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How is Maubec/Luberon as a base location to eat around Provence?

  • Kurtis Jan 24, 2011 01:23 PM
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We are invited to stay in a farmhouse in Maubec en route to our final destination in Italy in mid April. We are thinking about possibly spending a week or so in Provence. Though I am excited at the opportunity to mingle with the locals and experience the farm life, we would like to really enjoy Provence as it would be our first time there, and worry that it may be bit too far from restaurants/interests that Provence offers. We like staying in one area for extended period of time too, but are not sure if Maubec is a bit remote as it seems on the map. We will have access to a car to roam around, and are open to day trips/overnights as well. We are adventurous couple in our late 30s who consider ourselves to be travelers rather than tourists.

I would love to hear from you if you have experience in eating around this area. In general, which city/area was ideal in your experience for culinary excursions? Specific restaurant recommendations?

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  1. Why not Cucuron? Has very good restaurants in the lovely village itself, plus good eats also nearby.
    My second pick - for beauty and good eats - would be Goult.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Parigi

      Looked up some pics for Cucuron and Goult, and what a lovely places... Any recs for eating? La petite maison seems like a must visit in review of older posts regarding the area.

    2. As a location it is on the more tourist side of Provence (the South) so well located from that perspective and thus in reach of restaurants etc. My preference in this area is to try and avoid the obvious tourist places and explore the less well known where you may often find better food. So maybe remote is better, as you say you have a car and will be able to get around and visit the tourist spots then retreat to your rural idyl.

      1. Cucuron is a lovely town as you saw - La Petite Maison is loved by some but we think it is over-rated. Other restaurants you might enjoy are as follows:
        Maison Gouin in Coustellet
        Auberge du Parc in Orgon,
        Auberge de Cheval Blanc in Cheval-Blanc
        Le Vieux Bistro in Cabrières d'Avignon
        La Bartavelle in Goult
        L'Arôme and le Fournil in Bonnieux
        Bastide de Capelongue - overlooking Bonnieux - 2-star Michelin restaurant
        La Cour de Ferme in Lourmarin (less expensive sister of La Fenière, on the same property)
        La Ferme de la Huppe in Gordes
        As you can see, there are many good restaurants around Maubec (more if you are willing to travel a bit further). Don't miss the markets in Lourmarin (Friday) and Isle-sur-la-Sorge (Sunday).

        1 Reply
        1. re: boredough

          The Lourmarin and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue markets are both wonderful but don't worry if Friday or Sunday doesn't work for you, there are markets everyday, you can look them up here: http://www.theluberon.com/markets.htm
          I agree with those who have said, if you are invited to stay in a farmhouse you should joyfully accept!

        2. If you're invited to stay in a farmhouse in Maubec you should do so! Why spend your euros on a pricy hotel.I live not far from Maubec which puts you minuets away from great villages, vues and restaurants.See post from boredough for particulars ,and get yourself a guidebook to the Luberon
          to fill-in some blancs.Do drive over to Lourmarin for the Fri. AM marche,it's superb... and you might see Peter Mayle doing his shopping.
          So lucky you! Maubec's a perfect base to explore the neighborhood.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Franco American

            I would add that an invitation to stay in someone's home in France is indeed special. Even if it is a renter or expat, they will have a grasp on the area that you would not get in a short time on your own. I personally would snatch it in a heartbeat!

            FWIW, we have spent a little time in the general area, having based ourselves two different years at La Tuiliere in Cadenet, a few km south of Lourmarin. http://tuiliere.free.fr/ From there, we scoured the Luberon, traveled as far as Paradou and Le Baux to the west, Manosque in the east, Sault in the north and Aix in the south.

          2. Thanks to many of you for redirecting my focus to more important aspect of travel: the real experience. I agree with you, and am looking forward to spending a week in a farm in Provence. As not all small town/farm is ideal base to explore say in Long Island NY, I think I unnecessarily worried about its remoteness which Maubec really isn't.

            How important is to make reservation to many of the restaurants you listed? I can imagine that the 2MS needs one in quite advance, but how about for ones in less known places which I think I will more likely want to try out? For lunches as well? Any cookbook particularly on Provence that stand out? (Thanks for pointing out the markets boredough and GretchenS) I don't think we will be duplicating Bourdain's mistake (that was a good and funny NR episode) on our visit, but we nearly always visit local markets and often cook a few meals.

            BTW, if I were to ask you what food-related gift you want me to bring back from Provence, what would it be? How about a great food-related gift that I can take with me for the visiting family in Provence?

            10 Replies
            1. re: Kurtis

              Re pre-trip reading, we really have to know your starting point. If you've not done it, you might well read Peter Mayle's trite but area changing "A Year in Provence" which will take you on a tour of much of the area around your stop. Not too bad is Leah Chase's "Pedaling Through Provence Cookbook" that also highlights villages and dishes from your area. Patricia Wells has several cookbooks that reflect the dishes you will encounter.

