Paris is always a good idea …strikes or not !

Paris is magical even to us us French . Whether it is on your bucket list or not at all , this city will sweep you away . I rarely have the opportunity to go so I totally feel like a tourist when I go and that makes me appreciate this place even more ! This January was calling for a visit . The Show Maison & Objet was just days before my Mom’s 90’s birthday … Even though I research for new things outside of conventions a lot , this Show has always been amazing , a fantastic source of inspiration and on Alice ‘s bucket list . Paris in winter and during public transportation strike …that won’t lessen our excitement ! It will be cold and we will walk a lot so we will NEED to eat a lot …all indulgences allowed !IMG_0772 (Large)Alice has been working for us for 10 years and her creativity transforms the shop with her beautiful windows and displays . I am sure this trip with get her creative cells in overdrive and she’ll come back with more fabulous ideas for our little shop . It is about time we go to France together ! IMG_3010 (Large)We just landed and yes it is confirmed …the strikes are still going on ; but there is always one going on and I’d rather be that than protests with shops boarded up , so we decide to take the shuttle bus from the airport and then a taxi from the Opera to our hotel . And here we are in the heart of Paris …got to take  at least one tourist selfie ! But the best is that we will have that same view from our hotel window for the next 5 days . Now I am really glad I switch from my old favorite tiny hotel l’ Hotel du Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower ( https://www.hotelduchampdemars.com/  ) for this one . I’ve been a huge fan of French designer Christian Lacroix  probably because his fashion creations were always inspired by his roots from Provence . Not everybody gets it or like it but I love it ! And the central location is key specially when you cannot rely on public transportation .

The hotel revamp was done a few years ago and since there are plenty of new hip hotels , the prices have gone down.  I found it very affordable with nice size rooms . Plus when the subway is reliable the line goes straight from here to the airport in less than 40mns . https://hotelnotredameparis.com/en/hotel.htmlIMG_3006 (Large)We dropped our bags and head out …we are seriously hungry and it is time for lunch . Serious lunch ! IMG_3012 (Large)I’ve been dreaming about a real choucroute Alsacienne since we missed out when in Strasbourg a couple of summers ago ( there were no way we could eat this kind of food when it is 95F )  Brasseries serve a very typical french menu and in general serve NON STOP all day and that is a big difference with restaurants that will only serve lunch from  noon to 1.30 pm . I still like to go at lunch time so you get the ambiance with the locals who will certainly not go out to lunch at 2 … We love Brasserie Lipp in Saint Germain (https://www.brasserielipp.fr/en/ )  had wonderful meals at Le Wepler before to go to the Moulin Rouge  ( https://www.wepler.com/en/la-carte/ ) and we really enjoyed our meal here at Brasserie Flo ( https://www.floderer-paris.com/?locale=en )

We tried both the regular choucroute and the one cooked in beer …loved the rich flavor it brought to the sauerkraut . Ad some real hot French mustard , thick smoked bacon, sausages , knacks, pork shank, potatoes and this will fuel you for the next 10-15 miles you are about to walk ! Ad bottle of mineral water for a total cost of 43E for 2 … amazing to have such great food for only $46 .

IMG_3021 (Edited) (Large)Now we need to walk off these calories … window shopping or “lèche vitrine ” as we say  ( literally “licking window displays ” ) Le Printemps is a bit old fashioned …

The Galeries Lafayettes are always a stand out . You have go to the old building to see its glass dome and the art nouveau architecture . Plus you can find all the top fashion brands . IMG_0783 (Large)IMG_0785 (Large)The roof top offers magnificent views of the Opera Garnier , the Eiffel Tower and to the other side Montmartre Sacre Cœur . They even have an outdoor bar / snacks in summer .IMG_3033 (Large)Next door is also the Galeries Lafayettes Home decor and Food Hall …a concentrate of all the best pastries and chocolatiers like Alain Ducasse

IMG_3043 (Large)One of my favorite is Sadaharu Aoki who opened his very first shop in Paris in 2001.  Using traditional Japanese ingredients and flavors in French-style pastries was a real novelty back then . His style is defined as a combination of minimalistic aesthetics with rigorous French techniques .

King cakes are everywhere right now and eclairs are way more fancy than ever

You cannot miss Laduree …they are everywhere ! All over Paris all the way to the airport . I don’t think you can leave France without buying a box ; even I did after resisting  dozen boutiques, stands in various corners of town until the very last cart inside the gate terminal in Charles de Gaulle ! After all the box alone makes a wonderful souvenir gift that your friends will adore !

