Saturday, September 17, 2016

Until Sept 25: The Paris Pop-Up in Arles

In the food world, pop-up restaurants are all the rage. The idea is that a chef moves into temporary quarters in a new space, city or country, allowing him to share his cuisine with a new clientele while drawing inspiration from local chefs, new ingredients and unfamiliar culinary techniques.

The ancient city of Arles has had its own pop-up since late April, on the terrace of the historic Nord-Pinus Hotel. Since I've been travelling I haven't had the chance to go but my foodie friends tell me the food is really great. If you haven’t been, the Paris Pop-Up will stay open until September 25 so you still have the chance to experience it. The concept plays on the success of the first Paris Pop-Up, which took over the hotel’s terrace last summer.

And having fallen in love with Arles and Provence, the folks behind the Paris Pop-Up have now opened their own place in Arles, where they’ve turned the tables and are playing host to a roster of other “nomadic” chefs. More on that is below.

The Paris Pop-Up is the brainchild of British chef Harry Cummins and Canadian-born sommelier Laura Vidal, who hatched the plan while working together at Frenchie Restaurant in Paris, he as head chef and she as GM and wine director. In December 2012, Harry travelled to London and attended a pop-up dinner. Back in Paris, he and Laura decided to launch their own pop-up, inspired by the “bistronomy” movement...meaning innovative, gastronomic cuisine served in a casual, bistro-style atmosphere. 

Thanks to the generosity and willingness of their fellow Parisian chefs, restaurateurs and assorted friends, they were able to “play restaurant” by occupying empty spaces and restaurants on closing days.  They offered what has now become their formula: seasonal menus of creative dishes crafted from locally sourced ingredients, paired with wines or other interesting drinks.

Getting a great response, the two started thinking about opening their own place in Paris but decided they’d rather travel and not be tied down to the demands of a traditional restaurant. So since January 2013, they’ve been popping-up in Montreal, New York, California, Kyoto, Quebec City, Fez, Barcelona and London. A full list is here.

Since September 2014, Julia Mitton (another Canadian...from Nova Scotia) has joined them; they say Julia brings with her “world-class organizational skills, a love of well-sourced product, an international expertise and the entrepreneurial spirit that fits perfectly with our vision.”

Sometimes the pop-ups are inspired by a wine region that Laura loves; other times, by a type of cuisine that Harry already enjoys cooking or wants to explore in more depth. From there they create a tasting menu and select appropriate wines. Winemakers, sommeliers and brewers are often invited to participate, allowing them first-hand interaction with guests.

In Arles, the menu has been changing every ten days or so.

Starters currently include pineapple tomato gaspacho with yellow peppers, peaches and nectarines; and grilled mackerel with green beans and homemade pesto.

Popular main courses have been duck magret with a ragout of lentils and duck hearts, roasted figs and balsamic; and homemade hand-rolled tagliolini laced with fresh courgettes, chili, crab meat and fresh herbs.

The tapas menu offers six selections, including duck parfait, cured pork belly with fried rosemary and a whole barbecued quail with a miso condiment, along with simpler things such as flatbreads with homemade hummus.

Wines come from France only and start at 6 by the glass or 25 by the bottle.

All food allergies, intolerances and other special requests are met to the best of the team’s abilities.

Having spent the last two years working in other people’s kitchens—and having fallen in love with Arles and Provence--the trio decided to open a bistro/bar in Arles called Chardon, in May 2016. There, Laura explains, they’ve reversed the pop-up idea and are hosting other chefs who choose, like they do, to be nomadic.  Chardon serves small plates, a selection of wines and an imaginative cocktail menu. The focus is local products with ingredients coming from the region’s best farmers, fishermen, breeders and other purveyors. 

You can try the cuisines of various “chefs in residence” until October 31st. After that, Harry, Laura and Julia will be taking back the reins, until December 19. 

“The idea behind Chardon is that that we can be there sometimes and we can also travel at others and be elsewhere,” Laura explains. “We want to have a touch base in the South of France where we can hop down to from wherever we open our next project. We currently have our eye on Paris or London, our two favorite cities!”

And now that Arles has been their home base for two summers, I asked Laura what she, Julia and Harry have found most appealing about the region...and what local restaurants have become favourites.

