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La Sieste, 1905, Henri Manguin

 

Time for the annual Aixcentric break for summer.

But this time it’s a summer that will be rather different to the ones we’re used to with many large gatherings cancelled – or pushed back – and the usual village fetes and local cafés modified in a strange new world of masks, hand-gels and Perspex.

The thing about Provence though is that you can get away from crowds.  There are some wonderful walks that take you up into the hills for magnificent views; beaches or coves where you can find space for a peaceful paddle;  inland lakes or rivers with boat and kayak hire; scenic picnic spots; pretty villages to explore; and galleries that you often get to yourself.

Tomorrow the Fete des Terrasses starts across the region – café tables are newly spaced out to welcome everyone back for a chilled glass of rosé. Or take a lead from painter Henri Manguin’s wife above and enjoy a siesta in the shade. Perhaps it’s good for us all to step back from our crowded lives and take a little time, even just a few hours, for rest and reflection.

Keep safe and have a happy summer!

Firstly the wonderful museum of Classical Art has re-opened: set in an ancient building in the heart of this beautiful village, they have combined classical artifacts (Greek, Roman, Egyptian) with sculptures and paintings inspired by them.  Superb.

Aixcentric post: https://aixcentric.com/2016/11/12/an-unmissable-new-museum-in-mougins/

Details: https://www.mouginsmusee.com/en

Then you could walk over to enjoy lunch at l’Amandier where chef Sebastien Zunino offers a midi formule or special Menu Musée, all with quite a view. Details: https://www.amandier.fr/home/home/accueil-ouverture-de-lecole-de-cuisine.html

And finish off with a wander round the curving village streets, lined with little galleries and Instagramable doorways, to admire the plein-air animal sculptures which are the stars of this summer’s Mougins Monumental exhibition.

Parking by the way is well-organised at the foot of this village perché.  You are whisked up to the main square and belvedere by glass-sided lift.  Mougins is just over 1.5hr drive from Aix, but so worth it.

A memorable day out!

 

