Wednesday, September 17, 2014

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things in Sablet

We are counting down the days till we board our plane for France. It seems like it has been forever since we were in Sablet and we can't wait to get back. When we finally exit the A-7 autoroute at Orange, we will head to Sablet through the town of Camaret-sur-Aigues, then down a narrow two-lane road through the Plan-de-Dieu vineyards. Then voila, we will see Sablet off in the distance.

Sablet

This post includes photographs of some of my favorite places and people to hang out with in Sablet. These pictures were taken last spring when Kari visited during her travels through Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, England and wait for it ... Thailand where she went after 3 months in the European Union zone.

Café des Sports

One of my favorite places to hang out in Sablet is at a sunny table in front of Café des Sports.

Sylvie Bordeaux with brother and sister-in-law

Two of my favorite people in Sablet, or really anywhere for that matter are Alain Fabre who owns Vival Grocery Store with wife Mimi and Sylvie Bordeaux who owns Café des Sports with husband Bruno.

Alain Fabre and Sylvie Bordeaux

We like this little orange truck, so much so that we have a framed picture of the truck in our California home along with pictures of unusual Deux Chevaux we have come across. It seems appropriate that this unusual truck is generally parked in front of Insolite, which translates to "unusual."

Kari admires the miniature truck

If you have been a reader of Our House in Provence blog for a while, you have already figured out that one of my favorite places in Sablet for taking pictures of people, is around the pretty fountain at Place Yvan Audouard, just a few steps from our house.

Fountain at Place Yvan Audouard

No doubt about it, my favorite place in Sablet is our house. Looking at this picture, reminds me I should probably paint the garage door while we are there.

Home Sweet Home

In this picture, Shirley stands in "Grande" (big or wide) Rue and stretches her arms between our house and the house across the street.

Shirley stands in Grand Rue and stretches her arms between our house and neighbors

In the picture which follows, Kari is reading in the bedroom window where she has a bird's eye view of the village.

Kari reads her book on the window ledge

Kari gives me a smile from her perch on the window ledge high above the street.

Kari gives me a smile from the window ledge

One of our favorite pastimes in Sablet is to watch drivers, usually tourists struggle to make a left turn from Grande Rue onto Rue d'Eglise to go up to the Romanesque Church of Saint Nazaire at the top of the village. Only the locals can make the turn with just one move. We also hang out the window to chat with passerbys, especially if we hear US English being spoken.

Shirley hangs out the window to greet passerbys

Most mornings and evenings you will find us on the kitchen terrace. This is where in good weather, we always have our petit dejeuner including a café, and croissants and palmiers from Festival Boulangerie. In the late afternoon, you will find us enjoying a glass of chilled local rosé wine if we are not down at Café des Sports.

Yours truly and Shirley relax on kitchen terrace

We generally eat out at lunch in whatever village we happen to find ourselves. But in the evening, we generally cook whatever we found that day in the market. This day being Thursday, I bought Dover Sole this morning from Monsieur Lafont of Marée du Comtat Venaison when he brought his mobile fish stand to Sablet like I told you here.

Favorite room in the house

I dust the cleaned fillets in flour and then sauté the fish in a combination of butter and olive oil in a non-stick pan.

Cleaned Dover sole ready for cooking

I keep the fish warm in a very low oven while I finish the other dishes.

Cooked Dover Sole

Most people are frightened away from cooking whole fish because of their fear of having to debone the fish. I am not perfect, but I am getting better. I think the old adage, "Practice makes Perfect" holds true when it comes to deboning fish.

Yours Truly debones the Dover Sole

Cooking whole fish is worth the effort to get over your fear and learn to debone whole fish.

Dover Sole with lemon caper butter sauce

I also made this Eggplant Custard from a recipe I found in a cookbook by Richard Olney entitled "Simple French Food."

Eggplant Custard

We finished our dinner with a Pear Cake that had a deliciously moist interior and slightly crunchy exterior. I will have to tell you how to make this cake for yourselves in a future post. I made it here a few weeks ago. It is really simple and delicious.

Pear Cake

I have been fortunate to meet some people in person and others by way of email because of this blog. I hope to meet many more of you in the future. I get a huge kick when people tell me they planned their trips to Provence based on my blog or went to a village or tried a restaurant because of it.

I have showed you a few of my favorite things about Sablet. It goes without saying that we love Sablet and that we have a whole different life in this village. Someone I met today by email summed up what we love about Sablet.

Jeri, I hope you don't mind me sharing what you said. "We're actually in Sablet now, finishing up a two-week stay. We were here for three weeks in 2012 and really loved the village--friendly people, fabulous location, and a real, functioning town, not a museum like Seguret. So we came back this year and find that our first impressions have been confirmed."

