le 30 avril 2001
The battle of
the olive oils!
aux Pianis pour une soirée
Merci, Piani family ... click
here for more photos.
of the best of Provence
Dégustations des produits du sud
What better way to spend an evening than tasting
olive oils from the Mediterranean? Because each has a different taste and
different origins, we decided to compare three extra-virgin olive oils,
one from Provence, one specifically from Les Alpilles in Provence, and one
from Assisi, Italy. Starting with a ramekin of each oil and slices of
fresh French bread, we tasted back and forth among the selections and came
up with the following consensus. The olive oil from Assisi was the most
distinctly flavorful, with a quiet start and then a peppery, almost bitter
finish. It was richer, denser and more buttery than the other olive oils.
The provençal oil, of a more generic quality, had a distinct taste of
olives but was clearly the lightest and youngest.
The olive oil from les
Alpilles (a region noted for its quality olive oils) had the clearest,
purest olive taste. Its smoothness made it the choice of one of the
tasters, but overall the Italian olive oil was deemed the favorite by the
group of connoisseurs.
For those who are visiting Provence, we've heard
that the Chateau d'Estoublon, between Fontvielle and Mausanne in the
Alpilles, offers a nice olive oil tasting at their place.
The same group of gourmands made their way to Châteauneuf du Pape for a wine-tasting and came away with a new
appreciation for that wonderful wine of kings and popes. First stop was
the cave of Baronnie d'Estouard,
where we were treated to tastes of 1996, 1997, 1998 reds, all of which
were delicious, and each distinct. Monsieur le Vigneron explained that
Châteauneuf du Pape wines are complex, made from a mix of several
varieties of grapes, each “secret” mix the key to a particular
wine’s success. He was also kind enough to give us a taste of his
Châteauneuf du Pape white, a wine which is not found very often outside of
France because of its limited production. The white was surprising: richer, fruitier than the usual whites, definitely designed to drink with
food rather than as a sipper. Its taste was delicious, and its price a bit
out of range, but a wine worth serving for a special occasion.
Next stop was the cave of the Domaine de Trintignant
(as in Jean-Louis Trintignant, the
actor who starred in the classic French film, A Man and a Woman). We
sampled two very different reds there: The first served was a 1999 that
was a hit by the nose, even before being tasted. We each bought a bottle
of that wine, better in two years but perfectly drinkable now. The other
wine was even more spectacular, but not ready yet to be drunk. A mix of 13
different grapes, made from 80-100 year old vines, its richness was
evident and promises to be unbelievably good in 5-10 years. A bottle of
that to go as well, s'il vous plaît!
Two fine reds from
Châteauneuf du Pape
Brian and Paige know what they
Chef Robert demonstrates
the rabbit, seen below finished with accompanying morille mushrooms.
It's not all work, there's
time to chat and have a glass of wine.
wonderful cooking class
Un cours de cuisine bien sympa!
Cooking class in the south of France? A must-try, and so we did on a
Friday evening at the elegant Hotel La Mirande in the heart of Avignon.
Their cooking school, le Marmiton, offers a series of classes for amateurs
and gourmands. Courses are held every morning during a specific week, with
an evening class on Friday.
Premier chefs from the area gather small groups (no more than 12) in La
Mirande's 19th century kitchen, and everyone gets to work, sip and eat!
Michael directs the school and takes a hands-on approach by attending most
of the cooking sessions himself, lending a hand when necessary and making
everyone feel welcome.
This particular Friday evening Chef Robert Brunel worked with
us to prepare a three-course meal:
de Parmesan, d'Asperges Vertes,
et Tomates Confites
Plat: Râble de
Lapereau aux Morilles
au Pain d'Épices et aux Fruits
Translation: potato pancake topped with green asparagus, shaved
parmesan and roasted tomatoes; saddle of rabbit stuffed with liver, served
with morille mushrooms; and spice cake, filled with a cream mousse, served
with fruit and a quenelle of spice ice cream. Seasonal, and delicious!
After several hours of preparation, accompanied by an
aperitif of white wine and peach liqueur, we all gathered around the large
table to eat what we'd made and sample some of the chef's choices of Côte
du Rhône wines. It was a fun and convivial evening. For more information
on La Mirande's cooking school, you can visit their website at www.la-mirande.fr.
For more pictures of the session, click
Chef Robert and
Michael prepare plates as we gather around the table to eat.
Garden Show - what a show!
Les Jardins du Sud, quel spectacle!
Take an incredible variety of flowers, plants, palms, and associated
goodies, put them together in the 16th century courtyard of an ancient
cathedral, et voilà! The Jardins du Sud celebration in Uzes is just that,
We took a few hours to stroll around the site and
take in the beautiful plants and displays. Plants, all for sale, ranged
from lemon and orange trees to bougainvilla to tomato plants to herbs to
an incredible assortment of roses. In addition, there are associated
gallery shows all over town during the month of May, and a series of
lectures on various gardening topics. It was lovely to get a taste of
French gardening, especially in this lovely setting. For more pictures
from the show, click here.
À bientôt, tout le monde!
Want to see previous editions of Armchair Uzès? Click
here for a directory...
For the Armchair Photo Gallery directory, click here...