Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cezanne, Pastis - yes, it's Provence

Just mention the word "Provence" and I can SMELL the lavender and remember the wonderful dinners served up by George Germon and Johanne Killeen of Al Forno (which was next to our restaurant years ago) who have a second home in Provence. 

"It's the place that dreams and magazine spreads are made of. Where everything is beautiful, and soft, and smells good. Like a movie, only better", says Tony

Did you know that Provence was actually a very poor place for most of it's history? That it has a hot dry Mediterranean climate (it's adjacent to Italy) and was pretty much worthless for large scale agriculture?  Maybe that's why it's got that laid back, easy lifestyle. And of course there's ----- THE FOOD.

Back to the episode. For some reason, Tony really wants to stay in this incredible villa during their stay and in return for the digs (and the pool that comes with it) he offers to cook a meal for his local friends. He spends a full week learning about the foods, culture and cooking style before beginning this task.

Tony learns to make an aioli sauce (yum - I LOVE garlic and olive oil). This simple dish, is not quite as simple as Tony thinks, since the woman preparing it, won't even cook outside, because the wind might affect the dish. Lucky Tony get to have this delicious sauce served over fish and vegetables.

Back to his TOUGH life. Tony heads out for drinks at Bar du Marche for wine, cheese and sausages with the locals (an early Sunday morning tradition). Talking with the guys and bantering about the food in Provence versus food int he rest of France until the WIVES SHOW UP. This I like! The women come and pick up their men - PARTY OVER!

Ah, the laid back Provence life - Ricard over ice, bread and tapenade - and a family history lesson from Tony's friend Anne. If you've ever had Ricard, you'd know how refreshing it is (and it's supposed to be very good for your digestion).

If you've ever been to France you've probably seen the men playing a game called Pétanque (it's like Bocce). I've seen the men playing on the Champs de Mars, but I hadn't realized that game originated in Provence, and they're VERY serious about it!

Next it's on to a tour of a winery at Domaine de Val Joanis. The rocky soil  forces the grape vines to work harder and grow deeper,making the wine quite distinct.

Finally, Tony is ready to cook for his friends. When doing his shopping, he runs into Anne (well, he goes to her dessert shop) and tries Calisson: a classic almond dessert. Tony tries his hand making dessert  before he starts making dinner. "What was I thinking?" is the theme of Tony's meal. Of course he stumbles around the kitchen, trying to figure out how to use the appliances. Still, heirloom tomato salad, roast leg of lamb, and an unusual Ratatouille sound PRETTY GOOD to me!

For a little No Reservations fun

Don't forget to tune-in Monday, March 22nd, at 10 E/P. I may just prepare myself a SPECIAL  meal for the occasion. I'm thinking a nice bouillabaisse served over some freshly crusty bread.


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