Anticipation is what Nutmeg would call this blog post. The labour of love required to persuade grapevines to produce their fruit year after year, is one for only the most patient individuals. Owning a vineyard and producing your own wine certainly sounds romantic, to those who might be desk or office bound. However, the reality of the yearlong process is one of hard physical labour and working with what Mother Nature delivers. Ginger and Nutmeg have certainly sampled their fair share (possibly more) of wine, while in Europe. They certainly do not pretend to be experts in the field of growing grapes, nor producing wine. There is no reason to dive into the specifics of viticulture in a blog post, as there are many experts who have written tombs on the subject. Instead, here are some ABCs around wine that will make you sound like an expert (or an idiot) and some fun facts. (more…)
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. (more…)
Eygalières is a beautiful village located in the heart of the Alpilles in Provence. The town has a population of barely 1,800 souls, most of whom live in another locale on a regular basis. The number of residents swells in the spring and summer months as the homes and hotel rooms fill. Owners and staff at the local cafés and restaurants work hard during these months serving the throngs of visitors. The setting for Eygalières is idyllic; a medieval village perched on a hill offering views of the Alpilles and Mont Ventoux. The hamlet has one bustling main street filled with three cafés, two bakeries, a butcher, two groceries, several restaurants and too many real estate agents. (more…)
Don’t let your mother tell you that the Internet is a scary place! Nutmeg has met so many interesting people via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest that she has decided to start a Guest Blog Thursdays, so they can share their stories. Volia: Aidan Larson is an American mom of three navigating her way through life in France and writing about it on her blog: Conjugating Irregular Verbs. She writes from her dining room table in the south of France in between motherhood, French lessons and perfecting her oeuf en croute. If you want to read more from Aidan she can be found on her blog site Conjugating Irregular Verbs (letters from my dining table in the south of France). (more…)
Nutmeg owes an enormous thank you to friends and family for their patience in the last several months, as they endured her chronicles of how to develop a travel application. Enfin! – Finally! Edible Heritage Aix en Provence the App, a new pocket travel companion, is for sale and ready to be downloaded to your mobile phone. (more…)
Ginger and Nutmeg have discovered that within France, Provence is the land of abundance. There is lots of sunshine, almost never ending wind, at times constant rain, olive groves, vineyards, orchards and endless markets. One could be overwhelmed by the array of choices and local flavours. Nutmeg’s very practical side has decided that given the array of local choices it is best to narrow the selection and the following are her thoughts on the essentials in a Provençal kitchen: Fleur de Sel Literally translated as “Flower of salt”. Fleur de Sel is the top layer of sea salt, it is hand-harvested before it sinks to the bottom of the salt pans. Traditional Fleur de sel in France is collected off the coast of Brittany, Ginger and Nutmeg are many hours from there, but the good news is there is lots also produced in Camargue (part of Provence). The salt appears to be slightly pinkish grey as some sand is collected in the process of harvesting. The salt is flaky in texture, and has natural potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper and iodine that occur within it. Each container is carefully packaged with a cork top and is signed by the salt-raker who harvested it. Fleur de Sel is named largely from the aroma of violet that develops as the salt dries. Herbs de Provence and Olive Oil Herbes de Provence is a traditional blend of highly aromatic herbs that grow mostly wild in the hills of southern France in the summer months. The herbs are used both fresh and dried. Typical herbs include (quantities may vary); Bay leaf, chervil, oregano, thyme, fennel, rosemary, savory, tarragon, mint, and marjoram. Sometimes for the tourist crowd orange zest or lavender are included. As a practice the herbs are used to infuse the flavour in grilled foods such as fish or meat. Often the herbs can be found in stews and or mixed with olive oil to infuse the flavors. On a recent hikes we literally felt like we were walking in a jar of “Herbes de Provence” as they grow wild through-out the region. Jams and Jellies The French are not big breakfast eaters, they love a cafe (usually just a shot of expresso) and a little bit of fresh baguette or maybe des viennoiseries (pastries…croissants, pain au chocolate, strudels etc) with some jam/jelly. In general, French bread is fantastic it is baked several times a day, and literally can go stale in between. In the morning, there is nothing better than a bit of jam on your pain. The jam is often homemade, full of sugar and outrageously delicious. Ginger and Nutmeg have been treated to plum, peach, fig, cherry, peach-melon, pear and apricot all fait à la maison – delicious on bread and even better with chèvre. There are of course many other things required for a true French kitchen but these are just some of the basics. It helps to have one of these in your back yard. A bientot!
There is no doubt Ginger is much more adventurous than Nutmeg, when it comes to food. She is not keen on foods with strange textures, that includes avocado, Jello and aspic salad. Nutmeg is very particular about her likes and dislikes; meat is well-done, eggs hard, and peas should not be eaten. (more…)
At the mouth of the Petit-Rhône in the Camargue, you find the seaside town of Saintes Maries de la Mer. It is located right on the Mediterranean Sea, with a lovely long beach and wild surf. The town was built between the 9th and 12th centuries and was a strategically important location for defense against pirate attacks. The church (Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer) is unique in both structure and height, as it is much taller than the surrounding buildings. The roof of the church at one time, served as a watchtower. Even to this day, the church is a site for Gypsy pilgrimages. Gypsies come from all over Europe every May 24th to come to pray to Saint Sara and usually leave an offering of cloth from their clothes for her to protect them through the coming year. This town in the heart of the Camargue, is home to black cows, white horses, red rice, and the recognizable Fleur de Sel. The region has a strong tradition of bull rearing and herding that dates back to the late 1800’s when Folco Baroncelli a descendant of a Florentine family settled in the Camargue. His passion for bulls moved him to become a manadier and in 1895 he founded the “Manado Santenco” in Saintes Maries de la Mer. In 1909, he established the “Nacioun Gardiano” and was very active in the development and promotion of the Camargue bull-run. Ginger and Nutmeg were invited to the very unique Festival D’Abrivado, which is held in Saintes Maries de la Mer every November 10th and 11th. Here are the fast facts: 6 km of beach riding 11 teams of riders 44 bulls 2000 horses 15,000 spectators (more…)