Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mandarin Oriental Now Open in Paris

The long-awaited, much-anticipated 138-room Mandarin Oriental, Paris officially opened June 28th. It’s at 251 rue Saint-Honoré, in the first arrondissement, with the Garnier Opera, the Louvre and the Tuileries all close by. 

The company worked with an international design dream team including architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte (renovation of the building, facade, patio), Sybille de Margerie (rooms, spa, public spaces) and Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku (bar and restaurants). And speaking of dream teams, the chef is none other than Thierry Marx, previously at Châteaux Cordeillan Bages, the Relais & Châteaux in Pauillac, France, where he has held two Michelin stars since 1999. (Marx is the hotel’s “culinary director,” overseeing all restaurants and bars.) The GM/director is Philippe Leboeuf, previously of Claridge’s (London), where he had been GM since 2007. The hotel has two restaurants and a bar: Marx’s signature 45-seat Sur Mesure; the all-day Camelia (95 seats plus a 10-seat counter), and the 74-seat Bar 8. There’s also a Garden Table (six to eight guests) and a Cake Shop, where the wizardry of exec pastry chef Pierre Mathieu is on stage all day. The sommelier is David Biraud. An expansive inner garden courtyard with year-round al fresco dining is a prime feature of the property. 

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Paris, at 900 square meters, is one of the city’s largest.  Open to guests and non-guests, it has seven private suites, all equipped for hydrotherapy and heat treatments, a large indoor pool and a fitness center.  The hotel also has facilities incorporating state-of-the-art technology for meetings and private events.

Room rates begin at 762 ($1,082). The "'Jaime Paris" opening offer is available for stays between July 17 and August 28, with rates from €765 that include a €300 credit per room or €500 credit per suite that can be redeemed in the hotel's spa or restaurants.

For info: mandarinoriental.com/paris/ or  +33 (0)1 70 98 73 33 or mopar-reservations@mohg.com.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Win This New French Cookbook

How can anyone resist a cookbook with the words “French” and “Easy” in the title? I mean, after all the food trends that have come and gone lately…after nouvelle and molecular and modernist cuisine…after fusion, sustainable, locavore, organic and vegan…gluten-free and carbon-neutral and low-carb and no-carb…after all that good and noble politically correct food…doesn’t a warm soufflé or coq au vin or bouillabaisse or beef bourguignon just sound so appealing right now? 
 
Does to me.
 
When Richard Grausman wrote At Home with the French Classics in 1988, it received rave reviews and sold close to 100,000 copies. And now, just this month, Workman Publishing has brought out a revised and updated edition with the new title French Classics Made Easy. The back of the book says it offers “a simpler, better way of French cooking” and I sure can’t find anything wrong with that.

If you have the original, you may not need the new. But if you don’t, this is an extremely inviting book, with 250 recipes made from ingredients readily available at the local supermarket. Recipe titles are all in English, followed by complete French translations. Many are illustrated with step-by-step techniques. The instructions are so clear and the measurements so fail-safe, in fact, that the recipes are used in culinary classrooms across the country. “If a high-school student can whip up poached salmon with beurre blanc, so can you,” the author says.
 
When possible, Richard has cut the amount of butter, cream, egg yolks, salt and sugar--without compromising the essential nature of the dish. No recipe made it into the book without passing test after test: Is it really delicious? Is it too rich? Too sweet? Too heavy? Too costly? Does it take too long to prepare? If the answer was yes, then he ditched it--or adapted it until it was more in tune with today’s concerns for taste, time, health and calorie counts.
 
So how do the new and old versions of the book differ? In the new one, for example, a few recipes were omitted such as lotte (monkfish), which is now endangered. He also left out Veau Orloff, “because the cut of veal I used is sooooooo expensive today, no one would make it.” For the most part, however, it’s not so much the recipes that have changed but more all the terrific content surrounding them.
 
So who is Richard Grausman anyway? He’s a Cordon Bleu-trained chef and was that famed cooking school’s first ambassador, teaching under their auspices all over the U.S., in Paris and on the French Riviera from 1969-1985. One of America’s foremost culinary instructors, he’s been working to make French cooking accessible to home cooks, chefs and culinary students for more than 40 years. He’s also a writer: his recipes and stories have appeared in scores of publications including the New York Times, Food & Wine Magazine and House Beautiful.
 
