Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

My Adventures in Provence Part Two: La Cuisine

* If you missed Part One of my Adventures in Provence series, click HERE.

Not a day goes by that I do not have a discussion about food… An in-depth discussion about food. I have been doing this my entire life and you can safely say that my life revolves around food. I grew up surrounded by food conversations. My mother is an amazing cook, had a cookware store and even taught cooking classes out of our house. Her mother was an amazing cook and her recipe box is more coveted that her pearls. My aunt is an amazing cook and was the Chief Culinary Officer for the Food Channel. Then, I married a Frenchman whose mother is such an amazing cook that even when we are at lunch we are talking about what she’s going to make for dinner. I said the word “amazing” in this paragraph four times and meant it each time.

The first year that I had ALS, I remember reading an article about a gentleman who also had ALS but he could no longer eat. He listed three pages of all the foods that he missed...Beef Bourguignon, Caesar salad, grilled cheese, sushi, cheeseburgers, cereal, Eggplant Parmesan, Eggs Benedict etc. I remember thinking to myself, “That might possibly be the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.” I made a vow to myself right then and there that I would savor and cherish every moment that I had left “to eat.” Don’t laugh or judge… Imagine for one second that you could never eat again. Hell on earth.

My friend Romy Grace, as I call her, whom we visited, as you know, in Provence recently shares my same enthusiasm towards food. I can’t even tell you how many conversations we’ve had over the years regarding pizza crust, sea urchin, pasta and our favorite hotel buffets. We also share the same aesthetics when it comes to setting the table… The dishes, napkins, the flowers, the candles… even down to the little honey and jam pots. We actually derive true pleasure in the whole presentation.                                                                                                                

So, without further ado, I bring you our weekend of food in Provence.

We arrived to my friend’s house rather late after our train ride from Paris but as we pulled up into the courtyard of their house the outdoor dining table was all set and the twinkly lights in the canopy trees could not have begged a more beautiful setting. A midnight snack of Provençal cheeses sent us off to bed for a dreamy sleep for our first evening. The entire weekend we ate every single meal outdoors… As God intended. Our host’s wonderful house staff of Christina and Joaquim lovingly cooked every meal with regional produce fresh picked at the Provence farmers market.

I woke up to a beautiful breakfast served on the breakfast terrace with plenty of sunshine and the most beautiful blue sky that you’ve ever seen with an ancient stone fountain providing the music. This might be as close to paradise on earth as anyone’s ever going to get.

The goat cheese was like butta!
Organic eggs from the house chickens, of course. The dishes are from the La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco.

Breakfast slid into lunch and we found ourselves on another terrace having another glorious meal. Saturday’s lunch was served under a shaded canopy of chestnut trees overlooking a vast view of Provence with only the sound of a peaceful fountain nearby and the chirping of birds. Living in a bustling city like Paris you come to cherish the fact that silence is golden. I could visually see David, Grace and I actually start to relax. Phones were set aside, shoulders started to drop and we were nearly one yawn away from a nap every second.

Homemade Pesto Pasta
 Spinach salade with homemade vinaigrette and herbed foie gras.
Farmers market tomatoes with fresh burrata.

Saturday called for a day at the pool but not without plenty of fruit.


After a little downtime, we reconvened on yet another terrace for a little pre-dinner aperitif. This particular terrace hosted a sunset view surrounded by the parterres of an herb garden and yet another ancient fountain.

We were spoiled by Joaquim's famous mojitos and Christina’s hors d’oeuvres. Olive tapenade, bruschetta, smoked salmon with crème fraîche and fresh dill from the garden…

 Saturday evening’s dinner brought us back to our Santa Barbara roots and a barbecue by the pool was served!

Chicken shish kebabs, North African merguez sausages, grilled steaks, potatoes with herbs, grilled zucchini, grilled eggplant, and Christina’s famous Tomate Provençal and raspberry cheesecake.

 Romy Grace and the Apricot on a chilly evening in Provence.

Sunday’s lunch was a very special event but I will save that story for later this week.

Before we boarded our Sunday evening train back to Paris, we were treated to one more fabulous little snack. Afternoon tea with Christina’s homemade cake and Madeleines.

The best part about all of these meals was that I was lucky enough to have them with my friends. Our hosts, nicknamed Romy Grace and The Apricot, could not have been more warm or hospitable. The Apricot starts the stories, always making me giggle, and Romy Grace sprinkles every conversation with her endearing joie de vivre. And the best part about our meals together is that Romy Grace is always holding someone’s hand… Her husband’s, mine or their new baby’s. More on that new baby later!

