Top 5 finds in Provence

We’re going beyond the lavender fields to give you the Kitchen Stories approved top 5 finds in Provence’s Luberon Valley! Let’s begin, in no particular order, mind you …

Sunset from Saint Saturnin Les Apt

Every night in Provence, the sky put on a show – but there was one place that took the cake. Perched on the rock face looking down on Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt – our home for our week in Provence – are sprawling stone chateau ruins with a 360 degree view of the Luberon valley. To truly witness the grand finale to each Provençal day – from lavender prelude to the crescendo of sunbeam yellow and fuchsia swirls giving way to dusky blue – this is the spot.


Walk up before sunset (there’s an easy path marked from the center of town) and pack yourself a picnic: red wine (no one likes an un-chilled white or rosé and contrary to popular opinion, there are many local reds worth sipping like Lea Malbec’s), saucisson, goat cheese, tomatoes (they went everywhere with us), and olive bread.

Tomatoes

Should you find yourself in Provence in the late summer, you will go certifiably tomato mad with the sheer variety on offer – most so sweet you remember why they’re technically a fruit. Short of snacking on cherry tomatoes like popcorn – how to enjoy them best? 


During a break in filming I tucked into a solo lunch at Le Saint Hubert: A pile of quartered beefsteak tomatoes, just one of the heirloom varieties we saw at the market, topped with a teardrop-shaped goat cheese and drizzled with balsamic vinegar from nearby Roussillon and olive oil from the Baux de Provence. They say only a wolf dines alone, and I’d usually agree, but when a salad has this much personality, there’s little need for human company.

Baskets

I have a sneaking suspicion that the first thing one does when one moves to Provence is invest in a woven basket. It’s a sign that yes – you’ve settled into this sunny paradise, you didn’t come with a strict luggage allowance, and you’re ready to load up on fresh produce to take back to chez toi and eat en plein air (if you sense a little envy from me, you’d be right). So if you’re going to go to the marché, you had better select a trusty companion: The typical Provencal basket is made of woven wicker with leather trimmings and is the perfect convex shape to house all manner of market findings. Even if you don’t have one of your own to tote to the local market this weekend, make like the French and be sure to bring a reusable bag in its place.

Hotel Le Saint Hubert

For the last 150 years the pastel-fronted building of Le Saint Hubert has been a ballroom, a post office, and the Luberon’s most famous restaurant in the 80s. Could its guise today as a bar and restaurant, steered by chefs Lise Kvan and Eric Monteleon, be it’s best? It has all the innings: a panoramic terrace to dine on at dinner and the old world charm of the bar at the front outfitted with leather seats and restored geometric stone tiles Lise and Eric uncovered during their renovations. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and evening drinks – and is the place to watch town life idle. If you fancy yourself a flaneur on holiday: the crowd is mixed locals on their way home for a night cap, the previous owner stopping for a coffee out front, visitors lunching on Eric’s midday menu – the omelet was without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had, custardy and light as air. In the future, Le Saint Hubert will open up its rooms again – each gifted with character and top-notch views.

Apricots

I’d never been one for apricots – they always seemed to me a filmier, less juicy counterpart to a peach – but that was only until I bit into one at the farmers market that was ripe, sweet, and erupting with juice. The local variety is „Rose de Provence“, named for the skin’s pink blush – eat them fresh or as a preserve to be slathered on baguettes or cooked into tarts.

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