Lately, however, his energy has been focused heavily on the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), the non-profit organization he founded in 1990. C-CAP works with high school teachers and their underserved students in seven states and, with the help of some 600 industry professionals, has trained more than 12,000 students. C-CAP has also awarded $34 million in scholarships and donated $2.7 million worth of supplies and equipment to classrooms.  The program and one of its teachers in
Philadelphia was highlighted in the Emmy-nominated documentary Pressure Cooker.
 
The new book has a clean, easy-to-follow design. It has a nice chunky feel and a glossy wipe-able cover. It has no photos but I don’t think you’ll miss them. Plus, short snappy sidebars will bring you up to speed: the best skillets to use, how to prepare a lobster for grilling, how to truffle a chicken, what to look for if you’re thinking of buying a professional-style range and much, much more.
 
“It’s my hope that this will be a new book for a generation or two of new, young cooks and readers who haven't known the flavors of the classics,” Richard told me. “And I’ve heard from people who are happy to have this edition to replace their well-worn original.”  All royalties will go to help C-CAP.
 
OK, on to the free stuff! The fine folks at Workman Publishing are giving away three free copies of French Classics Made Easy to the readers of Provence Post. Simply leave a comment (by clicking comments below) and we’ll pick the winners next week. Make sure to let us know how to reach you. Otherwise, you can buy the book on Amazon by clicking here.
 
Bon App and Bon Chance! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monte Carlo Stars in New Summer Comedy




Comment dit-on "Chick Flick"? In the new summer romantic comedy Monte Carlo, three young American women use their savings for a long anticipated dream trip to Paris, which turns out to be a bummer. Then one of them is mistaken for a spoiled British heiress (don't you hate when that happens?) and before they get the chance to reveal their true identities, they're whisked off to Monte Carlo where they have a whole bunch of charming misadventures--and tons of fun. ("Polo? How hard could that be?") A bit of trivia: Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts were originally the stars of the movie, but the producers decided they wanted a younger cast. Monte Carlo comes out in the U.S. on July 1st. For release dates in other countries, click here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Must Read: A Return to Provence



Nicholas Delbanco and his wife, Elena, lived in Provence as newlyweds; they returned recently to celebrate their 40th anniversary. His moving, beautifully written then-and-now story ran in the New York Times this week and I didn't want you to miss it--you can read it here. If you love Nicholas' writing like I do, you may want to pick up a copy of his 1989 book Running in Place: Scenes from the South of France, available in a 2001 paperback edition on Amazon here.

Photo: Ed Alcock for The New York Times

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Boutique Hotel on the Île de Ré


OK so this this has nothing to do with Provence...but it's new and sounds extremely inviting so I thought you'd like to know. The owners of the 20-room Hôtel de Toiras, a Relais & Châteaux and the first five-star hotel on the tiny island of Île de Ré, opened a sister property last week: the nine-room Villa Clarisse. The two hotels are just a short stroll from each other. And guess what? Pierre-Yves Rochon did the interiors. He's the very-fancy French designer who did some of the most-famous hotels in the world, including the Four Seasons Georges V, the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo and the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, to name just a few. 
Villa Clarisse occupies a beautiful 17th-century house in the heart of the port of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Charente-Maritime. Surrounded by 17th century fortifications, Saint-Martin-de-Ré is a sliver of land jutting into the Atlantic, 19 miles from La Rochelle. La Rochelle, in turn, is just off the Atlantic Coast roughly halfway between Nantes and Bordeaux. The Île de Ré has been linked to La Rochelle by a 1.8 mile bridge since 1988 and is known for its wonderful beaches, biking, hiking, forests, salt marshes and more. 
All Villa Clarisse guest rooms are a minimum of 30 square meters. All feature original, working fireplaces and views over Saint-Martin. The hotel has a heated, open-air pool (open year round), a hammam and a spa with treatment rooms set within the hotel gardens. 
Villa Clarisse serves breakfast, tea and light meals during the day. Guests are encouraged to eat their main meals at La Table d’Olivia in the Hôtel de Toiras where the modern French cuisine of exec chef Thierry Bouhier is enhanced by a consulting arrangement with the Michelin two-star  restaurant Coutanceau in La Rochelle. The seasonal menu changes daily. Guests may book gastronomy packages that include lunch at Coutanceau and dinner at La Table d’Olivia.

