How is Maubec/Luberon as a base location to eat around Provence?
- Kurtis Jan 24, 2011 01:23 PM
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?
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
"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.
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!
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.