And now for a little treat! Christina and Joaquim have been so kind as to lend two of their recipes to us! First we have Joaquim's famous mojitos and then we have Christina’s famous tomate Provençal!

Joaquim and Cristina in the kitchen.
JOAQUIM’S FAMOUS MOJITOS (For one portion of cocktail)
5 cl of white rum
7  leaves of fresh peppermint 
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 spoon of powder sugar
Crashed ice
In one glass crush the peppermint leaves and the lime together with the sugar. Then add the ice and the rum. Serve with a slice of lime and a fresh leaf of peppermint.
6 ripe tomatoes, for instance coeur de boeuf
2 gloves of garlic
1 big spoon of fresh cut basil 
1 big spoon of freshly cut persil
1 big spoon of freshly cut thyme
a couple of big spoons of breadcrumbs for the crust
olive oil
salt and pepper
Cut the tomatoes in thick slices and take off the seeds. Then put a bit of olive oil into a baking dish, add the tomatoes slices, top with the chopped garlic and the herbes, season with salt and pepper and add a bit of water.
Let simmer for about 30 minutes, then cover with the breadcrumbs and toast in the oven at a temperature of 180°C for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Merci beaucoup Christina and Joaquim.

Thank you for sharing my weekend in Provence and I am so happy you came along for the ride. Remember, life is too short not to enjoy the beautiful things.

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Provence series. This next one involves four-legged friends and finned friends. I think you will just love it!

*Something you don’t know about me? I love learning all about you. Thank you for sending in all of your comments about yourselves. Seems like birds of a feather flock together, non? Don’t forget to go check out Stephen’s recipe for horseradish croutons in the comments! Thank you Stephen, you are my favorite human being on earth.












  1. OMYGAW! That is my idea of heaven. Eating, sunning,sleeping,drinking,eating and gawking. Most excellent adventure Ellie. :)

  2. Oh Ellie! There is not much more amazing that incredible food on incredibly beautiful table in fantastic locations with amazing people. It is fall here in central Canada, which comes with its own great food traditions, but dining al fresco in the summer is unbeatable. thanks so much for sharing! I am eating vicariously with you with these amazing photos!

  3. I've had the pleasure of meeting them here in Santa Barbara at a mutual friends house . Their home , gardens , dishes , food , all of it are as lovely as they are . And of course they love you - who doesn't ? Thank you for my Monday in Provence . Love , A

    1. Aren't they the greatest thing since sliced bread! I'm so glad you had the opportunity to meet them. I'm sure they adored you. Miss you Adrienne.

  4. Oh this just looks like heaven. So beautiful! And those little condiment containers?! They are exquisite. I love how unfussy all the table settings are. And how lovely is your hostess? I want to go work there as an herb gardener and sous chef.
    On Saturday, I was driving home from the farmers market eating a fresh chocolate croissant. I passed a bunch of very fit guys riding bikes. I rolled my eyes and shook my head and thought "oh what awful lives they have!". And then burst out laughing at just how skewed my perspective is. As you can imagine, I talk about food all the time too. In fact once when I was being dumped (I was so relieved), one of the complaints was that all I wanted to do was cook or talk about food. All he wanted to do was cocaine, so we were rather incompatible. I love to learn about ingredients and technique and the culture surrounding any type of food. Therefore, I'm always obsessively learning/talking about some type of food. It's such an easy way to connect with people. One of my favorite things about my job is during the holidays when I have an hour+ to learn all about my clients' holiday meals and why they cook what they cook.
    On pizza crust-I just tried something new a few weeks ago and was very pleased with the result. I added an egg per pizza to the dough. It ups the protein content in the dough, making the crust much crisper. To the mojito, I have tried so many variations on mojitos and yet have never used peppermint instead of spearmint! For the sake of research, I will try that when I get home. You are MY favorite person and I hope you like the croutons. If you don't, I want to know why not. I promise not to get defensive...

    1. I'm laughing because as we are having a conversation about how much we love food, a commercial came on for gastric bypass surgery. Ha ha ha. I hate your cocaine boyfriend. I would prefer you have a boyfriend who smoked pot because at least he would eat your horseradish croutons. XOXO

    2. Sorry to enter and hijack your comment Stephen & Ellie ~ can't help myself however.... I nearly choked on a blueberry (food!) when reading Stephen's story about the bicyclists! well, and then had to chuckle loudly at the cocaine boyfriend! Sure do get much pleasure from Have Some Decorum, from food, and from reading you amazing readers' comments! Thanks for a great start to the day!