Rooms at Villa Clarisse start at €175. Their website may not be fully operational yet but you can try it here. To reserve, go to the Hotel de Toiras website here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

One Really Interesting Thing After Another...

The Photos Are Coming! The Rencontres Begins July 4 


I wanted to give you all the heads up on the annual international photo festival in Arles known as the Rencontres. This is one of the major events on the summer arts calendar in Provence. The Rencontres encompasses gallery exhibits, slideshows, seminars, workshops and more. I'll do a longer update soon but in the meantime, you can get all the info in English here.

Hotelier On the Loose in Provence


Lausanne-educated hotel director seeks hotel (or other exciting) position in Provence, preferably in or near St. Remy. 20-plus years experience managing four- and five-star properties. Fully bi-lingual in French and English. For more info, click here.

Cooking Class for Teens

Mas de Cornud in St. Remy has a few spaces left in their July 7 cooking class for young adults ages 12 to 18. Called "Les Jeunes dans la Cuisine,” the class starts at 9 a.m and will be taught in French by chef/owner Nito Carpita. (Nito, who is French/Egyptian, speaks excellent English but prefers for students in this class to have a reasonable grasp of French.) The menu will be based on fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, some of them harvested from the gorgeous Mas de Cornud gardens. The apero and lunch is at 12:30 and parents and friends are welcome. Students pay 150€ per person for class and lunch. Parents/friends pay 70€ for lunch with wine. I've taken classes with Nito and she's a terrific teacher. Plus, the kitchens (indoor and outdoor) at Mas du Cornud are divine. For more info: mascornud@live.com, 04 90 92 39 32 or mascornud.com.


French Government Announces Palace Hotels


The French Government announced in May that eight five-star hotels have been awarded the distinction of "Palace" meaning “among the very best among the top hotels” in France.  In Paris, they are Le BristolLe Meuricele Parc Hyatt Vendome, and the Plaza-Athénée. Outside Paris, they are L l’Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, Les Airelles and Le Cheval Blanc in Courchevel and the Grand Hotel du cap Ferrat in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (photo above). The new Palace category was officially created in November 2010 to continue the development of the new hotel classification system established in 2009. The deciding jury, headed by Académie Française member Dominique Fernandez, was comprised of members of the media, architecture, and hotel groups, among others. The rating is valid for five years. 

Discounted Pilates Getaway in St. Remy 


Carlos Stelmach and Olivier Coste Renoult have a few spots left in their weeklong Pilates-themed getaway in St. Rémy (June 25 to July 2) and to fill them they're offering a 10% discount. You'll stay in an eight-bedroom home with a large pool, nestled among olive groves and pine trees in the hills just outside town. Days begin with viennoiseries, juice, coffee, and tea, followed by a Pilates session. Then the group heads off in a mini-bus for the day, visiting sites such as L'Isle Sur la Sorgue for the Sunday market, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Les Baux, Eygalières, the ruins of a Roman town, the abbey where Vincent Van Gogh stayed and kayaking at the Pont du Gard. You return home for another Pilates session, followed by a Provençal dinner at home (most evenings). Pilates sessions are in English. For more info, click here or go to coeurdeprovence.eu. You can also see videos of some of the destinations on Facebook

London to Avignon in Under Six Hours
From July 9 to September 10,  Eurostar, the high-speed train service between the UK and mainland Europe, is offering direct weekly summer services from London St. Pancras to Avignon, in the heart of Provence. The Saturday-only service is direct and does not require a change; it leaves St. Pancras at 7:17 a.m. and arrives at Avignon Centre at 2:08 p.m. The return train leaves Avignon Centre at 4:24 p.m., arriving St. Pancras at 9:09 p.m. (Other days and times connect in Lille or Paris.) Eurostar says to book early "to avoid disappointment." Tickets start at £109 round trip. For more info, click here. If you plan to spend a night in London on either end, consider staying at this stunning just-reopened St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, which I wrote about here.

