These days it seems rare to find a restaurant and feel like it deserved every penny you spent on it but this one’s a true gem and I’m so happy to be sharing it with you.
It takes about 35 minutes to get out to Saint Maximin from Cotignac. There’s little traffic after 7pm during the week and during the Summer so it was a pleasant drive. When we got there the sun was still out and the light was a lovely gold. We parked in the lot next to the Credit Agricole bank (rue Mirabeau, easy to remember!) and strolled across to rue Maréchal Foch where we were pleasantly surprised by the double entrance to the restaurant which was fully air-conditioned. It was a very hot day and just as heavy in the evening so that felt like a relief.
We were greeted by a typical French hostess/waitress (that means not outright friendly but reserved) that allowed us to choose our table. She brought over some aperos (little toasts with tapenade), some warm bread, and asked us if we would like a drink to start. We ordered a 50ml bottle of Saint Marguerite rosé (La Londe), my partner ordered a starter of the Mozarella buffalo, we each ordered a main dish of sautéed Iberic pork, and finished with a baked peach with strawberry ice cream. There was not one fault in this meal, it was simply sublime. The mozarella was perfect, the pork was succulent and absolutely delicious (10 out of 10), and the dessert was perfect, everything was home made, even the wine was fantastic. Our final bill came to 84 euros. Worth every cent so of course I highly recommend this place but book early as they book up even during the week and I’m not surprised.
The only negative point for me, personally, was the decor. The purple chairs were okay, but the purple themed flower paintings were just ugly. And the background music that sounded like elevator music from the 80s wasn’t the best choice and maybe a restaurant consultant would notice these things but the good food made up for all these little details, honest!
La Table de Bruno, 2 Avenue Maréchal Foch, 83470 Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume
The last time I was at this restaurant was in 2006 when I wrote a review of the then 4 star-auberge at Chateau de Berne (which is now a 5 star establisment). I had been invited to spend the night at the newly decorated suite at the auberge and since it was the first night they opened, the gastronomic restaurant was closed for the evening, so they suggested we try Le Chrissandier in the village. We were not disappointed, my husband and I each ordered the beef filet with truffle sauce and it was divine.
So it had been a while since I dined here but the restaurant’s reputation seems to have kept a high standard. Their Trip Advisor reviews are very good overall but I was surprised by the kitch decor: every single table (on the outdoor terrace) was decorated with fake (ie, plastic) red and white flowers. It reminded me of Christmas. Add to that the green and white striped shirt I was wearing and I felt much like a mint flavoured candy cane. Then when I ordered their special dessert of Mojito sorbet covered in Rum, well, you get the completed festive visual!
The first course of my 32 euros menu (formula of appetiser, main, and dessert) was a plate of scallops pan fried and covered in a light but sweet sauce and this, I admit, was pretty darn good. Then came my duck though and my first thought was “wow, that’s sliced pretty thin.” There must not have been more than 50 grams of duck on my plate if you put all the slices together, but it did look attractive fanned out on the plate with a cylinder of what I thought was Dauphinoise potatoes but turned out to be baked pasta (surprise!). The duck was covered in soy-based sweet sauce and so I couldn’t really tell if it was properly cooked “medium rare” like I wanted it. It just showed no colour at all. But with portions so small it was easy, of course, to enjoy my dessert of what they called “Mojito ice-cream” but it was more a sorbet in rum with real mint leaves on top. It was very good.
The service at the restaurant was “would-be-formal.” The waiters tried really hard to mimic Michelin starred and properly trained staff but you can tell they were very young and just starting or were temporary Summer staff. The dessert course took over 30 mins to serve but everything else was well timed. All in all, I give this restaurant a 7/10. If you are in the village and want to treat yourself, I recommend it. But at 84 euros for dinner (2 persons) just be warned, it’s not cheap.
Restaurant Le Chrissandier Telephone: 04 94 67 67 15 18
Blvd de la République
83510 LORGUES (just opposite the town hall)
Provençale summers are all about spending long hours dining outdoors whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner – especially dinners! So what do we all eat around here? Well, I’ll share some of the best meals I have had, al fresco, with local friends both French and international. Cotignac is blessed with great weather but we also have a diverse population. Although 60 per cent are over 65 years old, our international residents and secondary home owners are a good chunk of the people here. Twenty percent are from Scandinavia, England, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and even Australia and Canada. Add to that my own cultures of American and Japanese and you get a melange of different cuisines too, which is a bonus. It’s always most economical to cook yourselves of course (as opposed to going out to restaurants) and although it’s work to entertain guests it’s always so enjoyable to relax with friends and family members that make you feel loved and appreciated for the gift of food and good wine.