“We loved exploring the surrounding Camargue and the seaside close to Arles,” she told me. “It’s a cool little town and it’s really central to all these awesome places like Marseille, Sainte Marie de la Mer, Nîmes, Montpellier, Aix, Avignon and Cassis.

“In terms of other restaurants, we love La Chassagnette,” she continues. “We often go and have a tasting menu with delicious natural wine. Another favorite is definitely Le Gibolin, a local bistro with frank French fare.  Nothing fancy, just delicious and well-priced.”

Paris Pop-Up Details

The Paris Pop-Up runs until September 25, 2016, on the terrace of the Hotel Nord-Pinus in Arles. Weather permitting; you’ll be seated outside, overlooking the famous Place du Forum. In case of wind or rain, seating moves inside.

Thursday through Sunday, from 12:30 to 3 pm

Wednesday to Sunday, from 7:30 to 11 pm

Monday and Tuesday

Prix-Fixe Menus
32 (starter and main course or main and dessert)
36 (starter, main, dessert)

Tapas / Small Plates
From 5  to 20  

Wine List

Bottles from 25 to 300 
By the glass priced from 6 to 13 

To reserve:, +33 (0)7 62 23 46 43.

Chardon Details

37 rue des Arènes
13200 Arles

Friday to Monday 12:30 to 3 pm

Thursday to Monday 7:30 to 11:30 pm

Tuesday, Wednesday...and Thursday afternoon.

Info is here

To reserve:, +33 (0)9 72 86 72 04, 

Note: If you have space and might want to welcome Harry and Laura for their next pop up, they’d love to hear from you. They’re open to collaboration with all chefs, sommeliers, winemakers, foragers and producers of any kind or walk of life, etc. They’re also open to sponsorships and to creating Paris Pop-Up events based on specific products or brands. “The possibility to create a concept for one day (or more), inspired by a feeling, music, culture or a theme, is a rare freedom,” Laura says. “The goal is to share, learn, enjoy and have a good time. There are so many ways to collaborate that fit with this spirit of generosity and fun.” For more info:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Journées du Patrimoine is This Weekend

It's that time again: The wonderful annual Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) event takes place September 17 and 18 in cities and villages all over France; a few have activities on Friday the 16th as well. The program was started by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (where it's also called European Heritage Days). This is the 33rd year. 

The idea is that a wide range of historic sites, monuments, buildings, estates, gardens and domaines are open for special visits...along with many sites that are normally closed to the public. Most sites have a guide on hand to enhance your enjoyment of the visit (most tours and talks are in French) and most offer free entry. Some may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. 

The website with all the participating venues is here but you'll do much better checking in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village or city you want to visit. For example, the main Patrimoine website lists just seven participating sites in my village of St. Remy. But as in years past, the village has published its own terrific guide and map featuring 22 participating sites. You can download it here or pick up a printed one at the Tourist Office or at most of the participating sites.

The best idea is to choose the village you wish to explore, pick up or download their schedule as early as possible and map your route, because some events happen only at certain times.

Here are some additional city and village Patrimoine schedules that I was able to find online: Aigues MortesAvignonAixArlesBeaucaireCannesCassis, Chateauneuf-du-Papes, Fontaine-de-VaucluseGordes, Isle sur la SorgueLauris, the LuberonMarseille, Nice,  Nimes, Orange, TarasconUzes, Vaison la Romaine and Valreas 

And here are listings for various Provence departments: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-MaritimesBouches du Rhone, the Gard (not really Provence but never mind), the Hautes-Alpes, the Var and the Vaucluse

Beyond that, you're on your own...but here's a list of most of the Tourist Offices in Provence and they should be able to help. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Extras Needed: Eat Free and Be On TV!

First Dates is an award-winning dating show on UK television that aims to bring singles together to find true love. 

According to production researcher Leonore Raab: "Our casting team carefully and considerately matches these people. We've had a wedding, a baby and a lot of lasting couples from this--so in a lot of ways it has been a success!"

Now Channel 4 and Twenty Twenty TV are working together to launch a summer spin-off series called First Dates Hotel, being filmed at Le Vieux Castillon, a four-star hotel in Castillon Du Gard, near Uzes. This time, Leonore tells me, "we'll be bringing singletons down from the UK and helping them find love in the most romantic country on earth... in France!"

