Gastronomy -- Les
Delices de Provence
Dining in France is a delightful experience, which
often follows the following sequence:
an aperitif to whet the appetite. The classic in this part of
France is the Pastis, an anise flavored liquor that is mixed with
water and turns a milky, cloudy white color. The other classic is the kir (white wine and
blackcurrant liqueur) which can also be made with champagne (kir
royale) as well as with other liqueurs,
including peach, strawberry, blueberry and
raspberry. The region is also famous for its white sweet Muscat
wine, often called Beaumes de Venise after the town which produces large
quantities of it. Many restaurants make up their own aperitifs,
called 'coctail maison'. It's
worth asking for if you are adventurous.
In some restaurants, at the higher end of the
scale, a 'mise bouche' or 'amuse bouche' cleanses the palate before
The Entree (appetizer) is usually small and can be
quite complex, or it can be very simple, like a pate or terrine.
The Plat Principal is the main dish. In the
south of France, veal and duck are exquisite. Servings are
adequate but not excessive.
on the restaurant and the menu chosen, you may be offered a course of
several cheeses before dessert, while others offer just the dessert or just a
plate of cheeses. No need to comment on the French desserts:
mousse au chocolat, parfaits, creme caramel, profiterole, eclaires and
the millefeuilles (a thousand leaves) of light buttery
flaky pastries, just to name a few. Don't be surprised to find
cannoli and tiramisu as well.
If you want your coffee with your dessert, you'd
better make that known, because the custom in France is to have
the coffee by itself, after the dessert.
To round out the experience, a digestif
(cognac, armagnac or other after dinner drink) will finish your
gastronomic tour de force.
Nearly all restaurants in France offer 'Prix Fix'
(fixed price) meals which are always your most economical choice,
starting as low as low as ten euros for . Take this literally, because
the tax and tip are included in the price, as is the case in the
a-la-carte menu. If you don't see it on the menu, ask for the Prix Fix
choices, or the Menu du jour. Many restaurants have several
options, with the price increasing along with the number of courses and
kinds of dishes available. (See our list
of restaurants for examples)
Most restaurants also have house wines available
by the carafe, which are much cheaper than the bottled wines. You
can order them as 'un carafe du vin' or 'un pichet du vin'.
They will then ask you what size you want: the 25cl (one third of a
bottle) or the 50cl (two thirds of a bottle).
If you order water, it is usually assumed you mean
bottled water and they will ask if you want 'avec gas'
(carbonated). If you want just plain tap water, ask for 'un
Pizzerias in Provence are a wonderful blend of
wood oven baked, thin crust pizzas, along with the classic Provencal
meals, so don't let the name prevent you from trying one. Being
only three hours from Italy, there is a very strong Italian influence to
the cuisine of Provence and it shows in the delightful pastas and pizzas
Don't be surprised if you think the wait staff has
forgotten you after your coffee or digestif. Dining is a
leisurely experience and the wait staff will not bring the check until
you ask for it (l'addition, s'il vous plait).
In the south of France, tipping is not required,
but if you would like to show your appreciation for the wait staff, it
is customary to leave anywhere from one to five euros as a tip ('pourboire').
all restaurants take Mastercard and Visa (American Express is accepted
in some establishments but not as frequently as the other two), but note that there may not be
a line on the bill for you to add a tip, since that is included in the
price. Therefore, most tips are in cash.
you arrive at La Lavande there will be a 'yellow book' which will have
all sorts of useful information. Among
included is a list of restaurants (with a brief description of each)
that we have visited within a thirty to forty minute drive of La Lavande
in various price ranges and cuisine styles. Please be sure to
phone ahead, as the restaurant business in Provence is very lively and
establishments change hands, go out of business, change hours, change
names, and more all the time. If you find that one of our
suggestions is no longer available or has changed in some way, please
let us know to help us keep the book current for future guests
Dining at even the most formal restaurants is
France has passed legislation forbidding
smoking in public places, but it is still allowed in outdoor terraces,
so keep that in mind when you choose whether to eat in or out.
Warning: Many restaurants close on Sunday as
do grocery stores. Be sure to plan your Sunday meals ahead of