In the Summer the best meals come with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and here in our local weekly markets you can find very tasty organic and locally grown produce in abundance. Melons, strawberries, flat peaches, apricots and of course grapes are all sun sweetened here. I have raspberries growing in my garden that I pick all Summer long. Apples, pears, and figs come at the end of August and can be eaten alongside fresh goats’ cheese or with parma ham, or just on their own. I turn our pears and apples into tarts and cakes and they last for months in the freezer. I love being offered home made jams made with blackberries or figs and these are quite typical to make here. And who can forget barbecues with marinated pork, chicken, beef, and lamb – succulently delicious. People here like to rub their meats with herbes de Provence: a mixture of sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and rosemary. Just smelling the grilled meats reminds me of good times in the Summer evenings next to the pool.
When we get lazy and cannot fathom the idea of baking (too hot), we usually go to the local bakeries and buy cakes and miniardises (little after dessert treats). It’s so easy and not expensive and since it’s local it doesnt feel too much like cheating! The bakeries in Cotignac are Lou Gourmandises at the Place de la Mairie and Fournil de Pascal in the Place Neuve.
I am so grateful to the wonderful people I have met here and continue to socialise with on a regular basis. Personally I love to make sushi and share my knowledge of Japanese cuisine with my local friends as there are no Japanese restaurants close by. So you’ll see some photos of my own creations too.
I hope some of these photos will give you some idea of what we eat around here and maybe inspire you to cook or simply prepare some aperitifs and simple meals (so much Summer food is more about preparing than cooking with heat) to enjoy with your guests whether in your own home or on vacation.
Bon appetit! -Susana
At the third annual Cotignac Rosé Festival local producers (Nestuby, Caseneuve, Clos la Menardière, and the Vignerons de Cotignac) joined forces with Mirabeau-en-Provence for a sumptuous evening of music, dancing, food, and heaps of the finest rosé wine. The first glass (imprinted in pink with “Cotignac Rosé Festival ’18”) becomes a collectible for just three euros and included a choice of wine. Top ups cost just 2 euros, making this a very reasonable and convenient way to try the crème de la crème of Cotignac’s finest!
The crowd included locals and visitors, wine buffs and council members, and children too. There was a food truck serving burgers and fries, stands with local specialties like pissaladière, and the restaurants served themed menus and cuisine that went well, of course, with rosé. And the now very popular DJ Nick Boot spun out tunes from the 80s and 90s rock, pop, and disco, making the party atmosphere truly memorable.
There were volunteers too, that made the event one that brought out the true spirit of commaraderie and village unity!
The Rosé Festival aims to make the public more aware of the subtleties of fine rosé, a great deal more sophisticated (there really is an art skill devoted to creating them) than the more run of the mill and less refined rosés that are generally consumed by locals for daily consumption in boxes, for example. Provence rosés really are the best and continue to enjoy their popularity currently exploding and being enjoyed by exigent wine lovers all over the world.
For more information on the participants, check out their websites:
Mirabeau-en-Provence (in English and French): www.mirabeauwine.com
Vignerons de Cotignac (in French) : http://www.vigneronsdecotignac.com/
Clos la Minardière (in French): http://lamenardiere.com/
Domaine de Caseneuve (in French): https://www.vigneron-independant.com/domaine-de-caseneuve
L’Ecole du Sens (in French): https://www.terrisse.eu/
Stay tuned to Provence Living on Facebook (www.facebook.com/provenceliving) for information about the next Cotignac Rosé Festival 2019!
One of the best symbols of Provence is not just a vision but an olfactory-sensory-voyage to the land of purple heaven! So many people swear that the intoxicating fragrance from lavender helps one relax and get some deep sleep. I’m not sure about the scientific findings for this but I’d believe it!
From Cotignac you can get to the fields in about 45 mins (drive north) – you’ll pass them on the way to Moustiers Ste Marie if you’d like to combine that spectacular village visit (go North West via Aups, Moissac Bellevue, and Baudinard). But remember, they are only in bloom from around mid June to end of first week in July every year. This year (2018) we had more rain over the long Winter and Spring, allowing them to go darker later, and as I type (2nd July) I can see they are still in their prime!
Did you know that lavender do not last long? Once planted they need replanting every 4 to 5 years. Bonne nuit 🙂
It’s the now famous and very popular Rosé Festival here in Cotignac and if you are a fan of rosé (um, who isn’t?) then it’s one party you do not want to miss. This year the fun takes place on the 18th of July, a Wednesday evening (to get over mid-week) and the “high” will take you straight to your weekend because you’ll have had a fabulous time and may even be a bit fatigued, lol. Mirabeau (mirabeauwine.com) hosts this event in collaboration with local producers who all bring out their top wines that make everyone seem to ooh and aah and dance the night away to DJ Nick Boot’s catchy tunes from the 80s all the way up to more recent funk and pop.
