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Specialties from the Vaucluse (Avignon) part of Provence?

Hi all,

We will head off to Provence for 4 days after 5 days in Paris around early to mid October (8 to 12 oct). I looked up on Google and pan bagnat is from Nice and bouillabaisse is from Marseille. Are there any local dishes from Vaucluse, both quick bites and dishes served in restaurants, that are must try's? Thanks.

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  1. What are restaurant mats ?

    Do you mean easy quick cooking or quick meals ?
    Provence is not into quickie meals ? For example, at Bartavelle, everyone's fave, be prepared to wait.

    Nice does have some interesting street food for you, besides Pan Bagnat, for which you can look up Jock's recommendation for a place in nearby Villefranche sur mer.
    Also, try socca in Nice. My fave socca place used to be Chez René in the old town. Now I swear by Da Pipo in the lovely area of the old port. It is ridiculously popular. It opens in the evening at 5pm. At 5:05pm the place is full.

    That period is game season. It is also season for mushrooms. You see easily a dozen types in the mushroom stalls in the markets. One easy thing to do is to make a mushroom omelette with some of those mushrooms and farm-fresh eggs.
    Ditto grapes, especially muscat grapes and fresh figs, all in season and splendid.

    Back to the Vaucluse, in the village of Bonnieux, the butcher has very good saucisse aux herbes that is easly grilled or barbecued. The only problem is that the excellent butcher likes to take a good chunk of September off for holiday.
    Nearby in Coustellet, the maison Gouin has a great butcher as well as very good cooked dishes, in case you feel lazy and not feel like cooking, or on your way to a picnic and want a one-stop picnic food supply.

    That area is much written about, I mean much much written about. For restaurant recommendations, you can easily look up the many reviews, especially those by Jake Dear and Kurtis.
    Ditto market days for various markets. I highly recommend the market in Coustellet. It is not photogenic like Ile sur la Sorgue or Vaison la Romaine, but its produce is excellent, much better than those two.
    Here is a market day schedule for that area:
    http://www.luberonweb.com/Marches-Pro...

    1. Sorry Parigi, I have to blame Apple auto correct on that one! ;-)

      I'm thinking if there is anything native to Avignon part of Provence, both the quick bites types of food similar to pan bangat, and dishes that you have to order and wait be served at sit down restaurants.

      Also for budget wise, we are probably unwilling to splash out more than 60 euros per person. (I know, it is at the cheaper eats end of the scale, but we would rather have the more budget options) Thanks.

      For your information, we are making our base in Avignon and do a few day tours around the region (Nimes, Luberon, Aix-en-Provcence, Marseille). We will only go as far as Marseille so we won't be getting to Nice.

      1. For lack of any better answer to your question, I'd throw out being sure to have anchoïade and tapenade while in Provence....and maybe tasting various olive oils. Although many wineries also produce olive oil, if you head towards les Baux you will see loads of olive tree groves and producers who welcome visits to sample their products.

        1 Reply
        1. re: boredough

          "anchoïade"
          Love it, especially the kind made by farms. Great as a raw veggie dip or as marinade (with rosemary) for lamb.

        2. In addition to tapenade and anchoiade

          Pissaladière essentially onion-anchovy-black olive pizza
          Brandade (de morue) is salt-cod pounded with cream, garlic and olive oil - I don't like it
          Artichauts en barigoule - artichokes cooked in white wine with a chopped onion/mushroom/ham/parsley stuffing
          Mesclun salade - salad of 13-14 fine lettuces/herbs with a garlicky vinaigrette
          Pieds et paquets/tripes à la niçoise - sheep (feet and) tripe stuffed with a farce of garlic, parsley and pork fat
          Rable de lapereau - back of young wild rabbit usually stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts
          Gratin Provençale - alternating layers of tomato and potato (sometimes onion too) with herbs, garlic and olive oil
          Ratatouille - chopped eggplant, zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, onion, garlic, herbs and olive oil. Hot or cold.
          Soupe au pistou - minestrone-like vegetable soup flavored with pistou
          Nougat - made from almonds, hazelnuts, honey, sugar and egg whites - is everywhere here during the Christmas season. Also found in desserts year-round. Similar to turrons from Spain.
          Glace au miel or à la lavande - honey cream or lavender ice cream - sometimes both flavors ensemble
          Tourte aux noix et au miel - walnut and honey pie
          Calisson d'Aix - almond cookies flavored with melon or orange

          2 Replies
          1. re: collioure

            What's the difference between pieds et paquets à la niçoise versus a la marseillaise?