Party Like an Expat in Paris

There's an Expat Boat Party happening in Paris and you're all invited! It's Friday June 24th at 8:30 p.m. and all the info is here.
Room to Rent for Festival d'Avignon
Michelle Victor has a large bedroom with private bath to rent in her gracious home in Villeneuve-les-Avignon, just across the Rhone from Avignon. It's available July 1st to 14th, 2011, which coincides somewhat with the Festival d'Avignon (July 6 to 26). The price is 1,050€ per week (7 nights), breakfast included, for two people. Michelle says that since the master bedroom and bath are upstairs, guests have privacy on the main floor. And she has a beautiful new pool for you to enjoy. Villeneuve is a small, historic village where the Pope's cardinals once lived. The house is in a quiet neighborhood, with a large garden and patio/terrace. It's about ten minutes by car to Avignon and 15 minutes to the TGV (high-speed train) station. Buses and small boats run back and forth to Avignon, Michelle says. Email to cabinetvictor@orange.fr for photos and info. 

Crillon le Brave Has a New Chef 
The lovely Hôtel Crillon le Brave has named John Ellis as its new Head Chef. Born in Ireland, John’s career has taken him all around France and also to America. In 2002, he returned to France with his wife Aurelie, who was born in nearby Bédoin. The couple now live with their two children in a nearby hamlet at the foot of Mont Ventoux. Until recently, John was the chef/owner of a small restaurant in Sainte-Colombe, a village on the road to the summit of Ventoux. John will be working closely with hotel director Christian Delteil, who is, interestingly, a Michelin-starred chef. So what's for dinner? The current (spring) menu offers duck liver foie gras with dried apricot jam and walnut bread; local Monteux asparagus with herbs and sabayon; and the best-selling gigot d’agneau, which is roasted in the large fireplace (top photo) and served with a Provençal ratatouille. A new summer menu will be out soon. In summer, the restaurant at Crillon le Brave is open to the public seven days for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A two-course lunch averages 20-25€ per person. Dinner, with a starter, main course, cheese and dessert, averages is about 70€ per person. The Crillon le Brave site is here


Calling All Travelin' Wine Lovers
Do you buy wine when you travel? Then you know the "shlep or ship" dilemma well. Darrell Grant invented the inflatable Wine Bearer when, on a trip to Italy, his friend bought a case of Chianti for 150€ and then spent 350€ to ship it home. For more info and to order, click here

Major Summer Art Show is Coming!
Ellsworth Kelly, Yves Klein, Arman, Hans Hartung and Jean Dubuffet are just a few artists in the show “Contemporary Art and the Côte d’Azur,” featuring more than 1,000 pieces from 200 painters and sculptors working on the Riviera from 1951 to 2011. The exhibition begins June 25 and sprawls across 50 museums, galleries and schools from Cannes to Menton. See the New York Times story here. And for all the info, click here


Discounts on Fall Tours in Provence
September is a wonderful time to be in Provence.  The weather is beautiful, the vines are at the height of their green glory and the vendage is about to begin.  If this grabs you, grab one of the remaining spaces on this 7-Day Provence Culinary Adventure, offered the week of September 5-12 and the week of September 19-26.  For a limited time only, readers of Provence Post get a 100€ discount! For info, click here

Just Published for Little Travelers
Finally, I just received an email from Gill Baconnier, a Provence Post reader who lived in Aix for 15 years but now lives in Grenoble. Gill writes: "I think some of your readers may be interested in my just-published children's novel. It's a time-travel book set in Aix-en-Provence. It starts in 1902 but our hero gets a bit lost, as you do, and finds himself in all sorts of odd places. It's not a 'deep' book--it's more of an Enid-Blyton-meets-Doctor-Who adventure, aimed at children going on holiday to Aix with their parents, so they'll have something fun and informative to read. A sort of travel guide in disguise, if you like. Children will have fun searching for all the places mentioned in the book (I managed to get all the main monuments in!)"


Here's the blurb Gill wrote for the back cover: "Sometimes, twelve year-old Charlie Travers wishes he’d never been born a time traveller. He never goes anywhere exciting, his mum makes him eat horrible food she brings back from the Middle Ages - and he’s still rubbish at history. Then Charlie receives a mysterious plea for help from the past and when his parents take him back to Aix-en-Provence in 1902, he’s rather hoping he’ll find out who sent it. He has no idea he is about to embark on a breath-taking journey through Time, where kidnappers, dinosaurs and a stolen painting will be the least of his worries." 