Here are 5 amazing places for food to carry you through the summer until Aixcentric returns, Susan Gish says: 
  • Fanny’s 
  • Aux Pates Fraiches 
  • Au Pave du Roy 
and a reminder about Tita & Meow Cat’s Café – both of which have been written about before.
Fanny’s ‘Come on-A My House’ comfort food home cooking. (Come on-A My House:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mriXncI96lw  )  Bienvenue! Welcome to my house/my bistrot- Fanny seems to be saying with her smiling eyes! I know Fanny’s family. I’ve never met them, but I know them. She shares her family with us at her bistrot, and oh, this is a good family! Her grand-mother was also named Fanny: ‘I spent a lot of time watching her cooking and helping her when I was growing up. The memory of the smell of her chocolate fondant coming out of her oven. It was the best! That’s why I chose it for my signature dessert. Soon I will use the chocolate Jika from my brother’s factory in Jakarta.’ 
There’s an excellent playlist of music, not too loud, just perfect. Pink Martini, Ella Fitzgerald…’Music has always orchestrated my life…my Mum owned a piano bar where I worked. My sister Aurélie who also owned a restaurant in Bretagne, shares with me her favourite pieces of Jazz.’ Her sister made the tablecloths for the bistro. Her brother the furniture. A true coming together of family. 
Sam and I ate there often before confinement. We love the home cooked meals and warm atmosphere. Fanny’s smile lights up the room when we arrive. In fact, she knows almost everyone that comes in and we all get equal, warm smiles and welcomes. If she knows you love a specific dish she makes, she might text you to let you know she is making it that day. 
L’assiette du marché (15.90) has a meat, a fish and a vegetarian option that change according to the season. In early March before confinement I had a tasty chicken curry (from Fanny’s Indonesian sister-in-law) with lemongrass, ginger, garlic, turmeric, birds eye pepper, coconut milk, and curry spice. It came with a side of green beans with radish, red onion, beets and a really good dressing. A second side dish of her luscious lentils were served slightly warm with carrots and onions. Sam had beef with carrots – similar to a beef bourgignon. Underneath were little teeny tiny elbow macaroni with the same green bean salad and lentils. We always have the warm chocolate fondant for dessert and the fruit crumble, which her son Charles used to make every week.  Or there is a delicious café gourmand which sometimes might come with a coulis de fruits rouge avec fromage blanc or a little piece of lemon cake which her husband Philippe makes…all in the family! 
I often see Fanny on her bike shopping at the marché for fresh seasonal ingredients for her menu that day. There’s that great warm smile: ‘Bonjour, Susan!’ ‘Bonjour, Fanny! What are you making today?’ ‘Hachis parmentier.’ ‘Oh, wow, can I reserve for 2?’ ‘Bien sur! A bientot!’
Fanny spent a year in the US when she was 13 with her sister who had married an American. So she speaks English if you like. But she’s happy to speak in French to me to help me learn…(will I ever learn?!). Besides cooking and family, she loves sports and is in great shape. ‘I grew up with sports and tennis was my favourite, so when I moved from Paris to Lourmarin in 1999 with my husband and two children, I decided to involve myself in the tennis club of Lourmarin.’
I love this article about Fanny’s in The Huffington Post from March 2014:
All of it is true to this day. Nothing has changed. We are all still part of her family!
Fanny’s
11, rue Chastel – a small street just behind the Place des Precheurs.
There is outdoor seating as well as indoor. 06 08 60 33 95 
Open Tuesday-Saturday – 9am -3pm for lunch-or stop in for a coffee and a piece of cake in the morning
*New info…….Open for dinner in July & August – 7pm to 9pm
fannys_bistrot on Instagram
 Aux Pâtes Fraîches –  Young and dynamic, Pierre-Antoine and Charles were looking for a place to open a food shop here in Aix-en-Provence. They saw Aux Pâtes Fraîches, which some of you might have been to as the shop goes back to 1878. It’s on the street behind the Fontaine au Sanglier off of Place Richelme and the fish market. Charles and Pierre-Antoine thought it immediately felt like home and bought the shop. This all happened just before confinement… They both speak English fluently after living awhile in London. Pierre-Antoine is an architect. He worked on museums projects in London. He is passionate about his work but wanted to fulfill his dream: to open a business related to food. Charles was working in marketing for a French cheese company. ‘We miss speaking English so if you want to come by just to have a chat, please do!’
They make their own pasta in the back, fresh every day. Spaghetti, tagliatelle, ravioli with petit-pois/menthe, spinach/ricotta, gorgonzola/nuts, lemon. Fresh products depending on the season
I bought their tagliatelle which my husband, ‘Chef’ Sam made for dinner. He minced garlic and sautéed it with those local little green slightly spicy Marseille peppers, and then added chopped cherry tomatoes, some cream and white vermouth. Garnished it with parsley leaves, and topped with some grated grana padano.
The next night we had friends over for apéro a la Aux Pâtes Fraîches: truffle cashews (my tongue had a party in my mouth!), tapenade with figs (delightful), creamy brandade (YUM), small round saucisson piment (available with parmesan or herbes de Provence too).
The Epicerie (the guys call it a Deli) has Italian and French products such as Maison Marc for cornichons (pickles in Deli talk!).  I can’t wait to try the Maison Marc velouté d’asperges. ‘We are working with Nadia Sammut (Auberge La Feniere outside of Lourmarin). She is very well known for gluten free products. There’s a full range of Maison Dubernet products who make amazing patés. The products we select don’t use any additives. We prepare charcuterie cold cuts for your aperos and we make our own tapenades, sometimes with figs but always without anchovy.’
As you can hear, the guys are very energetic and passionate about what they do. I watched them with customers and really appreciate their kindness to everyone. The shop is very clean and they wear masks. Oh, they sell beautiful flowers as well!
Go by and say hello. They’re hard working and I wish them success. 
Aux Pâtes Fraîches 
12 rue Laurent Fauchier 04 42 26 23 74 Tuesday-Saturday 9am-7pm.
Instagram and FB: auxpatesfraiches.aix
Au Pavé du Roy’s card says it all: Artisan Patissier Chocolatier Boulanger Glacier Traiteur.  Since discovering this outrageous place, I’ve been twice a week. Have. Got. To. Stop. J’adore everything from this place! It’s our new favorite PCBGT (see above).
Everything is made right there in the back atelier: Chocolat. Pain. Viennoiseries. Salés. Glaces. Pistachio croissant with pistachio creme inside, topped with slivered almonds.
Need I say more? Have you ever had a pistachio almond croissant? I hadn’t.
I get one every time I go in; they’re just amazing.
I don’t like most almond croissants as there is too much sweet frangipane inside. Not with Au Pavé du Roy’s pistachio frangipane. It’s just perfect.

