For the last week, Chris and I have been in a small town called Cadenet, France, which is located in the Provence-Alps-Côte d’Azur region.
The subtle scent of lavender and rosemary wafts through the warm summer air while we peruse les marchés of the charming Provençal villages nearby. Next, we cruise down the highway in our Peugeot as we look for roadside fruit stands, windows down; wind against our face, passing seemingly endless vineyards as the soft hum of cicadas compete for our attention over our French equivalent of Snoop Doggy Dog on SkyRadio. Don’t worry, this isn’t the start of some Peter Mayle sequel (if it was my punctuations would be in the correct spot) but rather my way of telling you that Provence is the real deal.
We quickly fell into our foodie rhythm the first day when we stopped by the Aix-en-Provence tourist office where we discovered that there was a Festival de la Gastronomie Provençale in Châteauneuf le Rouge the next day. The all-day event is centered around 6 renowned restaurants in Provence who present 5-6 dishes each for tasting. One of them is a Michelin starred restaurant! There are also copious bakeries, confectionaries and various wineries that sponsor the event and sell their delicacies. Attendees order a booklet of tickets and pay for each creation of their choice with their 1 or 2 Euro tickets.
The morning of the event I channeled my inner Padema (taster on Top Chef) as I selected the perfect Provençal outfit to take on my food taster responsibilities. We arrived to the event 30 minutes late (which is on time in France) so that we could navigate the vendors and fill up our trays as strategically as possible. Here’s what went down…
After lunch, the chefs of the 6 restaurants do demos in front of an audience. Chris and I didn’t stay for this portion, as we had to get back to our sick dog. That evening there is a dinner hosted by the grand chefs but we couldn’t tell if it is a reservation only event.
As the flyer indicates, this is a yearly event; this year being the 22nd celebration. If you are going to Provence in 2015, I highly recommend seeking it out. I’ve never taken the opportunity to go to the Food and Wine event in Aspen, Colorado nor any other national food events but I certainly will prioritize one in the future. The infectious energy of the people, regional flavors and learning tools make this an unforgettable occasion for someone who appreciates food. Also, the local events, like this, helps one to better understand the agriculture and food history that has shaped an area. I can’t think of a better way to be a tourist.