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2 Weeks in the Luberons in Early April 2011: Trip Report

  • Kurtis Apr 27, 2011 09:02 AM
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Stale and unfinished baguettes sitting on top of the fridge? fifteen dollars.
Antidepressants needed to buy anything at our local market? fifty dollars.
Seeing my wife's eyes sparkle like never before by 1 per Euro oysters at 9am in Lourmarin Market? Heartbreakingly Priceless.

It was a beautiful trip: almond blossoms tingling the eyes against the sunset , infinity-fields of small yellow flowers deepening the bluest sky, artichokes that made both of us say hmm, ahh, then wow, asparagus in as many colors, shapes and size as they were served, and, unlike the ones in NYC, the comfort of local dogs not begging for your attention! This board deserves the credit for our experience; we cannot thank you all enough. Here's the link for the help that I had in planning for this trip: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/761669

Restaurants sampled roughly in order of liking: within a group, the order means less, as ambience and service were hard to tease out separate from food experiences.

La Ferme de la Huppe (Gordes)
L’Arome (Bonnieux)
L’Oustalet (Gigondas)
La Bartavelle (Goult)
Auberge de la Loube (Buoux)
*Le Castelas (Sivergues

)

Auberge du Presbytere (Saignon)
Auberge du Parc (Orgon)
Le Vieux Bistro (Cabrieres-d’Avignon)
La Treille Muscate (Moustier-Saint-Marie)

Le Provencial (Gordes)
La Bergerie (Maubec)
Lou Luberon (Rubion)
L'Oustau de la Mar (Cassis)

The top tier ones were extremely good that we returned for seconds to two places during this trip, middle group were great to very good, and only a few misses. The last group were ones outside of CH recs and accordingly mediocre with a few surprises; they were visited more less at random for small meals. Le Castela has an * because it is on its own league as many of you said. I will report on this and most places visited in near future in between making bags and bags of bread crumbs and chasing away my neighbor's dog (he is infatuated with my ankle).

To begin, the market report: Apt, Avignon, Roussillon, Cucuron, Bonnieux, Aix-en-Provence, Lourmarin, and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

By far the biggest one was the Sunday market L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue with many cooking stands serving ready to eat items than most, and just as large antique market (much bigger than Aix). It was very crowded though, nearly as NYC subway during rush hours really. A lot of interesting shops and art galleries complete with a gypsy w/ accordion. We felt a half day here really was not enough, and would love to return. A must visit if you are in this region, as suggested by many experienced CH’ers.

(Note: Some of ready to eats were rotisserie birds (and potatoes that are roasted with the dripping), couscous, ratatouille, snails, and paella. This was the last market on our list of visits, and could not pass up the opportunity to sample them: got little of all mentioned above, a slice of head cheese (pork) and cheese w/ pesto and pine nut, made two salads: tomato/mint/onion with olive oil/salt, and frisee salad with artichoke/garlic dressing. Added a bottle of a local rose (we really enjoyed and drank several bottles of Le Châtaignier Rosé domaine de la citadelle, in Menerbes) and all made a really really nice and memorable lunch. Whether it was worth canceling the reservation at Le Jardin du Quai only time will tell, and sooner the better (better be sooner my wife nudges…)

More enjoyable in a leisurely and “digestible” way for us was the Friday market in Lourmarin. Most memorable was the stand selling oysters labeled Pleine MER in three different sizes; the seller simply opened the oysters one at a time and served them to us after handing us half lemon each (and gave us an extra one after we told him how good they were). Medium sized, lightly crunchy/taut in the middle, cool(not cold) smoothness that made my wife's eyes sparkle (and me jealous), briny, and touch of sweet at the end, monsieur impeccably shucked them and had us in silence. Let me just say that we have had many raw oysters in reputable and not so reputable places, but this was the FRESHIEST tasting we ever had, period. We did not expect this from Lourmarin, so we felt very lucky to have met him that day, and told ourselves that on our next return, we will take a dozen to a nearby café and order a half bottle of white to start the day at the market. I think this was our best overall market experience.

Other markets were wonderful on their own ways: Bonnieux’s Friday market was very charming, spread along the curvy street on the lower part of the town, and small enough to enjoy both the market and the village all before lunch. Cucuron’s picturesque Tuesday market had very “local” feel, set up around the pool of water in the main square. Though Apt's market day is on Saturday, we found their antique market opened in an empty lot west of the town on Sunday ,and though much smaller than la-Sorgue, interesting and fun as well as cheaper. Avignon's Les Halles had the largest ready to eat items which we savored for lunch. If I were to leave out a market among the ones visited, it would be the one in Roussillon (Thursdays) as I recognized many of them in other markets, were much smaller (about 15 sellers), and there are other things to see there that were more interesting.

I think my experience from the market would have been more fun/meaningful/educational if I had better knowledge of the local products, and at least a conversational French. We will be working on both for next trip for sure. I should echo many people here that encounters with people at the market, restaurants, and near our home in Maubec was polite, accommodating, and proud (including the dogs!) despite our infantile-level french.

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  1. Yeah, I love a report like this.
    So many of us participated in your planning it was as though we were on the trip with you.
    And thank you for updating.
    I saw you winged a reservation at Bartavelle in Goult, which could be a pain. Bravo. It is one of my faves, which I often recommend, but my friends say they can never a table. :-(
    I am returning to the Luberon, renting a house in Saignon this time, and count on your updates. Thank you again.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Parigi

      We must have been very lucky then, because most reservations were not difficult to be had during our stay. Several of them I made over email before leaving, and others were done while there with a cellphone I reluctantly acquired. More lucky I feel now that you tell me where gracious hosts served us wonderful meals are two walk-ins: L'Arome (Friday) and Auberge du Presbytere (Monday).

      Bartavelle, unlike any others in the top group, was the only one that was nearly filled the night we visited while two other local restaurants in Goult were far less than a half-filled. We were one of two or three diners in L'Arome, La Ferme de la Huppe, or Auberge de la Loube for example, and all of them were visited during a weekday if I remember correctly. Report to come, I promise, as it was probably the most intriguing/interesting/complex?!? restaurant we visited on our trip.

    2. My husband finally bought himself an oyster-shucking-glove, with dreams of us feasting on fresh oysters bought at the market. Having just arrived here about 2 weeks ago, we also found your friend at Lourmarin (whom we had never seen before), but were not yet up to the shucking challenge (because, in fact, said husband has never tried shucking oysters....). Your report makes us want to eat them on the spot as you did, and let Monsieur do all the work.
      Thanks for sharing your story - looking forward to your restaurant reviews.

      4 Replies
      1. re: boredough

        The monsieur made it look so easy and elegant, keeping most of the brine in and all the shellbits out, and I am sure he would be happy to show. Oysters were displayed out in the box without ice; I don't know how he keeps it so fresh. Fair warning: I sensed a few seconds of romance in my wife's eyes as he picked out an extra, free of charge, the most perfect, plump, glossy, transparent surface showing live gills and all, that was bathing in its own juice...Glad that you saw him too, and regret the missed chance of running into each other?!? ( you will surely have seen us, or at least my wife, every Friday in Lourmarin if we stayed on longer)

        1. re: Kurtis

          I admire your/your wife's willingness/desire to eat fresh oysters any time of the day (9am?)! It sounds like an experience you will remember for a long time.... The last time we bought oysters, it was from the fishmonger at the "entrance" to the Coustellet Sunday market. For no extra charge, he shucked them and gently placed them (closed, with brine) inside our small cooler, so we could enjoy them with a glass of wine at home. When we asked how long they could survive in the cooler, he reminded us that there is no ice in their natural environment, and assured us that we could drive home at or under the speed limit.

        2. re: boredough

          If you like sea urchins, I think you could sample them in the markets as well. I saw several fishmongers who had them as well as oysters, and many of them had plates and lemons in the back which I take it is for willing customers. We did not get to try the sea urchins which we enjoy and regret: if they were as good as the oysters we had, it would have been just as memorable.

          1. re: Kurtis

            In comparison the sea urchins (oursins) lack dimension in their taste.
            Usually one can ask a fishmonger to open the oysters - for a very small fee. On special holidays when such demand is high, one may have to place an opening order a day or several days in advance.

        3. "Bonnieux’s Friday market was very charming"

          Ahhhh. We were driving through town on a Friday morning and I screamed "Stop the car!". My husband finally agreed we'd visit the market if he found a parking place, knowing that there wasn't one for a mile. And then there, right in front of us was a golden parking place.

          I bought some lavender what-nots, and he, he who didn't want to stop for the market, bought the ugliest Provençal hanging light fixture in the universe. Huge. Bright yellow with olives painted on it And cut-outs of hearts. The world's prize for ugly. Wrapped and boxed and lugged back to Paris and then across an ocean, it has hung over the dining table in a weekend house for almost 15 years.

          Bonnieux's Friday market is indelible in my mind and, yes, heart. Thanks for the memory.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mangeur

            Did you sell that light fixture back in Apt by any chance?!? We saw a few that certainly could fit the description and possibly the prize... Would you be willing to share a pic of "world's prize for ugly?" If Bonnieux retained much of the charm that you felt 15 years ago, I certainly experience it on this trip.

            Your post reminds me: Thank you and boredough for the Zin rec. I did take two decent bottles, one for the owner, and the other for the caretaker of the farm. Our limited French did not allow such fun conversation that you shared with us though, but I did describe the bottle to them borrowing your exchange through their daughter who spoke limited English.

          2. Le Vieux Bistrot (Cabrières d'Avignon)
            http://www.secretstimes.com/accueilvi...

            Cruelty of your suggestion for our first night in Provence– grab a pizza and stay home - was only to be realized as we took a pre-dinner walk in Gordes and arrived here a bit after 7:30pm. As the roads narrowed and less traveled from Marseille airport to Maubec, stopping by Cavaillon to buy the pungently sweet melon in season and to pick up a cell phone, a glimpse of oranged sun of Gordes coming to life in the horizon in this beautiful evening made your parental guidance a thing of prom night. As we reflect, the dinner at Le Vieux Bistrot was a beautiful introduction, and a good standard to compare our experiences to come.

            Suggested by our lone host who was in his mid 20s, we relaxed into our table for 2 of choice among about 12 assortment of tables with a glass each of Le Châtaignier Rosé from Domaine de la Citadelle (this became our aperitif of choice while there, also available in US), black buttery olives, and the menu. Luscious light golden-copper in color, this beautifully crisp, light and fruity but dry Rosé from Menerbes reminded us of where we are, and our home in NYC much further than a day's trip. Their menu hasn’t changed from the website, and having looked at this more than several times online, we made easy choice of ordering a Bistrot Chic (35€) and Bistronome (28€) menus with different cuts for the steaks for the plat: a filet and a rumsteak.

            The night was still young. Our youthful host in Abercrombie & Fitch’ish jeans and shirt produced a bottle of 2007 Vacqueyras Signature from Domaine des Amouriers (21€) when asked for suggestion, and allowed us to choose both entrees from more expensive menu without extra cost saying they were both very good and we shouldn’t miss them. As the entrées come out we found them a bit different from the description on the menu. Each entrée had three tasting w/ small salad. I think this is what we had:

            1.Terrine of duck foie gras in a shape of golf ball covered w/ pistachios accompanied w/ a cherry tomato &toasts.
            2. Foie Gras de canard au Beaumes de Venise: this was the description on the menu, but it was in a miniature pot, all warm savory goodness in every spoonful.
            3. Mousse of asparagus with herbed vinaigrette tomato and sprigs of sprouts in a tall shot glass
            4. Herb seasoned Julienned carrots w/ diced artichoke heart in a tall shot glass
            5. Truffle foam w/ black sesame in a small chocolate cup
            6. Lime sorbet

            The steak plats were served on wooden planks with 2 inch tall bone marrow, side of au jus, mounds of cubed potatoes, and small salad.

            For dessert, again multiple course of honey-poached tangerine, raspberry mousse w/ chocolate sticks, molten chocolate cake w/ caramelized sugar disc & strawberry crumble. For cheese plate, we had three goat cheeses in different ages which were as delicious as educational.

