This was the last time we had a chance to spend time in Provence with my Mum and Dad, my sister, our children and our nephews. Dad passed away in November 2010 and we had to move Mum and Dad near my sister in Vendée soon after this trip as Dad could no longer show a brave face against his terminal illness and Mum couldn't cope anymore with his care.
We really enjoyed our time together and had a chance to take my sister away from her care duties for day trips here and there, as far as Grasse, or closer to Lourmarin, Gordes and Oppède-le-Vieux.
In many ways, our "Week in Provence" tour will be a pilgrimage but also a celebration of all the memories of Provence I have accumulated over some decades, including time with my maternal grandparents, my parents and my own family. Of all the places I have spent time in either to live or in vacation, this is probably still the place where I really feel connected with my ancestors.
It does help that the place is beautifully varied, home of some of the best cooking ingredients on the Planet, and of some of my favourite wines as well.
It will be a great privilege to be able to let you into my private world, visit markets and places I have known since childhood and share anecdotes that only a local can share with you. Being in a group of maximum 10 people will give us an intimacy prone to sharing not only good food and wine, but also some of the emotions which this place triggers in me and hopefully this will translate in a more profound experience for you as well.
We need a minimum of ten people to get the show on the road and we need to firm up our accommodation on July 27th at the very latest. If you are thinking of joining us, then click on the link below and we will send you the itinerary.
It will be much more than food and wine...Visiting beautiful villages as well as their artisans and artists will certainly be a highlight of the trip, so don't forget your credit card, you might need it...
So come and discover the hidden secrets of Provence with a local and we will blow your mind and your tastebuds, guaranteed! We can't wait to host you in our ancestral country...
We only have a few spots left on this tour and we are now calling the second deposit (50% if you are booking now, 45% if you have already paid your 5% deposit), which is due before the 27th of June. We will call the final payment on July 27th, but you can prepay now if you prefer.
If you have been searching for the perfect place to stay in France during the European Summer, you may want to explore "Coin Secret", a French website here people rent their own properties.
We stayed in one of them in Maussane in July 2009 and you may have read about it here on our "Travel"page, where you will find our own account and photos of the great time we had there. Up until recently, it was a bit convoluted to recommend the place, but now it is easy, just a few clicks away.
Obviously, this site is also full of other great places around France and even some in Italy.
The site is in French, English, Dutch and German, so, no excuses...
Danielle Mazet-Delpeuch returns to Sydney after a 23 years absence to promote the film based on her time in the private kitchen of the Elysee Palace, cooking for Francois Mitterand - Haute Cuisine - Les Saveurs du Palais.
We had a chance to meet her after the screening of the film and then again in a more intimate setting at the Alliance Francaise of Sydney yesterday afternoon. Today she was interviewed by Margaret Throsby on ABC Classic FM and you can listen the podcast by clicking the button below.
Danielle is a vibrant 71 year old, full of life and humour, with plenty adventures over these many decades, and my guess is she is not done yet!
A few things emerged from these three contacts I had with her:
As she says herself, she is not a chef, but just a cook, but obviously not any cook, having learned the tricks of the trade from her grandmother, then mother and many other relatives and people around her over the years.
So really the English title for the film - Haute Cuisine - is misleading and the French title suits better the task at hand and the skills required. Mitterand said to her: Cook like my grandmother and I will be happy:
"Vaste programme" like this other French President, Charles de Gaulle famously answered to his Chief of Staff after he said in a moment of frustration: "Morts aux cons!". (and yes it is quite less rude in French than the English translation will suggest...Actually, I can't print it here, not to offend anyone!)
One person in the audience at The Chauvel asked her what was the most interesting to her: politics, sex or food?
She very politically answered that she was not interested in politics, letting the other two up in the air!
Well, let me tell you, Danielle is a very skilled political animal, as she has maneuvered herself across continents, social layers and various kitchens around the World with aplomb and a sense that anything is possible if you put your mind to it! Her life is certainly a testament to that...
Another interesting comment she made - and I certainly relate to it - was that to be a good cook, you need a good audience, you need "gourmands", and in this regard, Mitterand was definitely famous for his love of good food and good company, with a penchant for the feminine one...