And that's where you come in. The producers are looking for extras to appear in the background while they film restaurant scenes. While they were hoping for real couples on real dates, they'll be happy to have people who simply come in pairs: husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, just friends.

Everyone who participates will get a 30€ stipend, which will pay for a special three-course menu or a two-course meal with a drink.

Extras are needed at lunch and dinner every day between Sept 12 and 18. To request your spot, email Leonore right away ( with your name, age, address, phone number and photo. Sorry for the short notice but the deadline to reach out is Thursday Sept 8th.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Win One of These Beautiful New Books

Le Grand Véfour:
 the new book, the gilded dining room, a fish course, Michelin three-star chef Guy Martin.

Restaurant Sola: 
the new book celebrates the Michelin chef's exquisite  Franco-Japonais cuisine. 

From Must Eat Paris: the interior of Septime and pretty plates at La Verre Volé.

The good folks at ACC Art Books, a major distributor, just reached out to tell me about three new titles for the fall: two French cookbooks and and a guide to eating out in Paris. They asked if I was interested in receiving a copy of any one of them, perhaps to use in a give away. And I, well-mannered as always, said "How about all three?"

The answer was read on! Then leave a comment and you could win the title of your choice. All three books are in English.

Behind door number one we have: Le Grand Véfour (Editions du Chêne), with 56 signature recipes from the venerable Michelin three-star restaurant and its superb chef/owner, Guy Martin. One of the oldest "gourmet" restaurants in Paris (founded in 1784), Le Grand Véfour--next to the Gardens of the Palais Royal--is a true monument of French cuisine, a jewel of the 18th century "art décoratif" period and the cherished haunt of Parisian political, artistic and literary society for more than 200 years. (I ate there just once, 20 or so years ago, and finding my way back has been a goal ever since.) The book retraces the history of this splendid culinary landmark, with anecdotes and text about the many celebrities who've dined over the years, the chef's take on service and atmosphere and 141 color photos from food photographer Michel Langot, whose previous books include Chocolat (La Martinière, 2012) and Cuisine (La Martinière, 2011). 

The second book is the 288-page Sola (Editions du Chêne) featuring the exquisite Franco-Japanese fusion cuisine of Hiroki Yoshitake, chef of the Michelin one-star Sola, also in Paris. Considered one of the city's great talents, Yoshitake spent three years at the French restaurant La Rochelle in Sakai (Japan) before moving to Paris in 2009 and toiling in in a number of kitchens including L'Astrance. When Sola opened in 2010, Yoshitake was named its head chef...and he received his first Michelin star two years later. (Michelin says: "This restaurant is just a few yards from the banks of the Seine overlooking Notre Dame and yet you'd be forgiven for thinking you were already in Japan! The young Japanese chef is living proof that the cuisine of his home and adopted countries can combine to create harmonious and gracefully presented culinary creations.") This is the seventh book for author Chihiro Masui; previous titles include Petits Gâteaux, Astrance, Tartes and Amandine Chaignot.  Color photos (more than 100 of them) are by Richard Haughton a London-based Irish food photographer.

And last, we have Must Eat Paris (Lannoo Publishers), the fourth title in the Must Eat series. It's the perfect guide for anyone looking "for established values, new addresses and upcoming greatness" on their Parisian dining forays. The book has more than 100 tips from "super foodie" author Luc Hoornaert, who--with photographer Kris Vlegels--presents what he believes are the greatest spots right now for the best of French and international cuisine. From food stalls to small cafés to imaginative, high-end restaurants, Hoornaert sticks to his criteria: authenticity, devotion, high-quality ingredients and a no-nonsense approach to food. 

Ok, onward! To enter the contest, simply leave a comment under "comments" below. Tell me which book you'd most like to win and why. Make sure to leave your email address so I can reach you if you win; signing in with your Google account isn't enough. If you're confused by how to leave a comment, email your comment to me at and I'll post it for you. And don't forget your name, please. Bon Chance!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Posh and Becks are Selling in Provence

David and Victoria Beckham have listed their six-bedroom home in the Var region of Provence for €2.75 million. Marketed as "an exceptional estate in a pristine setting," the 200-acre property, Domaine Saint-Vincent, has three reception rooms, four bathrooms, staff accommodationan infinity pool and pool house, a two-story guest house, a chapel, various outbuildings "with additional potential" and far-reaching valley views. 

