Archive for the 'Provence' Category

Bechard – Aix-en-Provence

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

First of all, I’d like to thank Brigitte, Jean-Claude, Caroline, and Vincent for their gracious hospitality in Provence. They went out of their way to make sure that our family experienced the best of the area, and we are all extremely grateful. They will be to thank for all of my posts (and beautiful pictures) featuring Provence…

Bechard is the oldest bakery in Aix en Provence, having opened a century ago. I tried a few things on the afternoon that we went, but as you’ll see in the pictures, I barely scratched the surface of all they have to offer… and I didn’t even take pictures of the breads and chocolates that they had in the display cases that lined the other wall of the salesroom. It’s a beautiful bakery, and worth seeking out to marvel at.

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My favorite was the pastry on the upper right, which had alternating crispy and creamy layers full of a rich chocolate orange flavor.

The baba au rhum was also very nice, if a bit moist. That was good, though, b/c I had no utensils, and it had to be eaten jello shot-style.

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The Figue had something like a custard wrapped in marzipan, and was also good.

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Glace pumpkins! That still amazes me, and I wonder what they’re like.

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Aix is known for Calissons. They’re traditionally made of ground almonds, candied melon and orange peel, and sugar sandwiched between a wafer on the bottom and royal icing on top.

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Back From France

Monday, July 17th, 2006

I wonder if it’s possible to come back from France and not be incredibly inspired to immediately race to the market so that you can jump into the kitchen and start creating food that is even half as incredible as what you saw and ate. Further fueled by the four cookbooks that I brought with me, I have such plans and cravings for the rest of this summer…. sweet tarts, savory tarts, puff pastry, bread, tomatoes, cheese, peaches, plums, sorbets, ice creams, sandwiches, ice cream sandwiches…

We started out with a week in Paris. In addition to patisseries and boulangeries, I also wanted to visit restaurants that had interesting cuisine without ridiculous prices or too much formality. This led to a glimpse into the celebrity chef phenomenon in France, since many of the restaurants that we went to were the more casual restaurants of chef-owners like Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, Alain Senderens, Guy Savoy, and Christian Constant. On the one hand, I didn’t want to be beholden to famous names, but on the other hand, why pass up a meal at a Joel Robuchon restaurant because of some vague reverse snobbery/mass commercialization ideas? And with two eligible mealtimes during the day, we also had time for restaurants without conspicuous headliners.

There were usually 7 of us at dinner, so I liked seeing all the variety of foods that restaurants, especially since I had something of an ordering jinx. So many times, my meal would be average while someone else’s would be amazing, as if we were at totally different restaurants. If only I could go back in time, I’d order so brilliantly…

We then went to Provence for a week, to a town between Aix-en-Provence and Marseilles, so we were able to spend time on the coast and inland, in villages, cities, farm stands, wineries… We also had the good fortune to be guided by wonderful friends of the family who helped show us just how special the region is.

And somehow, however much my weight may have fluctuated during the trip, I came home with only 1 pound gained (this is especially great b/c there’s a pork, chorizo, bacon, manchego, rouille, and romesco burger that I can’t wait to make very soon), but um… don’t mention the number “10” to Chad.

With 6 other people taking pictures that can be easily shared, I focused on food pictures during the two weeks. I just imported about 700 photos from my camera… I have a lot of blogging to do. 🙂

Off to France

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

The culinary school is closed for vacation, so I’m taking a trip to France –to Paris and Provence. I’ll try to post from there, but I have a feeling that I’ll just end up chaining myself to my computer when I get back to post about all the food that comes my way.

I decided to plan this trip to Paris around the usual suspects: pastry, bread, chocolate, and kitchen supply shops. I’ll probably go to a different neighborhood a day, connecting the dots between my choices and stopping off at whatever monuments and serendipitous food shops we find interesting.

I took recommendations from the web and books, and compiled a master list before going to ViaMichelin (it seems like the French version of Mapquest) and finding where they were. I then found each one on a neighborhood map in my guidebook, and added it to the map, making my own key on the margin… such is my mania.

This my list so far…

Jean-Paul Hevin
E Dehillerin
Berthillon
La Charlotte de L’Isle
La Maison de la Vanille
Le Boulanger de Monge
Sadaharu Aoki
Boulangerie Moderne
Kayser
Pascal Pinaud Boulangerie/Patisserie
Ladurée
Pierre Hermé
Poilane
Gerard Mulot
Christian Constant
Cacao et Chocolat
Jean-Luc Poujauran
Michael Chaudun
Debauve & Gallais
La Grand Epicierie at Le Bon Marche
Fouquet
Ladurée Royale
A La Mere de Famille
A l’Etoile d’Or
Rousseau et Seurre
Lenotre

As for restaurants, we’re planning on Senderens, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, L’Epi Dupin, Aux Lyonnais, and Cafe Constant, and beyond that… whatever we have room for.