From the moment she started her cooking classes at La Borderie - the famous week-ends foie gras - she actually attracted the right crowd, people that have been exposed to the "Cuisine Bourgeoise" either in their childhood or later in life as they became more affluent and could afford to travel in search of this authenticity attached to it.
This in turn triggers the search for the local and seasonal ingredients and the art of designing a menu with what you have in the pantry or you can source from the farm or the local market(s).
Promoting these ideas at the time she started was completely revolutionary, although today this is becoming mainstream again, and sometime to the extreme, as Chefs around the World go foraging themselves for special herbs and vegetables. Not very different from digging truffes from your own backyard or gently force feeding geese and ducks to produce delicious meat, silky foies gras and fat to cook with. Nothing was dicarded from the animal apart from the head!
A bit of trivia gleaned here and there over her visit:
It took three people to recreate her recipes for the film:
Gerard Besson, ex owner of Le Coq Heron in Paris, now owned by and renamed Kei, a promising young Japanese Chef
Guy Legay, ex Chef de Cuisine at the Ritz, and like Gerard Besson, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the highest distinction one can achieve in this trade
And finally, Elisabeth Scotto, a very famous stylist who write for Elle
The Antarticas scenes were in fact shot in Iceland - a tad simpler, closer and cheaper than going all the way to the Antipodes...
The book mentioned in the film "Eloges deal Cuisine Francaise" by Gerard Nignon is out of print, and is available as an antique for 700euros - that's almost 1000A$. I will be waiting for a generous benefactor!!!
Danielle said also that she dreamt of travelling at a very young age, and she certainly did catch the travel bug, having spent time in the USA, Australia, New Zealand (where she owns a plot of land destined to be transformed into a "truffiere" one day...), all over Asia and Europe.
Maybe the next adventure will be to cook for Virgin Galactic and Richard Branson...Stay tuned!
Danielle, thanks for your time in Australia and thanks for having shared with us some of your experience, adventures and wisdom.
Trying to put some order in the house for your reading pleasure...
Check it out now and be the first to comment!
I just joined TripAdvisor and contributed an entry to an American couple organising a trip to Provence.
I took advantage of my visit to TripAdvisor to register as "ourfrenchimpressions" and create a map of my travels...I reached 30 destinations in no time and will continue to populate this map over the coming days.
In the meantime, find the current version on my "Travel" page.
You will find there inside information on our recently visited destinations.
Hopefully, you will find useful tips and insights into our own adventures in these fabulous places
Provence, and Paris are just the appetisers!
Maitre Karl and wife Paivi have just returned from a freezing tour of Europe including Helsinki, Nuremberg, Strasbourg and Paris..
It's great to have them back in Willoughby, on the Lower North Shore of Sydney Harbour, to entertain us with their stories 0ver a well brewed cup of coffee or, even better, one of their French inspired lunches.
As they correctly promise on their website, they deliver "a petite piece of Europe" in a nice and confortable decor.
The food is classical French Bistro with an Alsacian twist. The "Tarte Flambee" is the Alsacian version of an Italian pizza on a thin crust, and my favourite main course is the "Steak Frites", traditionally served with French fries and a side salad. It reminds me of a little place I used to stop for lunch in Paris near La Bastille, down to the red wine, Cotes du Rhone served by the glass. (Maybe, Maitre Karl should introduce the Australian diner to the concept of the Carafe, a 50cl measure ideal for two....).
There is plenty choice from Australia, France, Germany and New Zealand.
Prices are very reasonable and Maitre Karl is graced with a number of ladies who lunch any day of the week and it is always a good place to come with your clients for a quick business or thank you lunch.
In the evening, families and couples are the main clients who enjoy the casual chic atmosphere. There ia always a buzz, and yet you can still have an intimate conversation.
And by the way, Maitre Karl is having a very good deal for Valentine Day! Check it out and enjoy with no moderation!
Let me finish with this quote from Jeff Collerson in the Daily Telegraph in November 2005:
"There is no hurry to go though. I reckon Maitre Karl will be around for a long time. Even in fickle Sydney!
Could not be more right, Jeff!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
A link here for our non-metric readers: