boulangerie for lunch, where I picked up something I often reinvent at home, but have actually never had in its original version: Pan Bagnat. Pan Bagnat is Provencal for bathing bread, a tuna sandwich soaked in vinaigrette, and basically Salade Nicoise on a roll. There are different versions–the was simple, with olives and lettuce, tomatoes and tuna. For my dolled up version, click here.

Pan Bagnat

Les Calanques

The shores around Cassis are carved into Calanques, enormous and individualistic fjords that offer idyllic respite from the busy ports and beaches. We took a boat tour for an hour through five of them, and while no food was involved (other than sea air working up an appetite), they were stunning. Here’s a glimpse of sparkling waters and jagged cliffs.

Le Diner, Chez Nous

After our heavy daube last night, I wanted to cook at home, but try new things in the style of all the Provencal dishes I’ve been observing around me. I served green olives brined with Provencal herbs, a carrot salad with spicy Dijon, a red pistou tagliatelle with the ubiquitous zucchini, head-on prawns with masses of garlic and lemon, and for dessert, a simple arrangement of ripe pears, Grenoble walnuts, and Petit Ecolier chocolate biscuits. Et voila. Moi, Provencal.

Green Olives, with Provencal Herbs
Carrot Salad with Dijon Mustard
Shell-On Prawns with a Head of Garlic and Sliced Lemons
Tagliatelle with Red Pistou and Zucchini
For Dessert: Sliced Ripe Pears, Smashed Grenoble Walnuts, and Petit Ecolier Cookies
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Categories: Papiers Provence, Provence, Series, Voyages

Papiers Provence: 30-31 Mai AIGUES-MORTES, LA CAMARGUE, CASSIS

On the Road Again

And we were back on the autoroute encore. This time not headed deep into lavender-country Provence, but into La Camargue. But what did we find? The elusive bloomed purple lavender. And where else, but on the side of the highway…

We picked a few stems and scattered them around the car.

Purple Bloomed Lavender
Me, along the blooming highway
Picnic en Voiture

We drove through Arles, but missed everything about the market but its seedy flea side. On our way to Aigues-Mortes, we stopped at the Intermarche, starving. All we needed was some cheese, some fruit, some bread, and some pastries. I sat in the back and passed around sandwiches of Brillat-Savarin and Tomme Noire des Pyrenees. When I was fifteen, I went to Brest in Bretagne, and stayed with a French family and went to school to become fluent in French. Everyday, the mother of the house set out a wedge of Tomme Noire des Pyrenees, a semi-hard cheese wrapped in an iconic black wax, that looks hard in the cold refrigerator shelf, but immediately starts to soften. You have to eat it at room temperature–it is so hard to find and so expensive in America, that I usually gorge a bit when I’m here. But you have to try it–so mild but so expressive and distinctive, with a paradoxical creamy solidity. I adore it.

What I’ve also noticed about French supermarkets are the pears. I love pears, but every time I buy one, I have to leave it for four days to soften on the counter. And then, the morning I know it will be ripe, I wake up, eyes bright with anticipation, only to find that at some secluded moment in the night, it turned black. The disappointment! But here! They are all ripe on the shelves–perfect, sweet, juicy. I was in the back seat covered in sticky pear juice, as if I had been to Goblin’s Market.

Tomme Noire des Pyrenees, Brillat-Savarin, Baguette
Not too sweet raspberry donuts
Giant Chocolate Croissants

We wanted to go to Aigues-Mortes to see the salt harvest, but what we found was a stately medieval fortress. Throughout Oxford, you can see the old city walls, proudly crumbling after a thousand years, pocketed away between the walls of the homes of more recent centuries. The most incredible thing about Aigues-Mortes is that the city has still not expanded without the fortress walls, as if maurauders might still come pillaging across the salt marshes at any moment. We thought it looked like an armory from outside, but Alain told us that inside was a whole city. We walked up to the gates, and lo and behold, crooked streets, burgeoning cafes, dogs trotting hither and thither. Tourist shops sold everything from garlic graters to plastic Templar swords. And down the main avenue, a reigning statue of good King Louis of the crusades, known to us now as Saint Louis.

The Aigues-Mortes Citadel
The Chocolate Olives
The Praline Pit
Provencal Garlic Graters
Good King Louis
La Camargue

We Americans think we have a culture! Did you know that cowboys orginated from the gardiens of La Camargue, and that Levi Strauss invented jeans in Nimes? As in cloth de Nimes, which became denim? This is certainly a departure as far as what I’ve seen of France. In fact, it reminded me a good deal of the pampas in Argentina–tall, wind-worn grasses, sparkling waters, and horses. In fact, bull fighting is as popular here as it is in Spain. The planes were dotted with black bulls and the iconic Camargue white horses. We took a boat ride through a wildlife reserve, where the flamingos normally stand guard, but not today. And we saw some real French cowboys in blue deNimes wrang some black bulls on their white horses.

A sparkling camargue waterway
Black Bulls in the Background
White Horses in the Background
The Windy Camargue
The Camargue, and the ancient watch tower for Aigues-Mortes
The White Horeses of Les Gardiens
Les Gardiens at work

I always use La Baleine sea salt. My mom always bought it; so I buy it now. I had no idea where it came from. But right outside the walls of Aigues-Mortes is where they harvest this salt, from the pink waters of the marshes. Yes, the speeches there were informative, but I think the photographs tell more–of the colors, the size, the spectacle that is the salt harvest. It was a windy day, and some of it flew into my mouth. I loved it!

The Entrance to the La Baleine Museum
A Lake of Salt and Pink Water
Pink Waters, and a Mountain of Salt

A Slope of Salt
A Sea of Salt

Pink Waters
The Fortress of Aigues-Mortes on the shores of salt
A Giant Salt Crystal
Fleur de Sel Caramel
Sacks of Salt

Me, Le Saunier!
Dinner at Place St. Louis

In the heart of Aigues-Mortes in a square of touristy cafes that serve the local bulls up for dinner surrounding the presiding statue of Saint Louis. I was a bit bulled out and shared some iconic Soupe de Poisson with my mom, and then had Sole Meuniere, with a medly of vibrant vegetables, and a vegetable flan. To top it all of, some sorbet a la framboise. Alain had white asaparagus, and then Brandade, which is a kind of white fish puree, blanketed in roasted peppers, followed by Tarte Tatin with caramel and cream. It was light, lively, and lovely. The restaurant is Le Minos, if you’re ever there.

White Asparagus Salad
Brandade with Roasted Peppers
Tarte Tatin
A Terrine of Soupe de Poisson
The traditional garnishes for Soupe de Poisson: baguette toasts, shredded cheese, and rouille
How I prepare my soupe de poisson, but everyone has his own way
Sole Meuniere, with lemon brown butter

A medley of vegetables with vegetable flan

Raspberry Sorbet

Le Clos des Aromes

Driving to beach yesterday in Cassis, I spotted a cute little courtyard with tables and hanging lanterns. The restaurant, Le Clos des Aromes, proved just as enchanting as a nighttime restaurant. Each table had a lovely bouquet of white flowers. Mr. English and I both had the menu, starting with Rasclasse, a local fish, marinated like ceviche in lemon juice. Then the Daube a l’Ancien, an old fashioned wine and beef stew. And then Lemon Sorbet with Limoncello, which I was so excited about that I only realized I’d forgotten to photograph it after I had finished eating it. Oops!

Freesia, Roses, and Lilies

Rasclasse Ceviche
La Daube a l’Ancien
Greedily eating dessert…
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Categories: Papiers Provence, Provence, Restaurants, Series, Voyages