            Three hours of timelessness, espressos were ordered, wine bottle emptied, and we were in bliss amongst a family of six and two other couples dining in dimmed and candle-lit interior of red walls. There were some misses: as barbaluc correctly pointed out, the entrees lacked focus, all dishes were overtly decorated (BAM!’ed as we say in US with reverence to Emeril Lagasse whose dishes are not complete without heavy dusting of paprika, or chocolate power), the rumsteak was tough and overcooked, and the marrow undercooked. But we don’t care, as multiple components of entrees were all pretty good, allowed sampling of the market produce as well savory foies, and the romantic exchanges were had as we shared perfectly medium rare filet. Plus, we should give a due credit to our mature host for the solid wine rec and service which relaxed us into a gear that we would hum to for the rest of the trip. I would return here again, not only for the memories but even for their unsophisticated but straight forwardly good food, as price to quality ratio is excellent, service is accommodating and friendly, to try their seafood dishes as well as to taste their more pricy steak, and on Wednesdays!

            Notes:

            1. Outdoor garden dining area was undergoing construction: should be ready for summer per the host.
            2. A nice walk to be had before dinner here is Mur de la Peste - Wall of Death - (rec by Parigi and highly rec by our local friend) which is easily walkable from the restaurant. Take a lot of water on hot days, says our local friend.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Kurtis

              This is one of the most awaited reviews on the board.
              Since, deservedly, this thread is going to be consulted as reference (or am I insane to think that anyone bothers with the search function?), may I point out that the town is Cabrières d'Avignon, not Cabrier d'Avignon.
              Great read. Great experience. Can't wait for the rest.

              1. re: Parigi

                Thanks always. It was corrected on the post. Many apologies for delay in reports, as I have doubled the dose of antidepressants and/so cranking out more bread crumbs...

              2. re: Kurtis

                I too have been waiting to hear about your specific meals, so this is a great start (!) I suspect you may have needed to pick up an extra suitcase for all of your notes....:-)
                Keep it coming.

                1. re: Kurtis

                  As if my life needed added complications...thanks a lot. I've started a new wish list.

                  I love your experiences and your reactions to them. How often it is the imperfect that leaves us with the most vivid memories, filled with soul and goodwill. Many, many thanks. And, as Oliver purportedly requested, "More, please."

                2. L’Oustalet in Gigondas

                  When I was planning the visit here, lingering winter of NYC was whipping its last tail into late March. With flurries of snow and single-digit temperature of chilly and monochromatic skyline of Manhattan in view, studying this deliciously well-conceived menu online made me long for that outdoor seat with a glass of Côtes du Rhône in hand. Also, a long-awaited plan was to take more serpentine but scenic road that would become so abstractly familiar in the spinning classes I was taking, that this visit to L’Oustalet became some kind of a mission.

                  Leaving Roussillon after a breakfast and visit to the market (Thursdays), we traversed north on D4, between two forests Domaniale de Venasque and de saint-lambert (great drive w/ even greater views, I fidgeted and tinkered with the camera in futile as my wife amusingly looked on as if to say ‘why bother’), through Murs to Venasque with distant view of Mont Ventoux and fields of whites and yellows in between, finally arriving albeit anticlimactic in Gigondas who the Romans named Jocunditas : great pleasure and enjoyment.

                  “Sorry, there’s a gentleman who comes here everyday and it’s reserved for him.” Trim, shy, politely reserved, our stylish waiter in early 30s with black waist apron offered us another partially shaded table for two. Oh how I longed to have such a table in my life, and was delighted at the possibility: Could this be a restaurant that has such quality? Indeed, half dozen outdoor tables to be occupied seemed to be the locals, and their smallish but chic interior with the view of kitchen remained empty for the afternoon. Recognizing a familiar name from Pammel’s blog, we ordered 2009 Domaine du Paternel rose from Cassis for aperitif and nibbled on tapenade, roasted almonds, and green olives. With help of apologetic waiter on his translation, we chose two different menus: selon le marché ( 28€), and Petit menu (50€) with bit disappointment that the truffle menus not being available (not sure if this is just for lunch). By the time he finished helping us to choose a bottle of Domaine le Clos des Cazaux Prestige 2005 (45€ ), and receiving gratitude from both of us, his face matched the color of our rose under the warm sunlight as he stood up to return to the kitchen.

                  Here’s a wordy descriptions of what we had. My food knowledge/vocab/french is sorely lacking for adequate description here.

                  1st Amuse bouche: thin-slice cured ham with cream-based mousse w/ chives
                  2nd Amuse bouche: crab cake salad, chives, garnished w/ slices of radish + pineapple

                  Entrée1: white & green asparagus layered w/ lemon gelee, accompanied with a lump of white creamy custard, thicker slice of cured ham, dotted with balsamic? dressing.
                  Entrée2: white & green asparagus plated on top of savory cracker and tapenade garnished with shaved cheese and chive.

                  Plat1: white fish (in shape of its lumps) with grilled vegetables: yellow and green zucchinis, sun-dried tomatoes, garnished w/ halved radish, lemon zest, + light olive oil dressing.
                  Plat2: 2 cubes of pork w/ thin layer of fat on top of sautéed greens, filet of anchovy, two strips of sauces, fresh olive leaves sun-dried tomatoes.

                  Dessert w/ grapefruit sorbet and petit four.

                  I could not have wished for a better meal: well paced and sequenced, each dish was aesthically constructed but not overtly fussed or twicked. It was refined with restraint that allowed breath and comfort, while demonstrating the sophistication of the chef in simple forms. They were seasoned subtly yet just right, and most importantly, every bit delicious! Slices of lightly salty ham with the cream mousse tamed by almost sweet crab cake prepared our palates for honorably showcased asparagus dishes. Likely have been poached in oil, fish elegantly accompanied under-seasoned and grilled vegetables that were surreally delicious in their own flavors. Marriage of pork and anchovy boldly enhanced the flavors that added remarkable contrast and depth, and made me wonder of possible Portuguese influence or even SE Asian. Though my experience is not extensive, our ventures in French/New American dining experiences in highly regarded places or even local favorites in NYC have always left us with varying degrees of regrets for unfulfilled. So, do I dare say this is a meal that finally rendered soul-comforting french, a meal that placed french cuisine in our regular dining routine? I would gladly say yes.

                  For over two and half hours, we basked in the same glorious sun that ripened the jewels of Gigondas, making my wife to glow of life, and grand outing of my freckles. Naturally, our conversation turned to “what will/can be next?!?” as we hiked the circular route to Dentelles de Montmirail. Driving back, my wife softly asleep, her words at the end of the meal continued to ring in my ear: “This, Kurtis, is a real lunch.” Needless to say, I would return here in a heartbeat, and overhear someone being denied of our table: "Sorry, there's a couple who comes here every year who seat at that table."

                  http://www.restaurantoustalet.com/
                  http://www.facebook.com/restaurant.ou...

                  Notes:

                  1. The Cave was under construction and temporarily relocated across the street.
                  2. Grand and spectacular walk to be had here is the Dentelles Montmirail that can be approached many ways. Very helpful TI in Gigondas has maps.

                  22 Replies
                  1. re: Kurtis

                    Beautiful.
                    Pork/lamb with anchovy is indeed a Provençal winner.
                    And that drive between Venasque and Gigondas is one of my faves.
                    Am tracing your steps a month from now...

                    1. re: Parigi

                      Lamb and anchovy sounds like marriage made in heaven!

                      1. re: Kurtis

                        Inspired by your report, we roasted lamb with anchovy, garlic and rosemary. Still licking my chops, literally.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          Any good recipe that includes tons of bread crumbs?!? I've been dreaming about this the whole weekend. Definitely making one tonight...

                          1. re: Kurtis

                            not with bread crumbs (but good idea on which I will research).
                            I used a recipe like this one:
                            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                            1. re: Parigi

                              Spurred on by Kurtis' description & Parigi's recipe, I got my husband (who does the cooking chez nous) to prepare a leg of lamb with anchovy-rosemary marinade. After it marinated, he coated the lamb with some mustard & the (missing) breadcrumbs (marinade stayed put). It was delicious, so thanks to both of you for the inspiration. On another matter, Kurtis: I am still anxious to read about your other restaurant adventures, in particular the starred Castelas (did you do lunch or dinner, or both?) and the Auberge de la Loube (where we have never been, but have just booked ...). And all the others.

                              1. re: boredough

                                That sounds sCRUMBtious! We also made a quick version last week using anchovy, olive oil, rosemary, and lemon into a dipping sauce and grilling the lamb chop. We thought how nicely the anchovy blends in with the lamb: a match made in heaven...

                                Sorry for the delayed reports! I seem to only be able to write one a week or so, but here's some quick answers.

                                We went to Le Castelas twice, and both of the times for the dinner, and both times we stayed overnight for extra 40 Euros pp which includes simple breakfast. The accommodation was quite adequate and even romantic, and allowed us to really enjoy the dinner and the company into the wee hours with our backs warmed by the fireplace. Both mornings were just as memorable as the sunset, and so we returned with same routine. Special thanks to many of you for directing me this way. It has a very special place in our hearts.

                                Glad that you will be going to Auberge de la Loube which is a MUST experience! If you haven't yet, I would strongly recommend a visit to the nearby Fort de Buoux. It offers one of most stunning views and history.

                                Fuller reports to come on these places, I promise.

                                1. re: Kurtis

                                  You do realize that you are forcing me to rearrange my life...

                                  1. re: mangeur

                                    "You do realize that you are forcing me to rearrange my life..."

                                    Sweet :)

                                  2. re: Kurtis

                                    WOW I didn't expect to read that you stayed over...! We have only peeked at one of the rooms, which looked to be more like a dormitory. Did you have a private room? Anyway, I was almost expecting a lunch vs dinner comparison, but am happy to learn that you didn't miss the fabulous roast pig. As for Buoux, we'll definitely get to "town" early enough to check out the Fort before dinner. Looking forward to it.
                                    PS: 'sCRUMBtious' - that's a good one

                                    1. re: boredough

                                      We did stay in a private room w/ bath. You may want to have them show you the rooms before making the decision. I think they are better than the dormitory by a notch. For us, it was an easy choice to stay when comparing what we will leave behind, and the drive that was ahead. We were so happy to be there, that, if we had another bottle of wine, we could have easily shared the bed with the goats!

                                      1. re: Kurtis

                                        Now, now - you'll have the moderators on your case if you're not careful ;o)

                                    2. re: Kurtis

                                      Hi Kurtis,
                                      This is an amazing report. I am planning my trip to the Luberon right now. We will be there with family in early Aug. We all want to make a trip to le castelas however I cannot find any information online about when they are closed, how to make reservations, etc. Do you know when they are closed and how to contact them? Thank you!!! Kelly

                                      1. re: kiwi2008

                                        Le Castelas is open every day for lunch & dinner. You can call them at (33) 4 90 74 60 89 to book (or write as per Kurtis' response). Although they do not even ask your name when you show up, you should call to reserve anyway to ensure there is room for you, & to make sure they are not having a private function when you want to go. Cash only. And as per my other post, I highly suggest you go for dinner - the roast pig is fabulous (the website mentions lamb, but that is served only on some holidays) and the sunset is magnificent. As for the "scary" ride home in the dark, we have made that trip no less than 10 times and we have never had a problem. Granted you need to drive slowly, but once you get back into the town (I mean, village of 2 buildings & a picnic table) of Sivèrgues, the road back to civilization is not much different than most of Provence.

                        2. re: Kurtis

                          I have to say that I love the way you write, or perhaps more acurately the way you see and enjoy. Thanks so much for these incredibly lovely vignettes.

                          1. re: mangeur

                            Glad to know that I can share this in return with folks here. Gigondas will forever remain one of our fondest memories...

                            1. re: Kurtis

                              Next month this time I am going to the Oustalet and ask for la table de Kurtis. :-)

                              1. re: Parigi

                                If you are having what's currently on their menu on MY table in a month, Parigi, you will want to climb the peaks of "laces" even in high heels... I have no doubt you will enjoy the day there...