              And of course, you should scour via the search function on Chow to see what has been written here.

              Enjoy!

              1. re: Kurtis

                Most likely any restaurant will have room for walk-ins in April, but the reason to call ahead is to make sure a particular restaurant is open. Some are closed, for instance, WED/THURS, others maybe SUN/MON, or MON/TUES. As for Provençal gifts to bring back to the States, I would suggest table napkins - or dish towels - in traditional Provençal fabrics. They are found in many markets (too many places, unfortunately), but here in the States they are rare and/or expensive. More important: they take up little room in your suitcase. If you're daring (luggage-wise), pick up small bottles of locally made olive oil to bring back. What to bring your hosts? That's tougher, but maybe a nice Zinfandel (our only native grape), if you can pack it well enough to withstand the delicate nature of airline luggage handling.

                1. re: boredough

                  "What to bring your hosts? That's tougher, but maybe a nice Zinfandel (our only native grape), if you can pack it well enough to withstand the delicate nature of airline luggage handling."

                  With tongue in cheek, we took our winemaker host a bottle of upper-end California zin. He first read the label, "Oh, la, la! 16%! Too much, too much." He hefted the bottle, "This bottle is too heavy. It shouldn't be this heavy." And he tasted. And tasted. And tasted. And grinned. "It's delicious. You can't drink the whole bottle, but you certainly want to!" His adult daughter tasted it and considered, then said, "This is a red wine that girls who don't like red wine would love." They were delighted with the gift...and the bottle was empty long before the evening was over.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    Thanks for sharing that story, mangeur. Nice to know your vintner's mind "opened" enough to appreciate what Americans can do. Maybe I'll brave the evil-luggage-handlers & bring over a bottle for our Provençal friends too, the next time we head over to Provence.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      Nice story, good memories, and good choice! His daughter certainly had to put the zin in its place, though LOL... I am sold on zin as gift. Thank you boredough and mangeur.

                  2. re: Kurtis

                    I live in Cabrieres d'Avignon which is very close to Maubec. You will not be remote and are in fact well situated with easy access to everything.
                    Reservations are key to any of the nicer restaurants, not only to confirm their opening days but also because it is polite. Also be aware that you will not be eating earlier than 8pm each night.
                    Add to your list of places Jardin du Quai and le Vivier in L'isle sur la Sorgue. We think Jardin du Quai is the best place for all around ambiance, food and in April if you can sit outside in the garden, especially for Sunday lunch do that before/after wandering through the antique barns and shops.
                    For things to take back - olive oil is a good idea but heavy and bulky. We now go with chocolates ( Joel Durand in St. Remy or la Cour aux Saveurs in l'isle ) or torchons ( tea towels ) which are small and light. Buy the good quality tea towels ( Jacquard de Francais or Moutette ) as they are much cheaper ( 13 euros ) than in Canada or the US.
                    There is a fantastic place very near you called les Artisanales where they make jams, tapenades and also offer brunch. We often take grocery store mustard -Amora - home. Sounds boring but foodies will love it. Big squares of savon de Marseille in the 3 colours are always popular.
                    Cookbooks - Patricia Wells for sure.
                    Almond blossoms are out now and the very first asparagus. The markets will be in full swing in April!

                     
                    1. re: Barbaluc

                      Cabrières d'Avignon is a very good base, in the middle of Gordes, Goult Venasque, Ile sur la Sorghue. It is also the start of a strange hike tracing the old mur de la peste.

                      1. re: Barbaluc

                        Thank you for the additional information. I've been making plans for the trip now for some time, and have learned the fortune of staying in Maubec. My trip has now evolved to exclude Italy all together, and will be staying in Maubec for 2 weeks instead. I could easily spend the whole time roaming around and getting lost in Luberon alone I feel. I will try to post my itinerary in near future for previous posters' review.

                        1. re: Kurtis

                          "My trip has now evolved to exclude Italy all together, and will be staying in Maubec for 2 weeks instead."

                          Sweet. :)

                          1. re: Kurtis

                            Great idea to stick with Provence, as there is so much to see & do (& eat). As an aside, I'd like to offer Peter Mayle's answer to the question "When is the best time to visit Provence?". His response: "After lunch".
                            Enjoy!

                      2. Okay, so here is our itinerary at this point. First, we must thank the regular contributers on this board: the main guide in making our itinerary was from posts and discussions that you guys had here. As you read through the itinerary, I think you will recognize your suggestions. So, thank you.

                        We will be taking this trip in early April for two weeks. As mentioned before, we will have car, and the farmhouse in Maubec will be vacant for our use: the host family will not be there. Here are some parameters. Please forgive me for being long-winded; I am hoping they are helpful for making suggestions.

