It is Saturday morning in the Luberon village of Cucuron, Eric Sapet the chef and owner of la Petite Maison is enjoying a few minutes of social time over a pause-café with friends. He has a busy day ahead there is a 25-person cooking class focused on girolles (chanterelle mushrooms). And the restaurant is fully booked for both lunch and dinner.
G&N love these theme based cooking classes at la Petite Maison. Clearly, based on the number of attendees for the courses they are not alone. After five years of programming Eric Sapet has developed a loyal following.
Arriving in Cucuron, a small medieval town dating from the 11th century was a combination of hard work and chance for M. Sapet. He was classically trained in his field in Paris at l’Ecole Hôtelière. Once the scholastic course load was finished, the long kitchen hours began in earnest. He spent 11 years working his way through the ranks in some of the Grands Restaurants Parisiens including the Michelin 3-star la Tour d’Argent. The path of his cooking career wandered from famous Parisian kitchens to a Relais et Châteaux in the Ardèche before he was attracted to the popular village of Lourmarin in the Luberon, in 2005.
La Petite Maison was once just that – a private residence. The charming building dates from the 19th century. The restaurant is situated, in the heart of this working village, right next to an enormous rectangular etang (pond) shaded by plane trees. In 2007, the house was converted into a restaurant. An old structure in a medieval village translates into a tiny kitchen and equally small prep area. Wood paneled walls and period photos surround the dining tables adorned with crisp, white table linens and china place settings, a classic backdrop for Eric Sapet’s inventive cuisine.
The morning’s cooking class is followed by the opportunity to sample the creative menu over a long, lazy lunch – accompanied by excellent wine pairings. Nutmeg was able to borrow a few minutes of M. Sapet’s precious time to ask some questions.
G&N left Cucuron after an exquisite lunch, with a few new recipes and cooking tips. The only thing missing was a hammock for an afternoon siesta.
Are you going to book a cooking class or a table at La Petite Maison?
1. La Petite Maison
1. Ginger and Nutmeg
2. Ginger and Nutmeg
3 & 4 Courtesy La Petite Maison
How does the unlikely combination of an Egyptian born chef and a Montana banker end up in St Remy de Provence?
In David’s own words, had they read Peter Mayle’s book before they bought the property and decrepit 200-year-old farmhouse, they probably would not have gone ahead with the transaction. The year was 1985.
Ginger and Nutmeg have had lots of visitors in Provence this year. Nutmeg likes to think that her blog posts planted the “seed” that enticed them all to book their plane tickets. In reality, her friends are well travelled and do not need her help to convince them that Provence is exceptional in the summer.
G&N love all the foreign visitors, it is a marvellous chance to show off the region, discover some new towns and introduce new friends to old ones. One such occasion happened last week at a cooking class with Nutmeg’s talented friends Ghyslaine and Jacques. You can read last year’s post here.
Ginger’s whole family was in Canmore to celebrate belated birthdays and the New Year ahead. The house was full and there was lots of buzz around the first day of kiddie ski lessons. Just try to imagine 500 kids starting ski lessons on the same day.
Nutmeg awoke that morning with a minor version of the modern day plague – a head cold. She chose not to battle the kids and parents at the hill, but rather to stay home quietly with Jade and wait for the chef to arrive.
Nutmeg is a bit embarrassed to admit that after many months in France, they have barely explored all of Provence. The departments within Provence are all beautiful and vastly different. The departments include Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhone, Var and Vaucluse. So much to visit! Clearly a break from their holiday was in order!! Nutmeg booked two nights in a lovely chambre d’hotes (B&B) called Les Quatre Saisons near the village of le Castellet, in the Var. Le Castellet is a medieval village dating from 1153. It is a fairly well preserved town on a hill, so there are magnificent views from the top. The town buildings are highly picturesque. Les Quatre Saisons is easily accessible from the major regional centres, and it is a true oasis.
The weather was smoking-hot, reaching 32C under cloudless skies. Patrice cool, calm and well practised in the kitchen. He and his partner Didier ran a small Parisian bistro for nine years and then a restaurant on the coast for a few more. The twosome are both originally from northern France, they are now fully integrated southerners. They embrace the use of local, seasonal ingredients and where practical focus on organic (bio) products. When Ginger and Nutmeg arrived peaches, apricots and lavender were all in season. After a delicious breakfast with homemade jams, seasonal fruit compotes, fresh bread and hot coffee, they were ready for a cooking lesson.
Patrice and Didier have created a delightful home and a welcoming resort for guests. This pair has it figured out, each one plays their preferred role in the “ballet” of running a successful chambre d’hotes. Didier takes care of the rooms, his attention to detail shows in the heavenly bed linens, private balconies, discrete breakfast tables and tasteful decor. Patrice’s domain is la cuisine. The cooking lesson involved preparing all the courses for that night’s dinner.
Following the cooking class, Nutmeg suggested it might be a marvellous idea to visit the beach and attempt to cool down a bit. The coast is beautiful and not yet too crowded in June.
The evening meal was excellent from start to finish. There is no way to choose a favourite dish but given the fact that peaches were in season Nutmeg would like to share this remarkably easy recipe for Tiramisu aux Peches.
Who would not be inspired by this view?
Whether your passion is art, music, food or something else it would be hard not to feel the urge to be creative. Ginger and Nutmeg were very fortunate to spend two days with Marc Heracle in his beautifully appointed kitchen at Chateau D’Arnajon. The Chateau is located in the village of Le Puy Sainte Reparade. Marc’s focus is on traditional Provençal style cuisine. Traditional methods pre-1900s did not include dairy, butter or refined flours. The cooking methods of the time used olive oil, almonds, olives, citrus and spices that were (and still are) found in abundance in the region. Marc’s style is relaxed as he shares his knowledge and practical experience. He encourages participation and is happy to share some stories.