            1. re: Kurtis

              There is no such thing as pieds et paquets à la niçoise, it's a Provençal dish (based on sheep's tripe) most associated to Marseille. The tripe is packed in parcels like tripoux from the Massif Central or osbane from Tunisia, to which it is rather similar.

              The Niçois tripe dish is Tripes à la niçoise, it is loose tripe cooked in a garlic and tomato sauce, and most frequently based on veal tripe, so it is very tender. When well made (as it is at La Merenda for instance), it is fantastic.

          2. Lamb.

            Agree that pieds et paquets is a classic and probably a "should try", but I find it difficult.

            1. From Nice and therefore not from Provence:
              Pan bagnat, ratatouille (though it has seeped into Provençal cooking), tripes à la niçoise (loose veal tripe, not packed lamb tripe like pieds et paquets), chard-stuffed ravioli in daube sauce, pissaladière, petits farcis, salade niçoise, stockfish, socca and panisse. Anything including Swiss chard greens is likely to be Nice-related.

              From coastal Provence:
              Bouillabaisse, bourride, fish soup, pieds et paquets (Marseille).

              From non-coastal Provençal hinterland:
              Soups like aigo boulido, aigo-sau (sage broth), alouettes sans têtes, daube provençale, gardiane de bœuf (Arles), tians (of vegetables, notably squash), morue en raito, papeton d'aubergines (Avignon). These are the things that you are likely to be served in Vaucluse (not the gardiane de bœuf which is common to Arles and Camargue).

              From the entire region (including Comté de Nice):
              Soupe au pistou (originally from Nice but spread all over Provence), anchoïade (called bagna cauda in Nice), grand aïoli…

              2 Replies
              1. re: Ptipois

                Very good list!

                To the hinterland, I'd also add: cachaille (a fermented milk/cheese cream), caillettes (a sort of sausage), and of course pompe à l'huile and oreillettes for dessert.

                Those last two have spread all over Provence, in a move complementary to what pistou did.

                1. re: tmso

                  Oh yes.
                  And if you go to the real hinterhinterland, i.e. the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (Manosque, Forcalquier...), you get the same inland specialties and banon goat cheese in all its avatars... From fresh and creamy white like a flat galette (banon blanc) to the runny thing that flows from the chestnut leaves when aged... One of my favorite cheeses.

              2. Lots of very good recommendations - but don't get too hung up on local specialities of a region. My advice is to choose great restaurants and with the benefit of the insight on here choose the more local dishes if the chef is cooking them. Food moves on and good local chefs will be using local ingredients with their own spin and the terroir of the produce and cooks is what will shine through.

                16 Replies
                1. re: PhilD

                  "don't get too hung up on local specialities of a region"

                  Probably the worst advice I've heard for a traveling Chowhound. Anywhere you go, always try the local specialties. It's the reason why you travel, to experience something different. I suppose we could argue all day what tastes best, but you will miss out if you don't go seek out regional and micro-regional cuisine.

                  There are about a dozen officially designated ferme-auberge surrounding Avignon where meals are served on farms focusing exclusively on local cuisine and ingredients.

                  See link:

                  http://www.bienvenue-a-la-ferme.com/f...

                  Through this site, you could also look up products available from the farm plus other gastronomic opportunities.