Last year’s fête saw Cotignac in grand party mode for a full seven hours. We loved all the pink-clad men and women, the groovy tunes and finger foods like burgers, crêpes, Italian sandwiches, and many other yummy stands. For three euros anyone could buy a glass with their choice of rosé wine (and get to take their souvenir glass home). Two euros topped the glass up. The ambiance and the decoration, the great wine and music combined really got everyone in such a good mood it was a joy to be part of, even though yours truly here worked her butt off.
La vie en rosé is alive and well in Cotignac! Photos here from 2017 to entice you all to join us on the 18th July this year 2018.
This is the best way to do a day trip to Moustiers-Ste-Marie from Cotignac:
Head in the direction of Aups via Salernes from Cotignac. If you go on a Wednesday or a Saturday you can stop by the fabulous Aups market in the earlier part of the morning (better chance to find a good parking spot). Then head to Moustiers via Lac St Croix on the East side (the fastest way to get to Moustiers) and you’ll pass the emerald green lake on the left. You’ll also go over the bridge at Quinson that overlooks the pedalos and canooers heading into the canyon waters which is spectacular. You can park just after going over the bridge and walk carefully over to take some photos on the bridge here if you like.
When you arrive at Moustiers, keep climbing to the second level where there is ample paid parking spaces if you get there just before lunch hour. Then head into the village and dine at any of the restaurants overlooking the stunning waterfalls. We had lunch at the Treille Muscates where the pasta with foie gras sauce was absolutely amazing.
From the second week in June, the lavender starts to bloom (it stays purple until about mid July) and you can take the road leading out of the village of Moustiers that goes through the fields. Then follow the signs back to the Lac Ste Croix then Baudinard to Aups (you’ll have done a circuit drive coming down the West side of the lake). You’ll be back in Cotignac by 4pm if you don’t hang around too late in Moustiers shopping, or you can stop and take a dip in the emerald waters. Either way, it’s a really ideal way to see this “must do” part of the Verdon park we’re so famous for in the Var. From Cotignac, Moustiers Ste Marie is about 45 mins to an hour’s drive.
A local favourite, this restaurant has greatly improved over the last year in my personal opinion. I am also hearing more and more stories of positive experiences from visitors which makes me very happy. La Table des Coquelicots has an extensive menu but their new week-day special formulas (called “menu special”) include three courses for just over 15 euros. I could not believe the price so I had to try it. To my very pleasant surprise it was copious and delicious. Last week I had a salad and quiche starter followed by stuffed chicken (stuffed with sausage), pilaf rice, and a beautiful crême caramel for dessert. I paired all this with a glass of dry white local wine (extra cost of just 3 euro) and the coffee was also included. You cannot beat this quality for the price, I highly recommend the newly improved La Table des Coquelicots restaurant which also has a nice garden wine bar in the back!
La Table des Coquelicots, Cotignac: 10, Cours Gambetta, 83570 Cotignac Tel: 04 94 69 46 07
Perched on a hill, the old village of Fox Amphoux does not have a lively atmosphere but the views from the old prison roof are worth the detour! There is parking just at the bottom and you can take a leisurely walk up hill (not steep) and go around the circuit, stopping at the old prison. There is a sleepy Auberge here, next to the church and the most gorgeous Acacia tree, that has some pretty impressive reviews on Trip Advisor (called the Auberge du Vieux Fox) and a couple of restaurants just below and away from the village (Table de la Fanette and Chez Jean, the truck stop/hunters’ den). It’s only 10 km away from Cotignac and an easy 12 mins’ drive so do stop by if you’re on the way to say, Regusse, the Verdon, Montmeyen, etc. You can also come back via Sillans La Cascade for another walk down to the double waterfalls they are famous for (2 km round trip). There are a couple of cafés and a restaurant, Les Pins, in Sillans.
What impressed me the most about Fox Amphoux is how clean it was. The locals here are obviously very house-and-garden-proud, meticulously cleaning and restoring the old medieval houses regularly. Big thumbs up!
A stunning “immersion exhibition” of art inside the quarries of Les Baux de Provence, this is a must stop in Provence. This season’s collection features Picasso and the Spanish Masters which follows last season’s Dutch Rainassance artists Hieronymous Bosch, Pieter Brueghel, and the Italian Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
Les Baux de Provence is approximately one hour and forty five minutes’ drive from Cotignac.