The Prada windows were already very spring like …IMG_3031 (Large)While Repetto was all about Valentine’s day IMG_0790 (Large)An other of our favorite designer , Celine Wright  had a whole display of her paper clouds lights  . I find her work poetic and inspiring …an other French made with some Japanese influence

Our first day after just landing here has already been very fullfilling and it is time to head back to our hotel …on foot ! Traffic is crazy at this time and it takes 40mns by car versus 25 by foot . As we are making our way down from the Opera to Place Vendome I remember The Ritz hotel having a cart during the Holidays , selling pastries from their newly crown Best Pastry restaurant of Les grandes tables du Monde . ( https://www.sogoodmagazine.com/pastry-blog/pastry-news/francois-perret-winner-2019-prize-best-restaurant-pastry/ )  The cart is no longer there so we wonder inside the galerie and into the patisserie . Cakes look like nothing we’ve ever seen so we decide to buy a couple to take back to our room …we had no idea these 2 would cost us more than lunch …Oh well c’est la vie a Paris and they were delicious !

https://www.instagram.com/francoisperretpatisserie/?hl=enIMG_3059 (Large)IMG_3058 (Large)Please subscribe to the blog to get the next blog post on Le Marais , Maison et Objet …

La Saint Valentin

Here at Maison en Provence we keep  Valentine’s Day merchandise classy with beautiful clutches from Japan , bags from France, Jewelry by our designer and friend Lisiane ….but since I was in France in January I will give you a taste of  how Valentine’s  windows looked liked in Paris already and what is the big new thing when it comes to underwear ! IMG_1221 (Large)IMG_1219 (Large)IMG_1222(Edited) (Large)IMG_1225 (Large)

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Paris’s windows are always beautiful and I will write more about this past trip soon but here is what’s the new trend when it comes to underwear …after all it’s Valentine’s Day and a lot of froufrou lingerie is “de rigueur” that day ! But I’ve never seen such an enthusiasm for men’s underwear …shops popped up everywhere in Paris , young men proud of their  All Made in France brands , showing off fun , revamped underwear . Let me tell you ,  your father’s brief is making a come back big time in Paris ! IMG_3251 (Edited) (Large)

Well made , very nice packaging , all together a perfect Valentine’s day gift for him ! But I am not sure American men would spend 45Euros ( $50 ) for their father’s brief 😉

Repetto shop was all dressed up in soft pinks and reds IMG_0790 (Large)

LaDuree macarons were all kisses and hearts IMG_0781 (Large)And my new favorite chocolate shop in Le Marais had the most beautiful chocolate bars I ever seen !

IMG_3191 (Edited) (Large)Subscribes to our blog to stay in the know 🙂 A bientot

Home made pizza are the best !

Making pizza at home is fun and easy ! The trick for a perfect pizza is in the stone you use . Cookut makes one with wholes throughout so your pizza will cook evenly ! This French brand makes very ingenious cooking gadgets , we use and love all of them  .IMG_0108 (Large)IMG_0109 (Large)Because we get heartburn with tomato sauce , I like to make a different kind of pizza using white fig jam for the base then pancetta , ricotta , arugula , capers and depending on the season fresh figs or tuna . Sprinkle with some oregano, olive oil and in the oven until fluffy and crisp ! A little balsamic cream before to serve ad just enough acidity !

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This is the pizza from our childhood…bought cold at the bakery to pack for lunch in a waxed piece of paper …thicker , more doughy with olives, anchovies and oregano …I added mushrooms but you do not need to .It perfect just plain ! IMG_2485 (Large)

 

Tarte Tatin in less than an hour !

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I do not know anybody who does not love a Tarte Tatin .  There is nothing better specially on a cool day !  Makes the house smell so wonderful .

For 100% success what you’ll really need is an 8″ cast iron pan . If you do not have any , you will still need a pan that can go from the stove top to the oven .