Have a great week. Chat soon.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Visit to Avignon and Lunch at La Fourchette Restaurant

Avignon is 40 km southwest of Sablet, snuggled inside ancient walls along the Rhône River. The largest town in the Vaucluse, Avignon is very old, full of history, art, music and activity. You can spend hours wandering the narrow streets inside the fortified walls without getting bored. One day while Shirley and friend Kari were shopping for kids clothes, I wandered off to see what I could find.

Avignon is well known for its Festival d'Avignon, the annual festival of dance, music and theater founded in 1947. There are really two festivals that take place: the more formal "Festival In", which presents plays inside the Palace of the Popes and the more bohemian "Festival Off", known for its presentation of largely undiscovered plays and street performances.

The Palais des Papes ("Papal Palace") almost dwarfs the cathedral. The palace is an impressive monument and sits within a square of the same name. The palace was begun in 1316 by John XXII and continued by succeeding popes through the 14th century, until 1370 when it was completed.

Pope's Palace

Avignon is commemorated by the French song, "Sur le Pont d'Avignon" ("On the bridge of Avignon"), which describes folk dancing. The song dates from the mid-19th century when Adolphe Adam included it in the opera "Le Sourd ou l'Auberge Pleine" which was first performed in Paris in 1853. The opera was an adaptation of an 1790 comedy by Desforges.

The bridge in the song is the Saint-Bénézet bridge over the Rhône River of which only four arches (out of the initial 22) now remain. The bridge was built between 1171 and 1185, with a length of some 2950 feet, but was destroyed during the siege of Avignon by Louis VIII of France in 1226. It was rebuilt but was damaged frequently during floods and had to be continually repaired. Several arches were already missing before the remainder was abandoned in 1669.

Saint-Bénézet Bridge

The defensive walls were built by the popes in the 14th century and still encircle Avignon. They are one of the finest examples of medieval fortification in existence. The walls are of great strength and are surmounted by machicolated battlements flanked at intervals by 39 massive towers and pierced by several gateways, three of which date from the 14th century.

Avignon Defensive Wall

Notre-Dame des Doms Cathedral is a Romanesque building, mainly built during the 12th century. The most prominent feature of the cathedral is the 19th century gilded statue of the Virgin which surmounts the western tower. The mausoleum of Pope John XXII (1334) is one of the most beautiful works within the cathedral, it is a noteworthy example of 14th-century Gothic carving.

Notre-Dame des Doms Cathedral

Keep your eyes raised as you walk around so you don't miss the murals on building facades representing the Festival d'Avignon and statues of the virgin perched on corners of buildings around Avignon.

Building Mural Representing the Festival d'Avignon 

Building Mural Representing the Festival d'Avignon

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature.

Statue of Molière in front of the Opera-Theater of Avignon

Near the Palais des Papes is the Opera-Theater seen below, built in 1825 on Place de l’Horloge. Rebuilt in 1847 after a fire, the Opera House offers music, dance, theater and opera performances throughout the year.

Opera-Theater

Next to the Opera-Theatre on Place de l'Horloge is the neo-classical town hall (Hôtel de Ville) built in the 19th century as a replacement for an older building. Only the 14th century clock tower (Tour de l'Horloge) remains from the original structure. The Gothic clock tower, which gave the square its name, was incorporated into the construction of the later Hôtel de Ville.

The City of Avignon sets up a traditional Provençal crèche with santons (Provençal: "little saint") in the Hotel de Ville every year. A santon is a small hand-painted, terracotta nativity scene figurine produced by artisans in workshops in Provence. The santons represent various characters from Provençal village life such as the baker, the winemaker, and the farmer wife with eggs.

Avignon Town Hall

Statue of Virgin Mary Perched on Corner of Building

Statue of Virgin Mary Perched on Corner of Building

The penitent brotherhoods were at their peak during the 16th and 17th centuries. The brothers were expected to help each other, do public penance, and perform good deeds. The brotherhood they belonged to was identified by the color of their sackcloth and the hood that covered their heads during processions. Each brotherhood had its own chapel. This is the chapel of the white penitents.

Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs

The Collégiale Saint-Didier Church seen below is a 14th century Gothic church in the middle of Avignon. The current church was built over a period of three years and four months and consecrated on 20 September 1359. It stands on the site of a much older church which may date back to the 7th century though the first texts mentioning the church date back to 1068.

Collégiale Saint-Didier

Entrance to Collégiale Saint-Didier

Inside, the altar is adorned by the stunning "The Bearing of the Cross", sculpted by Francesco Laurana for King René in 1478.