                                1. re: Kurtis

                                  I only wear Repetto flats but am not a big fan of the Dentelles de Montmirall. The lacy silhouette looks nice from afar. I prefer the greener more sybaritic hills of the Luberon.
                                  But your report makes one wantt to do everything you did, eat everything you ate, live all your moments.

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    "I prefer the greener more sybaritic hills of the Luberon."

                                    The morning sun on Luberon valley (Parc Naturel Regional du Luberon) brings out your words especially well. The drive between Gordes and Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt on D2 required so many stops that I regret not having walked the 2ndary roads into the valley.

                                    1. re: Kurtis

                                      I am very happy you had a great experience at L'Oustalet. I can't wait to return there when we are back in Provence in July.

                                      1. re: Pammel

                                        Thank you for your rec! The recognized rosé we had here was very good and delicious. I think your blog is especially helpful for those who are traveling in this region for the first time like myself. We ended up not going to Vaison-la-Romaine which I feel deserves a full day to include their Tuesday market. We will return :)

                                        Speaking of wines, here's a useful link discussing wines of Provence:

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/628663

                        3. We haven't been back to Provence in several years and are planning a trip to the Dordogne for next March. Your excellent report makes me consider going back to Provence and leaving the Dordogne for some time in the future.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                            Haha. You've stolen the words right out of my mouth except that we've only been back for a month...

                            1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                              AGM (or Kurtis if you're already planning to come back): FWIW I'd recommend pushing your March trip back to May, if you can work that trip to Provence into your schedule. Right now the countryside is filled with yellow broome (the fragrance is so strong that you can smell it with your car windows closed), and poppies are everywhere - growing wild along the roadsides or in huge fields. An Impressionist painting wherever you look. Plus the olive trees are gorgeous & the vineyards are a bright apple green. As for local edibles, it's asparagus & strawberry season, with cherries & Cavaillon melons just starting to appear.

                              1. re: boredough

                                Would that I could but I am married to a school teacher. We are at least lucky that he works in a private school in that he has two week off at the end of March as opposed to the traditional week in Feb and April with all the other schools. All our travel to Provence has been in March and other than the last trip where we had the Mistral has been wonderful-warm and sunny. Remember we are coming from Massachusetts where March can be truly miserable so that anything is an improvement.

                                1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                  Well hopefully your next trip will be wonderful too. It'll be miles ahead of (and from) winter in Mass.

                                  1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                    Your timing may allow a visit to the last days of truffle markets as they run between Nov-March from what I gather. Never been, but would love to.

                                    Two weeks is an ideal length for visit we felt: a week is a crime, and three, we would only be leaving under the circumstance of deportation.

                                  2. re: boredough

                                    Yeah, we thought also that May would be nice time to visit as the weather was too chilly to be sitting outside for dinner in early April. Read your picturesque words with much envy...

                                    Here's a great article regarding Cavaillon melon and it's famed history.

                                    http://www.francerevisited.com/main/F...

                                    1. re: Kurtis

                                      Thanks for the link - an interesting article (Cantelupo? that one sounds made up!). Have thought about going to Prévot but never made it there. I think the melon vendor at Coustellet market is affiliated with - or is - Monsieur Melon.

                                2. La Bartavelle in Goult

                                  Unless you have some “experienced friends” guiding your way, it’s not easy to explain how, a couple of first-time visitors to Provence like us, come to have a table for two here in this village that most guidebooks overlook. Described as a sister city amongst a handful of celebrity siblings, Goult, with its elevation only half that of more ogled on neighbors, possesses all the right stuff for a personal gem to be discovered in a nestle in middle of Luberon. In addition, when you read comments such as these online:

                                  “Some of the best you will ever have in the Luberon, even maybe the whole world.”
                                  “Taste sublime, super refined combination.”
                                  “Chef Gerard Lefevre provides for insanely good comfort food from the South of France.”
                                  “Seemingly for the people in the know.”

                                  -and anointed by the biblical phrase “It’s one of my favs” from a well-respected (an feared by some) France CH’er, our Pavloval sixth sense for restaurants was irreversibly triggered. Accordingly, it was impossible but to step into what turned out to be a hauntingly poetic commune, and equally magnetic restaurant.

                                  Dressed in an elegant navy sleeveless somewhat business formal dress with a necklace and medium heels, she would have looked quite out of place in this restaurant unless she was the owner Regine who kindly accepted our reservation several days ago. After having sat us down in an interior of warm provencial décor with equally heart-warming paintings of faceless chefs on the white stone walls, she translated the short list of menu and even shorter wine list. Watching her move through nearly packed room, and reflecting our own experience, it became quite obvious that she alone could be the hostess and server of the gathering tonight, and this put us in our best behavior in a way that you would when sitting down for a dinner at a college professor aunt’s home whom you haven’t seen since childhood. So, when she apologetically informed us that one of the three fish to be used for bouillabaisse has run out, it almost seemed impolite if not inconsiderate if we didn’t assure her that we are just happy to be in her company.

                                  Here’s the menu for the evening we were there for your review. * means our choice.
                                  ( Would be nice to hear some comments about their menu, sorry for the missing accents)

                                  LES ENTREES

                                  Le saumon d’Escosse label rouge mariné aux herbes potagères,
                                  -effiloché de fenouil et coulis de citron confit

                                  *La poulette du pays et le foie gras cuit comme une daube,
                                  -pressé en terrine, coeur de sucrine

                                  *Les asperges de notre village, cuisson du soir
                                  -ravigote, mimosa, pommade de petits pois

                                  LES PLATS

                                  *Selon arrivage, le poisson cuisiné dans un fumet de bouillabaisse mousseux,
                                  -méli-mélo de légumes

                                  La pièce de veau rôtie,
                                  -jus de banyuls, éclats de pistaches, un mijoté de blettes

                                  *La cuisse du lapin farcie aux jeunes épinards,
                                  -des morilles, carottes nouvelles et salsifies

                                  *Cheese & Dessert

                                  crottin affiné
                                  coeur a l’ail et aux fines herbes
                                  buchette cendrée
                                  tome aux baies de genièvre
                                  brique aux noisettes

                                  Mille-feuille du soir a la crème pralinée

                                  LE MENU A 41. -- € (prix net)

                                  She suggested a bottle of 2009 Rose from Château La Verrerie in Puget-sur-Durance upon request (26€). For amuse bouche, we were served mushroom confit with goatcheese.

                                  Again, the bottle was emptied, espresso ordered, and glancing our hostess who smiled back at us, she must have sensed how happy we were. But it was a different kind of experience here in comparison to the previous meals and many more meals to come. Elegant, subtle, and even educational, simply plated dishes danced in our mouth and triggered questions. The foie gras entrée, while its mosaic as pretty as Klee’s paintings, was much more intricate and delicate, while several components of the asparagus dish allowed us to experiment on combinations. The bouillabaisse took a different path from the traditional, with light, subtle and near translucent broth and perfectly cooked fish. Harmony of vegetables and the rabbit was so natural and even comforting, that we justified our plate knowing she was amongst her best of friends. Very satisfying cheese plate came with names attached to each one and allowed us to sample the amount desired. Looking back, it was a place that took our focus from flavors to ingredients, and to think about their surrounding environment. Regine’s table clearly achieved this, and her presence in the room ensured that we did.

                                  In retrospect, this is a place that frequent visitors to this region come to love and appreciate, ones who understand that the Luberon valley comes at you far more intimately and personably as well as luxuriously from here than aerial views the taller sisters sell on postcards. It’s a place that you step into, and disappear for a while in its past that is very much alive in present. Because of this, it was a wonderfully fulfilling visit and a cerebral date night. It made us want to plan ahead for a returned visit here on our next trip, where her celebrity sisters and slim chefs would have to wait their turn, and us to bathe in her true luxury.

                                  http://www.bartavelle.free.fr/

                                  Note:

                                  1. Not too far from here is a circular route to the falaise in Lioux that allows magnificent and panoramic view of the Luberon. Take the uphill road out of the town square after you park, then the gravel path along the falaise. Continue until you are at a farmhouse with barking dogs to take the path on the right, to walk on the top of the falaise. From here, we followed the green trail marking. 2.5 hrs RT, slow paced.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                    Beautiful review of one of my fave restos.
                                    As someone who has rented a house in Goult for several summers, I wish you would not rave about it so. You are too generous. I have been telling people that Goult is next to a nuclear plant and our neighbor there was a wife-beating heavy metal rock star.
                                    But I have to agree with you. La Bartavelle as well as the village of Goult epitomizes a seemingly effortless grace about Provence. Accent on the seemingly. As Coco Chanel put it: A lot of serious work goes into achieving frivolity.

                                    1. re: Parigi

                                      This meal really stood out from our other meals in that the flavors and combinations seem to have a lot of thought behind.... Would be interesting to know the chef's background, though I vaguely recall reading that he is a product of Provence?!?

                                      Sorry, but I had to rave about Goult, since the wife-beating heavy metal rock star is now committed to the highest security jail in Maubec.

                                    2. re: Kurtis

                                      Great review. Think we need to go back. Soon.

                                      1. re: boredough

                                        Yeah, there's something elusively seductive about this place and the village more I think about it and reflect. It reminds me of the movie <Babette's Feast> for some reason... Our next visit here will be a full leisurely day to include their market (Mondays), dinner on their outdoor terrace, and many hours of walk in and out of the village in between.

                                        1. re: Kurtis

                                          Wonderful report! We are planning our trip to Gordes right now. Will be there with family in early Aug. It will be crowded but I still cannot wait! I cannot figure out how to contact Le Castelas. Do you have any contact info. for them? We all would love to eat there, maybe lunch one day but I would love to know when they are closed and how to make a reservation. Many Thanks!!! Kelly

                                          1. re: kiwi2008

                                            Hi Kelly, we made our reservation for Le Castelas via email link that is available on their website with prompt confirmatory response. As you may have read, they do close the whole place at times for private functions so it is a good idea to reserve before making the drive. Happy planning!

                                            http://en.luberonweb.com/location-191...

                                            PS: If you are going to Gordes, I would highly recommend the the walk - rather than drive - to Abbey de Senanque which allows one of the best view of the Abbey and the lavender field. August should be a great time for this walk! Gordes TI has infos and maps.

                                            1. re: Kurtis

                                              Not to put a damper on Kelly's expectations, but by early August there may be little if any lavender at the Abbey de Sénanque. It (the lavender) seems to be coming out earlier & earlier each year, so it's hard to know for sure, but maybe there will still be fields further east near Saignon (on the way to Sivèrgues) or even further in Valensole.

                                              1. re: boredough

                                                Always with true insider's knowledge... Thanks boredough!

                                                1. re: Kurtis

                                                  Thanks so much Kurtis and boredough! We are planning to drive out east during our stay so if we miss the lavender at the Abbey, we will perhaps see some out east.
                                                  Thank you for the link to Le Castelas' website!

                                                2. re: boredough

                                                  Weather happens. One never knows. Last 2 years the lavender actually bloomed late. Did not really get going until late July. and still blooming in August.
                                                  But if boredough's lavender forecast is correct this year, it is,, ok, bad news for Kelly and very good news for us, who will not only be in that part of Provence in a few weeks but will be driving on the very road from Saignon to Sivergues. Woohoo.
                                                  The traditonal lavendere season is neither. It should be from late June to mid July

                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                    It all depends on where you are in Provence, as you probably know, and which variety of lavender. By early August 2010, the lavender around Saignon was sparse and seemingly on its last legs. Although we weren't there last year, we generally find Sénanque's lavender to disappear by that time of year too. You are right about mid-July, which seems to be the only time you can count on for full-bloom. The bushes (probably 'lavandin' as opposed to 'lavande') in our corner of Provence are starting to make themselves known...to passersby & bees alike. Hopefully, though, you (Parigi) and I will both get to see a bit of the lovely 'lavande' on our way to le Castelas, as we too have a booking in about 4 weeks.