                  1. re: Steve

                    This is an interesting question. If one is only interested in eating the "finest"food in an area, I can see Phil's point since many "local specialties" have mostly local appeal or need an historical backstory to be fully appreciated. But if one is interested in learning about and trying all of the idiosyncratic things that people for any number of reasons have chosen to eat over time in a given area, one has to look below the white tablecloth. Many are well worth the search; others may need to be learned along with mother's milk.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      I don't think there are any rules.
                      But I always find regrettable if a restaurant does not make good use of local ingredients. I have that problem with Sa.Ka.Na.
                      Likewise, lots of places now sell some kind of Tielle, but I have not tasted any that is 1/10th as good as the Tielle from Paradiso in Sète.
                      Some dishes eare more geo-dependent than others. Some dishes are hardly geo-dependent at all.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        Agreed. We just returned from 9 days in Burgundy. Every private home and restaurant regaled us with Gougères, "our local specialty". It was actually a very interesting survey.

                        1. re: mangeur

                          and isn't it amazing how different they can be?

                        2. re: Parigi

                          But dear Parigi, as someone who has never had Tielle, I think you and I will leave the table with very different experiences even if we shared a piece together from Paradiso in Sète, and in order for me to enjoy as you do, I must eat 1/10 as good one for a very long time...

                        3. re: mangeur

                          I would say a dish cannot be appreciated at all if you don't try it. If this is your opportunity, then I think there is something to say for 'pride of place.'

                          I do not confuse this with trying a tourist trap because 'that's where everyone goes.' Certainly do some detective work and go for a recommended version if you can find it. Traiteurs are sometimes a good source for specialties, and they provide an easy opportunity to investigate a local dish.

                          So, for example, when I found a farcement savoyard in Le Grand Bornand, of course I wanted to try it. Same thing with a flamiche in Parfondeval, or farci maraichine in Arcais. And in Le Teil, Provence (the subject of this thread) slices of pork snout (museau) swimming in white vinegar and cornichons. All wonderful on their own terms, and none of them had to be the best thing I've ever eaten.

                          Sorry, but eating a nice duck confit under those circumstances would not be as thrilling, and I would not learn a thing.

                          1. re: Steve

                            A dish from last year that haunts my taste memory is similar to your snouts: sliced pigs ears (oreilles de porc) and cornichons in a thin garlicky vinaigrette. Served at a table d'hote in the Yonne.

                            1. re: mangeur

                              Oh my, that sounds so good.... you win!

                        4. re: Steve

                          I really wish people would read the whole paragraph to understand what is said rather than pouncing on a single sentence.

                          Provence is a big region, the OP only has four days there and from a previous posts it's their first visit to France. Certainly they can dash all over the region chasing down an enormous list of local specialities and have a fairly fragmented (and less than enjoyable) experience of the food of the area.

                          Or alternatively, as I suggested, they can search out some good restaurants, and with an understanding of the local produce and dishes from this board can select the foods which should have the best terroir (which is the same as your advice on ferme-auberge options).

                          I did not say don't try the local food, nor say you should miss the regional and micro cuisine. To paraphrase an old expression I was simply saying "don't miss the wood for the trees". It's a region with an abound acne of good food, but to chase from place to place ticking off a bucket list of local foods is a guaranteed way of not enjoying it.

                          Provence is relaxing, it has a slow pace, better to kick back and relax and enjoy the local dishes you come across at great restaurant that show off the food.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            "ticking off a bucket list of local foods is a guaranteed way of not enjoying it"

                            Hey, I didn't create the thread, but I think the OP has good instincts to ask. I don't mind gathering info before I go, creating a list, and investigating what I can find. I am absolutely guaranteed of liking the exploration. And the food has been definitely worth it. The Vaucluse is manageable in four days, and I am encouraging the OP to go with their instinct. The local specialties are worth seeking out, and I believe the OP will be well rewarded.

                            Or to put it another way, if you don't seek it out, you'll never know....

                            1. re: Steve

                              And again i didn't say you shouldn't research and build a list. I didn't say you shouldn't seek out local specialities. My point is that if you simply seek out true specialities you miss out on so many other things.

                              I prefer to balance the quest for local specialities with long relaxed meals that reflect the ambiance of Provence. A good restaurant will have lots of local specialities to enjoy. to use another expression: the journey can be better than reaching the destination.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                I will further muddy the water by suggesting that some of the best renditions of local fare, regardless of the province, has been at the tables d'hotes in upscale maisons d'hote or, as Parigi I believe agrees, ferme auberges. We look for hosts who profess a passion for both cooking and the products of their area.