                        Most important goal for this trip: good food experience. Sights are close second. We will likely have big lunches and less big dinners. While we want to experience one or two Michelin-starred (MS) restaurants, it would be ideal if many great meals (including wine) can be had for <50 Euros/pp, and some meals <25 Euros/pp. We can drink entire bottle for a meal, but more often finish a half. As we are planning to include many great hikes to be had there, we will have several picnics and a few home-cooked dinner. Though it frightens us/our pocket how MS dinning in Provence might change our mind, we have rarely been “blown away” by the equivalents in Manhattan where we live: we just may not have the depth/knowledge of palate many CH’ers seem to share. We really like the idea of eating in ferme-aberge or family/chef-owned/intimate places, as these types food experiences are what we enjoy the most at home. We have no allergies or limitations, but having many vegetable options is a great plus. Extensive wine list isn’t too important to us; we will be happy drinking inexpensive local wine.

                        Our preference is to stay close (within 1hr drive oneway), but go on a few long-distance travel (around 2hr drive oneway) from the base. We do want to return somewhat close to Maubec for dinner each night if possible, but leave room for an exceptional night that we may want to linger, and/or stay overnight (would appreciate your suggestions here).

                        Its doubtful that we will be able to eat away as planned, but would like to see which ones are musts, and what other options you would suggest. We are planning to go to as many markets as possible. Please feel free to comment, suggest, critique, or add your experiences. Numbered trips are not meant to be followed in order; it was done for ease of identifying one day’s worth of itinerary.

                        Staying Close:

                        Trip#1: First day in Maubec. We will arrive around 5pm from Marseille. Looking for a romantic dinner spot to set the mood for Provence vacation. Short drive back.

                        Lunch: ? (hate to waste a meal in the airport)
                        Dinner:Le Mas Touteron (Les Imberts) –my first choice.
                        Le Vieux Bistro (Cabrieres-d’Avignon)?

                        Trip#2: Loumarin, Cucuron, Ansouis, (Cadenet & Vaugines if time)

                        Lunch: La Cour de Ferme (Loumarin)
                        Dinner: La Closerie (Ansouis)

                        Trip#3: Buoux, Castellet, Sivergues, Auribeau

                        Lunch: Auberge de la Loube (Buoux)
                        Dinner: Le Castelas (Sivergues)

                        Trip#4: Bonnieux, Rousellion, Lacoste, Goult

                        Lunch: Bastide de Capelonge (Bonnieux)
                        Dinner La Bartavelle (Goult)

                        Trip#5: Gordes, Cabrieres-d-Avignon, Lioux, Joucas

                        Lunch: Le Vieux Bistro (Cabrieres-d’Avignon)
                        Dinner: La Ferme de la Huppe (Gordes)

                        Trip #6: L’isle sur La Sorgue, Fountaine de Vancluse, Le Thor

                        Lunch: Le Jardin du Quai (La Sorgue)
                        Dinner: Les Carmes (Le Thor)

                        Trip #7: Les Baux-de-Provence, Saint-Remy, (Arles if time)

                        Lunch: Le Ferme-Auberge Barbegal (Raphele-les-Arles)
                        Dinner: Le Bistrot du Paradou (Paradou)

                        Trip #8: Menerbes, Oppede-le-Vieux, Lauris, Le Logis-Neuf

                        Lunch: Definate picnic during hike off Le Logis-Neuf
                        Dinner: Aberge de Cheval Blanc

                        One relaxing day in the middle to enjoy the farmhouse. May eat out a meal.

                        Auberge du Presbytere (Saignon), or
                        Auberge du Parc (Orgon)

                        Going Far:

                        Trip #9: Gigondas, Violes, Vaison-la-Romaine, Mont Ventoux

                        Lunch: Le Domain de Tenon (Violes)
                        Dinner: L’Oustalet (Gigondas)

                        Trip #10: Apt, Moustier-Saint-Marie, Grand Canyon du Verdon

                        Lunch: La Treille Muscate (Saint-Marie)
                        Dinner: L’Arome (Bonnieux)

                        Trip #11: Nice, St. Paul, Vence, Gourdon (potential overnight)

                        Lunch: Street Food: Nicois Socca, Pizza, Pan Bagnat
                        Dinner: L’Ane Rouge (Nice)

                        Trip #12: Cassis, Marseille, Calanques

                        Lunch: Chez Dede (Marseille)
                        Dinner: Chez Toinou for seafood platter (Marseille)

                        Questions…

                        1. Breakfast: we love sampling food at markets, and so we are hoping that when we get to one of the markets each morning there will be food-stands where we can grab coffee and things to eat/sample for breakfast, or at least cafés where we can get small meal. Is that reasonable plan?
                        2. What are some of your favorite aperitifs? One CH mentioned Rinquinquin which sounds interesting. I wonder if there are more regional drinks like this that is worth trying?
                        3. We have two MS restaurants that I listed here: L’Ane Rouge and Bastide de Capelonge. Any other MS ones to replace these in similar price range?
                        4. We would also would like to spend some time in Arles and Avignon as well. Would you forgo any one of the trips above for these cities?
                        5. Any rec for wine tasting experience? Though we are not a wine connoisseurs, we do enjoy wine and this trip should afford many opportunities.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Kurtis

                          Your picks are good. But in my experience doing two restos a day is too much. Besides overeating, you don't get enough space to enjoy a given meal by itself.

