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ferme auberges in the Luberons

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Just wondering if anyone might be able to give us some more insight on ferme auberges in the Luberons. My husband and I will be staying in Bonnieux - the first week of November - and we would love to have the opportunity to visit + dine at some farms in the area.

I found a searchable list of farms in the region + was wondering if anyone on the board has had any experience with them:
http://www.bienvenue-a-la-ferme.com/p...

One place we've heard some good things about is Les Grand Camps (Le Chene) -- has anyone tried this place + would it be worth a visit?

We were looking at Le Castelas at first but came across some recent reviews that indicated things might have changed recently. For those who have visited in the past month or two, would this still be worth a visit? Would you recommend a lunch or dinner there?

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  1. We haven't been to le Castelas since May (you have probably read that thread already), but friends who know the place well (in fact we met them there at our first visit years ago), went there twice (for dinner) within a few recent weeks. The first time there were about 40 other diners; the food was great & the experience just like it used to be. And there was a staff, although none of the old-timers. The 2nd time they went back, the food was still good but "just enough" (as opposed to the usual copious amounts). However there were about 100 diners, so, giving them the benefit of the doubt, I would guess it was either poor planning or a large party arriving without a reservation. I think the goats were still around. (We need to go back there...) In November, I think you would be best off going for lunch on a SUN (when they serve roast pig), so that you have a chance of eating outside.

    1. Food-wise, my fave is Mas des Vertes Rives.
      http://www.mas-des-vertes-rives.com/L...
      There is also an escargot farm in Menerbes, from whom we have bought escargots a few times.
      However all this may be a moot point.
      I don't know any ferme-auberge that is open in November. Don't forget it is first and foremost a farm.

      Le Castelas, even if it is open in November, and I doubt it, may not be a great visit. The site is as big a draw as - if not bigger than - the food. In November even if it is open, I don't see how the weather can permit you to eat outside. You'd have to eat in the thread-bare interior.

      1. Le Castelas is officially open 365 days a year. It would be a shame to miss it if the Sunday you are around is in fact warm enough for outdoor dining, so maybe you should just keep the date open and play it by ear. Unless they are closed for a private function, you should be able to get a last minute reservation.
        Note to Parigi: on your (previous) recommendation, we're trying Mas des Vertes Rives tonight. Looking forward to it!

        12 Replies
        1. re: boredough

          Would the second week in September be too late to eat outside at Le Castelas? I made an early evening reservation so we could, hopefully, enjoy the view and see the sun set.

          1. re: boredough

            Reporting in about le Mas des Vertes Rives: we had a delicious dinner of fricassée de poule, roasted potatoes & a zucchini confit, as well as assorted befores & afters. We had a long conversation with the chef/owner, who is quite charming. It was a nice change of pace from the usual restaurants, with a lovely drive through lush vineyards on the approach to the Mas. If only we could be around for their roast goose in the fall.... Thanks, Parigi.

            1. re: boredough

              Je t'en prie. Pleasure is no pleasure if unshared.
              It is indeed a "real" farm and quite different from a regular resto.

              Before it abandoned the farm side (but still serves only ingredients from nearby associated farms), another fave ferme-auberge of mine La Taulado in Dordogne used to have a geese section on its grounds. There was one alpha goose who used to stand by the road watching us with unmitigated hate and immense threat as we walked from the restaurant back to our little houes on the farm grounds. We stopped seeing the terrorist goose one day. I think it became something delicious.

              1. re: Parigi

                a shame you missed a good dinner!

                1. re: boredough

                  Maybe not. I tasted some magnum opus goose foie gras mi-cuit that tasted of that extra terrorist adrenalin.