The Daily Mail reports that the Beckhams bought the 19th-century home for €1.74 million in 2003 and spent €5.7 million on renovation. If it sells for its asking price, that could represent a loss of €4.6 million for the couple, who are estimated to be worth more than €500 million. 

The Daily Mail also says that the house is reportedly haunted by the former owner, who committed suicide in the study.

The reason Posh and Becks are upping sticks, however, is said to be that the couple and their four children--Brooklyn, 17; Romeo, 13; Cruz, 11; and Harper, 5--prefer to spend their time in London (where they recently spent £31 milllion on a townhouse in Holland Park) and in Los Angeles.

Other reports suggest the Beckhams are offloading real estate because they're planning to divorce.

Either way, everyone seems to agree they've hardly used the house. A story in The Sun quoted "a source": "The locals won't miss them as they were hardly ever here. When they were, David signed the odd autograph and he once had a kick-about with the villagers, but that was their only contact with them. You wouldn't have seen Victoria queuing for a croissant in the boulangerie."

Domaine Saint-Vincent is 4 km from the village of Bargemon, 23 km off the A8 motorway (exit Le Muy) and 99 km from Nice International Airport.

For all the details see the listing here... 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Luminessences Opens Tonight in Avignon

Les Luminessences d'Avignon, a monumental 360°sound-and-light show at the Palais des Papes, is one of those annual spectacles (as the French call them) that seems to grow more and more popular each year.  This year's show, the fourth annual, opens tonight and runs until October 2, in the Palace's Honour Courtyard.

The Palais des Papes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was home to nine successive popes, considered the heart of the medieval Christian world and was the scene of several sieges. It played a very unique and vital role in European history...and Luminessences tells its story.  (For more on the Avignon papacy, click here.) The show--the same production as the one shown last summer--cloaks the four wings of the palace in enormous images and surround the audience "in a poetic fusion of architecture, light and music." Mostly everyone stands for the 35-minute show but small folding chairs and wheelchairs are welcome. 

This year, there will be three shows each week in English: at 10:15 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Shows in French will be at 9:15 pm (every night) and at 10:15 pm (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday)

Tickets can be bought online in English here...or at the Palais des Papes during opening hours... or at the Avignon Tourist Office (see link and phone below). 

Prices are 11 € for adults, 9€ (reduced rate) free for kids under age 8. Info on group sales, private events, getting to Avignon, tickets and much more  is on the Luminessences website in English here.  They're also on Facebook For info by phone, call the Avignon Tourist Office at +33 (0)4 32 74 32 74. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Uplifting Voices in Lumières and Vaison

Every summer, a group of talented singers from Nice and the UK known as the Ristretto Choir arrives in tiny, charming Lumières in the Luberon to enjoy good food and wine, the beauty of Provence, lovely warm weather and a week of intensive choral singing. This year's program will be two challenging works: "Concerto for Choir" by Alfred Schnittke (sung in Russian) and "Spem in alium" by Thomas Tallis.  Their open-to-the-public concert will be Saturday August 13 at 6 pm, in the Chapelle des Missions of the Hotellerie Notre Dame de Lumières, a very-special hotel in a former 17th-century convent. Admission to the concert is free...just show up! For a casual dinner afterwards, stroll over to Le Garage, grab an outdoor table and tuck into a terrific selection of tapas, small plates and cocktails. Lumières is just off the D900, just below the village of Goult...about 15 to 20 minutes from Gordes and the 12th-century Abbaye de Sénanque. And if you're planning an event of your own, the highly regarded Ristretto Choir and its musicians are 
available for weddings and other events. For more info:, +33 (0)6-17-71-71-70. 

