A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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Provence – a Few Gems in the Luberon

January 17th, 2013

A friend asked me the other day what he should see on his upcoming trip to Provence. Looking back on my 6 weeks there, my fondest memories were not the typical Top 10 attractions listed in guide books, but were a few unique and charming experiences that reflected the local color and everyday life. I would certainly recommend…

Lunch at Le Bistrot du Paradou is a must; it’s located about 15 minutes south of St. Remy. The first time I drove up to this restaurant I could smell the lamb chops before getting out of the car; but I didn’t have a reservation. But I returned and fell instantly in love. The restaurant has a casual atmosphere with a fixed menu; like eating in somebody’s home. You get three extraordinary courses plus a never ending cheese course. I think the waiter brought the cheese platter by 3 times; and yes it’s that good. You will be there most of the afternoon, and mostly likely make friends with everyone seated around you.

Lourmarin was the town I kept returning to for its farmers’ market, restaurants and  boutiques. The farmers’ market was held every Friday morning, and I went every week. The truck selling olives and tapenade was spectacular.  We also got to know the woman selling raspberries; they were always perfect.

Truck selling Tapenades

Cheese was another highlight of the market. You can buy some excellent goat cheese in NYC, but they pale in comparison to those sold here. I have never seen such an extensive selection. In fact the market sells just about anything you would need for dinner: vegetables, herbs, chicken, sausage, wine, and even flowers for the table. But the vendor that really caught my attention was the one selling tomato tarts with the flakiest pastry crust…delicious. After the market I enjoyed lunch at L’Oustalet; their soups were a standout. Although Lourmarin is a small town, you won’t be disappointed with their boutiques.

Oppede-le-Vieux (not Oppede le village) is a historic village with a mix of a few very fashionable residences (Ridley Scott lives here) and crumbling ruins.

Notre Dame d’Alidon

This village has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages. In 1274 the Popes took control of the town followed by the Barons d’Oppede in the 16th Century. In 1793 an earthquake decimated the town, but you can still see the remains of the spectacular chateau. Notre Dame d’Alidon,  a Romanesque church, is still however surprisingly intact. The setting is breathtaking. You will be able to enjoy the scenery, soak up the history, but not have to share it with the tour buses.

My favorite experience in the Luberon was lunch at Castelas, a working goat farm at the top of the mountain in the middle of nowhere. It is located up a dirt road outside the town of Silvergues, miles from civilization. Although I hear they serve dinner, we went for Sunday lunch. As we entered the stone gates I saw picnic tables set up and goats roaming everywhere.

Tables at the Goat Farm

Actually later in the afternoon the pigs were let out, so I hope you like animals. Plastic pitchers of wine were set on the table and the platters of food just kept coming. Waiters brought grilled vegetables, meats, sausages, and of course cheese. You feel like you are on the top of the Alps with true “farm to table” cooking – amazing.

Goats

Provence is a place that exudes quaintness and color. Visit a few of the smaller hill towns like Menerbes, Bonnieux, and Saignon and wander the cobblestone streets.

House in Saignon

The local architecture is gorgeous. Many homes are made of stone with terracotta roofs. In contrast, their doors and window shutters are often painted in pastels. These greens, blues, and yellows will catch your eye, and hopefully warm your heart.

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