                                (Hint: I google "table d'hote charme xxxx", listing the village or area we want to visit. Then read between the lines, as always.)

                                1. re: mangeur

                                  No muddying at all. These are great experiences. The OP could ask locals and seek out info on "table d'hôte" or guest table, often a bed and breakfast lodging that also makes dinner regularly or on request, not always limited to people staying there. No menu, just a great communal experience.

                            2. re: PhilD

                              While everyone has their own rhythm, for a first time visitor to the region, seeing the forest before chasing a tree is a far more rewarding approach IMO.

                              As the countryside's well-chosen restaurants and markets will be everything local and regional, this approach opens more doors than the prepared and specific keys one brings, and while it may not be the particular rendition everyone raves and touts repeatedly, it will be a personal discovery and exploration of the best kinds and often very successful one if one listens to the Provencal gods of CH : )

                              For a first time visitor, seeking for a specific dish or regional specialty is more fitting if one's visit is limited to say Paris only, or for a frequent visitor in a quest for the impossible "ultimate."

                              1. re: Kurtis

                                In this vein, if one wants a snapshot of the foods of the Vaucluse, one can do worse than a meal (or night) at L'Auberge La Fenière outside of Loumarin. Reine Sammut is sincere and competent if now elevated above the soulful and simple rooms we look and hope for.

                        5. No one has mentioned the Sacristain ?
                          Do try a sacristain in the morning, a twisted pastry, a treat with one's morning coffee, that I find in the boulangeries in Provence.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Parigi

                            One adorable specialty of Vaucluse is pignolats, or pine nut cookies.

                            They're basically all-almond paste pyramids with plenty of pine nuts pasted on the surface, then baked. (Incidentally, they're no-gluten.)
                            They're really delicious and the boulanger from Lacoste (when there used to be a boulanger) made fantastic ones. I'd probably kill for some, watch out of you see them.

                            1. re: Parigi

                              The Sacristain is wonderful but I didn't realize it is a specialty of the Vaucluse--I guess it is Provencal. They make great ones at the Boulangerie Bergese in St Remy at 21 Blvd Marceau. They also make great sandwiches if anyone wants to do a quick picnic.

                              1. re: sderham

                                Vaucluse is a département, i.e. an administrative subdivision, so it has no entity of its own as a "pays" or cultural region. Therefore you can have specialties of Comtat Venaissin, Camargue, Haut-Var, Pays d'Aix, Pays d'Arles, Luberon, Drôme provençale, etc., but there are no "specialties of Vaucluse" properly speaking. So yes, I would say sacristain is Provençal.

                            2. Thanks guys. I wonder whether bouillabaisse a a dish we should have a go at if we are in Marseille? Looks like Chez Fonfon is the best bet for traditional dish done well without being a tourist trap.

                              Also, any advice whether we should take breakfast from assembling stuff bought from boulangaries, get them at cafés, or take the hotel breakfast option? We are looking at Hotel de l'Horloge and they seem to do a pretty good breakfast for a hotel, but I'm debating whether them elsewhere.

                              Any suggestions will be much appreciated, thanks.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: johung

                                It all depends on the hotel. I'd suggest you have their breakfast once and decide if you find it satisfactory.

                                Hotel breakfast buffets have improved in recent years. They offer the usual choice of fresh baguette, croissants, pains au chocolat (watch out, in the Southwest they call that "chocolatine" and it is the main cause of national division in France), jams in small jars, butter, coffee, tea, cereals, orange juice, apple juice, milk, and yogurt. Not infrequently, there is the odd platter of ham, sliced cheese and local charcuterie for those (like me) who have to breakfast on savory, not sweet. Fruit, generally out of the fridge, dewy and cold, and hard as tennis balls, is usually the weak point, but some hotels do a better job with it.

                                When they get on the fancy side, you get more of the charcuterie options plus perhaps sausages and several types of cheeses; fresh oranges to be squeezed in a special machine; and eggs one or two ways (sometimes an egg-boiling machine with wire egg holders); plus any local variation.

