Travels

Best Eats in Aix-en-Provence, From a Local

Aix-en-Provence La Rotonde

Travel season is upon us, and I want to make sure you see and taste the best France has to offer! When it comes to Paris I’ve got you covered, but there are many other cities with exciting and delicious things for you to experience. So I’ve asked a team of French bloggers from different cities to share their favorite spots, and I am offering them to you in this new series.

In Aix-en-Provence, Clara recommends…

Clara Onuki Aix-en-Provence To explore Aix, we will be following Clara Onuki‘s footsteps ! Clara is a private chef and culinary instructor. She previously worked as a chef at hotels and restaurants before switching to freelance work. She specializes in healthy cooking and Japanese fusion, and is all about high-quality ingredients from small producers. Check out her site to know more about her services.

Aix-en-Provence, Clara says, is a lovely city where life is good. It has retained its old-world charm, with tiny cobblestoned streets, multiple greenmarkets, historical buildings, and the many fountains it is known for.

Aix denizens are true epicureans, often found on terraces (thanks to the Provençal sun!) sipping a happy hour drink, or biking around to run their errands in the small food shops.

A market or food shop: The greenmarket on place des Prêcheurs

Marche Place des Prêcheurs Aix-en-Provence

I could never live somewhere that didn’t have a greenmarket, since fresh produce is the base for all of my cooking. Here, I am spoiled: there are no less than six greenmarkets in Aix’s city center! I particularly like the Marché des Prêcheurs (opposite the Madeleine church) where you’ll find everything you need for a successful meal: local and organic fruits and vegetables, spices, and lots of terroir products!

Bonus tip: You can buy a handmade basket to do your shopping.

Where to go for sweet eats: Farinoman Fou

Farinoman Fou Aix-en-Provence

Although I am passionate about Japanese cuisine, I also love real bread! This exceptional breadmaker is only steps away from Place des Prêcheurs (in truth, Aix is such a small city that nothing is ever very far apart). The “Crazy Flourman” elevates bread to an artform, with original creations like “Les Boutons” (“The Buttons,” made with heritage wheat flour, saffron, rosemary, pine nuts, olive purée) or “Chair d’Aphrodite et puissance d’Eros” (“Aphrodite’s flesh and Eros’ power,” made with wheat flour, candied ginger, apple, fig, and fairy dust). These breads are so good you can simply eat them on their own as you walk away from the boulangerie — my favorite moment of the day!

Bonus tip: the matcha baguette on Fridays is a real treat, especially with almond butter.

Where to get tea or coffee: Plaisirs des thes

Plasirs des Thés Aix-en-Provence

Plaisirs des Thés is a traditional tea house: the owners, Guillaume and Cécilia, personally source high-quality teas from small producers in China and Japan. The range features almost 250 teas (as well as rooibos, infusions, and herbal teas) to drink or to buy.

You can also sit down at one of the small tables and drink your tea with a pastry (mochis, matcha financiers). This tea shop has earned my complete trust, and they supply the teas I need for my classes and demonstrations.

Bonus tip: I particularly appreciate the customer service here: They take the time to give kind and professional advice. And tea geeks will be pleased to know that the infusion times and water temperatures are perfectly respected.

A fun restaurant for dinner with friends: La Tradizionale

La Tradizionale Aix-en-Provence

What could be better than a glass of wine and a plate of Italian food for a nice evening with friends? Nestled on a pretty side street, La Tradizionale serves an authentic and delicious Italian fare. Here you will find well-crafted, traditional dishes made with super fresh ingredients.

I recommend their flavorful risotto, creamy but not too heavy. I also like their thin-crust pizza garnished with roasted vegetables and housemade pesto. Beyond those, the seasonal recommendations are always spot-on.

Bonus tip: you can make a reservation for a group, to celebrate a birthday for example. You will still receive impeccable service.

Lunch with co-workers: Le Môme

Le Môme Aix-en-Provence

Also located on Place Ramus, Le Mome is perfect for an al fresco lunch or an after-work drink. The short menu features a generous Mediterranean and Corsican cuisine, and you’re sure to eat well there.

Meat lovers should consider a cheese and charcuterie plate from Corsica, or the signature Corsican burger — brioche bun, ground beef, mountain cheese, fig jam, caramelized onions, fried egg, and tomato — with a glass of red wine. Otherwise, don’t miss the beautiful burrata salad with arugula, pine nuts, artichoke, and honey.