                          "Trip#3: Buoux, Castellet, Sivergues, Auribeau
                          Lunch: Auberge de la Loube (Buoux)
                          Dinner: Le Castelas (Sivergues)"

                          I don't think during the week Le Castelas is open for dinner but I could be wrong. Also, a great deal of the enjoyment of Castelas is its stunning setting, which you will miss if you go at night. Lastly, frankly I would be too scared to drive down that non-road at night...

                          "Trip#4: Bonnieux, Rousellion, Lacoste, Goult
                          Lunch: Bastide de Capelonge (Bonnieux)
                          Dinner La Bartavelle (Goult)"

                          Both great restos, but too much as is back to back like that.
                          You really should consider picnicking for lunch, with food you get from markets, then one major meal at dinner.

                          "Trip#5: Gordes, Cabrieres-d-Avignon, Lioux, Joucas
                          Lunch: Le Vieux Bistro (Cabrieres-d’Avignon)
                          Dinner: La Ferme de la Huppe (Gordes)"

                          Same problem.
                          A tourism point: Lioux, Joucas entail much shorter time for visit. I suggest you may want to move Goult to this day; as Bonnieux-Rousellion-Lacoste-Goult the day before make for a very long day with a lot to see. I also would visit the Abbaye de Sénanque and Venasque on this day, and put Lioux and Joucas toward the end of the day, to be visited if one has time. Pardon me if you have spcific things to see in Lioux and Joucas that we don't know about.

                          "Trip #7: Les Baux-de-Provence, Saint-Remy, (Arles if time)
                          Lunch: Le Ferme-Auberge Barbegal (Raphele-les-Arles)
                          Dinner: Le Bistrot du Paradou (Paradou)"
                          At Barbegal, must must visit the Roman mills.
                          Again, two very hearty meals for one day. Just would not have been enjoyable for me.
                          But if your appetite is so, uh, encompassing, bravo. :-)

                          The southern summer apéro is Pastis.

                          1. re: Kurtis

                            I agree with Parigi - your picks are good but I think waaay too ambitious and will not allow you to enjoy the meals or the surroundings. I am a very good eater ( ! ) and would not consider lunch and dinner at the places you are considering in the same day. When we have hosted travel weeks the comments are usually that there was not enough time to recover between the meals! Lunch is often much bigger than you might expect because for many people it is the main meal of the day. There is usually not a 'light' option and many restaurants have a fixed or formule at lunch.

                            Also check the websites of the restaurants or call as several may still be closed in early April and most will close for 2 days during the week, usually Tuesday/Wednesday. We tried for lunch yesterday and of the 12 I called only 1 was open ( le Fournil - great spot ) and the other was 'complet' ( Auberge de Beaucet ).

                            For wine tasting plan to see Gigondas or Vacqueyras while you are there.

                            My advice would be to slow down and do less driving. You will be spending too much time in the car and not enough time in the villages. Every North American visitor wants to see it all in one trip and usually regrets doing so.....

                            1. re: Kurtis

                              I agree with Parigi & Barbaluc regarding your food overload. Besides the possibility that you will be too stuffed to enjoy dinner, a big lunch takes up a lot of valuable time. That said, here are my comments on your list:
                              #1 - If you plan to arrive Maubec by 5pm, it sounds like you will land in MRS somewhere around 3pm, which is too late for lunch at any restaurant or most cafés. If I'm not mistaken, there's an autoroute cafeteria (ugh) not far from when you leave the airport (around the toll booths) - which might be your best bet if you can't wait until dinner to eat. Once you settle in & if you have the energy, head on over to Coustellet to the Super U (supermarket open until 7:30p except on Sunday) and stock up on whatever staples you will need. Maybe stop in to one of the cafés in the town & order your first apéritif (Rinquinquin may not be readily found, but you can always get a Pastis as Parigi said, or a glass of rosé).
                              #2 - As of last summer, both Cour de Ferme & la Closerie were closed WED/THU. Make this a Friday and catch the Lourmarin market.
                              #3 - Le Castelas/Sivèrgues is open every day for lunch & dinner. The only hitch is they might have a private function, so it is always best to book to make sure you don't end up driving all that way only to be disappointed. (Note: the Farm is at the end of a long dirt road that you access just to the right of the hardly identifiable MAIRIE.) I understand why Parigi prefers lunch there, but I believe the delicious roast pig is served only at night. And then there's the gorgeous sunset, if you get there early enough. As for the scary road, the good thing is that no one will be coming in the opposite direction. If you decide to take up the challenge, try not to go at the beginning of the week when there may not be too many other patrons. Part of the fun is the communal dining.
                              #7 - Bistrot du Paradou is open Tues-Sat, but in April serves dinner only FRI/SAT
                              #8 - Auberge DE Cheval Blanc is closed all day MON, Sunday evening & Saturday lunch. Just a (silly?) warning: it is in the town of Cheval Blanc. Not too far away in the town of Coustellet is another restaurant called Restaurant DU Cheval Blanc...don't let it confuse you...!
                              #10 - l'Arôme is closed WED/THU.
                              Additional comments:
                              -try to book all restaurants because some are either very small or very popular, even in April
                              -food markets won't have much in the way of breakfast, although sometimes there'll be a vendor selling croissants, pains au chocolat & baguettes. It is not unheard of to bring pastries(from the bakery) to a café where you can order your coffee and sit around for a while. These small cafés tend to run out of their own croissants & tartines early, which must be why they don't seem to object to this practice. Still I wouldn't flaunt it.
                              -if you must do Nice/Vence etc, you should plan to stay overnight in order to have time to see & enjoy anything. Personally I'd prefer Avignon - a great walled city with the famous Pont Bénézet & the Pope's Palace - followed by another day in Arles.