                                In one word, assembling breakfast from boulangeries you run the risk of having only dry baked stuff without nice things to go with it (like butter, tea, jam, etc.), and if you get the hotel breakfast you have the baked stuff anyway, often the same one as you would get from the nearest boulangerie. Getting it from cafés, you generally get a poorer version of what you get at the hotel, and more expensive to boot, so why not just take it easy and get it at the hotel?

                                1. re: johung

                                  I highly recommend the Bourride over the Bouillabaisse. Usually if you find one you can find the other. Chez Fonfon, yes !

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    I agree about Bourride over Bouillabaisse, but thry're both delicious.

                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                      A devotee of modern cuisine and natural flavors I prefer the real thing and in PACA in prefer bouillabaisse. You can't get it anywhere else.

                                      1. re: collioure

                                        In what way should bouillabaisse be "the real thing" over the bourride? Is it because it is more touristy? They're both traditional preparations.

                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                          Maybe eating the fish and the soup at the same time makes it unreal? Or it could be those inauthentic vegetables. Hard to say.

                                  2. re: johung

                                    Based on the same recommendations you must have read here, I had the bouillabaisse at Fonfon a couple of weeks ago. It met my expectations, and Fonfon's location is as picturesque as it gets. But I had never sampled bouillabaisse before, with the exception of my mom's attempt at making Julia Child's recipe when I was a kid in the '70s. I'm not sure what constitutes "tourist trap," though, since they seem to get plenty of tourists.

                                    As for hotel breakfasts, as thrifty people, my wife and I always skipped the 10 euro (or more) hotel breakfast in favor of grabbing a quick croissant and coffee elsewhere for 2-3 euros.

                                  3. I have fond memories of a delicious Pan Bagnat from a sandwich stand just off the Place de l'Horloge in Avignon. So you don't have to be in Nice to get a good one!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                      But did you have the one in Villefranche ?

                                    2. Many thanks to the Provencal gods and the devil (oh you know who you are :) for this great thread, and johung for asking many good questions in your preparation for the trip; this thread will become a valuable resource on my return trip here.

                                      1. One thing you definitely should try to eat while you're in Provence is a "grand aïoli", boiled codfish served with all sorts of vegetables + whelks or snails, chickpea salad, and hard-boiled eggs, and plenty of aïoli sauce.

                                        Some restaurants will have it (not the fancy ones) and if you're lucky you may come across a village aïoli, a local celebration where everyone shares a huge aïoli on the main square for a few euros.

                                        Look out for the big village pig-outs (that's as true of Provence as of other regions). Sometimes it will be giant choucroutes in Burgundy (once I've even taken a picture of a fluorescent yellow poster for a "dancing choucroute", choucroute dansante, in the Bresse), but sometimes they'll also be organized around local specialties.

                                        Large traditional flea markets or cattle fairs that start very early will often have kitchen tents with tables and chairs serving aligot and tripoux (in the Cévennes, Rouergue or upper Languedoc), cassoulet, or most frequently tripe, a favorite early-morning market food, starting from 6 AM.

                                        Even in smaller artisan markets and not so early, there will often be a couple of stalls selling hot food based on the local repertoire. Look out for that, ask around, get flyers at the local tourist office, etc.

                                        21 Replies
                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                          "Look out for that, ask around, get flyers at the local tourist office, etc."

                                          I never had much need for the tourist office until I read this!

                                          IIRC, Le Bistrot du Paradou has grand aioli on Fridays, but your mentioning of a village aioli seems a real way to enjoy this. (If and when the stars align, sigh...)

                                          1. re: Kurtis

                                            If Le Bistrot du Paradou has a specialty of Grand Aïoli and if it has endured for some time, it is no less real than a village feast, so go for it.

                                            Many traditional auberges (now disappeared) had aïoli as a special on Fridays. La Trappa and La Taverne du Château in Nice. I miss them seriously.

                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                              Is there a restaurant/market in Paris where one can have traditional or even reinvented Grand Aioli? I don't know what I am missing, but I miss them seriously too.

                                              1. re: Kurtis

                                                Forget about grand aïoli in Paris, unless you make it at home.

