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Provence Trip Reports (includes side trip to Bras)

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Just returned from a week in Provence (we were based in Le Barroux- a charming, quiet village) and wanted to report on our meals. Usually, we decided where we want to eat and let that dictate our itinerary, but for this trip we chose where to eat based on what village/area we wanted to visit on that particular day.

Sunday Lunch- L'Aile ou la Cuisse in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence- went with the set lunch and had salmon rillettes, grilled pork chop with vegetables and a raspberry mille-feuille pastry selected from their dessert display. Each course was well prepared and the menu offered good value. Service was pleasant and welcoming even though the place was very busy. Would return.

Monday Lunch- L’Essential in Avignon- We sat on the interior courtyard and had a very pleasant lunch. I had the more expensive of the two set lunches and had a soft boiled egg with brandade and truffles, Duck a l'Orange with Asian spices, and a strawberry dessert (can’t remember more). The egg/truffle dish was perhaps the dish of the trip and one of the better dishes I’ve eaten. Runny yolk, plentiful truffles that did were full of earthy flavor goodness. Just fantastic. My duck main was well cooked and the seasoning and accompaniments worked well. I can’t recall the details of the dessert, but I remember enjoying it. Service here was especially friendly and attentive. Would return and definitely recommend.

Tuesday lunch- Dolium Restaurant outside Beaumes-de-Venise- We made the poor choice to sit outside on a day when it was just a little too warm so we hurried through this meal a bit. We both had the set lunch with a melon soup to start and I then had cod with vegetables. The soup was refreshing if a little one note and the fish was well cooked, but also not especially memorable. We skipped dessert. Service was good and I think I’d return here if given the chance as the lunch menu was a good value, but on food alone this wasn’t a highlight.
Tuesday dinner- L’Oustalet in Gigondas- We went here mainly for the wine list as it contains many CdP wines at great prices compared to what one would pay in the US. I expected the food to be fine, but it ended up being very good. We both had three courses and I had the artichoke raviolis, grilled veal and a rhubarb dessert. The veal was fantastic and another contender for best dish of the trip. Service was some of best we received on the trip and this was very pleasant dinner. Would definitely return and recommend to others.

Wednesday dinner- Michel et Sebastien- the “big” meal of the trip was a day trip out to Bras for a night at the hotel and dinner. The drive from Le Barroux through the Cevennes National Park (we elected to take the slower scenic route and skipped the autoroutes) was just beautiful- vineyards, mountains, forests, and then rolling hills reminiscent of the Scottish countryside. Bras has always been a place I’d dreamed of going to since I became interest in food and restaurants and it was incredible actually being there as the countryside and hotel was more beautiful than could have imagined. Service was impeccable and friendly from the moment we checked in. We settled into our room (we had the basic room, but found it to be perfect and well appointed. I can see how the nicer rooms would have a slightly better view, but we were very pleased with the accommodations). The lounge opens for aperitifs at 7:30 and wanting to enjoy the views from there as long as we could, we were one of the first to arrive. We enjoyed champagne and canapés there while perusing the menu and winelist. I ordered the longer tasting menu while my wife, who is a vegetarian, had their vegetable menu which they modified to make fully vegetarian. I don’t want to cover all the dishes as I didn’t take notes and I enjoy not knowing every detail before a meal. Highlights of the meal were one of the canapés which was a hollowed out egg with an egg custard and beets, the Gargouillou dish, lobster, and I enjoyed their warm foie gras preparation more than I usually do. I found the meal from start to finish to not have an off note. I can see how people seeking more “exciting” food could find the cooking here boring as it does seem fairly classic by today’s standard and perhaps the food all by itself wasn’t perfect, but to me the total experience of dining at the restaurant defined the definition of a 3 star- definitely worth a special journey. The service team took great care of us all evening and was both attentive and generally technically correct while being friendly. Not as polished as the team at Le Cinq and definitely a very young staff, but even if there were minor errors, nothing they did spoiled our evening or detracted from our enjoyment of the meal. We also had breakfast in our room the following morning and found it delicious and a great way to finish the visit. Perhaps not a great value at 28E a person and people seeking a heavier bacon/eggs meal would be disappointed, but everything we ate was fresh and well prepared and we left very happy. I would definitely recommend a stay/meal at Bras as much for the dinner and hotel itself as the journey to get there.

Thursday dinner- Entre Potes in Le Barroux- tired from the journey back from Bras and sightseeing in Nimes, we had dinner at one of the few restaurants in the small village of Le Barroux. Entre Potes is a very modest place, a true local spot. Foodwise, everything was fine and was very satisfying as we were searching just for some rustic, hearty cooking. The highlight of the evening was a true show of French hospitality and one of our favorite moments of the trip. Shortly after we arrived, an older couple arrived and were clearly locals as they knew everyone in the restaurant. Not recognizing my wife and I, they bought us glasses of wine and came by our table to welcome us to the village. We often feel that the French are presented unfairly in how they treat visitors and especially Americans, but I can’t imagine being made to feel more welcome in a foreign place as we did that night. It illustrated why we love France so much.

Friday lunch- L’Arome in Bonniuex- After shopping in the market we stopped by L’Arome for lunch and unfortunately, this was my least favorite meal of the trip. We had the set lunch and had a fish carpaccio, duck and honey crème brulee. While nothing was unedible, the dishes lacked finesse and in the case of the duck could’ve been executed better. The dining room is very charming and we received good service so not a bad meal, but not a place I’d return to.

A final note, I mentioned that my wife is a vegetarian and wanted to say that all the restaurants were very accommodating and she ate very well as the restaurants were always able to put together something for her and did so without any issue.

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