                                                    1. re: boredough

                                                      The lavender bloomed early this year. When we were there 10 days ago, the lavender fields around Saignon and outside the asylum where Van Gogh stayed outside St Rémy were already a deep bright purple.

                                      2. Le Castelas in Sivergues

                                        As this place is in active discussion…

                                        More so than any place else on this trip, Le Castelas is a place to be, far more than a place to read about, and nearly impossible put into words. Let me just say though that the place is a heavenly pleasure to all senses, including your ears! (don't want to spoil your experience, sorry). But this is a kind of place where I feel real sense of luxury, the kind that I come to love and treasure over the years: once, during a lunch break, reading the announcements of concert premiers and fantastic exhibitions around the world off a week-old International Tribune that I unwrapped to eat a Juane - a rice-based tamale-like specialty of la Selba - in deep part of Andes in Peru, I thought to myself that no grander events could be big enough to drag me away from the luxury of these hills and these people. And for this, Le Castelas and warmest hospitality of the Gianni’s hold a very special warm place in our hearts.

                                        Here’s what we were served for dinners and breakfasts: we were there twice, both on Sundays for dinner. Breakfast was inclusive of the overnight stay for additional 40€/pp (private room w/ bath)

                                        Dinner (30€ Cash only):

                                        Sangria and Wine

                                        Cold Appetizers: grilled bell peppers, fennel salad, fried herbed zucchini, button mushrooms marinated in oil and herbs, sliced cured ham (second time this was replaced by thicker slices of ham) and curry marinated carrots.

                                        Main: Roasted pork, country potatoes

                                        Assortment of goat cheeses with lavender honey
                                        Chocolate cake
                                        Coffee

                                        Breakfast

                                        Steamed Cow Milk
                                        Coffee
                                        Baguettes w/ marmalade & butter
                                        Fresh baked croissants (only the second time)

                                        Some of the standouts here we thought were the cold appetizers and all-you-want goat cheese made from the farm in various stages of aging. Also, the steamed milk and fresh-out-of-the-oven croissants were real special treats. Though food isn’t the focus when visiting here, it certainly adds and not subtracts from the overall experience here.

                                        One morning, as I sat out in the grass in front, a goat with a torn ear came and sat next to me for a while. He sat, unperturbed, looking out into the morning sun in a same direction as I was. Then, he laid his head on my lap, and after some time, initial lightness of his weight turned heavy, for mutual tranquility. Why he would do that for me, I would never know…

                                        http://en.luberonweb.com/location-191...

                                        Notes:

                                        1. If you are staying overnight, we thought it was nice to link this to visiting Saignon the following day, as the drive is short and beautiful, and leisurely and charming morning walk can be had in and around the village in preparation for a truely provencial outdoor lunch.
                                        2. I would highly recommend spending some time walking around Sivergues on your way in or out. Real gem. http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/vaucluse/...

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Kurtis

                                          As I'm staying in Cucuron for a week in early July, have found your reports really helpful. Am looking for somewhere for a long, leisurely Sunday lunch. Would you recommend Le Castelas or Auberge de la Loube? Am also thinking of booking Restaurant du Lac, but maybe in the evening as understand views of sunset over lake are stunning.

                                          Spending previous week in Uzes (outside of your visited area) but does anyone have any suggestions other than Le Tracteur, which we already plan to visit?

                                          Have found this link really useful when planning foodie visits to shops, vineyards and restaurants. http://www.provencefoodandwine.com

                                          1. re: Cariad

                                            Long leisurely lunch Sunday? My vote says either le Castelas or, duh, stay in lovely laidback non-touristy Cucuron with no lacking of good eats !

                                            1. re: Cariad

                                              Near Uzes: Ferme/Restaurant La Bruyerette, located a few km west of Uzes on D715 about a km north of D981. This is a poultry farm with a pleasant dining room. Every protein on the menu is from the farm. Accomplished cooking, appropriate wine list, very sweet service. We stopped by at lunch on an Easter Sunday and begged for a table. The room was filled with locals, not a tourist in sight except us. The locals recognized us as visitors and were quietly cordial. A simple but memorable meal.

                                              As there have been kitchen changes since our visit, I would call before heading out.
                                              04 66 20 64 92

                                              http://restaurantsdenimes.midiblogs.c...

                                              1. re: Cariad

                                                Lucky you! Sounds like a fun trip in planning.

                                                I would seek the guidance of more seasoned CH’ers who know this region real well as you see above, and I am sure you came across their posts already if you did the search or follow the link to the help I had for this trip.

                                                “Am looking for somewhere for a long, leisurely Sunday lunch. Would you recommend Le Castelas or Auberge de la Loube?”

                                                It’s a difficult choice since they offer different things. I would choose Auberge de la Loube if your focus is more about food. Besides, a visit to the Fort de Buoux afterward is as memorable as any. But if you are looking for an immersion into the past in a remote farm w/ great atmosphere and simple food and wine, Le Castelas has to take the cake. I think this is a win win either way…

                                                But when you mentioned long, leisurely lunches, and I assume you would prefer outdoors, these two places came to my mind more than above two (I am still working on writing some of these up, but inspirations are hard to come by when it's impossible to find even a decent French restaurant in NYC :(

                                                L’Oustalet (Gigondas): The best among our lunches in regards to food.
                                                Auberge du Presbytere (Saignon): The most charming outdoor lunch we had next to the town square and the sound of fountain.

                                                Ones that I wish I tried are:

                                                Le Jardin du Quai (L’isle sur La Sorgue): I gave up this resrv on Sunday for the market picnic.
                                                Bastide de Capelonge (Bonnieux): a view from here seems most lovely.
                                                Le Bistrot du Paradou (Paradou): legendary. not sure if open on Sundays.

                                                Am I throwing a wrench in your plans? Some people's lives - including mine - were rearranged because of these tough choices, and so much the better in many future trips to come.

                                            2. Further to Kurtis' latest post:
                                              Le Bistrot du Paradou is in fact closed Sundays. Bastide de Capelongue would be lovely in July (lavender + view) but the 2-star restaurant is expensive. Lunch would certainly be "leisurely" and great. They do have a second "summer" restaurant for salads, etc, but the setting is not as nice.
                                              Having not yet been to Auberge de la Loube for the comparison, I must add that the roast pig at Castelas is fabulous and not served during lunch. Furthermore, the sunset at Castelas is magnificent, so I highly recommend making that trip for dinner. As for Restaurant du Lac, we've only been there once - the food was delicious & the view special....a great choice for lunch IMO.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: boredough

                                                Thank you for your thoughtful and constructive responses.

                                                Mangeur's recommended La Bruyerette sounds ideal for a lunch near Uzes. Somewhere a little diffferent - we will definitely seek it out.

                                                Kurtis

                                                As you mentioned, even after avidly following CH for 6 months and the (generally) helpful suggestions, the choices are difficult - there's an embarrassment of riches in this corner of France. But it's useful to get feedback on more recent visits such as yours. In UK there seems to be quite a high turnover of chefs and standards in favourite restaurants can slump alarmingly. Maybe not such a problem in France where there are more proprietor/chefs.

                                                Sympathise with lack of French restaurants near you, but am sure there are even fewer near me in deepest Dorset!

                                                We have visited France annually for the last 30+ years so know it pretty well. Yes we were thinking ideally of eating outside for Sunday lunch. Aware of reputation of La Petite Maison in Cucuron, but felt it more suited to an eve.

                                                Loved your review of L'Oustalet - very tempting. On our last visit to Gigondas enjoyed lunch on the terrace at Les Florets - wine list excellent, but feel food at L'Oustalet would have edge.

                                                Interested in your experience of Auberge du Presbytere as we were due to stay there a couple of years ago. (Only made it as far as Macon, when I was whisked into hospital and my gall bladder and gall stones whisked out! ) End of months of planning, so hope for better luck on this occasion. Since then there seem to have been mixed reviews regarding food,so pleased it seems to be on the 'up' again and agree the setting in Saignon is charming - looking forward to revisiting.

                                                Many years since we visited Bistrot du Paradou. If you make return visit to area, suggest visiting after Wed market in St Remy - makes a fun day out. There used to be a no choice menu - if it was Wed it was lamb (I think) and Fri definitely Aioli.

                                                Very tempted by Bastide de Capelongue, but fear would blow our budget, and there seem to be more votes for Castelas over Loube.

                                                Boredough, glad to hear you think Restaurant du Lac a good choice - I was intringued by chef's CV - so another meal booked.

                                                I've just got to sort out recommendations for first week in Lot et Garonne now, but that's another post.
                                                Feel this won't yield such rich pickings - but if I'm wrong no doubt CH's will soon put me right!

                                                1. re: Cariad

                                                  With full understanding as to why Capelongue won't "fit the bill" (pun intended), let me suggest you take a trip there anyway, should you have the time. You could claim you just want to check out the place for a future stay, peruse the menu, & wander around the property & the lovely lavender. There you will get the perfect view of the perched village of Bonnieux, and you won't have to duck for safety (as you need to do when stopping along the narrow 2-lane road that leads to Bonnieux). You might also ask if they will let you stop by for cocktails on the terrace one evening (I don't know if it's permitted in high season, when their hotel guests get priority) - and then watch Bonnieux's lights go on as it continues to get dark.

                                                  1. re: Cariad

                                                    Oh how I dreamed of going to Bistrot du Paradou... There will be a next time, and I am sure of it :) Looks like I need to go there twice, on Wed and Fri.

                                                    As you noted, and I wrote below, Auberge du Presbytere's charm is memorable and indescribable. Food however, though quite good, wasn't in the league of several others we had. It may be that our palates were fatigued as this was one of the last meals. Bit of cruel question: how was the food at the local hospital where your gallstone was treated?!?

                                                    1. re: Kurtis

                                                      "how was the food at the local hospital where your gallstone was treated?!?" Nasty humor !

                                                      We rented a house just down the street from the Auberge du Presbytère. The Auberge became our hangout because our own house had no wifi, and the place is so charming and cozy, and the German owner made us feel so warm and welcome. Even his tie-dyed calico cat welcomed us. How often do you meet a welcoming cat?
                                                      The whole village is very welcoming. Even my childhood friends from Hong Kong and Thailand felt like part of the village. The excellent baker reserved sacristains for us in the morning. Even the Village Grumpy Old Man - the one with a sign forbidding all photos of his dog - started to nod at us reluctantly.

                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                        The said dog now carries 5 Euro price tag for the photo op, and the house cat now has grown out of the teenage angst and took turn sitting with both us during our meal :)

                                                        1. re: Kurtis

                                                          "the house cat"

                                                          You mean Miki.

                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                            You mean this one? This beauty would not give me her name or number, but circumspectively followed us around during the walk to Roche de Bellevue ,then settled in next to us through the lunch. Sweet sweet Miki...

                                                            "The whole village is very welcoming. Even my childhood friends from Hong Kong and Thailand felt like part of the village."

                                                            Seemingly impossible but so true, a day spent here seemed a lifetime of familiarity and memories.

                                                             
                                                            1. re: Kurtis

                                                              Yes that's my Miki.

                                                2. La Ferme de la Huppe in Gordes

                                                  Walking out of this cozy Hotel/Restaurant near 11pm, with silence of the night only deepened by the sound of soft gravel under our feet, my wife asked, “Were you making a reservation?” Indeed, when we were reminiscing about this trip on return trip back to NYC, though took some time to deliver, she said that this place would be her pick for the best overall dining experience, and as she is more objective one between us, she is probably right. (More emotional me would vote for Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon for overall experience, even though we had better food in several other places.)