4-6 medium size Apples ~ 100 grs ( just a little less than a stick of butter ) ~ 100gr  (1/2 cup ) of granulated sugar ~ 1 vanilla bean , 2 sticks of cinnamon ~ 1 pie crust ( i use  Trader Joes frozen ones)

Set the oven at 375F

Spread the butter with your hands in an even layer at the bottom of the pan . Sprinkle with the sugar . Scrape the beans of vanilla evenly and put on the 2 cinnamon sticks . Peel , core and cut the apples in quarters . I use Fuji apples , they give out enough juice but not too much , get soft but do not compote when cooking , These are the most important criteria for choosing them . You do not want an apple that stay very crunchy either . IMG_2645 (Large)

Arrange the apples round side down over the butter . Make sure they are tight .IMG_2648 (Large)

Start the cooking on the stove ( high -medium high ) Do not touch the apples , let the butter /sugar melt  and bubble . You want to stay close to make sure you do not burn your caramel as it goes fast toward the end ( you can lower the setting a bit to make sure you do not over cook the caramel since it will still cook a bit after you take it off the flame ) . I rotate the pan to make sure the coloring is even , you want to avoid one side to caramelize faster than the other . This process should take about 12-15mns .  When the caramel has the perfect color not too light or dark ( taste bitter ) take off the stove and let rest a few minutes before to cover with the crust .IMG_2649 (Large)

Once you put the crust over the hot apples , you have to act fast . Using a spatula , tuck the sides of the crust into the pan and poke some holes so the steam can come out .

Bake for 18-20 mns . When the crust is golden brown , it is ready !

Carefully turn over into a plate when still hot . I like to use the juices left at the bottom of the pan . Pour some Calvados , Grand Marnier or Rhum in the pan , warm up and flambe. (Do not put the hood on or the flames will be sucked up)  Pour immediately over the tart . Serve warm with creme fraiche , vanilla ice cream or whipped cream .IMG_2654 (Large)

 

 

Fall is here !

The sun is still high but evenings are crisp and it definitely feels like fall even in California ! And in our shop that means things are moving all the time as new inventory keep coming in every day !

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Those felt ornaments are the cutest and flying out the shelves already !IMG_0022 (Large)Entertaining season is upon us …stock up on tappers candles in rich colors for the season

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Dripless tapper candles made in France by Bougies la Francaise . The touch of color your table needs!

Heavy linen napkins in bold colors are pairing well with all printed tablecloths for a traditional look or mix en match colors for a more contemporary feel .image4 (2)image1(3) (Large)Paper bags from Tuscany are washable lightweight and can be used as a catch all , cache pot or bread basket ! Wears like a good pair of jeans…image2 (Large)Clean , natural , made with essential oils …we love everything about these candles and room sprays ! New this fall are the ceramic containers . Comes in 3 organic scents image1(3) (Large)

We imported their linen napkins for years now and have decided to import their throws this season . 100% wool in hip tartan or stripes , recycled cotton or mixed cashmere/wool all at a reasonable price .image1 (2) (Large)image2 (2) (Large)

New find for us : those beautifully made baskets from Ghana have finally made it in . Dominic who we met this summer is supporting woman by selling these hand crafted baskets with leather handles . More than a picnic or market bag , these  simple yet elegant baskets can hold blankets near a sofa of towels in a bathroom. Think outside of the bag !IMG_0018 (Large)IMG_0019 (Large)If you prefer paper …here are some paper options with a vintage look . IMG_0026 (Large)Now that days are cooler …it’s time to bake something that makes the whole house smell good ! The new updated Tartine book has again fabulous recipes for fall , Holidays or just because i really want to try out that matcha crème brûlée tart !

Felt is not only lightweight , dirt resistant , strong, durable and sustainable but this world’s best merino wool felt  also does not pill ! I’ve used and abused my bags and pouches for the past 2 years and they still look impeccable . My favorite are the cross body bags to travel as well as the boat bags for week ends and carry on .IMG_0029 (Large)Our Inouii scarves from France are also in . Known for their large prints, bold designs with animals , it is hard to resist the new collection ! But a scarf will make any woman elegant and any classic outfit chic and hip . Come check out the two dozen patterns soon ! image1(4) (Large)Need a small hostess gift ? Our favorite scented wax botanical sachets are now also available in tin candles .

New line of stationary from France image8 (Large)With fall comes dry weather . Ode scrubs are loaded with essential oils that will leave your skin soft and hydrated . I love it on my feet to keep the hills smooth . Mix some body oil with body lotion to get the perfect hydration depending on the weather ! Lavender , citrus oro or bohemian rose.IMG_0027 (Large)

 

Canard in a hurry…

It starts to feel like fall and if you are starving  for something earthy , delicious that you can make in 15mns , here it is !