  5. Something you don't know about me? I check your blog daily because I LOVE your posts! (I realize that I could sign up for notifications but that doesn't feed the obsessive side of me...) Provence looks glorious - so have to go there! My cousin visited me over the past weekend and we started talking about our grandmother, who passed away in 1972. The focus of our conversation was the food that she made! She was an amazing woman with many admirable qualities but talking about her fresh preserves and pies...well, that took me back to my childhood quicker than anything!

  6. Good Night Nurse, that looks good! I am going to take your
    advice and have my dinner on the porch... Its a bit chilly and raining
    but weather be damned! We should eat outside!

  7. YOU In your ORANGE LOAFERS.............not missed by ME!
    GORGEOUS ALL OF YOU...........
    WHAT A GET AWAY..........
    I wonder if your friends knew my AUNT KATHERINE ABERCROMBIE?
    I better be your FAVORITE CONTESSA if STEPHEN is your favorite HUMAN!!!!

  8. Feeling grateful that you bring us along for the ride, but more than that, I love that you are loved SO MUCH! Each day hearts soften a little bit more because of you. xob

  9. What a wonderful way to spend a weekend. I think the thing that shocked my french husband the most when we were first married was that I was always talking about food. I dissected every meal. He would suggest that just eating it was enough. I of course, disagreed.

  10. What a magnificent setting for a wonderful weekend! So glad you loved it all. I think you were born for that type of fabulous place and you look so at home there you could own the place. Stephen's croutons sound amazing. Thanks for the beautiful walk through a stunning world, Ellie.

  11. I love reading your blog, of course, especially when it about food. But, I also love reading the comments because your friends reveal themselves to be as delightful as you are. You are so fortunate to have such a charming group of people who obviously love you very much. Well deserved, I must say.

  12. During my salad days of life, friends used to remark "pack me away in your suitcase!", now I am echoing their refrain to you, the next time you visit Romy Grace & Apricot :) I tasted and savored every dish as I read about it. Thank you again Ellie, for sharing.

  13. Ellie you have the most wonderful friends. I can tell how special they are by your thoughts on the getaway to their home in Provence. The food, the outdoor terraces everywhere. I love the glass carafes on the breakfast table. It all looks so serene!

    The Arts by Karena
    Featuring India Hicks!

  14. What an adventure in Provence; I love reading all about it! The al fresco dining, bucolic setting, farm-fresh food, pretty table settings and convivial hosts make every meal memorable. Keep the enjoyable details coming - in the way that is uniquely yours.
    Having previously spent time in Provence, many years ago my husband and I were excited to be invited to a "Provence" themed dinner party, but it turned out to be a meal where the first-time hostess just liberally seasoned all courses with Herbs de Provence (nuts, meat, potatoes, vegetables, cheese). I called it the "the too-much-of-a-good-thing" dinner party.

  15. What a week-end!! The friendship, the home/castle, the food and love...cannot be equaled. Thanks for pushing me to get up and going after surgery!!! Next installment please.

  16. Oh, ferhevinssake! Do you have any female friends who aren't blond and beautiful and any male friends who aren't equally dazzling? Sheesh. The second I hit Publish, I'm making an appointment to get my roots blonderized, and will peel and pulverize one perfect peach to drizzle into a fizzy glass. You see how you inspire the distant drab Pacific NW? xxoo

  17. I could eat horseradish by the spoonful, but I can't find the recipe for the horseradish croutons! Help somebody!!! Loved the report, Ellie!!! I wish I was a good cook, but, alas, am only as good as the recipe I follow!

    1. Hi Nan! Just check Stephen's comments for the last two blog post and that is where his horseradish croutons recipe is! XOXO Ellie

    2. Great googamooga! Between the horseradish crouton and the Tomate Provencale recipes I may just up my cooking status from "meh" to "hell yeah"!!! Thanks for the directions to Stephen's recipe....I think I have a huge crush on him, too!! How can I get invited to his funeral? He made it sound like a real thro'down!!!!

  18. Oh Ellie thank you so much for this wonderful excursion and your beautiful diary of it. Thanks also to the person who takes ALL the pics for your audience to swoon over. You are the best and I love love love your orange loafers!

  19. Thank you for sharing your authentic experiences with us! Your blog is a delightful escape for me when my young children are being picky and refuse to eat anything but white bread and pasta, or when I'm forced to be around people whose idea of French decor is Eiffel Tower tchotchkes, ha ha! (Ok, I'm crying really).

  20. Hi Ellie :)
    I'm still a little new to your wonderfullness and try to catch up by reading several posts at a time. Maybe that leads to a certain condensation of emotion... When I came to the photo of the four of you on the benches, I choked up a bit to see Romy Grace so sweetly and inclusively holding your hand. That one act illustrated to me how lovely and thoughtful a person she must be and how much she loves you. Grace, indeed.