France

Chicken Pastis: Liquor cabinet cookery

Chicken Pastis: Liquor cabinet cookery

As most of our readers have already surmised, we are first and foremost wine drinkers. But we are also travelers, and sometimes the taste of place comes from a headier libation. Over the years, we have accumulated a liquor cabinet of spirits, apertifs, cordials, and what David's father used to call “snorts.” (When the last of the sipping whiskey was gone on a Sunday afternoon and the stores were all closed, he'd invariably go to the mixer cabinet and announce, “Let's have a snort!” Sometimes that meant an evening of Drambuie or anisette, but too sweet was better than dry.) Some of the bottles shown above are more than mere snorts. They make excellent sippers by themselves. It's just that we don't sit around sipping...Read More
Lavender and chevre speak French on the North Fork

Lavender and chevre speak French on the North Fork

Lavender by the Bay could not be better located. It was one of the first farms we encountered as we drove from the Orient Point ferry docks into the agricultural stretch of Long Island's North Fork. In mid-June, the English lavender was just beginning to bloom. This pretty, fragrant spot made a welcoming introduction to the region. The farm boasts 80,000 plants on 17 acres. When the French lavender bursts into bloom around the beginning of July, you could think that you are in the south of France. That's where the French-born patriarch of this family-run operation spent his summers. Fortunately for us, lavender also seems to thrive in the salty, sea air of Long Island. The fields may be the big draw, but it's...Read More
Finding a sprightly pairing for Boizel Brut Réserve

Finding a sprightly pairing for Boizel Brut Réserve

Champagne is the acknowledged queen of sparkling wines, but every regal house has its signature. Boizel champagnes from Épernay show an elegance and finesse that stems from using hand-harvested grapes from the top crus and blending the still wines of each year with wines reserved from the previous two harvests. This produces a year-to-year consistency that makes the non-vintage bottles best representative of the house style. Three years of bottle aging on the lees adds additional complexity. So when we acquired a Brut Réserve that had been disgorged at the end of 2016, we weren't quite sure what to pair with it. This particular champagne gains its floral bouquet from 30 percent Chardonnay, its lean structure from 55 percent Pinot Noir, and a delicious fruitiness...Read More
The lavender lady of Aix champions the scent of Provence

The lavender lady of Aix champions the scent of Provence

“This is the 'gold of Provence.'” a lovely older woman exclaimed us as she handed us each a sachet so that we could inhale the minty-floral aroma of lavender. To us, the purple blossoms are the signature scent of Provence. But, according to Béatrice, not all lavender is the same. She insisted that the best is grown in the fields surrounding the ancient fortified village of Sault in the High Vaucluse. She is dedicated to spreading the word. “I want to keep the tradition alive,” the former French teacher told us. “The family has been growing lavender for 400 years. The soil and sun around Sault impart unique flavor.” Béatrice's table at the Tuesday produce market in Aix almost overflowed with sachets stitched from traditional...Read More
Sun-splashed markets make Aix a shopper’s dream

Sun-splashed markets make Aix a shopper’s dream

Just 45 minutes north from Marseille by train, Aix-en-Provence is incredibly cute and utterly Provençal. It almost seems fabricated by a clever group of artisans to send tourists home with suitcases full of the accoutrements of French country design and the ingredients for the celebrated cuisine of the sun. Since it was our first opportunity to visit one of the great market towns of Provence, we scheduled our trip for a Tuesday for the broadest range of open-air markets. Also available on Thursdays, the produce market, flea market, flower market, and textiles and crafts markets are less crowded during the week than on Saturdays. Or so we were told. It's hard to imagine if any more people could have crowded into the mostly pedestrian streets...Read More
Seeking supreme couscous in North African Marseille

Seeking supreme couscous in North African Marseille

The North African caste of central Marseille had us jonesing for a great couscous before we left town. We investigated a number of casual and posh spots before we simply took the suggestion of our landlady and of the server at La Marsa. Everyone seemed to agree that we should go to La Fémina (1 rue du Musée, 04 91 54 03 56). Founded in 1921, it is one of the most established North African restaurants in Marseille. North African doesn't mean Arab, though, explained Mustapha Kachetel, the fourth generation to operate the restaurant. His family are Berbers from the mountainous Kabyle region of northern Algeria. There's no question that the food is authentic—the recipes come from his great-grandmother. The family orientation continues—a fifth generation...Read More
Marseille swirls with scents and sounds of North Africa

Marseille swirls with scents and sounds of North Africa

If we were placed blindfolded on bustling rue d'Aubagne, the scents of ginger, cumin, and mint and the liquid sounds of Arabic spoken around us would convince us that we were in a North African kasbah instead of the streets of France's second-largest city. That cosmopolitan worldliness is part of the allure of Marseille. It is a global city in the midst of the region that gave “provincial” its name—Provence. To locate an immigrant culture in any city, we always look for the food market. The main thoroughfare of Le Canebière assumes a North African accent a few blocks uphill from the Vieux Port. A jog east onto rue d'Aubagne suddenly immersed us in the immigrant district. A few streets up, a jumble of carts...Read More
Provençal rosé cries out for pissaladière

Provençal rosé cries out for pissaladière

Sometimes the wine demands a departure from the best-laid plans. With a pretty upscale version of Provençal rosé on hand, we racked our brains for flavors of the Provence countryside. But we couldn't bring ourselves to make a lavender pizza. So we did the next best thing. We adapted the classic flatbread snack of the Riviera to a pizza-like round topped with onions, black olives, and anchovies. It was a match made in heaven—or maybe in Nice. The wine: La Combe Rosé, Château Roquefeuille Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire The 250-acre estate of Château Roquefeuille sits in the heart of Provence at the south end of the Sainte-Victoire valley. A gorgeous pale pink, La Combe Rosé embodies a very different style than the Fleurs de Mer...Read More
Maison Empereur is Ali Baba’s cave for foodies

Maison Empereur is Ali Baba’s cave for foodies

Julia Child reportedly lamented her husband Paul's transfer from Paris to Marseille in the early 1950s, but she took solace in the cuisine of Provence. Perhaps she had already assembled a full kitchen battery at E. Dehillerin in Paris (edehillerin.fr). If not, she also had the riches of Maison Empereur (4, rue des Récolettes, +34 04-9154-0229, empereur.fr) at her fingertips in Marseille. Tucked into a corner of old Marseille a few hundred meters from the Old Port, this “hardware store” (quincaillerie) founded in 1827 claims to be the oldest in France. More than 90 percent of the products sold at Maison Empereur carry the Enterprises du Patrimoine Vivant label, a certification of excellence in traditional artisanry and industrial processes. Yes, you can buy nuts and...Read More
Pastis: the heady sip of Marseille

Pastis: the heady sip of Marseille

Amid all the shops selling olive oil soap in Marseille, we almost overlooked La Maison du Pastis (108, Quai du Port, Marseille, +33 (0)491-90-86-77, lamaisondupastis.com). True to its name, the delightful little shop specializes in the anise-flavored liqueur that is popular in Marseille and throughout southeast France. Pastis was widely promoted in the 1930s as an alternative to the more potent absinthe, which had been banned by the government. That way, the French could continue to enjoy an anise-scented “apero” or apéritif before dinner without the brain and liver damage linked to La Fée Verte (the Green Fairy). A few large producers dominated the pastis market for the first half-century or so. But by the 1980s, a number of boutique producers began to infuse different...Read More