Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Four Days of Rosés

On a wet gloomy Wednesday last week, New York City's Meatpacking District was transformed into a little corner of Provence, thanks to the delegate of 16 Provencal winemakers who flew in to Manhattan host a series of tastings and events called Four Days of Rosés. The restaurant Fig and Olive--a large, pretty space with rosemary growing in tall planters and a Mediterranean menu--spread out a buffet of French cheeses and charcuterie while the winemakers poured from their best bottles, mingled with the press and generally spread a bit of Provencal sunshine around the cobbled streets of the city's far West Side. Among the wines being served were rosés never before poured in the States, now available in New York and other U.S. wine markets. The event was sponsored by the CIVP/Provence Wine Council, which represents more than 750 Provence wine producers; combined they make 95% of the region's AOC wines. I happened to be in New York at the time and was delighted to have been invited…to taste some fabulous rosé, to meet the winemakers and to schmooze around with Provence wine experts such as Francois Millo, director of the CIVP.
Rosé wines, it seems, are enjoying a “global rebirth” with sales of dry rosé in the U.S. growing eight times faster than table wines in general. France is the worldwide leader of rosé production, of course, responsible for 28% of the world’s rose. More than 85% of French rosé comes from Provence, home to France’s oldest vineyards. Rosé now accounts for 86% of all wine produced in Provence. The CIVP visit coincided with the news that a controversial European commission initiative, if approved, will accept the “blending” of red and white wines to produce rosé. The EU referendum is scheduled to be ratified on June 19. The CIVP, along with the French government, is strongly opposed to the proposal, arguing that proper and authentic rosés are produced only by a special technique that includes briefly macerating red grapes and removing the juice before it becomes heavily colored. The French government has said that it will bar the new production practice within France regardless of the EU’s legislation. Polls indicate that 87 % of French consumers oppose the EU plan.
Wednesday’s event was designed for the press and the turnout was predictably great, with writers from the New York Times, Wine Spectator, Food Arts, The Wall Street Journal and other publications turning up. Subsequent events were being staged for the wine trade--importers, distributors, retailers, restaurateurs--and a number of tastings for consumers were also scheduled. For more info about Provence rosé, check out the CIVP’s new site: www.winesofprovence.com.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jewish Cooking in Provence

My friend Joan Nathan (www.joannathan.com) is a Washington, D.C.-based author who writes about food for the New York Times. She’s almost done with her 10th book, a history of Jewish food and cooking in France, which will be published next year by Knopf. From May 4th to 8th, Joan will be in the Vaucluse area on her final research trip, and she’s looking for any information on the cooking of the Jews who have lived in Provence for centuries, including the Juifs du Pape, who were allowed to live in France under the protection of the Avignon popes. If you have any info or resources to share, Joan would love to hear from you by email (nathan4221@aol.com) or phone (home 202-966-8769; cell 202-422-3927).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Trevallon Tasting

On Saturday, April 25th the St. Remy wine shop Entre Terre et Verre will host a Grand Vertical Tasting of Domaine de Trevallon Wines, with Eloi Dürrbach from the Domaine de Trévallon and François Perrin of Château Beaucastel. Included will be 15 vintages of red and three of white. Halfway through the tasting, a buffet of charcuterie and cheese will be served. The event, which starts promptly at 4 p.m., will be held at the Hotel les Ateliers de l'Image, in the heart of St. Remy. Price: € 95 per person. For those who would like to spend the evening, the hotel is offering special rates. For info or to reserve: info@lacave.eu, 04-90-24-95-84.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Provence: A Photographic Journey

For 26 years, award-winning fine-art photographer Elizabeth Opalenik has taught weeklong summer photo workshops in Provence, bringing a group of students with her from the States. This year, for the first time, she plans to conduct a four-day workshop designed specifically for locals or travelers already here in Provence. The base will be St. Remy and the dates, June 26th to 29th, 2009. Elizabeth just wrote to tell me that there are a few spots left and that she needs to fill the class in order to make it financially feasible...she asks that anyone interested please get in touch so she can decide one way or another. Elizabeth is also willing to move the class to Aix, if that's more convenient. Meanwhile, here's more info. “I first arrived in Provence in 1983 to assist a photo workshop and like many, I fell in love,” Opalenik says. “In my 30-year career as a photographic artist, I can truly say that Provence has been the biggest influence on my vision. Besides my love for the region, it’s the sense of community that keeps me coming back. I’m hoping this workshop will help strengthen the community of locals who share my passion.” The group will meet on Friday afternoon to share photos and stories; Opalenik will discuss light, which she calls “the basis for all beautiful images.” A field trip will be followed by dinner in a local restaurant. Saturday and Sunday will be devoted to shooting, critiques and lectures on portraiture, “finding the beauty in your own space,” using infrared film and digital infrared and working with models. The course will include daylight, twilight and night-shooting sessions and one live-model session. Opalenik will share her portfolio and also discuss her experiences in the French photo community. Monday will be devoted to reviewing what’s been shot and discussions on editing, print presentation and handmade books. The day will finish with an afternoon photo session. “The focus of the class is making images,” Opalenik says, “but also sharing our collective knowledge and finding your personal vision. There will be lots of laughs, good meals and new friends as you continue your photographic journey in this incredible part of France.” Tuition is 400€, which includes four meals, field trips and model fees. For more info or to register: http://www.opalenik.com/, http://elizabeth@opalenik.com.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Perfect Parisian Pied a Terre