Bonus tip: everything is homemade, and it shows. I will also give a quick shout-out to the excellent pecan cheesecake, smooth and not too sweet.

Where to go for an intimate dinner with a date: Drole d’endroit

Drôle d'Endroit Aix-en-Provence

Hidden on a charming side street, this pretty restaurant is a must-visit. The ambiance is quiet yet vibrant, the daily menu features high-quality ingredients, and… the chef is a woman, which is pretty cool. The restaurant regularly displays the work of photographers, so you’ll also benefit from an art exhibition along with your meal.

For a date, I recommend you go on a weeknight and avoid Thursdays and Saturdays; reservations are a must on any day. Their vegetarian plate is a real treat, but all of their dishes are good, and the kind staff will be happy to make recommendations.

Bonus tip: there is live music on Thursday nights, and an open-mike night every month.

Wild Card Spot! Book in Bar

Book in Bar Aix-en-Provence

If there are two things I’m passionate about, it’s food and books. I grew up surrounded with books, and they hold a very special place in my life. I adore this spot, and bilingual readers will too, as Book in Bar is an international café and bookstore.

Located right in front of the newly opened Caumont Art Center, and mere steps from Cours Mirabeau, Book in Bar is a true gem with a charming, one-of-a-kind vibe. It’s the perfect place to work in peace, with a ginger lemon tea and a homemade scone by your side (the pastries are made by Laetitia, who runs House Cookies & Co., also in Aix).

Thank you so much for sharing, Clara!

You’ll find all of Clara’s recommendations mapped out below:

Do you have your own favorite spots in Aix-en-Provence? We want to hear about them in the comments below. And if there is a particular city or area you’d like featured in this series in the future, please speak up!

Photo credit: Clara Onuki.

12 Foods To Bring Back From France

What To Bring Back From France

Planning a trip to France, and not sure what to bring back as an edible souvenir for yourself, or a thank you gift for the kind soul who’s watching your dog/goldfish/child while you’re away?

I have twelve suggestions of artisanal products that are typically French, won’t break the bank — all items are under 10€ — and will actually get used and eaten in your or your friend’s kitchen when you get back.

Those are all easy to find, too. For each item I’ve recommended where to look!

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Best Eats in Lille, From a Local

Lille

Travel season is upon us, and I want to make sure you see and taste the best France has to offer! When it comes to Paris I’ve got you covered, but there are many other cities with exciting and delicious things for you to experience. So I’ve asked a team of French bloggers from different cities to share their favorite spots, and I am offering them to you in this new series.

In Lille, Izabela recommends…

Izabela Lille ConfidentialTo walk us through Lille, I’m happy to introduce Izabela Jeanneau, author of the blog Lille Confidential. She has dilligently tested all of her recommendations, and lives by the motto “Only the best!” It’s the only trilingual (!) blog in the region, available in French, English, and Dutch. Though Izabela is Parisian by birth, she considers herself an adopted Lilloise since moving there in 2009 by way of Singapour, Abu Dhabi, Jakarta and Luanda. Izabela prides herself on her unique perspective on Lille as a cultural and food capital between Paris, London, and Brussels.

In addition to her blog, I recommend you follow Izabela on Twitter and Instagram. (The photos in this post are hers.)

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Best Eats in Bordeaux, From a Local

Bordeaux

Travel season is upon us, and I want to make sure you see and taste the best France has to offer! When it comes to Paris I’ve got you covered, but there are many other cities with exciting and delicious things for you to experience. So I’ve asked a team of French bloggers from different cities to share their favorite spots, and I am offering them to you in this new series.

In Bordeaux, Bénédicte recommends…

Benedicte Baggio-Catalan of my little spoonFor our first destination, I’m happy to introduce Bénédicte Baggio-Catalan, the author behind the French blog My little spoon. Bénédicte is originally from La Rochelle, but she fell in love with Bordeaux in 2002. She created her blog in 2008, in which she shares seasonal recipes for daily cooking and for entertaining. She is currently working for the Cité du Vin, a new venue devoted to wine that will open in Bordeaux very soon.

In addition to her blog, I recommend you follow Bénédicte on Facebook and Instagram. (The photos are hers unless otherwise noted.)