The book is available from Amazon.com here and Amazon.co.uk here.



















Please note: If you try to leave a comment below and can't, please remember your brilliant bons mots and stop back later! Technical issues, not my fault.--Thanks!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Provence in the Press


Every year round this time, Provence seems to pop up in the press more than usual. Here are some recent articles you might enjoy. 


Wow--a 70 million massive solar-panel "farm" in Provence. 

Trouble at the new Cocteau Museum in Menton.

From The Independent, 48 Hours in Avignon.

And from the New York Times: Marseille's thriving arts scene.

House hunting in France? Look no further!

House hunting in France?  Look at the area around Carcassone.

The crazy French Canadian baker in Aix.


When the fantasy of retiring abroad means Provence.


Last year, the U.S. consumed more wine than France for the first time ever. '

Major contemporary art show opens June 25.

They're playing petanque in Midtown Manhattan.

And they're launching a new riverbus service in Paris.

Sangiovese grapes have come to the South of France. 

A nice market story.


Did you know that Russia owns the Russian Church in Nice?


The New York Post uncovers "hidden Provence."

How about a nice rosé?



I knew nothing about this Hyeres Festival of Fashion and Photography



The latest rumors about a Brangelina wedding in Provence.


Have any of you seen this movie

Oh goodie! French cuisine is popular again.

Here's a nice poem about Provence.





Wine touring by river boat.

Is Marseille France's next great food city?
Who wouldn't love to take a Rhone cruise?

Finally...all this and he speaks French too!

Credit: Photo from the Telegraph via Photolibrary.com

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fun with Fairies at the Pont du Gard


The 2,000-year-old aqueduct called the Pont du Gard is one of the most magnificent sites in Provence; I never get tired of gazing at it, tromping around on it, photographing it. (I've yet to kayak the Gard River underneath it but hope to soon.) So I can only imagine how breathtaking my favorite Roman relic will be when she’s all lit up with video, light, flame and fireworks in a new evening sound-and-light show called Les Feéries du Pont (Fairies of the Bridge). The show will be presented six times, on Friday and Saturday evenings in June. The dates are June 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18. Showtime is 10:30 p.m.

If you’re thinking this will be like your kids running around the backyard with sparklers, think again: Les Feéries du Pont was created by Groupe F, the internationally acclaimed pyrotechnic group known for shows at the Eiffel Tower, Versailles and the Olympics. If you want a smile, have a look at their website; their work is over-the-top wonderful.

Tickets range from €16.80 per person (ages 6 to 17) to €19.80 for adults. Children under six are free and group rates are available. If you have an annual pass to the Pont du Gard, you get a discount. My friends at the Pont du Gard asked me to tell you to arrive early as there are some "animations" before the main event, probably starting around 7 p.m. Food is sold on site (tapas, pizza, paella, fruit, ice cream, etc.) or you can bring a picnic in with you. There's also a restaurant called Les Terrasses that serves Mediterranean food and you can reserve there by calling 04 66 37 50 88. The gates to the Pont du Gard park close at 9:30 so make sure you're in by then.  Bring cushions, chairs and blankets or you'll be sitting on the ground.

Buy your tickets in the usual large retailers such as Fnac, Virgin and Carrefour. Or you can buy them online here. You can also buy them in person at the Pont du Gard during normal hours. For historical info on the Pont du Gard, click here. For info on the Feeries show or on visiting Pont du Gard at other times, click here. For info on Groupe F, click here. Here's a number you can call to get info and yes, they speak English: 04 66 37 50 99. 


PS: My fellow blogger Gabrielle has kindly written to tell me that the same amazing pyrotechnics people who are organising this program at the Pont du Gard are also involved with three other events in the Bouches du Rhône in July: in Martigues on July 2 & July 14 and in Arles on July 14 as well. I'm trying to get more info and will post it when I do! Or if you have it, please post it by clicking COMMENTS below. Thanks!


PSS: Groupe F just wrote to tell me that there will also still more shows in Provence:
*July 13: Salins de Giraud and La Couronne
*August 5: Domaine de la Palissade
*August 20: Port St. Louis du Rhone

I'll post more info when they send it.

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