Provence in the fall can really be a beautiful time to visit . If you lock in a perfect week without the treacherous Mistral or any rain you can experience all the golden light in the trees and vines , the leaves changing color and some balmy temperatures .
Not that I am a chauvinist when it comes to our area in Provence but I will say it again : it is more untouched , not as famously touristic and so worth exploring the northern part of Provence ! There is no hip restaurants or shops but there is no tourist trap /Disneyland of Provence either …it is the true land , its culture, produce and people …and yes it is remote but that’s what I like about it . It’s real farmland , olive groves and cherry trees , vineyards , sheep or goats grazing on a hillside , a tractor going by on a Sunday afternoon and no chic Parisian with high hills and perfect manicure to be seen ! It can be a very harsh environment but this week happened to just be perfect . As I am meeting my potter and other craftsman making some real treasure soon to be in our shop , I took the tiny windy roads detours so I could share some beautiful fall scenery with you and maybe make you want to check out the Drome Provencale …
Tulette , Pascal’s home town . Nothing special about it but I love the little Cooperative where I can find all local products under one roof , specially the most delicious sheep milk “cailles” much lighter than yogurt non acidic and the only thing I’ll eat for dessert all week !
Far in the back ground : The Mont Ventoux nice and clear . There is no rain in the forecast or it would wear a hat of clouds .
Plane trees growing sideways because of the Mistral
Nyons is a cute little town very well known for its olive oil . The olives are very specific and only grow here …not very meaty , with a big pit but they make a very fruity olive oil that is our favorite !
Le Col de Valouse is the most narrow road ever …it goes from Saint Ferreol Trente Pas to Dieulefit . I stop for lunch at the only restaurant but found it totally booked for a private party . Good thing I have plan B : a picnic emergency basket . My mum and I are back on the road looking for that perfect spot …..Below is the view from the restaurant .
We back track a little and take the Gorges de Trente Pas …
…and found the perfect picnic spot with an incredible view !
The lavender fields have been trimmed down already but this area is so beautiful in summer too !
What else can we ask for ?? A fresh baguette , some saussison , my favorite sheep cheese and a caillette ( a specialty from Provence made with spinach , herbs and a little grounded “mystery meat ” …I’ll leave it like that or I’ll scare you ! )
Fresh Chouquettes that we stuffed with some chocolate pot de creme and topped with fresh raspberries . It does not get better than that !
Goats in the back ground
Down the hill : Bouviere where we stop for a coffee in the other restaurant that got fully booked today …some other people know the good spots of the back country ! From there you could keep going north to Bourdeaux and Dieulefit or make it shorter like we did going back down to Gumiane , Arnaillon, Villeperdrix and back to Nyons .
On the hillside of Nyons is where my cousins have their Olive groves . I am stopping to pick up some goodies and say hello.
It’s been so dry and hot this year again that the harvest will start mid November instead of late December /January . The olives are starting to drop so it is time ….
Beautiful view from the patio . Nyons nickname is “Le Petit Nice” referring to the mild climate of the French Riviera …and is spared by the Mistral most of the time …Palm trees grow in Nyons !
Not only their olives are totally organic but all the food my cousins eat is home grown in their large vegetable garden !
Every country has their own tradition when it comes to the Day of the dead . In Mexico there are big celebrations and in France even though now days kids dress up and trick or treat too , the tradition is to remember your loved ones who have passed and bring them flowers …not any kind of flowers but Chrysanthemums . We picked some at the farmer’s market to bring to my family and Pascal’s family’s grave.
My mum’s back yard
Japanese Cosmos Flowers are in bloom right now !
My mum enjoying some nice weather in her back yard jungle …
Today is a rainy day so I planned a special cooking class at my aunt .
I’ve asked my aunt to teach me how to make “Pieds Paquets” translate as “feet and Bags”. It is a very old traditional recipe in Provence and one of my favorite but nobody makes them anymore and what you find at the butcher is never quiet as good as what I remember my aunt making . So today is a special day as my cousin Francoise and I will get a hand’s on class ! The recipe start like that : ” les pieds paquets de Meme Lucienne / the feet and paquets from grandma Lucienne ( who was my aunt’s mother ) . You will need time and patience and also make some for at least 10 people ! We are on for a challenge for sure …but we have all afternoon !
All you need is : a dozen lambs feet , grounded “farce fine ” a fine grounded meat stuffing , salted pork belly , 8 lambs stomachs , garlic and parsley …Good thing is the butcher supply us with clean , already blanched parts. We’ll wash and clean them again but there’s no smell 🙂
No gadgets , no ceramic knifes …we use the same cooking tools as Meme Lucienne did !
Lots of garlic and parsley to mix in with the stuffing as well as some of the cuts from the lamb stomach that we ground . This is the secret that will make the stuffing smooth and not hard …
The hardest part ! Figure out how to cut a stomach pouch into something that we can stuff, roll up , that won’t come undone while cooking without using tread or picks ….we’ll cheat and attached a few like tiny little “rotis” and manage to make 50 bags …enough for 10 people ! While we are struggling with our bagging ….our home made sauce is slowly simmering : a fragrant mix of onions, pork belly cubed , tomatoes, bouquet garni , leeks and carrots . We lay some pork “couenne” or pork skin at the bottom of the pot , the 12 feet on top, our paquets and top off with our broth ….it will then cook for a good 3 hours …..and we’ll have to wait until the next day to savor our work !
Our stew will cook an other 3 hours before we can taste it….but this was so worth it ! There were just like I remembered : soft , tender , melting in your mouth little bundles of flavor and the feet just falling off the bone with a sweet gelatinous texture so gooeyly delicious !
A ray of sunshine after the rain on my childhood playground
From my aunt’s house you can see way far in the back ground Saint Roman de Malegarde …a village of some 100 people where Pascal and I leaved for 10 years before we moved to San Diego
Back yard fall magic …makes everything look beautiful !
Today , I am on the road again , an hour and a half away and a speeding ticket later ( can’t go to France an not get your speeding ticket …..) I reach the famous Luberon area ! I stop for lunch in Cucuron , drive by Bonnieux, Menerbes …
The village of Lacoste
Some of the treasures that will be in our shop soon ….the original lavender sachet is still being made here in Provence ! I grew up weaving lavender wands when the lavender is fresh and you can bend the stems to enclose the flowers . I would sell them at my parent’s gas station every summers when I was not picking up melons , peaches or apricots ! It takes for ever to make one but the scent will stay inclosed for years . Gently press the wand to release the best lavender scent !