                            2. Thank you Parigi, Barbaluc, and boredough for your time, really really thoughtful comments, and detailed info for logistics. If you keep a blog, I would love to see it. I won't follow my itinerary to the dot I promise, as I also feel that it would be a fearful (what!?! eat again?), uncomfortable, and rather toxic (another reason to take up your advise to keep the drives short) This itinerary really was mean to see possibilities, and other options in groups of villages in particular area.

                              Normally, I don’t plan a lot for my vacations. Even when I did make some plans, it wasn't uncommon to end up with somewhat different journey: 3 weeks in Southern Morocco that started out as trip to Western Europe, skipping Pisa to spend a whole week in Siena, or a week entirely in Cairo’s souqs instead of trip up or down the Nile for example. But that was years ago, and planning the trip to Provence forced me to prepare a lot more, as you thoughtfully pointed out the days of markets and closing days for restaurants. Through this, I learned much, and thoroughly enjoy the process.

                              So, I am curious to the eventual outcome of this journey, and anxiety and comfort of the unkown. I promise also that I will report back, and if I don't, look me up in Maubec on your next visit. (oh, how I wish...)

                              1. Encore Maubec
                                The "Luberon by Mouth" continued.
                                It's worth noting that Maubec has a very pleasant bistro of its own located at the bottom
                                of the village.L' Atelier Verosan has a fine vue of the countryside from its terrace and resonable prices.
                                The 2011 Michelin Bonnes Petites Tables has given a star to L'Escanson in Robion which is
                                only minuets from Maubec.
                                Going east on N 100 through Coustellet you will notice a boulanger on your left with a red facade,they bake exceptional bread and have parking in front.
                                Last week there was an exciting new arrival in the charming old village of Saignon.
                                Le Bistro du Vin open its doors for the first time.Located on Rue Cilly in a splendid 17th Cen.
                                building with a lovely terrace it has already received great applause from locals and European
                                tourists exploring the village.The chef owner is very imaginative and is dedicated to using
                                seasonal produce from the region and the prices are exceptionally fair for such high quality.
                                Also in Saignon is the much hearlded Petite Cave Restaurant which open last year.
                                Lovely romantic ambiance with superb cuisine.See website for more details.

                                33 Replies
                                1. re: Franco American

                                  FA and lexy, what a nice addition to my growing dilemma! FA, thank for the L'Escanson rec. We are arriving on a Wednesday afternoon, and was planning on a morning walk the next day to Robion for their Thursday market. I will most likely have a dinner there on one of the evenings when I want to drink good amount of wine.

                                  Few things...

                                  La Riboto de Taven (Les Baux): Any recent experiences? This was highly rec by several regular CH's and looks like a must visit. I emailed them for reservation, but they only take it a day before to accommodate for their guests first.

                                  Bastides de Marie (Menerbes): Overall mixed reviews on their restaurant. Lovely setting makes me want to go there. I exchanged email with them: "For lunch we do a small card “ fresh products of the market”, with salads, tartines, served in the garden under the lim trees….The first price is 09€….For dinner we have a menu with the choice of 2 starters, 2 mains courses, cheese, and 2 desserts – price 89 €in this price is also included, the wine of the Property, mineral water, coffee and an appetizer..."
                                  If their lunch is really 9 Euros, I would like to check it out.

                                  Le Mas Touteron (Gordes): Again overall mixed reviews - more recent ones say not so good things for their food - for what appears to be a lovely place. This was my pic for the first meal on our arrival, and I still want to go there, but we are headed to Le Vieux Bistrot (Cabrières Avignon) instead. The setting of this place is still tugging on me to reconsider...

