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la Vie Quotidienne

avril 2005

Nîmes celebrates the olive
Journées Méditérranéennes de l'Olivier

Hard to believe spring has come around again. It’s been a long winter, with so much snow everywhere. But the signs of spring abound, and this annual renaissance is woven into traditions and festivities all across France.
     One such springtennial event occurs in late April in Nımes, this year April 22-24. For a long weekend, the esplanades and parks near the Jardin de la Fontaine bustle with activity during les Journées Méditérranéennes de l'Olivier, a festival that celebrates the olive. Among the gathering dignitaries and participants are la Confrérie des Chevaliers de l'Olivier du Languedoc Roussillon, a group of dedicated olive-lovers whose mission is to defend and support the olive tree and all the spiritual and material riches it brings. Awards for taste, production, patrimony, and creativity are given to current members, and new members are inducted at this time with great fanfare.
   It’s fun, it’s festive, it’s fruitful. You can stroll around the park looking at displays about olive production, try samples of olives, olive oils, and olive products; perhaps find an olive-themed decorative item or something made of olive wood; buy an olive tree for your garden, watch competitors and les confrères in action. As an added bonus, many of the restaurants around town have olive-themed menus during this time, so it’s a great chance to sample creative dishes prepared by local chefs using local products, always worthwhile.

It's all about olives in Nîmes in April...
just ask these two confrères!



 

     As an aside, although the simple olive of Languedoc may seem common, you should know that it wants to follow in the footsteps of its upscale neighbors, Nyons, Les Baux, Haute Provence and Nice, all proud owners of AOC designation for their olives. In 1999 the Syndicat (union) des Oléiculteurs du Gard reserved “de Nimes” for an appellation d'origine contrôlée designation in the future. This should mean we can look forward to an A.O.C “Olive et Huile d’Olive de Nimes” sometime soon. And they’ve got their eye on getting an AOC for the tasty green picholine as an “olive de bouche,” an eating olive. On va voir!



Serviers serves up l'Olivier
L'Olivier  - bon restaurant  à Serviers
We can’t speak of olive trees without mentioning one of our favorite restaurants in France, l’Olivier (the name means olive tree). This charming spot in Serviers/LaBaume, just a few kilometers outside of Uzès, is on our must-eat-at list when we’re in the area. We love the creative menu, the delicious food, the accomplished chefs (father and son, Odino and Numa Domenichini) and of course, Anne-Marie (wife and mother), a most gracious and knowledgeable hostess.
     Our first experience with Odino, Numa and Anne-Marie was on a cold, rainy, late autumn day. It was midweek, off season, lunchtime, but we called to reserve, always the polite and proper thing to do with a good restaurant in France. We arrived promptly at 12:30, and were seated in a warm, inviting room that radiated the promise of good cooking. But it was quiet. We were the only ones there. Were we missing something? Did we not get the memo?



Restaurant, rooms and
gastronomic products
 

 


Numa and Odino,
son and father chef team
 

    As we spent more time in France, we discovered that it’s not unusual to be the only clients for lunch in a nice restaurant. In a way it becomes a grand performance by the chef for you and you alone. We came to love the personal attention, although our first experiences as sole customers were somewhat uncomfortable.
    Regardless, that first visit Anne-Marie made us feel welcome and at home, making the entire experience chaleureux. She started out by offering us the house aperitif, champagne with a splash of amaretto; she answered our silliest questions about what was what, why this was served in this way, where this product came from; and she was infinitely patient with our fractured French language and our American ways. Toward the end of the meal, Odino, le grand chef, came out to greet us and regaled us with tales of Paolo Conti, Oscar Peterson and American jazz. We’ve been back many times, and we're always treated like royalty and returning friends.

     Food offerings at l’Olivier change with the season and always include a menu dégustation (tasting menu) that is a work of art in itself. You can check out their current menu and wine list, which are in French (they don’t want to damage the spirit of the dishes by translating them into English) at www.l-olivier.fr. Regardless of the season, the food is impeccably prepared and presented, and they have one of the finest cheese selections in the area and a wine list with gems from small caves in the region. They've added a few beautifully decorated rooms for rent, and are now offering for sale their homemade breads, pâtés and other goodies. You can find out more online, but you can’t taste the food that way. You’ll just have to go there...and we recommend that you do!
 

 


Warm dining rooms, elegant food,
impeccable presentation...
c'est l'Olivier.

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