*If choral music is your thing, you probably already know about the International Choral Festival, which happens every three years in Vaison-la-Romaine...when the streets literally are filled with the sound of music. It happens every three years, in early August, and it's happening now, until Aug 11. There are classes, free concerts, paid concerts, street performers bursting into song...and much more. Check out the daily free concert at 6 pm on the Place concerts in the place in front of the 15th-century cathedral in the Medieval village...and the 8:30 pm paid-entry concert at the Roman theater, with sing-along. For info: 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Friday: Food, Friends, Fireworks, Fun...

After the Bastille Day atrocities in Nice, the City of Cannes cancelled the fireworks scheduled for July 21. Shortly thereafter, the Mayor of Cannes announced that the International Fireworks Festival--a hugely popular annual event that welcomes pyrotechnic teams from all over the world--would resume this Friday, July 29, "with new security arrangements, a specific tribute to the victims of the Nice terrorist attack, and affirmation, by the renewal of the world’s largest fireworks festival, of our resilience and defense of our way of life as the Riviera spirit." There will also be fireworks on August 7, 15 and 24...more on that below.
The American Club of the Riviera has also rescheduled the party they had planned for July it's this Friday as well. ACR president Burton Gintell tells me they have a few spots left and they'd love to have you! For this popular annual event, the ACR booked one of Cannes' finest beach restaurants, the  3.14 Plage, located very centrally on the Croisette just opposite the Carlton Hotel. The fireworks are launched from several barges moored in the Bay, just opposite the restaurant, and are beautifully choreographed to music. 
The ACR evening begins at 8 pm with a welcome drink and nibbles, followed by a three-course dinner with wine, and fireworks set to start at 10 pm. You must reserve ahead...walk ins won't be possible.  The evening is €85 for members; €90 for non-members; €40 for kids.
For reservations, parking info and more, see the ACR website here.
Questions? Contact Burton: +33 (0)6 20 40 11 28  or
The Fireworks Festival will continue with shows on August 7, 15 and 24th. The festival website in English is here.

Photos: Past fireworks in Cannes...and the restaurant called 3.14 Plage, where the American Club of the Riviera will host their party on Friday July 29.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Postcard from the Edge: A Guest Post

The approach to the Calanque de Sormiou, where chef Andy Floyd and his family had a great afternoon at the restaurant Le Chateau. His guest post about it appears below. Click any of the photos to enlarge.
On the Edge: Sormiou is one of the lesser known calanques, considered something of a locals' secret.
After a somewhat tense 4 kilometer drive down a narrow, winding'll arrive wanting wine quickly. Note, the parking lot is filled mostly with small cars.
The cove and beach that beckon you before and after lunch. Andy says the kids didn't want to leave.
Chef Andy and his wife Lucy both had fish soup followed by grilled dorade. The kids ate shrimp and pasta. The meal was excellent...and expensive.
The entrance to a private little cabanon, off the beach.
On the way home, Marseille (and civilization) loom in the distance.
The Floyd Family's Excellent Provence Adventure included this photo opp in the hills facing Les Baux de Provence. Clockwise: Lucy, Paris, Andy, Sophia and Soleil.

A note from Julie: Every now and then I ask foodie friends in France...or just back from write about one restaurant in Provence they love. When my chef pal Andy Floyd mentioned he had just been to the Le Château de Sormiou, I was all over it--I've wanted to go there for years.  As the GM of KitchenTable Cooking School and the Academic Director of the Professional Culinary Arts Program at Colorado Culinary Academy (Denver), Andy has been teaching budding chefs for more than 20 years.  For 10 of them, he directed professional programs at Culinary School of the Rockies (Boulder) and took groups of students for month-long trips to cook and to stage in some Provence’s finest restaurants. As a result, he remains intimately connected to the food world in the South of France. After a few years away, Andy recently returned for vacation with his wife Lucy and their three kids. And here's his report about their day at the Le Château...not just a restaurant but a true adventure...

No trip to Provence would be complete without a visit to the Calanques between Marseille and Cassis. The white limestone cliffs and inlets that begin in the heart of Marseille and follow the coast to the picturesque port town of Cassis are the summer playground of the Marseillais.