Interior of Collégiale Saint-Didier

As planned, we met up for lunch in front of La Fourchette Restaurant, a restaurant owned by Philippe and Danièle Hiély since 1982.

La Fourchette Restaurant

La Fourchette Dining Room

Chef Hiély offers a three-course menu with quite a few options for both starter and main course for 35 €. Friend Kari pauses for a picture while we wait for entrées (first course) to be brought to our table.


Kari

We are happily seated below at one of our favorite restaurants.

Shirley and Your's Truly

First courses;

Seafood Gratin with Greens

Salad of Green Lentils from Puy with Smoked Salmon with Gravlax Sauce

Main courses;

Scallops with Mango Sauce and Fennel Puree

Salmon fillet with a Cream of Red Pepper Sauce

Daube Avignonnaise

Desserts;

Café Gourmand

Profiterole

As we walked back to the car, we passed the "Belle Epoque" carousel at the top end of the Place de l'Horloge.


La Fourchette Restaurant is one of our favorite restaurants in the Vaucluse. The menu is relatively large for Provence and you know there is always going to be something you like on the menu. I am sure we will dine there when we are in Provence in a few weeks.

La Fourchette Restaurant
17 Rue Racine
84000 Avignon
Tel: 04 90 85 20 93
www.la-fourchette.net

Have a great week! Chat soon.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

French Family Visits Sablet and a Delicious Recipe

One of the things I look forward to in Sablet is visits from French family. In case you don't know, we bought our home in Sablet instead of other places we looked including Paris, Haut-Savoie, Côte d'Azur, Languedoc and Switzerland, because of the weather and proximity to French family.

On a beautiful Saturday last spring, cousin Jean Marc and family came to visit and have lunch prepared by yours truly. Before we sat down to eat, we went to Café des Sports for aperitifs. As I told you here, Café des Sports is owned by friend Bruno Bordeaux and is the center of activities in Sablet.

Family gathers at Café des Sports in Sablet

Anne-Emmanuelle and her partner Guillaume

Matthias and partner Aurélie

Jean Marc and wife Christine

Enjoying aperitifs on a short sleeve weather day in Sablet

After we soaked up some of the Provencal sun and aperitifs and caught up on the latest family news, we went back to the house for lunch. I prepared a restaurant style multi-course meal starting with an amuse bouche of soup made with the first of the season asparagus.

Asparagus soup amuse bouche

Our first course was a truffle risotto, redolent of the aroma of the fresh truffles I got at the market in Richerenche.

Truffle risotto

For our main course, I prepared a delicious Monkfish à la Provençale. I got the recipe from my friend Barbara who runs Cuisine de Provence cooking school, when she and her husband Robert entertained us in their beautiful home in nearby Vaison-la-Romaine a few nights earlier.

Monkfish à la Provençale

We served two of our favorite vegetable side dishes, haricots verts and zucchini gratin, with the Monkfish à la Provençale.

Monkfish à la Provençale with vegetable side dishes

No meal would be complete for French family, especially if cousin Jean Marc is there, without a cheese course. I picked up a variety, goat, sheep, and two cow's milk, cheeses for a cheese course from the wonderful Josiane Deal at her cheese shop Lou Canesteou near the main square in Vaison-la-Romaine.

Cheese course include Banon, Comté, Roquefort, and Époisses de Bourgogne

Cousin Christine brought desserts.

Dessert # 1

Dessert # 2

After our leisurely lunch, we headed out for a walk and ended up in Gigondas.

Shirley and cousins Matthias and Anne-Emmanuelle pause on the fountain near our house

"Monkfish à la Provençale".
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

Monk fish fillets (enough for 6 people), cleaned, skinned and bluish membrane that surrounds meat removed before cooking. Ask your fishmonger to do this for you.
1/2 cup white wine
2 medium cans chopped tomatoes
2 medium white onions, halved and finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, very finely sliced
1 pound of cherry tomatoes
a handful of capers
olive oil, pepper and salt, red pepper flakes

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit

1. Cut the cleaned monk fish fillets into generous, chunky medallions and keep refrigerated until ready to cook.
2. Add a splash of olive oil to a pan, add the cherry tomatoes and sauté over moderate heat until they begin to soften. Let cool.
3. Add a splash of olive oil to a second, ovenproof pan that is large enough to hold all ingredients. Add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes and let sweat over moderate heat until translucent.
4. Add the canned tomatoes, the wine and let bubble away for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Season to taste.
5. Skin the cooled down cherry tomatoes, taking care not to lose any of their juice, then add to the sauce. Stir in the capers.

You can prepare the recipe up to this point so that just 20 minutes before you are ready to eat you add the fish medallions to the sauce (take care to cover the fish with sauce) then bake in oven for 20 minutes.