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Tempting the Taste Buds of Young Travelers in Provence
Lynda Zuber Sassi
Foods of Provence that will turn your children into "foodies"!
Whether you're a serious gourmand or not, one of the highlights of a holiday in Provence is the food. I challenge anyone to spend a week in the land of the sun and not return a little bit of a food snob. For adults, whiling the day away poolside while sipping rosé after a trip to the local market to pick up fresh, seasonal specialties is the recipe for a perfect holiday. So what's a parent who wants to have a culinary holiday to do when traveling with kids in tow?
In Provence the solution is simple, take the kids along and tempt their taste buds! After all, there are no chicken nuggets or jell-o pudding cups here. So, instead of acquiescing to complaints and long faces, hit the road and introduce the young ones to new and unique foods and flavors.
The easiest place to start is at one of the many daily markets that occur in villages throughout Provence. Stroll through the streets and look for interesting and unusual things to sample. Stop at one of the cheese vendors and taste a stinky or tangy fromage; ask the butcher for a bite of regional charcuterie; buy seasonal fruit that has been picked that morning and savor the first luscious bite. Are the long faces gone? Have the kids become foodies yet?
It shouldn't take long for the realization to occur that things taste different in Provence. Real food, straight from the farm, that hasn't been pasteurized, chemically treated, or preserved is tasty – not to mention healthy.
On the way back to the car, drop into the boulangerie and buy a fresh baguette to eat with some of the goodies you're sure to have bought in the market and for a sweet treat, visit the patisserie and indulge in a pain au chocolate or brioche du sucre.
If the market isn't enough to satisfy your appetite go directly to the source from where the bounty comes; take a drive and visit local farms and shops for more tasting fun.
La Vallée des Baux is a region that has earned AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlle) for its fine olive oils. Stringent guidelines are imposed on the growing and production of the oil and as a result; several of the world's best olive oils are produced here. Some of the mills are open for tours, where you will learn about growing, harvesting, and pressing olive oil and making olive related products like tapenade and soap.
Le Moulin du Calanquet in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence offers tasting and cooking courses, Mas des Barres in Mausanne les Alpilles offers tasting, and Moulin du Mas St.-Jean in Fontveille has a small boutique where they sell their "AOC de la Vallée des Baux" olive oils.
A trip to Provence wouldn't be complete without indulging in copious amounts of fresh, unpasteurized goat cheese. Many types of goat cheese (cow and sheep cheese too) can be found and sampled at the village markets.
For a good family excursion, head to the farm, see goats roaming the fields and hills, and learn first hand how goat cheese is made. Both private and daily drop-in tours are available at some farms.
Les Roves de la Jacourelle is located at the heart of the Rhone mountain range, on a road which leads to the Sainte-Anne-de-Goiron chapel. When driving there, watch out for the Rove goats! These animals have become acclimatized to the area although they are usually found in the Rove massif near Marseille.
Chèverie du mas Doutreleau. For the past 20 years, Claudine and Yves Malbosc have been tending their Alpine goats and making cheese on their farm in Saint Martin de Crau. Private tours include meeting the goats, learning about the production of the cheese, and of course, tasting!
Visit an artesian honey producer at a village market. There's at least one in attendance on each market day. Taste the different flavors - rosemary, thyme, lavender, wildflowers, and select personal favorites. If the honey vendor speaks English or if you speak French, ask about the different places around the region where they keep their bees and how that impacts the flavor of the honey.
The village of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is the home of Joel Durand Chocolates. Mr. Durand is famous for his handcrafted chocolates infused with fruit, floral, and herb flavors. His ganache, infused with 32 flavors, is perfectly sinful. In addition to tasting the delicacies in his shop, private chocolate making workshops can be arranged.
Also in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and a few doors down from Joel Durand, step into Le Petit Duc for a sampling of sweet and savory cookies. The inspiration for these little deadlies is a porridge recipe dating back to 200-300 BC. There are sweet cookies with unique shapes and intense flavors and my personal favorites, the savory shortbread biscuits, infused with thyme, rosemary, olive, and fennel and meant to be served with champagne as an aperitif.
Chocolate and Cookies
For the best of both worlds under one roof, visit Croquettes Aujoras in Avignon, a biscuit and chocolate factory that offers daily guided tours and tasting. Experience first hand the steps in the process of biscuit and chocolate making.
Hire a Chef
For the ultimate in culinary experiences, hire a personal chef to spend the day with your family. Meet him at one of the larger outdoor markets and take a guided tour of his favorite vendors from whom you will sample and buy the provisions needed for an afternoon cooking lesson and meal. Once shopping is complete, return home and don your apron – everyone will be instructed by the chef in a cooking class followed by a family feast while the chef does the dishes!
Market Days in Provence
www.moulin-du-calanquet.com: Moulin du Calanquet, olive oil tasting and cooking classses in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
www.chocolat-durand.com: Joel Durand, chocolate in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
www.petit-duc.com: Le Petit Duc, cookies in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
www.portes-ouvertes-aujoras.com: Croquettes Aujoras, biscuit and chocolate factory in Avignon
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