Duck breast with honey and cherry vinegar reduction over a creamy polenta …

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Now days you can easily  find duck breasts . I buy mines at Whole Foods . They don’t always have them out but they usually always have some in the back as these come in frozen . I like to have a pack in my freezer at all time so we are ready when ever the urge comes ! Each pack has 2 breasts . ( Note the proportions are  for 4 breasts even though I only show 3 in the pictures ) Thaw the day before .

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Your best 15mns cooking start now :

Take the breasts out of the package , pad dry , score the skin with a sharp knife  and season well with salt and pepper .

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Put the breasts skin down in the cold pan without any fat at all . Put on medium heat and let the fat melt and the skin crisp  about 4-5 mns .

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Turn and continue to cook on medium for an other 4-5 mns

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Check the meat by pressing onto the meat . It should not be hard but spring back . If not cooked enough it will be very soft . You can turn it back one more time to get that skin well crispy if you think you need an extra  minute to cook .

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Put the breast in a platter to rest while you finish the sauce . Remove most of the fat witch you should keep to roast potatoes …it will take your week day potatoes to the next level  !

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In the good drippings that are left in the pan , ad 2 tbs of cherry vinegar and 2 tbs of clover honey .

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Give it a quick boil so the honey start to bubble  and the sauce thicken . Do not over cook the sauce or the honey will transform into caramel and make a sticky sauce .

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Cut the breasts in thick slices , display immediately on the plates and serve the creamy polenta . Pour the sauce around ( not over the skin to keep it crispy )

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There are plenty of polenta to choose from . I order this organic from from Vitacost as I now cannot find it in our local stores . I cooks in 2 mns and is really delicious . I just put more liquid to keep it creamy and use soy milk instead of water or gravy .

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Heat wave in Provence

Summers in Provence are the best ! Most people fear that it will be packed with tourists and avoid that season … And yes the coast is crowded specially in August but let me tell you why you should rethink about it :

The  lavender is in bloom , the countryside is finally alive and buzzing with activities ! There are Festivals everywhere , flea markets , “vide grenier” , “Fete votive ” , the roman theater of Orange plays operas from mid July to mid August , the roman arena in Nimes has concerts , the entire town of Arles put on the largest photo exhibition of the country , my own home town host a popular ” rose wine ” celebration …there is something for everyone !

And yes it can be hot too … but it is a dry heat ( not dry as desert dry but enough to be more comfortable ) It makes finding a river to swim a fabulous excursion ,  floating under the roman aqueduct of the ” Pont du Gard ” a much more special visit to this  site , visiting the year round cool quarries “Carrieres de Lumieres ” wonderful ….not  even mentioning  taking an afternoon nap ! Daylight last for ever and everybody enjoy being out late when the temperature is just perfect for that strappy summer  dress I can never wear here in California  !  If you are done with May gray – June gloom that linger until late August …head to Europe for a real summer time !

This year we decided to stop over in L’Isle sur la Sorgue on our way from Marseille Airport …immerse ourselves in this wonderful  ” Venise Provencale ” and all its antique shops and Sunday flea market . IMG_2404 (Large)The flea market starts at dawn along the Sorgue river…

By the time we get there , the bustle is over and the merchants are waiting for clients , playing games while their bottle of rose stays cool in the river …It’s like a Pagnol movie !

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Art is everywhere !IMG_2415 (Large)

Antique installations in every shop …

Cafe nested in a small courtyard if you need to rest before to discover some more …IMG_2374 (Large)IMG_2376 (Large)

We need a break too … Le Jardin du Quai is just across the road and its garden looks very inviting !

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Refreshed and rested we go for more !

IMG_2381 (Large)IMG_2382 (Large)Some real traditional antiques from Provence are being rare these days …the owner of that booth told us closing down at the end of the season …IMG_2377 (Large)People search for industrial or mid century not XVIII century old furniture as much IMG_2371 (Large)IMG_2373 (Large)IMG_2367 (Large)Even found a Jardin public / “skate park”  ??

The heat wave even made the news all the way here in the US … we hit 43C / 110F witch even I have to agree is really hot when you do not have AC anywhere ….even in your car ! So we took off at sunrise for the most beautiful drive just outside of my home town of Sainte Cecile les Vignes . IMG_5504 (Large)Hard to believe that you just pass the exit sign and this is it … beautiful rolling hills !