                                                  In their early 50s, the most warm and friendly husband and wife team Vivien and Fabien Ernandes welcomed us into their proud property and showed us around pointing out renovations and updates. To make us hungrier, Fabien, who used to be a buyer and traveled widely, said that he is especially proud of his young chefs who are cooking some amazing stuff. Once seated in a stone interior adorned with farm tools, both of them chimed in to explain their menu with pride and enthusiasm, and at one point when they couldn’t quite explain a dish well other than to say that it is something with stomach, feet, and a traditional dish from Marseilles, I answered with a hand on my heart and a big smile which made them smile even bigger. This is what we had:

                                                  La Ferme aux Saveurs 3 plats – 42E

                                                  AMUSE BOUCHE1: bread-crusted fried fishball, honey-glazed cherry tomato with a sliver of rosemary, savory cracker

                                                  AMUSE BOUCHE 2: Raspberry/avocado(?) mousse with hazelnut

                                                  ENTREE

                                                  BOUDIN BLANC DE VOLAILLE AUX MORILLES
                                                  ASPERGES VERTES DE PAYS, EMULSION DE CERFEUIL

                                                  DUO DE FOIE GRAS DE CANARD
                                                  TERRINE MI CUITE AU MUSCAT DE BEAUMES DE VENISE
                                                  ET SON PAIN DE CAMPAGNE GRILLE
                                                  PETITIE ESCALOPE POELLE AU MIEL & CONFITURE DE TOMATES VERTES

                                                  PLAT

                                                  PIED ET PAQUETS D’AGNEAU A LA MARSEILLAISE
                                                  CUISSON LENTE EN COCOTTE DE FONTE

                                                  PIECE TENDRE D’EPAULE D’AGNEAU DES PYRENEES
                                                  ROTIE ET FUMEE AU THYM
                                                  MELI-MELO DES PREMIERS LEGUMES

                                                  DESSERT

                                                  RAVIOLE D’ANANAS AU MINESTRONE DE FUITS EXOTIQUES
                                                  SORBET AUX FRUITS DE LA PASSION

                                                  TARTE FINE AU CHOCOLAT ET A LA BANANE
                                                  CCEUR DE GANACHE AU CHOCOLAT DES CARAIBES
                                                  GLACE A LA VANILLE BOURBON

                                                  We had glass each of 2010 Bastide du Claux Luberon Poudrière rosé for aperitif, and for the meal was recommended 2008 Triennes Viognier Sainte Fleur (32E).

                                                  This was simply an amazing meal. Light and tender boudin blanc was such a pleasure to sneak in between bites of asparagus covered in the chervil foam emulsion. Duo of foie gras was the best we had in years – my wife teased me with pea-size rations – and the soul-satisfying lamb pot tradition of Marseilles with fall-off-the-knuckle savory tenderness send me to a very very happy place. Lamb shoulder bathed in smoky thyme was simply perfect and rustic. The viognier balanced its weight well through the meal, with fruity aromatic notes cutting through even the heartiest of dishes.

                                                  Plates cleared, bottle emptied, with a glass each of 2008 Vignerons De Beaume Venise Muscat La Gourgeonne in hand, we were transported to so many happy places for past three hours. Fabien then came back to the dinning room with a faded color photo of him having a Buddhist monk’s meal in a mountainous temple in Korea, and said it was on one of his business trips when he searched it out with a local friend, and how he misses the food to which we all agreed.

                                                  With many thanks, byes, and promises for return, the door to the “heavenly gate” closed behind us as we stepped into the still night of Luberon valley. As my wife sensed correctly when she asked whether I was making a return reservation, I told her that I was, and we did. And we will always want to.

                                                  http://www.lafermedelahuppe.com/

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                                    Beautiful.

                                                  2. Here’s some comments to the rest of the places we (almost) visited:

                                                    L’Arome (Bonnieux)

                                                    Looking at my note, the meal we had here was one of the best if not the best. However, unlike many places where their dishes I still can distinctly taste in my memory to this day, I have very little recollection of the meal here: I feel this says much about what dining experiences are about. Among a few things I do recall though is wonderful Kressmann Bordeaux we had with the meal which I am unable to find in the states. But the menu here was more extensive than most, has several menu options, and with lengthier wine list in wide price ranges. Service was impeccable, warm, and very accomodating. We were one of two dining group when we sat around 1pm on their market day.

                                                    http://www.larome-restaurant.com/

                                                    Auberge de la Loube (Buoux)

                                                    Provencal hors d'oeuvres along with full menu options filled with traditional Provencial fares in this lovely restaurant run by the charmingly cranky – he doubted my reservation with his eye brows doing the doubting - chef/owner warmed up to us as we sat outdoor next to the remnants of his past endeavors: old horse carriages. The signature cold dishes were delightful, tasty, and familiar, while their main courses were fair to good. As a package, the hors d’oeuvres, chef, setting, and the walk to the Fort de Buoux afterwards, we thought this is a must for first time visitors - a truly one of the kind, and for some, return for memories of the pasts.

                                                    http://thepauperedchef.com/2009/05/au...

                                                    Auberge du Presbytere (Saignon

                                                    )

                                                    As mentioned on earlier posts. Utterly charming as many notes, and for us, this is one of our most lasting image of Provence and Luberon. Nice walks in and around town to be discovered as well. Hope a couple of new restos manage to blend in well without altering its charm.

                                                    http://www.auberge-presbytere.com/

                                                    Auberge du Parc (Orgon

                                                    )

                                                    Beautiful setting, elegant if not bit formal dining room, we had their 3 course menu with wine pairing that fell short in comparison to others we visited: the decorations for its sake on the plates did not help wilted salads or the far over-cooked and dried out pheasant (I told her this only when the hostess asked while looking on disapprovingly at less than half-eaten portions on both of our plates, and she responded that it gets dried up with foie gras stuffing. I thought she should have had better response). This was the first time in our dining experience in this trip that we had to get the attention of the servers for water and missing silverwares. The hostess worked at the U.N. for long time before settling here she said, and her answer to my question what she misses about NYC she coldly answered, “Nothing.” A large group of 10-12 were also having issues as the servers were getting the dishes mixed up, and several plates of uneaten pheasants were returned. Perhaps this was ours to have later?

                                                    http://www.aubergeduparc.net/

                                                    Maison Gouin (Coustellet

                                                    )

                                                    “Bon après midi!”
                                                    “Oui.”
                                                    “Parlez-vous anglais?”
                                                    “non.” Click.

                                                    There was a lot of loud and frantic noise in the background. I called around 5pm on a weekday, and wasn’t going to try my French in person with her, at least not that day. I think I will have one of the locals make the call next time. This link is newly updated website that I don’t recognize from previous lurking.

                                                    http://www.traiteur-aix-en-provence.c...

                                                    La Bergerie (Maubec

                                                    )

                                                    Very popular local pizza restaurant that turns into a jazz bar at night, it was packed as we took the last table available on a weekend evening. Food is decent to good and service is warm and friendly. Nice walk in and around the village between the base of Petit Luberon and fields of vines. Narrow web of trails linking Maubec and Oppede le Vieux is a stunner as OLV rises up in view as you get closer, and I can still imagine the details of the walks as we happily got lost, then got lost again with pleasure for many hours here.

                                                    http://www.restaurant-labergeriedemau...

                                                    Lou Luberon (Rubion

                                                    )

                                                    Small roadside restaurant with weekend specials we could read while driving by, this place remained empty except the bar which was filled with French bikers in black leather on the night we visited. Massive amount of mediocre and inexpensive food, we nevertheless thank the chef in black gown who was sitting alone outside smoking a cigarette while the bar crowd got noisier by the hour.

                                                    Chambres a louer Le Petit Café (Oppede le Vieux)

                                                    Our local connection recommended this place commenting “You will see what charm means,” and that they always walk there for a meal when in town. Unfortunately we were turned away one evening when we visited the place without a reservation, and rightfully so. Alluringly charming setting with the exterior to match, the place was nearly packed as we saw two taxi’s dropping off dinner guests. If going here directly, there’s a parking lot at the entrance to the village on the left as the road makes the climb when approached from the west.

                                                    http://www.petitcafe.fr/

                                                    1. This painting on the wall of La Bartavelle in Goult sums up our experiences from this trip most beautifully.

                                                       
                                                      15 Replies
                                                      1. re: Kurtis

                                                        Well, that does it. I was planning to rest and putter around at home after our harvest in October but I've been reading and re-reading this thread, opening half a dozen other windows and inserting the names of the restaurants and villages mentioned, then, just for fun mind you, googled up a map of Provence and started plotting imaginary day trips, coordinating visits to appealing restaurants with nearby Market days. That started just after the L’Oustalet report when it seemed I could set aside 3 days for Avignon during our intended trip to France next year. (We're running low on lavender honey, cornichons and olive oil from our last visit). I had a little trouble matching up the market day all the way over in Gordes with dinner at La Bartavelle without a car so added a 4th day in Provence and now, since we had a car! To make an exceedingly long story, well, not actually short but shorter, I'm risking harvest wont be too late and booked a flight into Paris on Oct 25, boarding a TGV and heading to Provence for 16 days and I don't think its going to be enough!

                                                        The itinerary is a work in progress so this is a rough outline, and I have been able to make time to visit a winery or five. After 3 days in Avignon to wait out the jet lag and visit CdPape, Cairanne and L'Oustalet-oops, I mean Gigondas, we'll use Le Clos du Buis in Bonnieux as a base so we'll be able to walk back to our room after dining at L'Arome one of the evenings. I'll post a more detailed day trip itinerary soon and hope all of you will be kind and patient enough to steer another lost soul into the light, or at least to the proper table.

                                                        The one difficulty I'm having is when, if ever on this particular trip, to visit Aix-en-Provence. On our last day in Bonnieux, when we could include a possible visit to the gardens of Chateau Val-Joanis near Pertuis then catch the Aix Market day and either overnight or drive on to Arles, right now our proposed 2nd base. The alternative is to spend an extra 2 days in Bonnieux and avoid trying to see too many villages in a single day. Is Aix worth giving that up?

                                                        From our 2nd base, probably in Arles, Les Baux, Paradou, Mausanne-les-Apilles, Saint Remy on its market day, Pont du Gard, Uzes and finally Nimes, which really intriques me, will form our day trips and we'll finish up visiting and staying with friends in Montpellier.

                                                        I thank you all for all the information already provided and any that might be offered in the future!

                                                        1. re: catfur

                                                          "The alternative is to spend an extra 2 days in Bonnieux and avoid trying to see too many villages in a single day. Is Aix worth giving that up? "

                                                          If you put it that way...
                                                          My vote goes to an extra 2 days in Bonnieux. Aix is a very pleasant Provençal town. But you are also already visiting 2 very charming Provençal towns: St Rémy and Arles. The Aix market is nice but not nicer than, say, the Arles market. Therefore if you think you are pinched for time, your instinct is right: do not do too much. Provence is all about a leisurely grace. Save Aix for a future trip instead of selling yourself short.
                                                          Bonnieux. You can't have too much of Bonnieux.

                                                          After Val Joanis, either lunch in the garden, or picnic in the beautiful village of Ansouis, in the lovely little garden in the shadow of the castle. It is one of my secret picnic spots and is shielded from even the harshest mistral.
                                                          May I radoter: don't plan too full a day. It only dilutes the charm of the larger number of places you visit.

                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                            Thank you Parigi. My instinct was to extend the time in Bonnieux. I have a number of questions and would hate to clutter and divert this fantastic thread so will begin another and hope to hear from all of you.

                                                          2. re: catfur

                                                            Hi catfur, reading your post brought back the excitement and got my heart racing as if I am taking this trip again! Personally invested trip like this where mere 3 day trip evolves into 16 has to be the best of its kind! Looking forward to hearing about your experience already...

                                                            Parigi’s advise on dropping Aix sounds right to me: I did stop through Aix en route to Cassis, but after spending more than a week in Luberon's idle charm, I found Aix a bit too much of a city (we were dreading our return to NYC by this point), and the market not anymore special than ones I was visiting in smaller villages. My experience is limited, but this is what I felt.

                                                            “May I radoter: don't plan too full a day. It only dilutes the charm of the larger number of places you visit.”