                                  L'Oustalet (Gigondas): I chose this place rather than Les Floret for lunch. Will likely have a long walk afterwards. Any thoughts?

                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                    We had dinner last week at le Vieux Bistro and were disappointed. Too many little different verrines on the plate and they try too hard to dress the plate up instead of just focussing on serving good solid meat or fish. Although the piece of beef was good, it was served with too many overcooked potatoes. I would try Maison Gouin which is a little bit closer to you and their 'cave' has a great selection.
                                    Had lunch yesterday at L'Oustalet in Gigondas and it was fantastic. Go for lunch as it is a bit of a drive and not one you want to do after some wine in the evening.

                                    1. re: Barbaluc

                                      Maison Gouin is closed on Wednesdays :( Will definately be going there though... Any other recs then for Wednesday dinner?

                                      1. re: Barbaluc

                                        We live next door to Gigondas in Sablet. I suggest if you are going to come to this area, that you do so on Tuesday so you can hit the market in the morning in Vaison la Romaine. Many consider this market to be the best in South of France. During peak season, there are up to 450 vendors there. Quite Amazing.

                                        Then go south to Gigondas and eat lunch at L'Oustalet, make sure you reserve as they fill fast. Then after lunch, go next door to the Gigondas Cave that is operated by the wine syndicat (they will be closed 12 - 2) and you can taste almost every single current Gigondas release, generally around 70 wines available; there is no cost. if you want to go to a winery tasting room, go to Domaine de Bouissiere, very small, but wonderful wines. Grandma runs the tasting room and she is a delightful funny lady, but is deafer than a door nail. There wines like all the others are available in the Gigondas cave. If you want to walk after lunch, head up to Les Florets, park your car and head up. There is a hike up from there with fantastic views.

                                        Relative to your general itinerary, my wife would want me to tell you to forget a leisurely romantic dinner on your first night. One or both of you will be fighting to stay awake and it will not be the romantic experience you are looking for. Instead grab something simple and plan to eat in at your place or a pizza to go. Start your dining experiences the next day.

                                        I have attached a picture of L'Oustalet and of the village of Gigondas. It is very small, only about 400 people live there. I have a write about one of our meals at L'Oustalet and pictures of lots of other meals and visits to villages in the Vaucluse on my blog at www.sablethouse.blogspot.com

                                         
                                         
                                        1. re: Pammel

                                          Pammel, your recs are all taken into a nice trip up north. Your blog should be listed under "must review" for people who are traveling in this region; wonderful stories, and great collection.

                                          1. re: Kurtis

                                            Thank you Kurtis for the very nice feedback about my blog. I hope you have a fantastic trip and share your experiences.

                                        2. re: Barbaluc

                                          How's Mas du Capoun (Molleges) or Auberge du Parc (Orgon)? It's been 5 years since we are married, but I still feel the need to impress her on our first night...

                                          1. re: Kurtis

                                            Mas du Capoun has great food. Don't be fooled by the location or decor!

                                        3. re: Kurtis

                                          We have not been to Riboto de Taven in a few years, mostly because they seemed to discourage "outsiders" (non-hotel guests), and because the menu price had risen to about 55€ (without wine) when the local standard was under 40€. Still, the setting is wonderful and the dining room absolutely charming, and we always enjoyed the cuisine. IMO the view of les Baux lit up at night is lovelier than the one from the more expensive Oustau de Baumanière.

                                          Bastide de Marie: This used to be our favorite spot for a special dinner, and we would go at least twice during our yearly 5+ month stay. The inn itself is beautiful; cocktails (which were included but you did not mention them above so maybe they no longer are) & hors d'oeuvres are served on the patio overlooking the vineyard; if the weather permits dinner is served alongside the vineyard...under those 'lim' trees. Service & cuisine always completed the perfect picture. However in 2009 for the first time we were disappointed in 2 of our 6 dishes, and did not go back in 2010 to find out if this was an anomaly or result of a new chef. For 89€ it's really not expensive for a good meal in such a setting (in that EVERYTHING is included), but certainly overpriced for a disappointing one. As a result, and because you are traveling in April when you would surely be dining inside, I did not suggest it in my earlier post. However a reasonably priced lunch of salads/tartines in the garden might be worth it, & less of a risk. I would suggest that 9€ is for the least expensive item on their à la carte menu (the "small card" is a misleading translation of a few options-"petite carte"-, not a 3-course meal, which is called a "menu" ). Hope that makes sense. If you go, please be sure to report back.

                                          I also did not recommend l'Escanson in nearby Robion, because our one visit (following Michelin's BIB rating) left us unimpressed. The food was decent Provençal fare, but uninspired, and the dining room had no atmosphere whatsoever. We prefer going to Maison Gouin in Coustellet (next town) where their "menu" (35€?) includes a fabulous cheese platter as well as dessert. Wine is selected from their downstairs "cave" that is also a wine shop, so that prices are retail and not the usual restaurant mark-up. They also have an à la carte menu if you don't like their no-choice prix-fixe. Closed for dinner WED/SUN last time I checked.

