Category Archives: Cuisine

Michelin Starred restaurants in our region for 2015

The Michelin Guide has finally been published for this year (1st of Feb) and there is plenty of choice in our region (PACA: Provence Alps Cote d’Azur). There are only three, three-starred restaurant in our neck of woods, however: The first is Le Louis XV in Monaco, then there is the other well established Petite Nice in Marseille, then finally the newest La Vague d’Or in St Tropez. But do not expect to spend less than 300 euros per person on dinners here!

MONACO : Le Louix XV, Hotel de Paris ***

Marseille: La Petite Nice***

St Tropez: La Vague d’Or***

LES ALPES DE HAUTE PROVENCE (DEPT. 04)
Château Arnoux — La Bonne Étape *
Manosque — Dominique Bucaille *
Moustiers Sainte Marie — La Bastide de Moustiers * Continue reading Michelin Starred restaurants in our region for 2015

Cotignac’s Autumn Food Festival

The sun came out to shine on some very colourful food at stands on the Cours Gambetta in Cotignac the 5th of October. Every year at this time the village celebrates the flavours of Autumn and this year saw it’s 10th anniversary! There was also a soup competition by local amateur chefs (an American with her tomato-curry soup won this year) as well as a huge meal organised by the Tourist office and even a celebrity television chef (Ruben Sarfati) who demonstrated his culinary talents by cooking cray-fish ravioli in front of a crowd. Continue reading Cotignac’s Autumn Food Festival

Les Pins restaurant in Sillans-la-Cascade

Marlon with creamy risotto Les Pins, Sillans la Cascade (1) Lemon ravioli Les Pins, Sillans la Cascade (3) Les Pins, Sillans la Cascade (4)

With “menus” starting at 31 euros (for three courses), this restaurant is the nearest-to-Cotignac-for-gastronomic-cuisine and it’s reasonably priced to boot.  Fresh fish, beef from Coutances (delicacy) and organic vegetables are the highlights here. There is a lot of choice in the 50 cl bottles of wine too, if you do not feel like drinking an entire bottle.  Continue reading Les Pins restaurant in Sillans-la-Cascade

Cotignac Bakeries (Boulangeries)

What’s the first thing you do in the morning when on vacation in France? Go to your neighbourhood boulangerie, of course, and pick out your croissants and baguettes for breakfast. And if you do as the locasl do, you should also think ahead and buy bread for lunch and dinner as well since the bakery will close for lunch hour and not re-open until 4pm in villages like Cotignac. Continue reading Cotignac Bakeries (Boulangeries)

La Petite Marmite, Montfort-sur-Argens

This place is for the locals-in-the-know. It’s just a little restaurant but it certainly has BIG TASTE. The chef here uses the freshest ingredients and the best olive oil, it’s hard to believe how inexpensive it is. I thoroughly enjoyed the home-made ravioli stuffed with goats’ cheese and honey and drizzled with tomato and basil confetti – it was so tasty I kept thinking about the next time I’d have it again! My partner dined on a spicy steak tartare with artichokes and red onions and the biggest house fries I’ve seen since my days in America. Daily lunch specials: an appetiser and main, or main and dessert starting at just 13 euros. Do all three courses for 18 euros – a total bargain.

Les Trois Marches Restaurant

At the bottom of Le Cours Gambetta, closest to the fountain (that is just butting against the old lavatoire) is Le Trois Marches restaurant, our favourite for grilled meats (like duck with honey), pizza, and fresh home made fries that’ll make any child or adult very happy. In fact, I go there just to eat these frites because they are next to extraordinary just by themselves! Continue reading Les Trois Marches Restaurant

Chez Loli, a.k.a. La Table de la Fontaine

VERY UNFORTUNATELY this restaurant has closed in 2015. Stay tuned for news on what’s/who’s taking it over in Autumn of 2015!!

***

In Cotignac, one of the best restaurants (mid to high range prices) affectionately called Chez Loli’s, can be found on the Cours Gambetta, just across the street from the Hotel de Cours. It’s probably the only place for now that offers Lobster for lunch or dinner and the best Prawn ravioli I’ve tried since living in California!

