Friday, June 26, 2015

France Travels - Luberon Hill Tour

One of our most memorable days in Provence was our tour through the hill-towns of the Luberon.  Julie set us up with our fabulous guide, Philippe.  He picked us up bright and early at the hotel and drove us through each town, sharing stories and insider info about the region along the way.

We started the day with a stop in the melon capitol of France, Cavaillon, to pick up picnic provisions from the Monday market.

This farmer knows how to sell his wares!  The perfect spread of French breakfast radishes, butter, and flaky salt!
First cherries of the season!  Did you know it's tradition to make a wish with the bite of your first cherry of the year?  A fun tidbit we learned from Philippe.
We also stopped in a local cheese shop, because what's a picnic without cheese??

The French sure know how to do their butter.....

With picnic supplies in hand, we drove into the heart of the Luberon, driving through Menerbes (the inspiration for Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence"), Goult, Gordes, with stops at the Abbaye De Senanque, Lacoste, and Roussillon.  

While we may have been a bit early for lavender season, we caught poppy season in all its glory!

The village of Gordes in the background
View of the Abbaye from the hill above

The town of Lacoste is practically desolate except for students visiting from the Savannah College of Art and Design which holds it's study abroad program in the town.
Mom cleaning our beautiful French radishes, we first learned how to clean radishes at our cooking class at the Cook's Atelier last year!

I can't even imagine these fields of lavender come July - there were certainly pretty as they were

The famous ochre deposits that give the town of Roussillon its name.

Our last stop of the day was to the local goat farm in St. Remy.  We were lucky enough to meet the farmer himself and a few of the babies just born this spring.  

As fresh as it gets!

I have a whole new appreciation for chevre after tasting through this farm fresh cheese!
If you're planning a trip to Provence I would highly recommend spending a day with Philippe.  The hill towns are rather spread apart and to be honest we probably would have lost interest after visiting one or two on our own.  The insider knowledge and history he provided really made the experience!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wine Wednesdays - 50 Shades of Rosé

When in Provence, it's only appropriate to do as the locals do and drink rosé!  My Chardonnay-loving mother even came around to the pink drink!

Rosé is certainly having a moment these days.  For those curious about what makes a rosé, it's a style of wine, like red or white, the color is determined by the amount of time that the juice is kept in contact with the skins.  Often it's a matter of only a few hours to get that kiss of pink.  

Provence is often thought of as the birthplace, and the gold standard when it comes to that perfect, dry, refreshing rosé.  We sampled several local producers.  

1.   Chateau Sainte Marguerite 2014 Symphony Rosé - A Cru Classe domaine located slightly further south in the Cotes de Provence.  This wine was a blend of old vine Grenache and Cinsault.  Slightly more floral notes on the nose, stone fruit and hint of the tropics on the palette.  22 €   

2.  Domaine d'Eole 2014 Rosé Six Cépages - Organically farmed and located 8 miles from St. Remy, this rosé was a blend of 6 difference varietals (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mouvédre, Counoise, and Carignan).  Slightly fuller bodied, it paired nicely with our cheese (my new favorite ash-rined chèvre).  13 €

3.  Domaine La Monardiere "Mon" Vin de Pays Rosé - This wine was also organically farmed, and uses indigenous yeasts for natural fermentation.  The domaine is located in the Vacqueyras region of the Southern Rhone Valley.  A blend of Grenache and Carignan gave it a slightly spicier edge and more savory notes.  8 €

It was fun sampling as local as possible, unfortunately many of these are limited imports, if in the States at all, but any local wine shop will have plenty of rosé to choose from this time of year!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Bucket List 2015

It's officially summer!  Hopefully the rain will see itself out now; enough with this June gloom!

Last year I created my first summer bucket list to remind myself to take advantage of this short but glorious season.  This year, with hopefully more weekends in NYC, I hope to take full advantage of this city with some fun trips planned in between, because obviously I can't stay in one place for too long.

1.  Make a signature summer cocktail
2.  Hit the greenmarket to source provisions and host a farm to table dinner party
3.  Visit the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the NY Botanical Garden
4.  Carry on with tradition and attend an outdoor movie night
5.  Sunset picnics
6.  Join the Cyclones for another bike ride
7.  Bake a seasonal tarte tatin
8.  Visit the new Whitney and have sunset drinks on the porch at Terroir
9.  Eat a lobster roll in NYC (even after all my lobster love, I've never tried Luke's or Red Hook!)

Friday, June 19, 2015

France Travels - Home Base in St. Remy de Provence

Last month Mom and I crossed the pond for our second annual Euro-tour.  After our amazing experience in Beaune last year, we decided to further indulge our inner francophiles and explore more in France.  First stop was St. Remy de Provence in southern France.  

Fresh off the plane and first sip of rosé at 8am NY time
We made St. Remy our home base for a full five days.  We spent the first 2 nights at Mas des Tourterelles, then moved to Mas des Carassins for a change of scenery.  While I loved both hotels for difference reasons, we especially enjoyed the daily breakfast spreads and ending our days poolside with rosé at Carassins, although it was a little further from the center of town and more of a hotel vibe vs. B&B.  

Our morning view from the Vine Room at Tourterelles
I loved the vintage, shabby chic vibe of our room at Tourterelles

A similar vibe at Mas de Carassins.

Our view of the Alpilles Mountains from our room at Carassins
The breakfast table at Mas des Tourterelles
We enjoyed a cooking class (more on that later), day trips to Chateauneuf du Pape, Les Baux de Provence, Villeneuve Les Avignon, Isle Sur La Sorgue, and a full day guided tour through the hill towns of the Luberon.  

Quiet mornings in St. Remy

We took daily morning walks through town including this beautiful old cemetery 
The highlight of our day trip to Les Baux, the magical Carriéres des Lumiéres exhibit featuring the painters of the Renaissance.  

Being so close to the Mediterranean, we enjoyed fresh seafood, simply grilled and perfect!
The definition of "French Blue"
We would pick up wine and cheese in town to enjoy back at our hotel before dinner.  No shortage of good chèvre!

Despite hitting 2 days of that infamous "Le Mistral" we were still able to enjoy cocktail hour by the pool.  

Strawberries in France are on a whole different level!

We took another morning drive to Villeneuve les Avignon to check out the Saturday flea market.

I love planning and organizing trips but I found it particularly difficult to narrow down our itinerary for this region within France.  There was seemingly so much to see and do, I wanted that insiders' guide and local secrets that you don't get in a Rick Steves book.  I was so happy to find Julie of The Provence Post.  She was so extremely helpful, pointing us in the right direction with hotel suggestions, restaurants, day-trips, and daily activities (she coordinated our cooking class and guided Luberon tour). Beyond her thoughtful emails and insider info, she was a gem in person.  We had the pleasure of having her join us for our cooking class, and even ended up running in to her around town later in the weekend, during which she introduced us to the local wine merchant, it's like we were locals by the time we left!  If you are planning a trip to Provence or Southern France I would HIGHLY recommend working with Julie.  She is capable of planning any trip perfectly catered to your personal taste and desires!

Stay tuned for more of our travel adventures!


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