                                          One more idea: BABOUCHKA is a small North African restaurant also in Coustellet. Huge portions of couscous & tajine (the prune & lamb version is wonderful), and delicious 'bastilla' (which must be ordered in advance).

                                          1. re: boredough

                                            boredough, you must have read my mind because I was looking for a good north african place to try during this trip, and was looking in Marseille or Arles. I really love bastilla, as well as well-prepared tajine and couscous (tried many places in NYC without success). Add good local french wine and I probably won't want to go to heaven...

                                            1. re: boredough

                                              Update on Maison Gouin - they no longer have their evening prix fixe. Everything is a la carte. The trip to the 'cave' is still pretty neat!

                                              1. re: Barbaluc

                                                First I must ask Barbaluc when GOUIN eliminated the prix fixe, and how that affects the (formerly "included") cheese platter. We were there in September, and the prix fixe was still on, along with the à la carte dishes they added 2 years ago. Very sad.

                                                As to Kurtis' inquiry for the first night, I agree with Pammel (from my own personal jet lag symptoms) that Auberge du Parc may be a bit too far to go the first night, and although the setting is lovely, I wouldn't consider the dining room romantic. (Mas du Capoun is closed Wednesdays.) Maybe you could dine at la Ferme de la Huppe that night - you would need a google-map to find it. In terms of kms from Maubec, it might be about the same as the Auberge, but you wouldn't have to manoeuver around/through Cavaillon - Instead you would drive past the beautiful perched village of Gordes, a wonderful introduction to Provence, on your way to this Provençal farmhouse in the valley.

                                                re: Babouchka - Glad to hear this one interests you too. The restaurant has a small terrace in the large market square (Quai des Entreprises), where there is plenty of parking. If you speak French, you should pre-order the bastilla (it's enough for 2 - we've had it as an appetizer followed by tajine...with Moroccan wine). tel: 04 32 52 18 32. Not sure what days they are closed, but think Sunday is one of them.

                                                1. re: boredough

                                                  This was done late last season. We were there late January and Rosa said it was because alot of people did not want the prix fixe. I agree it is too bad as the cheese course is now 8 or 9 euros. Basically ends up being a more expensive meal if you want to eat as you did under the previous price structure.
                                                  Agree with Babouchka suggestion. The problem is that tourists don't generally come to France for food that is not French - but for expats longing for a change, it is a good place. ( Remember the Thai place in Gordes????OMG it was fantastic - but tourists weren't interested, nor were the French locals. )

                                                  1. re: Barbaluc

                                                    I agree that one goes to France to enjoy French food, but there are many North Africans in the south of France (as opposed to the USA) - and they really know how to prepare their native dishes. So unless one intends to visit one of those former French colonies/protectorates/departments, it's the next best thing...no? Unfortunately I don't know the Thai place to which you refer; maybe Vietnamese cuisine would be more successful with the French. As for GOUIN, I wonder if Rosa was just making excuses for being able to raise her prices less obviously. I always prefer being "forced" to eat something chosen for me - it's too easy to select an old standard when given options.

                                                    1. re: boredough

                                                      Barbaluc: It occurred to me that everything changed when Luisa (the lovely hostess) left Gouin about 3 years ago. Since then, Gouin added the à la carte menu, and then dropped the Suze cocktail. Now this. As for Luisa, she & her husband (one of the chefs at Gouin) opened their own place in Cavaillon: David et Luisa. We rushed to try it out, but were underwhelmed, much to our surprise. Have not gone back.

                                                      1. re: boredough

                                                        Suze cocktail?

                                                        1. re: Kurtis

                                                          Yes, the prix-fixe always started with an apéritif, which for a time was Suze on ice. (You may not recognize the name, but you've probably seen the faded painted signs.) To us it meant "welcome to la Maison Gouin"...

                                                        2. re: boredough

                                                          Yes, we also tried it ( David & Luisa ) but have not been back. Overall I would say Gouin for us has been hit & miss. But still a nice setting, great cave and for nights when you don't want to cook....fine. But also because it is a 3 minute drive! There are not alot of options from Cabrieres when you don't want to drive.

                                                          1. re: Barbaluc

                                                            I thought I should report the latest at Maison Gouin. We stopped in the shop a few weeks ago while at the Sunday market in Coustellet. What used to be a counter for the huge cheese selection at dinner, as well as a wall-filled collection of after-dinner liqueurs, is now a wall of shoes....women's shoes. Furthermore, as you step into the back room (where the butcher counter is), instead of a few tables for dining, you see a small area for trying on.....shoes, and another wall of offerings. (Has anyone seen "Harry's Law"?) This is a clear sign that something serious has changed at Gouin. In spite of having been told (on the phone) that they do have a prix fixe at dinner, we had not managed to return. Now we certainly will not go back. Very sad.