For gorgeous photos, videos, and more information in English about the current exhibit click here. Or go to: http://carrieres-lumieres.com/en/home
Tourtour is set on top of a windy hill (elevation 900 metres) with sweeping views all the way out to Frejus and the Mediterranean with the Mount St Victoire between. The population is just under 500 but the locals are a tight knit group who put on one of the most amazing festivals (fête de l’oeuf or the Egg Festival) over the Easter weekend every year. You’ll find activities for children, live entertainment and restaurants participating with egg-themed menus. There are also food stands if you want to go “cheap and cheerful” with plenty of places to picnic (like next to the church, with a great view). The trees in the village are decorated to the max with colourful, hanging eggs and it’s a really pretty sight.
Tourtour is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France and is well worth a detour when not too cold or windy. The little streets through the village houses are so full of charm and the restaurants serve simple yet freshly made food that of course goes rather well with a nice glass of chilled rosé or anything really. The gastronomic restaurant here is called La Table and the international couple who run it have some very good reviews.
Tourtour is about a 25 minutes’ drive from Cotignac, via either Aups or Villecroze (faster).
Food ‘Amour is stirring a buzz around the area for its outstanding cuisine (refined, gastronomic – worthy of a Michelin star in my opinion). The restaurant opened four years ago but already they are having to turn away diners at the door for being booked up. I had lunch there last Thursday (March 8th) with some lady friends and we were very satisfied with the 25 euro menu that included a main, dessert, coffee, and petit fours. The friendly chef (who runs his restaurant with his pasty chef wife) even offered us two separate amuses bouches that were delectable: a curried chicken with sour cream mousse in a light cone, then crayfish ceviche on toast! Our mains were steemed cod on bed of leeks and other winter vegetables with a sublime leek sauce, I could have eaten two portions. These days they are closed Mondays through Wednesdays but the rest of the time they are open for lunch and dinner. Food’amour almost always celebrate holidays like Valentines, Mothers’ and Fathers’ day, Easter, Christmas, etc, with special menus that are drool worthy. In my humble opinion this is one of the best restaurants in the Var. And frankly we are waiting for them to move to Cotignac.
Indoor and outdoor dining in warm weather (next to main church). Food ‘Amour 4 rue Pierre Blanc 83690 Salernes Tel: 0981 93 19 49
It rarely snows in Provence. In the 16 years I have lived in the region I have seen it snow just a handful of times: in 2012 (2 days), 2013 (2 days) and on the 2nd December 2017 (lasted less than one day) and the big Siberian snow just recently from the 26th of February until March 2nd. Continue reading Snow in Provence 2018
The new La Tarente in Cotignac is open for lunch and dinner and from April they’ll be open all day long! In the Winter they specialise in “cuisine montagnard” so fondus, raclette, etc. But they have a rather extensive menu and my kids were thrilled with chicken in basil sauce and cheese on toast (served with salad and fries). They also have pretty good pizzas. Dinner for four including 4 glasses of wine, 2 sodas, a dessert of 4 apple tortons (shared) cost 91 euro. That’s about average for our village. For reservations contact: email@example.com or 04 94 04 75 31. Continue reading La Tarente restaurant under new management 2018
As a village in the Var with a particularly high proportion of elderly population, Cotignac would like to attract as many young families as possible to live and enjoy the Provençale life here. By young, we mean with young children aged between 1 and 10. Continue reading Wanted : young families to live in Cotignac!
A more direct route to the Medieval Towers at the top of the limescale cliffs (called the Rocher here) is via the newly restored chemin des Escaillons. Continue reading Walk up Chemin des Escaillons in Cotignac
On a sunny clear day, this hike is hard to beat! To walk the entire circuit my husband and I took about an hour and 10 mins but we were walking pretty quickly. Continue reading Circuit hike up to Chapelle Saint Blaise in Le Val
Winter is an ideal time to walk around port towns like Sanary-sur-mer, just near Toulon in the Var. The sun was shining, the skies were blue and there were few tourists mulling about. It was a Saturday in February so most shops were open and the large open air market was full of choices for fresh produce. Continue reading Sunny Sanary-sur-mer
Happy new year! If you’re like me, you’re a bit fed up with all the drinking and partying of the month before and ready for a detox and healthy start to the new year 2018. What better way to start then but with a nice walk in the January sunshine (it was rather warm at 13 degrees C) by the lake, just 35 minutes’ drive from our home village of Cotignac! Continue reading New Year’s day walk in Bauduen (Lac St Croix)
I once had the invitation to do a write-up about Chateau de Berne back in 2006 in exchange for a night in one of their suites and a dining experience. It was the first of March and they had just reopened for the season. Back then it wasn’t as luxurious but the service was excellent and the establishment was eyeing for higher sights. Ten years ago the “auberge” was more cosy and less classy but the accommodation very comfortable albeit neo-provençale in decor. Continue reading Luxurious pampering at Chateau de Berne’s spa in Lorgues