Over the years, I'd visited Cassis many times with my culinary students.  A bouillabaisse in the port followed by a boat trip to the awesome Calanque d'En-Vau is de rigueur for anyone visiting the area. But I'd often heard of another very special Calanque, a well-guarded secret of the locals called the Calanque de Sormiou and I was determined to explore this little gem on my recent family trip. But--understatement here--it's not easy to get to. If you want to avoid the hour-long hike in, your only choice is to rent one of the tiny seaside bungalows or to make reservations at the Le Château Sormiou, the little restaurant with a “to die for” view of the Sormiou Calanque and a fresh-out-of-the-water seafood menu. It's open from the first weekend in April to the last weekend in September and has been serving customers since 1948.

If you plan to go by car, make sure you reserve way ahead, as you're vying for access to this amazing spot with quite few others. When you call Le Château for reservations they'll ask for your car’s license plate number; this is mandatory or “le gardien” won't let you through the gate that takes you up and over the limestone mountain into the tight, steep descent into the Calanque.  If you don’t know your rental car’s license plate number when you make the reservation, just explain that you'll provide it closer to your arrival date. (Need I point out that good command of the French language, as well as being able to decipher the subtleties of the Marseillais patois, are a pre-requisite to making your reservation?). Once you've booked your table, you've overcome the major obstacle to getting to this little gem. Well, one of them at least.

I've been to Marseille many times and though I can easily find my way to the main landmarks, I could never have navigated my way to the entrance of this Calanque without a GPS. I felt like I was in a scene from the The French Connection as I exited from a major highway onto an elevated single lane that led me into a construction area and then into an eight-lane boulevard. Then finally, after many disorienting directional changes, I began to see signs for the Calanque de Sormiou. Much relief! We began to leave the bustle of the city into a forested area and then finally the GPS said we had reached our destination...even though we were still 4 km from the entrance. 

Once we arrived at the gate, the gardien looked from our car to his clipboard and back. No match, he proclaimed. We weren't on the list! 

Actually, we had planned to come with a friend in her car and when that plan fell through, I called to make the change....but I guess the gardien didn’t get the updated license number.  We managed to convince him that we were legit restaurant customers with a reservation and eventually he relented and lifted the gate. 

Now we started to question what kind of drive we were about to have, if such a careful selection process was required...and then a few clicks in we began to understand. But we really got the picture once we arrived at the top of Calanque and began to make our way down a one-lane road with pot holes and certain-death drop offs.  We prayed that no vehicles would be coming in the other direction and I surveyed the options ahead for any slight widening of the road. We made it down to the parking area (4€ charge) in a state of high stress and in desperate need of a glass or two of rosé.  We gathered our beach bags and gear and headed to the restaurant. 

We sat outside on the covered terrace with a gorgeous view of the sea and the Calanque.  Within minutes the empty terrace filled with clients.  It's very important to note this is a strictly cash restaurant and there are no ATMs or electricity or running water for that matter. Be prepared! We ordered up a bottle of rosé which came in a cute little plastic bag filled with ice. Lucy and I both settled in on soupe de poisson and a grilled whole dorade with vegetables and potatoes. The kids chose shrimp and pasta but there were a few meat dishes offered as well.  If you call ahead, you can order bouillabaisse, the local specialty, priced at 45€ per person, minimum two people. The food was excellent and unquestionably fresh though clearly priced with the captive audience in mind. Our lunch for five, with one bottle of wine, came to around 250€.  We changed in their restroom and after giving them a big wad of cash, headed to the beach.  Pleasantly, it was a real beach with sand (not rocky, like many coastal beaches here), and the water was perfect.  This day was without a doubt the highlight of our trip and the kids really didn't want to leave.   

The drive back up the Calanque was little less stressful though a lot busier and we did have to negotiate cars coming down at the same time. As we crested the top of the entrance to the Calanque we were presented with a stunning view of downtown Marseille and reluctantly we drove toward it, tucking away the experience of the special gem we had just uncovered. And yes, we would absolutely do it again!

Le Château Sormiou
Tel: +33 (0) 4 91 25 08 69
GPS: 226 Chemin de Sormiou, 13009 Marseille
Open seven days, first weekend in April to last weekend in Sept.
Lunch served 12 to 3; dinner 7:30 to 9:30.
Reservations required, no email, no credit cards.

All photos by Andy Floyd. To reach him:


Related Posts with Thumbnails