                                                            1. re: boredough

                                                              I had a very delicious dinner last June (when a few pairs of shoes were making their appearance), but I agree with boredough. The warm butcher's backroom atmosphere is gone. Hell, the whole backroom is gone. The restaurant got fixed up, seemingly by a Las Vegas interior designer's assistant. The service was quite nice, except that the maître D for some reason tried to talk us into getting a table facing the nondescript village's nondescript parking lot, reassuring us there would be only a few smokers. What's that about.
                                                              As I said, the food was very good, as always, but I will not be back either.
                                                              O, and to thank me for organizing the trip, my girlfriend bought me an apron there, which the lady overcharged by 10 euro, charging her 35 € instead of the prominently indicated price of 25 €. Let's say it was an honest mistake.
                                                              I feel very sorry for the chef, whose food I genuinely like, but I won't be back even for the traiteur either, after the apron story.

                                                              1. re: boredough

                                                                Shoes. Yes. Very very strange. Apparently Rosa has always wanted to have a shoe store, or sell shoes somewhere. And now she does. And it doesn't work. When I first saw it I stood and stared. Had she been there I would have commented. Have not been back.
                                                                DId enjoy lunch at Auberge des Carrieres in Maubec. Can't wait to try it in the fall/winter as I think the room will be nice.

                                                                1. re: Barbaluc

                                                                  "DId enjoy lunch at Auberge des Carrieres in Maubec. Can't wait to try it in the fall/winter as I think the room will be nice."

                                                                  Must have walked by there several times, and even lingered to take photos without noticing the place...

                                                                  Timing of my trip was already too late to experience what you all raved about Maison Gouin anyways - and curt phone conversation was the proof. Would be interesting to see how this develops down the road...

                                                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                                                    (Sadly) we head back to NYC in 2 weeks, so we won't be able to check on Gouin again until the Spring (while at the Sunday market). They still seem to have a thriving butcher & "traiteur" business (with a 2nd shop in Cavaillon), so I would be surprised if they were to close down completely - not so surprised if they end up eliminating the restaurant. In the meantime, maybe Barbaluc will report in...! OTOH that makes 2 restaurants we've crossed off our list this year, but fortunately we have found a few additions to make up for them.

                                                        3. re: Barbaluc

                                                          Barbaluc, thanks for mentioning the Thai place. I have begun a pre-trip love affair with french food, and I really dig it, but I am not sure if I will enjoy it for 14 days straight without mixing in some different stuff. If you have more recs on this line, I would love to hear it.

                                                          1. re: Barbaluc

                                                            Just went to a great Thai place called Bamboo Thai, in the Hostellerie le Paradou (route d'Apt, Lourmarin, not to be confused with the Bistrot du Paradou in Le Paradou). Everything we had was delicious; place was full on Saturday night, so I guess they're doing well. Thought I'd pass on the name, in case you (Barbaluc) need a Thai fix next time you're in the neighborhood.

                                                            1. re: boredough

                                                              Am going with a Thail fiend to the Luberon in June. Will go there if he is really homesick. Thanx !

                                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                                be sure to report back on whether you liked it or not!

                                                                1. re: boredough

                                                                  If we go, we will surely report back.

                                                              2. re: boredough

                                                                Boredough,
                                                                I just recently discovered Bamboo Thai and enjoyed it very much. A great place to escape as the landscape and authenticity makes you feel like you've taken a trip to Thailand. Food is delicious!

                                                            2. re: boredough

                                                              For some reason, I get the impression from their webpage that la Ferme de la Huppe can be a bit stuffy place, or a place that should get a proper attention rather than a jet-lagged and coffee'd nightout? Otherwise, this would be a really nice choice, and a perfect first drive and dinner out in the Luberon.

                                                              It appears that Wednesdays are more suitable for cooking at home in general as many places are closed...

                                                              1. re: Kurtis

                                                                Not at all stuffy, although if the tables around you are twosomes it can be a bit quiet! Closings vary - some are Monday nights, others are T/W.

                                                                1. re: Kurtis

                                                                  I would not classify F/Huppe as stuffy - it certainly is not. The atmosphere is relaxed & rustic - be sure to peak out at the "hotel" part of the farmhouse. But I agree that a good meal should be appreciated, and that is hard to do with jet lag. I would forego the 'first night romantic meal' and just stop off at any open café for a quick bite. If you're lucky enough to be able to sit outside, that alone might be romance enough...?

                                                                  1. re: boredough

                                                                    Conclusion? I need to get over there soon!
                                                                    THANK YOU ALL for 2nd round of very useful and informative discussion.
                                                                    Please look me up in Maubec on your next visit: Look for the restaurant named "Mercredi Heureux."