IMG_5509 (Large)The good side of driving an old beetle is that we have less chances to go over the speed limit of 49mph on highways …or this is what you could end up driving !

The Tour de France went right by these roads this year …leave vaison la Romaine and keep going on the higher hills where the lavender grows.IMG_5514 (Large)One last turn and here it is ! IMG_5516 (Large)IMG_5515 (Large)White butterflies were all over the lavender in the early morning hours IMG_5518 (Large)IMG_5520 (Large)We grew up here but this scenery never cease to amaze us

On the way back we stopped in Nyons where the farmer’s market is going on on Thursdays …pick up some of our summer favorites : salade de museau ( cheeks in gelatine , sliced super fine ) fromage de tete ( head pate ) and maybe a slice of terrine de campagne …forget about the same ol same ol tomato mozzarella or prosciutto and melon that we can get back home ! We crave for these classic basic appetizers that are complete  delicasy for us . We always wonder how come NOBODY make some in the US

Then a quick stop to say to a friend who runs his parents Citroen garage…in the back there is always a bunch of real French cars !! IMG_5428 (Large)My favorite : Ami 6 …the perfect car for the area IMG_5422 (Large)Pascal’s father or his brother sold that one at the time !

Probably the best option to bet the summer heat

But today is our 27th wedding anniversary and we are going out to dinner …no way I am cooking with this heat anyway ! Pascal has booked at Maison Prevot  in Cavaillon the city of the famous melon  . The owner and chef Jean Jacques Prevot has a seasonal menu highlighting the fruit of his town so we are going to have some melon …just not with prosciutto 😉 IMG_5497 (Large)

IMG_5485 (Large)Warm melon filled with a bouillabaisse soup of maine lobster and melon balls …light and delicious !IMG_5487 (Large)They have AC …in case you really missed it …and I froze in my summer strappy dress !

I don’t think I ever posted a photo of my mum’s house …here we are in front of it …aka our “chateau” because it is so big and needs a lot like most chateaux 😉

What is an other wonder to us is how good the food is EVERYWHERE and how wonderful it is to get there ! Just hop in your car and enjoy a wonderful 15mns drive on scenic roads …no traffic , no problem to park … a little stroll in the village of Seguret and we are set for an other wonderful dinner …with a view ! IMG_2444 (Large)IMG_2445 (Large)People cooling off at the fountain IMG_2446 (Large)IMG_2447 (Large)IMG_2452 (Large)IMG_5409 (Large)

 

 

 

A potter in Provence

Michel Mathieu is a potter friend in Pascal’s home town of Tulette in Provence. Of course everybody knows everybody in such small village and Michel is no exception . We use to import his creations for our shop when we were shipping a container . His famous cats grace the garden of some special clients in the neighborhood !

This summer and until September 15th , Michel is having an exhibition : Terres du Rhone in reference to the type of earthy clay from the Rhone Valley that he uses . If you are a cat lover …this is a must ! But his most recent “Demoiselles” are also pretty stunning .  Let us take you for a stroll into Michel’s world …

IMG_2470 (Large)IMG_2485 (Large)IMG_2490 (Large)Pascal and Michel IMG_2495 (Large)IMG_2463 (Large)IMG_2478 (Large)

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Roasted apricots with lavender honey

It is apricot season !

DSC_4867 [Desktop Resolution].JPGOne of my favorite way to eat them is simply roasted….the twist ??  Some lavender honey  ! Place the apricots cut side up in an earthenware baking dish. Sprinkle with some lavender flowers( very little or it could be too pungent) . If your apricots are not too sweet ad some sugar ( 2-4 tbs) . Bake in the owen 350F . When they start to soften and releasing their juice ad some lavender honey ( up to your taste about 4 tbs) and a couple of tablespoons of sweet wine ( Muscat de Beaumes de Venise …this one is my favorite because it’s so close to my home town in Provence) Finish to roast until a bit brown. Serve still warm with some fresh made whipped cream or panacotta gelato. Personally I serve them with some home made lavender honey ice cream and almond “tuiles” a traditional cookie shaped like a roof tile . This recipe will transport you to Provence !

Our Lavender Honey comes straight from Bonnieux in Provence. It is pure , raw and has not undergone any transformation . It crystallizes naturally and will melt if you warm it up . I love it just like that , spread over sweet butter on a good brioche or toasted challah  bread .IMG_2329 (Large)