                                              2. re: Ptipois

                                                Le Bistrot du Paradou still does aïoli for lunch every Friday . (I just phoned to make a dinner reservation and verified this point.)

                                              3. re: Kurtis

                                                Kurtis, I would start by Googling "fete votive". Add Provence and or grand aoili. Continue several pages into the search and you will start coming up with individual villages. Too many to list here but a great project. St. Remy seems to be one of the larger.

                                                http://www.mairie-saintremydeprovence...

                                                I would then start emailing the tourist offices in target towns, asking them the dates of their event.

                                                (We fell over a sanglier roast in Bresse several years ago that became one of our indelible memories.

                                                )

                                                And thanks for a new goal, as if I needed one! ;)

                                                1. re: mangeur

                                                  Appreciate this valuable fishing lesson.

                                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                                    Now there is a name for how I spend my time.

                                                    1. re: mangeur

                                                      (I meant it as in biblical reference, not the Hemingway kind : )

                                                2. re: Kurtis

                                                  Friday lunch is indeed the time to look for this layout in small, tacky restaurants in the country. We (actually I) ordered a relatively proper one in a truckstop/dive in Villeneuve les Avignon several years ago.

                                                3. re: Ptipois

                                                  Pti: Aren't Grand Aioli's only done in the summer? I've only been in Provence in Fall or Winter and there weren't any at those times.

                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                    Village fêtes (which can be held outside) are mostly done when the weather is warm. Grand aïoli is eaten all the year round.

                                                  2. re: Ptipois

                                                    I would like to offer another opinion on this subject. I live in the Vaucluse (Vaison la Romaine) most of the year, when I am not in St Remy. I can't say that I have ever enjoyed eating the "grand aoili" though I have had many--at village fetes, in restaurants, at homes. To me it is essentially cold fish, cold potatoes, cold carrots, etc. Of course I do love the aïoli mayonnaise that accompanies it. Perhaps the Le Paradou has one worth eating, but I won't be trying it anytime soon.

                                                    And by the way, I hear that L'Oustalet Restaurant in Gigondas makes a wonderful bouillabaisse; friends (in the food business) who have been living in the area for 30 years say it is better than anything they have had in Marseille.

                                                    1. re: sderham

                                                      There are all sorts of opinions. I, for one thing, do love grand aïoli and count it as one of my favorite dishes.
                                                      Properly made, it is far more than cold fish (etc.) — the ingredients are supposed to be warm anyway, except for the aïoli.
                                                      Additions depending on the place and the occasion would be snails or whelks, green beans, chickpea salad, cooked beets, small cuttlefish, hard-boiled eggs, boiled fennel bulb, courgettes, cauliflower or romanesco, and any other vegetable you'd have at hand. What's not to love.

                                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                                        Pti, you've inspired me. But how do I cook whelks? I am guessing that it is much simpler than cooking land snails.

                                                        1. re: mangeur

                                                          It is simpler but there are a few rules.
                                                          Choose smaller whelks over large ones. Rub with coarse salt for a few minutes (wear gloves), then wash in several changes of water.
                                                          Put in high-rimmed pan, cover with 1 inch of water, add coarse salt, white peppercorns, bay leaves and any other spices (fennel, coriander seed and red chilli are good), bring to a boil and simmer very gently for 25 to 30 minutes.
                                                          Let cool in the broth.
                                                          Drain and eat still slightly warm. Do not refrigerate, or if you do, take them out of their shells and keep them in a little cooking liquid.

                                                            1. re: mangeur

                                                              Don't forget the aïoli sauce to go with them.

                                                      2. re: sderham

                                                        Is L'Oustalet the kind of place where you can count on them offering bouillabaisse? I know they have a tiny, seasonal menu... more like a table d'hôte with only a couple of choices.

                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                          "Is L'Oustalet the kind of place where you can count on them offering bouillabaisse?" -- Certainly not in our experience a couple months ago, unless we just happened to miss it on the carte. But we saw no one else with it either. -- Jake

                                                    2. Thanks guys, I will have to read this slowly over this weekend to get them all!