              2. re: boredough

                We spent a night at Mas des Vertes Rives on our way from Lyon to Nice a few years ago. Missed the roast goose dinner by a day! But we still had a very good home-cooked meal with all kinds goodies from the farm and a nice local wine, and breakfast was wonderful. The owners are very friendly. It isn't at all fancy, and that's its charm. A true ferme auberge experience,

              3. re: boredough

                I'll be in the region in November as well, and so far I am torn between Mas des Vertes Rives and Le Castelas (Booking a Sunday lunch where both seem to be open). The main thing that would attract me to Le Castelas is the roast pig, but I'm not sure if they do it every time. The Mas des Vertes Rives November menu looks pretty good as well, it's focused on pig with charcuterie, some sort of blood sausage and other pig parts.

                So far I'm leaning towards Mas des Vertes Rives...

                  1. re: arlenemae

                    We just returned about two weeks ago from the Dijon, the Luberon and Paris. I still have my report to submit, but a post/question came through regarding Le Castelas. We had dinner there one night during our stay in Bonnieux. The drive there was one of the most hair raising,and humorous (in retrospect).
                    The view was beautiful, but the meal was disappointing. No roast pork, but tough beef with roasted potatoes ( the meat was impossible to chew)Before the main course they brought out roasted zucchini and red peppers with very tough cured ham. They served goat cheese and honey after the main course and then a piece of cake. The wine was a rose.
                    There was only one lonely goat, three cats and two fox that came close when the owner threw out the scraps over the wall. There were a few other guests. The guests at our table joked that the owner reminded us of the "soup nazi"!
                    I'm sure, in its heyday it was a wonderful place, but don't think we would go again.

                    1. re: CMichaelis

                      Thanks Parigi and CMichaelis for the advice...I think I will stick with Mas des Vertes Rives. It seems to work out with our itinerary too, since it's on the way when we go from Aix-en-Provence to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

                      Will report back after my meal there.

                      1. re: CMichaelis

                        to CMichaelis: Thanks for the report on le Castelas, even though it is very sad to learn of, what appears to be, its demise. From the past stories (as well as our last visit), it sounds like Gianni couldn't make up his mind what to do with the place, and now has given up on it.

                  2. Now I'm hungry! Thanks so much for the notes. I'm spoiled by a year-round growing season where I live so I forgot to consider how close our dates would be to winter. I think we'll have to plan a second trip after this -- maybe spring or early autumn next time! :)

                    I looked up Mas des Vertes Rives + it turns out they are open year round... but closed the week that we'll be in the region. Our visit falls right in between -- after they end the goose dinners + before they start the "cochonailles" (pig?) dinners.

                    I think we might go ahead with Le Castelas for this trip + leave it up to the weather like boredough suggested. We should have access to a phone so making arrangements when we're there shouldn't be difficult. Do you happen to know if Le Castelas has the roast pig or other special dishes on any other day of the week? Our plane leaves on Sunday so we might not be able to take advantage of that. *sigh :)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: fizzy

                      The roast pig is served every night of the week, but only Sunday lunch (which is why I suggested it). It will probably be too cold to have dinner outside in November, so you would be relegated to one of the inside dining areas (as per Parigi). If they're not busy, that would be in a small room with a huge fireplace, just outside the kitchen. It's actually kind of cozy, but not the same experience.
                      Update: I just remembered your June thread about Toussaint, and realized you have another option. According to the info on LuberonWeb, roast pig is also served for holiday lunches, so you could do lunch on Nov 1.

                      1. re: boredough

                        I stayed three days at the Castalas but it was several years ago and had a wonderful time. Gianni played his drum.

                    2. Do try Le Mas Tourteron, a wonderful restaurant run by a female chef in a spectacular setting. At the beginning of November it might be too cold to dine in their courtyard but their interior dining room is incredibly rustic and refined at the same time. Try the 5 course prix fix and at the end you will be surprised by a 3 tier desert table in which you can choose from up to 12 deserts made daily (Callison Aix was my favorite as others based on almod).
                      It is an amazing experience.

                      http://www.mastourteron.com/uk/index.php

                      In Bonnieux try to make it to the market, and specially to the saucisson and the olive vendors.
                      Have a great time, and watch some Maurice Ronet films in preparation. He settled in Bonnieux where a street is named after him.