Pain au chocolat with Valrhona chocolate. Uh-huh. (swoon). We’ve fallen in love with the nicely crusty (but not too hard) baguette with the little knob on the end to eat on the way home. It’s called ‘La Parisse’.  A sourdough baguette made from very high-quality flour whose recipe was developed by Gaëtan, Paris, Meilleur Ouvrier de France 1997.

If you’re craving dark chocolate chip cookies they have the best I’ve had in France. Some with almonds, some with pecans, there’s even a milk chocolate with noisettes. Sablés Framboises to die for. Gorgeous pastries and citron or pistachio cakes. Whole cakes too that look outrageous. Chocolate cats. Chocolate sheep. This one: ‘Chocolat pâte pistache et pâte fruits griottes, enrobé chocolat noir Valrhona’. Watching some of the chocolate videos on their Instagram is downright decadent…look at their cakes & pastries there as well. Incroyable! @aupaveduroy
Lunch
  • They take the time to produce an old style quiche. This is difficult to find. Their tarte is twice as high with that creamy, almost but not quite undercooked custard. 
  • Tartelette fleur. I can’t even begin to describe this. It’s sort of like an everything bagel but stuffed with saucisse or jambon and grilled sésame, a mousse of sundried tomatoes, some with feta, cucumber, basil or mushrooms and fromage blanc. 
  • Sam loves their Croque Monsieur, and we had a Salmon Croque Monsieur just yesterday.
  • They also have gorgeous creative salads with lots of different ingredients rather than just a boring salad. Even their sandwiches and wraps are good.
Au Pavé du Roy is 3rd generation owned by Laurence Campanella. After WWII, Laurence’s grandfather left Italy and opened a bakery in Marseille, then her father took over. In 1974 they moved to Aix and in 1998 Laurence & her husband Eric took over.
Guess what? Laurence invited me to take a tour of l’atelier de fabrication: Can’t wait!
Au Pavé du Roy 
04 42 26 22 81 – 9 Cours d’Orbitelle -just next to Hotel Roi René
Open Tues-Sun 7:00am-8:00pm – aupaveduroy on Instagram
 
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Another shout-out to two places that have been talked about previously on Aixcentric:
Tita  This Méditerranean street food café started off as a food truck at the market.  We had friends visiting from the US that ate there 3 times in the one week they were visiting. It’s that good. Trip Advisor has it listed as one of the best restaurants in Aix. They moved to their new location which is down the street from Place des Augustins, a few months before confinement. We would get take-out and go to O’Sullivan’s to eat lunch there with a glass of rosé. (How many bars could you bring your own food to in the US?)  It’s now more amazingly fresh tasting than ever before. I don’t know how that can be but it is.
I can’t get enough of their falafel. It comes with the absolute BEST grilled aubergine and coleslaw and green sauce and creamy hummus and tomato/red onion salad and rice I’ve ever had. Anywhere. Sam loves their kefta. We both crave their chicken shawarma. The pita bread is shipped in from Israel. Sometimes I want a nice juicy, messy sandwich with falafel spread evenly throughout the sandwich at the bottom too, so every bite has a bit of it in your mouthful. They don’t skimp on the number of falafels they give you, it’s a big sandwich. Then there’s times I’d rather have l’assiette. Sweet Dana and Gael and their other wonderful team members welcome you with open arms! 6 rue des bernardines 04 42 38 93 54 Tuesday-Saturday 11h30-15h & Friday and Saturday also for dinner 18h-21h . Tita on Facebook & tita_aixenprovence on Instagram. 
*(Whew! Beware, long run on sentences above!)
Meow Cats Café just celebrated their 1 year anniversary before confinement. Morgane’s cat café is a perfect place to relax and hang-out with the 4 house cats and have lunch or a drink. I have to admit that Dexter, the ginger cat with his big expressive eyes, is my favorite to play with. Opium and Olympe are brother and sister and there’s long haired Fripouille who rolls onto his back to show off his belly. Morgane is connected with shelters in the region to try to find families and give love for abandoned cats. They have a really great success rate in getting adoptions for the cats they bring in. Thank you for all you do to get the cats fur-ever homes! 
Morgane is also a really good cook. Everything is homemade with love.  At the moment, there is a re-invention of the virgin mojito as well as milkshakes and chai latte frappés on the drinks menu. The salads are uniquely layered in ball jars and the wraps are good too. Desserts, though, are really where her passion is. Speculos muffins, cake a l’orange, chocolate pecan cake, cookies…Vegan friendly items as well.
This is a purr-fect place to chill when you are stressed out. Just sit for awhile, have something to eat and/or drink and talk to the cats. You’ll feel better in just a short time! Meow Cat’s Café is always extremely clean and takes all health precautions.
10 rue de la Fonderie – on a back side street close to the Peripherique and Arts & Metiers 
09 83 81 18 24 Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-6pm – meowcatscafe on Facebook & Instagram 
 