                                                            This is the best advise. We got into a really relaxed pace of visiting one village a day, and no more, as this was far more enjoyable than the first few days when we jumped around seeing more than one. For example, in Bonnieux, we got there around 9am, had coffee and pastries in one of the boulangeries, enjoyed the market in the morning with more walks around the town, had relaxed 2 hr lunch, then walked off the wine with visiting shops, church, and museum – if willing you can easily do the roundtrip walk to Lacoste. We ended up having the dinner elsewhere, but it would have been better to have the dinner in Bonnieux to enjoy the sunset and the view it draws from there.

                                                            Everyone has their own pace to hum to, but Provence forces one to slow down even more we thought. The important thing is to let this happen, even if it means altering perceived itinerary and foregoing reservations. Then, the real magic happens.

                                                            1. re: Kurtis

                                                              hi Kurtis, first, allow me to express how much I enjoyed following, albeit after the fact, your trip and this thread. I was intending to begin another but if you have no objection, I'll just continue posing my questions here. And this story from our past should provide an idea of how committed we are to thoroughly enjoying and exploring a city or village or restaurant and not rushing from one to another. Years and years ago when we were barely in our 20's, possessing palates that had a difficult time distinguishing the difference between crunchy and smooth peanut-butter, my wife and I made our first trip to Europe . We had 3 weeks and selected Spain as our destination. We reserved a room in a pension in Madrid for 3 days with the plan to work our way down to the Costa del Sol. We took the bus to Toledo, intending to spend the day then catch the evening bus and continue on. We happened to find an elegant looking restaurant with a lovely garden enclosed by the city walls, Hostel del Cardinal. Spain was incredibly reasonable, actually cheap, at that time so we decided we could afford one meal there and took a table for lunch. This was to be one of our "splurges" We asked the waiter to guide us and ordered what he suggested, a pitcher of sangria and grilled asparagus for a starter, then Quarter of an Hour Fish Soup followed by Veal St Jacques. The fish soup turned out to be their version of a delicately saffron'd Boullaibaise, containing fresh clams, mussels, several deboned filets and a very meaty yet somehow flaky roll of firm white meat, which before trying we took to be some portion of a chicken breast. The first taste of this concoction stunned both of us. We had never had Boullaibaise, nor anything like what we were looking at before and I remember both of giggling with joy. And I couldn't stop eating whatever that roll of white meat was. The waiter came by to see if we were enjoying our meal and we nodded and after I swallowed asked him what it was. Eel. I would have said ewwww but my mouth was full of it again. Then came the veal, lightly breaded and tender and so large it hung over the sides of a substantial sized dinner plate. I was in heaven! Dessert? Oh why not! Flan. 3 hours went by and my wife and I had this long silent discussion and we decided lets have dinner here and take the late bus. Dinner was incredible, roast suckling pig. We decided to stay find a hotel and have another lunch before moving on. Well, 15 days later, after getting to know our waiter and the chef who occassionaly came out to sit with us, we exhausted the menu, asking for that fish soup half a dozen times, having both lunch and dinner there every day and finally had to get back to Madrid to catch our flight. We left teary eyed, being given gifts of a sangria pitcher and 8 ceramic glasses which we still treasure.

                                                              We went back to Toledo a few years ago with our closest friends, their son, his wife, and our daughter who was living in Amsterdam at that time, and arranged to stay overnight.. I had emailed and explained how we had enjoyed our first visit and asked if any of the staff still worked there. It turned out that our waiter was now the Maitre'D and remembered us. He arranged a private room for all of us, didn't bother us with menu's and among the dishes that were served, fish soup quarter of an hour and roast suckling pig.

                                                              1. re: catfur

                                                                Great story. It feels wonderful, when one is travelling, to be adopted by a restaurant, a café, a village, a waiter turned maître D. The best of travelling isn't about sightseeing after all but about human contact.
                                                                Allow me to make an important correction: Bouillabaisse. When you spell it with one "s", it means "boiled f*ck".

                                                                1. re: catfur

                                                                  You have taken "slowing down" to a new level, and have redefined it for me with unforgettable story! Thank you for giving me many ideas for more great trips to come.

                                                                  Post your itinerary anywhere you wish! (You might get more response though if it is a separate post, as this thread can be cumbersome to sort through for new readers) Now, I am really looking forward to it, and the eventual outcome :)

                                                                2. re: Kurtis

                                                                  I agree with you(Kurtis) & Parigi about AIx. Your point about "too much of a city" to me refers first to getting into town & the challenge of finding a place to park. (We mastered this many years ago by deciding to head immediately to Parking Pasteur.) For this reason, I would advise catfur to choose wisely when picking out a hotel in Arles (possible 2nd base), because it too is a fairly big city (for Provence). It's one thing to visit for the day; quite another to come & go every day on the way to other points of interest. Make sure the hotel provides parking, at the very least. (I may be alone in this concern, but thought I should mention it just the same.) And to catfur, your Spain story is great and totally believable that the Maitre d' would remember you after so long. It is amazing how some European (French...Spanish) restaurant staffers can make you feel appreciated & special after only one visit - yet in NYC repeated visits to the same restaurant are hardly recognized at all.

                                                                  1. re: boredough

                                                                    Nice logistical advise.

                                                                    "yet in NYC repeated visits to the same restaurant are hardly recognized at all."

                                                                    Oh, don't get me started on this... Every time we return from a trip abroad, we embrace ourselves with this cold fact even in some places known for their service and hospitality :(

                                                                    We finally found a place that we can go to when we miss this trip. It's Mas (Farmhouse) in West Village. Have you been? Where are your goto places when you are back in NYC? (This could be a question to any France CH'ers who visits NYC frequently).

                                                                    1. re: Kurtis

                                                                      boredough,
                                                                      your logistical advice is sound and thank you. I intend to return the rental car the day after we arrive at our 2nd base, most likely Arles, and utilize the train and/or bus services to Nimes, presently our only other destination until we stay with friends in Montpellier, where they no doubt will have suggestions of where we can dine, however I do hope to learn of an establishment in Montpellier where I can take them and repay their kindness.
                                                                      One of my concerns is the road conditions in November, specifically to that often mentioned Castellas in Sivergues. But all this will be presented in the new thread I'll establish hopefully this weekend.

                                                                      1. re: catfur

                                                                        Please please do not be put off by the road to le Castellas. It is bumpy, but surely manageable as long as you drive slowly (10 km/hr at some points). Our first time there we were more concerned about whether we were on the RIGHT road, not its condition - it seems to be going nowhere in particular, but that "nowhere" is "something".

                                                                      2. re: Kurtis

                                                                        to Kurtis:
                                                                        No, have not yet been to Mas, but it is "on the list" of places to go. With all the options in NYC, we often prefer a new restaurant over one we've already been to. That said, we enjoy going to Tournesol in LIC (easy to get to from Manhattan or Long Island), & Chez Napoleon (50th & 9th Ave) . Neither is glamorous, but the food has always been good & evocative of dining in, well, France.

                                                                        1. re: boredough

                                                                          Thanks for sharing and responding to a bit off topic question I realized after posting... Tournesol does that for us too, but haven't been to Chez Napoleon which is on our short list. The thing about Mas that takes me back to the trip is their service and atmosphere more than the food: this trip has further distanced ourselves from "glamorous" french/new american establishments in NYC.

                                                                          1. re: Kurtis

                                                                            Well you have inspired me to go to Mas once we get back to NYC. The menu looks great.

                                                                            1. re: boredough

                                                                              Their food is just as good or better than it appears on the menu; their duck is done very nicely. Their main dining room is bit more lively (not loud) which includes a long communal table, while the back room corner tables are more intimate/romantic IMO.
                                                                              - didn't want you to think the food is lacking in any ways.

                                                              2. Les Carmes or La Petit Cave in Saignon for dinner?
                                                                Hello all on this board. I have a question for those of you in the know.
                                                                Contemplating whether to go to Les Carmes for a romantic dinner for 2 or La Petit Cave.
                                                                Would love your input. Figured I would post here since this has been such a popular thread.
                                                                Thank you so much!

                                                                47 Replies
                                                                1. re: kiwi2008

                                                                  La Pettite Cave has good food but does not have a view or an enchanting terrace like Le Presbytère. The interior of La Petite Cave is nice but I would not call it romantic. In the small interior, it is hard to talk without everyone hearing what you say.
                                                                  in that area, for very good food, I recommend Le Sanglier Paresseux in Caseneuve. For a very romantic dinner, I would recommend either Le Presbytère in Saignon or Bartavelle in Goult.
                                                                  Bartavelle in Goult has very good food, better than Le Presbytère. Le Presbytère has the most enchating setting.
                                                                  I rented a house in Saignon but was never aware of a restaurant called Les Carmes. It must be well hidden. Please tell us more.

                                                                  1. re: kiwi2008

                                                                    Les Carmes is in le Thor, and although it has received several great reviews on Chowhound, it is not near Saignon - so the question is, where are you staying & how far do you want to travel? For someplace more upscale (i.e. more expensive), I suggest looking into Domaine de la Coquillade (in Gargas) for dinner at one of their 2 restaurants. One is "gourmet"; the other, a bistro, is more casual, and, weather permitting, serves outside overlooking their vineyard. There is also a terrace for cocktails - a magnificent view of the vineyard and (to me) very romantic. This is a relatively new Relais & Château property that, certainly this time of year, is stunning.

                                                                    1. re: kiwi2008

                                                                      We spent 4 days as guests at Les Carmes earlier this year. The food is excellent and we enjoyed it very much. That said, I am not sure that I would recommend it for a "romantic dinner for 2." When we were there, virtually all the dinner guests were staying at Les Carmes. Although individual tables were set for each, there was a lot of back & forth talking among guests. So if you are looking for a dinner "a deux," not sure that this is the atmosphere you are looking for. If the weather is good and dinner is being served out doors, I am sure that Mike and Ann would accomodate a request to place your table a bit apart from the others; if you are forced insides, this may not be feasible.

                                                                      1. re: masha

                                                                        Thank you for the update. I regret not having made it there really. I am also curious about their cooking lessons as well. Any experience?

                                                                        1. re: Kurtis

                                                                          Sorry, we did not do the cooking lessons.

                                                                          But, to elaborate on my earlier post, as to the food: When we booked we were concerned that 4 nights straight would perhaps be too many in terms of the variety and style of food, so we only reserved for the first night, to test out the kitchen. Once we ate the first night, we were hooked. That was partially because of the convenience of eating at the inn where we were staying, especailly as Les Carmes is located outside of town, and any other restaurant is a drive of several miles. But, had the food only been middling, we would have gone elsewhere. In fact the food was excellent and the menus not at all repetitive. The preparations were inventive without being precious. Everything is prepared from scratch and locally sourced, based on what is available that day at the market. And very reasonably priced for the quality of food served.

                                                                          1. re: masha

                                                                            thank you all for your replies!!! this has been such a fun and informative thread to read and re-read. we really want to check out saignon, so we may do presbytere.
                                                                            thank you again!

                                                                            1. re: kiwi2008

                                                                              Good call kiwi.

                                                                              I've been meaning to write about Auberge du Presbytere, but alas, a part of my life requires me to move on... I will someday write and post it on this thread. It was particularly memorable in that I brought my parents there and watched them thrilled by the visit along with emptied wine glasses of theirs which I haven't seen in over decades...

                                                                              1. re: kiwi2008

                                                                                Good choice. Please pet Miki for me.

                                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                                  Parigi, (and anyone willing)

                                                                                  We ate at one, passed by a couple, and found out about a handful of restaurant that has the address in Saignon. I am listing them below. Any experience here or your thoughts? Any new finds here and beyond during your stay in Saignon? I promise I will treat Miki like the Queen on my next visit!

                                                                                  Auberge du Presbytere
                                                                                  La Cuisine de Soko
                                                                                  Chez Christine
                                                                                  Le Comptoir de Balthazar
                                                                                  Le maison de Solveig
                                                                                  La Petite Cave
                                                                                  Chaix Frederic
                                                                                  Goldsby
                                                                                  Regain le Colombier

                                                                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                                                                    I cooked most times at home in Saignon and have not been to most of them on your list !
                                                                                    The top tables for the tiny village are supposed to be La Petite Cave and the Presbytère. Often full every night, even during off-season.
                                                                                    We lived very near the Maison de Solveig. We have not eaten there but have noticed that it has a very warm atmosphere and has lots of customers too. And Miki often steps out on the Presbytère and crosses the fountain square and hangs out chez Solveig...