Continue reading Chez Loli, a.k.a. La Table de la Fontaine

Pile Poêle restaurant in Carces

I really like this joint – it’s casual and it’s reasonably priced and the dishes are copious and satisfying. It’s not fine dining, mind you – more like home-style cooking but always tasty and comforting. You can bring your kids and even they’ll be treated very well (with a treat at the end!). Weekday lunch specials (a choice of main and dessert) are as low as 12 euros per person! Continue reading Pile Poêle restaurant in Carces

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a must see village

It’s one of Provence Living’s MUST VISIT villages if you visit our region yet it’s one of the least visible (on a map it is hidden behind Parc du Verdon!) making it a bit of a Provence secret. The stunning village, however, is very easy to get to from Cotignac. Plan on spending about a 45 minutes driving and maybe just a little longer in the Summer season. Continue reading Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a must see village

Living in Provence Verte – Part Three

A little piece of village life: George Vassal’s Pot-au-feu in Cotignac

I had been dying to meet George Vassal – ever since first reading about him in an article featuring him hunting his own food in a New Zealand magazine called the Wellington Guide. To me, he was one of Cotignac’s minor celebrities, keeping a low profile while giving birth to stunning pieces of art outside his front porch, sharing it for all to see on the path to les grottes, delighting tourists on their circuit just after passing through the tunnel under the medieval clock tower.

George is a talented artist/sculptor, whose iron and multi-media work (pictured below) can be seen decorating the gardens and pathways just under the cliffs and near my village house a few steps from the  place de la Mairie.

Artwork by George Vassal

And, like the article in the magazine confirms, he’s also something of an accomplished cook– he has won numerous regional soup competitions recently. George hunts his own crayfish, mushrooms and truffles. So when he invited my husband and I over for dinner one night, asking us to judge his pot-au-feu against another neighbour’s, I could not resist. When George Vassal invites you to dine on his cuisine, a foodie like me lets nothing stand in the way of attending the occasion. And my instincts were well-rewarded; I had no idea pot-au-feu was anything to write home about but on that occasion I was blown away with the discovery of what meat-in-broth could do to the senses. That parochial dish could have been awarded a medal.

George Vassal

George (pictured above) had invited other Cotignacéens to the dinner too. One couple, whose family had been here for generations, talked about the great landslide of the 1920s which happened again in the ’60s. They refuted the more popular belief that tens of people were killed when their homes were swept down the hill from the part of the cliff that fell after heavy rains. Apparently, the villagers were given plenty of warning in the form of hours of the grumbling and trembling earth underground and everyone – including livestock – were evacuated in time before their homes were destroyed. What they came back to, however, was years of clean-up and more often than not, the acceptance of their homes being no longer habitable and therefore needing covering up or leaving as is. Some of their entrances can still be seen just above stone walls that have been built to block doorways. Other building remains can be seen in the form of half-destroyed walls, stairs, or windows. They are a scary reminder of how the power of nature and inevitable passing of time can destroy the ephemeral beauty of landscapes no matter how well they may be looked after.

Cave dwellings in Cotignac

Cotignac’s cliffs are actually a troglodyte mass of passages that have grown out of hundreds of thousands of years of limescale and stalactite formations. Between the 1500s and late 1800s these cliffs provided caves (pictured below) that housed most of the village’s habitants. During the dinner I found out that we knew the neighbours living in the house that was featured in the top 10 “most original houses in France” (local channel M6’s programme that aired 22nd November of 2010).

The Caves in Cotignac

The home featured on the television show was built directly onto the cliff. The couple who own it took great care in refurbishing and decorating the interior, keeping to tradition but using colourful, Moroccan accents to curtains, cushions, etc. The mix works particularly well with dark wood – seen mostly in beams that are used to support floors and roofs in this area.

Although George’s home was a more modest version of a maison de village in its cosier spaces, it was still old-style charming and decorated with his art and hand-tiled tables. The eight of us squashed ourselves into a large table that took up almost the entire space of the kitchen floor. But it didn’t matter – everyone was in a jolly mood, filling tummies up with the hearty, blissful pot of beef and copious amounts of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

George deliberately separated the vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and shallots) to make a confit, reduced further from the broth which concentrated the flavour of the meat by taking the soupy part out of it and taking its sweetness from the starchy legumes. The beef itself (various parts of the animal not consumed as normal cuts for grilling or pan-frying) had been lovingly cooked over such a long period of time it literally melted off the bones as well as in the mouth. The other pot (his competition), of meat and veg was certainly good enough to eat…but it wasn’t exceptional.

What was George’s secret, I wondered. He wouldn’t tell me but I will find a way to bribe him one day. I must learn to make pot-au-feu like George did – it’s such a terrific way to feed the family – or even exigent guests – on a budget while feeling rich at the same time. And when I do, I’ll share it with you!

Newsflash: George can sometimes be available as a personal chef  (chef-a-domicile) for anyone who would like to try his cooking in the area. This is great news for anyone too lazy to cook for a dinner party but still wants to really impress the guests with locally-sourced-cuisine. Contact us for more info.