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Armchair Uzès

la Vie Quotidienne

le 30 avril 2001
Uzès, France

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The battle of the olive oils!

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Merci aux Pianis pour une soirée de dégustation!
Merci, Piani family ... click  here for more photos.

Tastes 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!

 

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Two fine reds from Châteauneuf du Pape

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Brian and Paige know what they like!

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Chef Robert demonstrates prepping
the rabbit, seen below finished with accompanying morille  mushrooms.

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It's not all work, there's plenty of
time to chat and have a glass of wine.

A 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:

          Entree:  Galette de Parmesan, d'Asperges Vertes,
                       et Tomates Confites

          Plat: Râble de Lapereau aux Morilles
          Dessert: Charlotte 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 here...

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Chef Robert and Michael prepare plates as we gather around the table to eat.

 

Uzès 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, and more.
     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.

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À bientôt, tout le monde!

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