                                                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                                                      Ahh, I wish I did more cooking while there, as it would have been a great setting to re-spark my interest for it; we were on a roll of eating great mealw one after another in most restaurants there, and visiting the market became something we did before lunch rather than the purpose for it. Regrets in this region is an insurance for return...

                                                                                      1. re: Kurtis

                                                                                        Kiwi, did you dine at Presbytere? I'm hopeful you'll have a chance to comment before our own trip begins at the end of October. I' was beginning to secure reservations in the "must visits" , among which is Presbytere, but was told by the staff of the hotel we're staying in that it wouldn't be necessary to make reservations as it is "off season". I'm assuming she meant, not necessary to make them - this early. Still, I'm taking Parigi's comment
                                                                                        "The top tables for the tiny village are supposed to be La Petite Cave and the Presbytère. Often full every night, even during off-season." and requesting them anyway.

                                                                                        1. re: catfur

                                                                                          Follow Parigi's advice. I am sure that we often sound like insecure and inexperienced yokels to our hosts because we reserve far in advance and are at times the only name on the book for weeks.. But...we do get into our first pick restaurants and get the rooms of our choice at our lodgings.

                                                                                          1. re: catfur

                                                                                            "Presbytere" -- that brings back fond memories of quite a few years ago (and staying at the hotel as well). We will be interested to hear a current review. -- Jake

                                                                                            1. re: Jake Dear

                                                                                              I recently dined at the Auberge and found the food a bit ordinary, but good. I would recommend having an apéritif by the Fontaine in front of this lovely Inn. They have a great house cocktail, 'Le Coup du Curé' (The Priest's Elbow)...it's a nice spot for people watching.

                                                                                              I have had two delightful meals in Saignon. For a very romantic evening (must disagree with Parigi on this one), try 'La Petite Cave'

                                                                                              The young chef has renovated this 11th century vaulted cave by hand

                                                                                              http://www.lapetitecave-saignon.com/

                                                                                              It's calm, elegant and the food sumptuous - presented on your plates like artwork. No there isn't a terrace, but the food is divine, and bad food isn't made better if it's served on a terrace - just doesn't do it for me. This was my experience last week at 'Le Vieux Bistro' in Cabrières d'Avignon. Terrible! Terrible!!

                                                                                              The chef and owner of 'La Petite Cave' recently opened another restaurant across the street, 'Le Bistro du Vin' tel.04.90.70.30.79. The menu is very reasonably priced and they have a charming terrace on a quiet square.

                                                                                              1. re: sofoodie84

                                                                                                "It's calm, elegant and the food sumptuous - presented on your plates like artwork. No there isn't a terrace, but the food is divine, and bad food isn't made better if it's served on a terrace - just doesn't do it for me."
                                                                                                So far I do not find any disagreement with you at all. Since when did I embrace bad food on a terrace? :-)

                                                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                  I've just been seduced one too many times into dining in a restaurant because of its luring terrace. As I mentioned, 'Le Vieux Bistro' was my worst meal of the year, but it has a lovely terrace and was fully booked that night! I wonder what the other diners thought...

                                                                                                  1. re: sofoodie84

                                                                                                    Something to think about when considering a terrace restaurant: mosquitoes. At least once during each of our summer visits I have become the feast while attending one. Some of these Bourgogne bites have been inflamed for several months.

                                                                                                    1. re: sofoodie84

                                                                                                      "I've just been seduced one too many times into dining in a restaurant because of its luring terrace."
                                                                                                      This, I sympathize with completely.

                                                                                                    2. re: Parigi

                                                                                                      I was simply disagreeing with you about 'La Petive Cave' not being romantic...:)

                                                                                                      1. re: sofoodie84

                                                                                                        The main reason why I did not think La Petite Cave was romantic is that everyone hears all the other tables' conversations, yikes.

                                                                                                        Was the drink called "La Coude du Curé" (the Curés Elbow), or "Le Coup du Curé", which means something like the Curé's Strike?

                                                                                                        1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                          We just ate at la Petite Cave about a week ago and really enjoyed it. Lovely setting (stone walls & archways) with food that was beautifully prepared and very tasty. It was particularly quiet, however - we 4 were the only patrons on a (very rainy) Friday night. I hope that was an anomaly, since I'd like the restaurant to survive. The no-choice menu was 39€ for 3 courses + amuse bouche. And in case anyone's interested, the Bistro du Vin serves 2 courses for 22€ and 3 for 29€, with 3-4 choices per course, according to la Cave's hostess. Hope to try it soon.

                                                                                                          1. re: boredough

                                                                                                            "I recently dined at the Auberge and found the food a bit ordinary, but good. I would recommend having an apéritif by the Fontaine in front of this lovely Inn. They have a great house cocktail, 'Le Coup du Curé' (The Priest's Elbow)...it's a nice spot for people watching."

                                                                                                            More than a spot for people watching, it has become an iconic impression of Luberon, and the food adds - not subtract - to an unforgettable afternoon we had.

                                                                                                            "I've just been seduced one too many times into dining in a restaurant because of its luring terrace. As I mentioned, 'Le Vieux Bistro' was my worst meal of the year, but it has a lovely terrace and was fully booked that night! I wonder what the other diners thought..."

                                                                                                            I too am often seduced by the terrace, but while bad food certainly doesn't taste better outdoors, average to decent food does, and so does friendly/generous service, wine that takes you places of known and unknown, light breeze, etc. I could imagine the food at LVB can be hit and miss - as was our experience - but I think there's good reason why the place is packed that is different from why TGI Fridays is. In fact we had one of more romantic meals here during our trip, even without the terrace which was under construction then; adding to this was perhaps abandoning CH's recommendation for our first night dinner - grab a pizza and stay home? Or perhaps less than stellar steak of mine that forced us to share my wife's perfectly medium rare steak? Attentive, generous, and well-paced service? Ahh, the simplicity and complexity of romantic dinner...

                                                                                                          2. re: Parigi

                                                                                                            Ah Parigi - I must go back and check! I think you are right...

                                                                                                            A romantic setting is very subjective anyway, but it's fun to share experiences and opinions on what we find appealing or not. When I dined at La Petite Cave there was lovely, soft music playing in the background and I was able to hold a very private conversation with my sweetheart :)

                                                                                                            1. re: sofoodie84

                                                                                                              Sounds perfect. Indeed the perception of what is romantic is so personal. I agree with John Talbott on how difficult it is to answer requests for recommendations for a romantic spot. Some think of an opulent setting with masses of flowers, like Le Cinq in Paris, while others think of an intimate inn in a passionate southern town like Arles, and people can disagree vehemently. In short, we can't guess how somebody else's mind works. -- But your experience sounds enchanting.

                                                                                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                Parigi & Kurtis,

                                                                                                                I hope you will see this even though the thread is old. Your richly descriptive and thoughtful posts have contribute immensely to plans for my honeymoon, which includes 3 nights near Bonnieux. I have one question, which I hope you will weigh in on.

                                                                                                                Based on posts from the two of you, we have settled on one dinner at La Bartavelle and another at Le Sanglier Paresseux. We are staying at Capelongue and deciding whether to have one dinner there. I may have overlooked it, but I haven't found a post in which either of you write much about Capelongue (it doesn't look to me like you dined there, Kurtis). My wife and I don't especially care about Michelin stars, and the prices at Capelongue are, as you know, exorbitant. But, if the food is delicious, then a splurge at our home base would be delightful. Parigi, what has been your experience with Capelongue? Should we do the splurge, or stroll into Bonnieux for dinner at l'Arome, or perhaps go further afield?

                                                                                                                In a related note, I stayed and dined at Ferme de la Huppe in 1999, with my late first wife. The place has changed owners since then, but it was perhaps the most heavenly place we ever stayed and dined (even as we later stayed and dined at places far more expensive). That place was so special to my late wife and me, that I won't return but will let it remain in my memory. But I am so pleased to see that the new owners have also made it special. I credit the generous dinners I enjoyed on their outdoor terrace in 1999 as the beginning of my true appreciation of food.

                                                                                                                1. re: dfchicago

                                                                                                                  I dined at Capelongue very long ago. I tried not to comment on a resto that I had not visited within the past 2 years.
                                                                                                                  I remember the setting was stunning, the food not stunning, the service stunningly bad.
                                                                                                                  If the restaurant had not changed, I would take a short walk (about 15 minutes) into Bonnieux and go to L'Arôme or Le Fournil.
                                                                                                                  Very sorry about your late wife. I understand how a place can be locked in with a memory, and it is best not to return..

                                                                                                                  1. re: dfchicago

                                                                                                                    Your choice of La Bartavelle is excellent and Goult a lovely village for a walk about.As a resident of the Luberon I would suggest Le Petite Cave in Saignon for a superb dinner in a romantic evening.Le Sanglier has a vue, but the cuisine is lacking and the drive to Saignon less taxing.Have the chilled pea & mint soup at
                                                                                                                    Le Cave ...you'll never forget it.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Franco American

                                                                                                                      Not wanting to rain on your (dfc's) parade - and thinking I was the odd-woman-out - I didn't comment on le Sanglier Paresseux. However I agree with Franco American, that the view is lovely but does not make up for a so-so meal. I'd definitely choose la Petite Cave over SP. Last I checked, it's closed Sunday dinner through Tuesday, which hopefully fits your schedule.

                                                                                                                    2. re: dfchicago

                                                                                                                      For dfc: My husband & I have booked dinner at Capelongue for next week, to celebrate our anniversary. Although, the last time we dined there several years ago, we did not feel that the experience warranted the high prices, we went there in May to pick up friends and head out to dinner at l'Arôme. Before leaving, we decided to have drinks on the restaurant's terrace to enjoy the absolutely fabulous view of Bonnieux. All of a sudden, the staff started bringing out amuse-bouches, and in spite of our explanation that we were not dining there, they maintained this was SOP and brought more. These treats were delicious - hence our decision to give chef Loubet another go at it. So I will report back .....

                                                                                                                      1. re: boredough

                                                                                                                        Great news. Very promising.
                                                                                                                        Given that view, that is one place that I hope and hope will become better.
                                                                                                                        Looking forward to your report.i

                                                                                                                        1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                          Franco, Parigi, Boredough-
                                                                                                                          Thank you for your feedback - and for your honesty! I put Sanglier on the list because I remember someone referring to it as the most exciting new restaurant in the area, but now I can't even find that OP. I appreciate you steering me away from a mediocre meal. We will instead reserve at L'Arome for one night. We will eagerly await boredough's report on next week's anniversary dinner at Capelongue. That will determine whether we book with them for one dinner, or instead choose la Petite Cave. Again, thank you to the regulars on this board for all of your help. I will add that this board has also shaped our plans for which markets to visit, routes to drive, and other special experiences for our (too short) time in Provence. And Parigi, your posts in the Spain/Portugal board have helped our plans for our 9 days in Spain before France.

                                                                                                                          1. re: dfchicago

                                                                                                                            Capelongue remains among handful of places where we were forced to cancel our reservation due to either simple logistics or us just wanting to linger more at a place instead of hitting the road for what's next. I am too looking forward to boredough's report; it has always been the food that elevates or dampens the surrounding sights, and rarely the reverse. Though L'Arome didn't get to have full report, my notes from the meal ranks it among the best meals during the trip. It was interesting though that next door Le Fournil was quite packed on the market day compared to more or less empty L'Arome; I am guessing perhaps the price and menu is at play. Nevertheless we thoroughly enjoyed the lunch after morning walk through on their market day.

                                                                                                                            Congratulations, dfchicago. While we honeymooned at one of more exotic places we found this reported trip more like the real thing, and with far more lasting memories. The collective knowledge shared by the Provencal gods on this board is intoxicating...