My friend Rona Gindin, an Orlando-based travel writer, just returned from a quick trip to Paris with her husband and kids. She found a great cheap hotel, the Caron de Beaumarchais, and was happy to share the info. 

As we were unloading our bags from the cab, a gentleman scurried out of the Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais and asked, “Are you the Gindin family?” The service was that personal at this quaint 19-room inn, a great inexpensive spot to lodge in Paris. The three-star hotel has everything a budget traveler with standards would want: clean rooms, modern bathrooms, good mattresses and helpful service. Add on a charming antique-filled lobby, individually decorated guest rooms and an excellent location--at the tip of the Marais district, near Notre Dame--and you have the whole picture. The only downside: rooms are very small. But the value is terrific: rates begin at 130€ per night, with better prices off season and for longer stays. The hotel's website is here.

*Note from Julie: I recommended this hotel to my friend Michael Foley, a Chicago-based chef and food consultant, who stayed there in November, 2011. I asked him recently if it offered good value for money and if he would stay there again. He says: "Yes, yes and yes. It has a location that offers surrounding cafes, bars and restaurants, easy access to the Metro, well situated for walking tours and interesting true Paris living, not as touristy as many more-populated areas.  Plus, it's very comfortable. I have been thinking over and over of traveling back to that specific hotel the first time chance I get." 

*Update from Julie: Huffington Post has published a list of "16 Affordable Paris Hotels." You can read it here

*Update October 2012: A new list of boutique hotels in Paris under 200€ appears in Conde Nast Traveller here.

*Update December 2013: Friends just emailed from Paris, where they're staying at the Novotel Gare de Lyon and recommend it highly for the price and the location very near the Metro.

*Update Jan 2013: For a cheap hotel near CDG Airport, friends recommend the Only Suites Hotel. Book online for cheapest rates.

*Update April 2013: My Paris based friend Ellise Pierce recommends the Hotel de Fleurie. She says "It's a good one for cheap Paris hotels….it's not fancy but it's right off the Blvd St. Germain and the staff speaks english and is really nice."  

*Another update April 2013: My Paris based friend Carol Gillott recommends the "very cheap" two-star Hotel Dupleix. Very old style Paris for 55€ with wifi and TV..."

*And while we're on the subject of Paris on a budget, you might check out this Feb 5, 2014 story: Top Ten Ten Budget Restaurants and Bistros in Paris.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Two-Course Meal Deal

The Châteaux & Hotels Collection (formerly known as Châteaux & Hotels de France) is a group of 500 or so privately owned, one-of-a-kind restaurants and hotels throughout France. Ten years ago, chef Alain Ducasse took over the group’s management, upgrading its standards and burnishing its image. Today, the group represents some of the country’s finest restaurants and hotels, all of them independently owned, all devoted to using the best local and regional products. And now the group has launched its second annual lunch promotion, called La France Re[cuisinée]. I have no idea what that means, actually, or why they put brackets in there...and neither do my French friends. But who cares? Until May 15th, close to 100 CHC members are offering a two-course lunch, Monday to Friday, for 28€. Choose a starter and main course or a main and dessert; most likely it will be a set menu. The list of participating restaurants includes some of Provence’s top spots: Au Table du Sud (Marseille), Le Saule Pleureur (Monteux), La Bastide de Moustiers (Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, pictured above), Hostellerie Berard (La Cadiere-d’Azur), Hotel Vallon de Valrugues (St. Remy), the Hotel l’Abbaye de la Celle (La Celle en Provence), La Maison Jaune (St. Remy), the Auberge de Noves (Noves) and the Mas de Peint (Le Sambuc). For a complete list and more details: http://www.chateauxhotels.com/france-recuisinee/index_FR.php

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