A market or food shop: La Recharge

La Recharge Bordeaux

Photo: Jules Rivet

A grocery store that sells products in bulk only: you bring your own jars, bottles, and bags — no pre-packaged goods at all! They have a lot of everyday products, but I also love to find new, unexpected products. It’s local, seasonal, smart, and economical. Too bad it’s a bit far from my house; we need more stores like this in Bordeaux!

Where to go for sweet treats: Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus

Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus Bordeaux

Hasnaâ Ferreira was a contestant on Masterchef here in France. She has been through a chocolatier training and has now opened her own chocolate shop, where she offers high-quality chocolates with interesting aromatic profiles. The latest, le Venezia, features Piemont hazelnuts paired with the fabulous “Marabout” Ethiopian coffee from my friend L’Alchimiste Torréfacteur (“the alchemist roaster”).

Where to get tea or coffee: Black List

A small coffee shop on Place Pey Berland. Yes, the coffee shop trend has caught on in Bordeaux! The wooden shop is decorated with Scandinavian accents and crates filled with fruits and vegetables, and it offers a daily selection of fresh dishes and American-style pastries. But, most of all, it has good coffee!

A fun restaurant for dinner with friends: Mampuku

Mampuku Bordeaux

Meaning “full belly” in Japanese, Mampuku is the latest restaurant from the Miles team. While they are not physically in the kitchen, their team delivers with the same spirit: creative, fresh, and convivial, with dishes that blend Asian, Mediterranean, and European inspirations. You don’t order your own dish here; rather, you order many small plates for the table to share. It’s the best place for relaxed yet refined finger foods in a lively setting.

Where to go for an intimate dinner with a date: Garopapilles

Garopapilles Bordeaux

Chef Tanguy Laviale had his heart set on opening a welcoming, home-style restaurant, in the most noble sense of the phrase, while still offering a cuisine that is refined and personal. Tanguy offers a single surprise menu with two appetizers, a main course, and a dessert that he creates and modifies frequently. I also love their wine selection. Truly one of the most inspiring restaurants in Bordeaux right now.

Wild Card Spot! Chez Boulan

Chez Boulan Bordeaux

Photo: Chez Boulan

Natives of the region know oyster producer Boulan for his unique oysters from Le Cap-Ferret, and now he has his own restaurant in Chartrons, a neighborhood in Bordeaux. There, chef Pierre Rousseau cooks a marine-inspired, fresh, innovative cuisine. I’m still dreaming about his raw sea bass with yuzu, ginger, cilantro and almonds, paired with mushrooms confit in sake and a runny egg yolk. It’s rare to get such good seafood in a city setting.

Thank you so much for sharing, Bénédicte!

You’ll find all these addresses mapped out below:

Do you have your own favorite spots in Bordeaux? We want to hear about them in the comments below! And is there a particular city or area you’d like featured in this series in the future?

Terroir Products: What to Eat in the Jura

Montbéliard cows, just chillin'.

Montbéliard cows, just chillin'.

This is a guest post written by Anne Elder, my wonderful intern, about the recent class trip* she took to the Jura. The photos are also hers. Take it away, Anne!

When I drive through France, the roadside signs always make me feel like I’m about to meet a celebrity, bearing names of towns I only know from the perspective of my tiny Paris kitchen, and the labels on my favorite foods.

I felt that very excitement traveling through the Jura, a French region that’s just south of popular oenophile destination Burgundy, but one that is oft overlooked by tourists. It is a lush mountainous region near the Swiss border, where the land lends itself to the production of many delicious terroir foods.

The concept of terroir is pervasive in French cuisine (and increasingly in America, too), dating back centuries.

Eating a produit du terroir means you are indirectly tasting the ground in (or on) which it was made — tasting the soil, the climate, the craftsmanship. This notion ranges from cheese, and how the hay eaten by the Montbéliard cows impacts its flavor, to wine and how the precise fusion of soil and climate and skill meet to grow grapes that are pressed into such a complex beverage.

Jura is a goldmine when it comes to seeking out terroir. Equipped with rain boots and notebooks, my classmates and I were determined to learn how to taste France. We drove over hilltops, past rows of sapins (spruce trees, which are cut down into boards where the cheese will be left to age) and stayed in a gîte, a no-frills guest house.

During our five days there, we were afforded the opportunity to see the cheese production from the farm to the aging cellar, taste wine still ripening in oak barrels, and sample many more local recipes and products cooked by gracious hosts.

If you are able to travel to Jura on your next trip to France, here are the terroir products you must not miss.

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