                                                                                                                            1. re: Kurtis

                                                                                                                              One reason le Fournil might have been packed is that, weather permitting, seating is in a lovely "place" (the French meaning), whereas l'Arôme is primarily a vaulted stone-walled room with a small terrace along a too-narrow-for-cars street. A recent CH poster felt it lacked "a view"; I personally find the set-up charming. This (the venue itself) might have a lot to do with le Fournil's attraction on a sunny day. Other than that, it's a toss-up as to which of the 2 restaurants is a better choice (although I tend to prefer l'Arôme). On another note, I know I won't be able to describe our upcoming meal at Capelongue nearly as well as you (Kurtis) can, but I hope to be able to satisfactorily convey the total experience to those of you who are waiting for my report. Oh the pressure.

                                                                                                                              1. re: boredough

                                                                                                                                For me L'Arôme has better food than Le Fournil. Le Fournil is not bad, but it's just not bad, definitely not great as its menu price leads one to expect.

                                                                                                                                1. re: boredough

                                                                                                                                  No pressure boredough. Just transport us for a few minutes to a table next to you, that's all...

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                                                                                                                    Le Fournil seems to appear in more guide books than L'Arome. I imagine that's why it's more crowded. And, as we all know, guide book writers are rarely the best judges of good food.

                                                                                                                                    Another question...we will be driving from Cadaques to Bonnieux. Can anyone recommend a particularly lovely spot for a village lunch along the way, either on the France or Spain side of the border? For this lunch, I'm leaning toward something more low-key, in a nice setting, but not a 3-4 hour lunch. We'll be driving mostly along the coast. I was thinking perhaps of lunch in Sete, or another village nearby. Any thoughts?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: dfchicago

                                                                                                                                      Sète is a lovely town on the Med between the Spanish border and Arles. The covered market has quite a few eatery options, or you could just have a plate of oysters there opened for you, very fresh, very inexpensive.
                                                                                                                                      Another great eats is the Tielle place on 11 Quai Résistance. Its freshly made, crunchy outside runny inside tielle is incomparable.

                                                                                                                                      Or you can go to the fish market in Por-Vendres (on the northern tip of the village), to the covered seafood market, and buy a fideua, heated, to go. That fideua is one of the best I have tasted on the Catalan coast, France and Spain together.
                                                                                                                                      A fabulous picnic spot is the beautiful neraby beach, and not much discovered, of Paulilles. It is a 19th century explosives factory converted into a protected nature reserve. -- I know, does not sound very appétissant, but today It has a beautiful garden, nice sprawling graounds, a a series of well protected beaches, maybe my fave beach on the Med.

                                                                                                                                      Gruissan is also another lovely village more or less in the middle of your drive, on the Med. We liked La Ferme and Entre Terre et Mer.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: boredough

                                                                                                                                    So the question from dfc is "Should we do the splurge?", and I would say that a dinner at Capelongue would be especially memorable, entirely different from any meal at l'Arôme or la Ferme de la Huppe (which are both excellent for their price points). Maybe for your last night in Provence - starting with apéritifs on the terrace and ending with being able to waddle back to your room. Not to take the price tag lightly - 190€/person (for the grand menu "Festival de Capelongue" - we went for broke, figuratively of course) plus wine, does warrant a special occasion such as yours. We were served 5 different amuse-bouches with our apéritifs - the best being a very thin-crusted "pizza" with sliced summer truffles - accompanied by the truly stunning view of the hotel's gardens & the village of Bonnieux. Dinner took place in their lovely courtyard, where they might still be serving when you get there in early September (I think that is when you will be there). The food was delicious; the service just right thanks to the huge efficient staff. Once at the table, we had our sixth amuse-bouche, which consisted of escargots in a fabulous ragu (in between a soup & a sauce) infused with wild rosemary, sage, & thyme. Our first course was the chef's signature dish "duo of foie gras" (sadly, when he was at the Moulin de Lourmarin many years ago, the duo was a trio), which consisted of a 'confit' ( a room-temperature traditional foie gras presentation), and a sautéed version. The only flaw (to me) was that the sautéed version was slightly overcooked, but with such a small piece of foie gras, it can't be easy to ensure its inner creaminess. The confit was fabulous, served simply with green tomato confiture (another of the chef's specialties) & toasts. Next was a "salad" of coeurs de tournesol (sunflower hearts), wild celery, sauce rémoulade, and a generous shaving of summer truffles, which were uncharacteristically moist & fresh. Light & nicely balanced. This was followed by Camargue crayfish in almond milk (very tasty), sautéed frogs legs in sorrel chiffonade (also delicious), St Pierre (John Dory) in a sauce I can't describe because, although it was perfectly prepared, it did not amaze us; rack of lamb smoked with wild thyme accompanied by "Grandma's potato gratin". Seventh & eighth courses were a huge assortment of cheeses, and 3 desserts - one of which was a "napoleon" of transparent, incredibly thin discs of spun sugar interspersed with raspberries, sitting in a bed of white chocolate whipped cream; another was a soufflé of smoked cedar (yes, the tree); plus a 3rd whose details I cannot recall . In addition to the above, we had a refreshingly tart tomato sorbet ('pause provençal'), assorted small rolls flavored with polenta, chestnuts, or olives (& pain levain) served with a delicious smoked butter, and mignardises. As for the extensive wine list, although replete with famous & expensive wines, there is a large selection of reasonably priced, high quality local wines - something unusual in a restaurant at this level. Also Chef Loubet has maintained his long-standing tradition of not just greeting diners, but presenting a dish or two along the way. All in all, an evening well spent.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: boredough

                                                                                                                                      My, boredough, it's going to be a tough day at work. Thanks a lot as I am here but I really am not : )

                                                                                                                                      This may be a ticket for us to return here if I present this review to my wife when all stars align: she generally prefers not to revisit while I am the opposit. As I am tinkering with the idea to base our next trip to France in Vaison it would be great to visit Capelogue and revisit Gigondas too.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Kurtis

                                                                                                                                        Convince her to make the trip mid-June to early July (to see the lavender) and she will probably beg you to make a 3rd trip to Provence.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Kurtis

                                                                                                                                          "My, boredough, it's going to be a tough day at work."

                                                                                                                                          Just got back from playing hooky picnicking in the Versailles garden. Now this. :-(

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                                            I intended to post this three weeks ago. Apologies for the delay...

                                                                                                                                            From the TGV leaving Avignon for Paris, my first report on our days in Provence...La Bartavelle.

                                                                                                                                            After watching the sun set over Bonnieux while sipping sage infused cocktails at our hotel just beyond town, we hopped in our car and set out for Goult. We'd visited many Luberon villages already, still we were unprepared for the especially lovely charms of little Goult. As we navigated its tiny streets in dusk, eventually leaving our car near the Moulin at the top of the village, my wife and I had fallen in love with Goult and vowed that, when we return to Provence, we will make this our home base. It's the kind of place you want to feel part of.

                                                                                                                                            Without a map, we wandered the streets on foot, pointing out house after house as our new fantasy home, eventually turning a corner and hoping that the restaurant ahead was La Bartavelle, because all the 8 or 9 tables were set up under umbrellas in the narrow, hidden stone street and conveyed complete romance. Indeed, we had found our place, and there was our table for two awaiting us, the only empty table at 8:30. Aside from one table of English speakers, everyone else was French.

                                                                                                                                            Our hostess welcomed us with such warmth that we immediately knew we would love our meal and the entire evening. She exuded the confidence and generosity that communicated this was a most special place. She offered apertifs, and we toasted the Chowhounders who led us to this place with the kirs that she brought. As the evening progressed, she gladly explained dishes in her excellent English, but also welcomed and engaged my attempts to exercise my French.

                                                                                                                                            Such a long introduction before even mentioning the food is, I think, essential when reviewing La Bartavelle, because it offers not only a delicious meal, but a complete experience of such loving generosity that sets it in rare company.

                                                                                                                                            We began with an amuse bouche of bouillabaisse that had great depth for an amuse. My wife then started with a Rouget filet that was almost upstaged by the black olive tartine at its side. My entree was even better: a selection of tiny legumes from the market - an artichoke, a cherry tomato, a pepper, a couple others, stuffed with an especially herby persillade. For our main plates, my wife had lamb and I had rabbit, stuffed with a little chorizo. Both perfectly cooked. We loved our dishes, not for innovation or for any single standout component, but because they merged so magnificently with the happy chatter we heard from other tables, the soft light on the yellow stone of the houses on the car-free street, the dog who trotted past us several times on what appeared to be his nightly circuit through town, and the constant loveliness of our host as she busily took care of her guests.

                                                                                                                                            For dessert we turned down chocolate for dishes composed of fruit fresh from the market: a peach salad for my wife, a dish of plumbs for me. I can't even remember how they were treated, just their perfect ripeness and simple way to end an evening.

                                                                                                                                            As other diners finished their meals, we noticed that each went inside to chat with host and chef for some time. They all knew one another, and well. By evening's end, half the diners were standing in the street-converted-to-terrace, chatting with the host and chef, laughing, asking after one another's families, talking about the imminent change of the seasons.

                                                                                                                                            We felt privileged to be part of this truly local place, and grateful that we were never treated as outsiders. As couple after couple strolled away, each smiled and wished us an "au revoir" or a "bonne nuit." La Bartavelle is that kind of place, and Goult is that kind of village.

                                                                                                                                            As we left, our host told us it was the last night of the season for the terrace, that the weather was about to turn chilly, and they were moving inside until spring. While I have no doubt La Bartavelle is also lovely when you dine indoors, we felt especially grateful that we'd come this night.

                                                                                                                                            This dinner, this evening, more than any other experience, epitomized for us the best that Provence has to offer. All for 42 euros each, with a 28 euro Cotes du Luberon (as a side note: the menu stated that they'd be happy to send you on your way with any unfinished wine).

                                                                                                                                            Coming soon: my report on Edouard Loubet at Capelongue.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: dfchicago

                                                                                                                                              Thank you for this great review. It is the best description of La Bartavelle I have ever read on this board.
                                                                                                                                              I was so dismayed by a hound's recent comment that he was disappointed by Goult which seemed to him to be worth no more than a 30-minute visit. It is nice to read someone who "gets" Provence, who gets La Bartavelle, and the whole experience.
                                                                                                                                              Yes, Goult is a village that one wants to be a part of, where one stays longer and is greeted by the butcher and the other villagers, where the road to the windmill becomes a reflex, where even one gets to know the names of the cats who come out at sunset and lie on the warmed streets. Some people travel to check off a sightseeing checklist. Others travel to experience lifestyles.

                                                                                                                                              What's more, dfchicago, this report of yours is worth the godzillions of posters who ask their redundant questions and never use the find function and never write back. Those posts in their totaltity make me feel I was back in school being punished by having to write the same sentence (in CH's case, paragraphs) a hundred times, or, worse, eternally waking up to Sonny Bono's voice on Groundhog Day.
                                                                                                                                              You make my day to let me know that I was one of the people who helped you have the experience that you had in Goult. Thank you again.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                                                Everything that Parigi said. DFC beautifully illustrates the way to visit country France and elsewhere: to the extent that one can, become a bit player. See and listen to everything around you. You will understand a lot even if you don't know the language. Hang around and don't be surprised if you are finally included in some of the social activity. Save a scrap or two for the cats you'll meet on the way home.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: dfchicago

                                                                                                                                                "La Bartavelle is that kind of place, and Goult is that kind of village."

                                                                                                                                                Your report instantly transports me back to La Bartavelle and Goult in all senses, and thank you for making my day too.

                                                                                                                                                "I was so dismayed by a hound's recent comment that he was disappointed by Goult which seemed to him to be worth no more than a 30-minute visit."

                                                                                                                                                Parigi, he also complained that one of the walks I listed he went on was "too long." That walk in Lioux, I which I had with my dad, will always remain too short...

                                                                                                                                                "Save a scrap or two for the cats you'll meet on the way home."

                                                                                                                                                Mangeur, you are a poet I wish I could be...

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Kurtis

                                                                                                                                                  "Save a scrap or two for the cats you'll meet on the way home."