Have a great summer!
Susan & Chef Sam

 

 

New to Aix?  Visitors to entertain? Here’s some info on Richard Seaward who is hosting guided tours, full of insight and humour, around centre ville.

He says, ‘I have lived and worked in the UK, USA, Asia and we are now settled in Aix.  On a year-long trip around the world, we took a lot of walking tours, the best way to get to know a city. We enjoyed small groups where the guide knew the history, but also the stories, the characters not just the dates, we are not at school! On my tours, you will walk through the history of Aix, noble and not so noble, as well as chat about what it’s like to move to France and live in modern Aix’.

Tours leave from the Rotonde

Walks leave Mon-Sat, morning and afternoon from the Rotonde (outside Apple). The maximum number is 8, and the charge is 30€ for the over 13s.  More here: https://aixwalkingtours.com/

For a socially-distanced alternative, you could opt for Richard’s tour on your smartphone. Continue Reading »

The gallery Maison Dauphine is celebrating summer by showing the work of three women artists who work in Provence:

La Bronzette by Cecile Colombo, local painter and potter.

 

 

 

Cartes a Pieds by Amandine Maria from Vitrolles, who enjoys illustrating squares and fountains in Aix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Paris-trained Perrine Rabouin who delights in colour

Find Maison Dauphine at 14 rue du 4 Septembre in the Quartier Mazarin.  http://galerie-maisondauphine.com/en/

As we all come out blinking in the sunshine, there is a new programme to welcome us all to café terraces, enlarged and some offering tastings of local rosés to celebrate.

It is being held all across la Region Sud: https://www.maregionsud.fr/la-fete-des-terrasses

In Aix, where the size and opening hours of cafés are usually very carefully controlled, the mayor has authorised these unusual measures:

  • Cafés can extend their terraces sideways when adjoining businesses are closed (evenings, Sundays for instance)
  • They can extend outwards if there is space, after 11am or 14:30 on market days
  • They can stay open until 2am, instead of closing at 1am.

I read that these measures are authorised until the end of the year and will hopefully accelerate business for cafés and restaurants which have been so badly hit by weeks of closure.

Read more here:  (https://madeinmarseille.net/68934-a-aix-en-provence-les-terrasses-sagrandissent-et-les-horaires-sallongent-au-1er-juillet)

As the poster says, ‘Fetons le Retour a la Vie!’

 

Long-time Aixcentric followers will have read about the development of the old SNCF railway sheds and shunting yards into LUMA Arles, a stylish arts centre, funded by Swiss industrialist and art-lover Maja Hoffman.

Hopefully the photo below will give you an idea of the scale of the ‘Parc des Ateliers’ site:  the large building with the blue-grey roof was a factory for making engines, and has been open for a couple of years for exhibitions.  Then there are various industrial buildings which were being converted when we visited, and past them (to the left of the photo), the new tower designed by US Architect Frank Gehry.   The whole 20-acre site will be a centre for studios, workshops, research, exhibitions, and link into the annual ‘Les Rencontres d’Arles’ photography show which takes over every square inch of space in the old town each summer (apart from this one of course).

Two bits of good news: it all opens from 27th June (daily 11-19hrs), and guided tours of the buildings will be available in English.

Here’s the website for more infohttps://www.luma-arles.org/luma/home.html ….plus details on their new exhibitions.  Expect to be challenged!

Photo below for a closer look at the new 56m tower: it is clad with 11,000 aluminium panels and the cylindrical base is apparently a reference to the town’s Roman amphitheatre.  The tour of the buildings should be fascinating!

On Sunday 5th July, the historical vineyard, le Château Saint Estève de Néri, situated just outside the Luberon village of Ansouis, will be ‘en fête !’

You are invited to go along and taste their Bio wines and enjoy a buffet provençal….crudités, fromage de chèvre and so on to complement the range of wines.  Discounts on purchases on the day.

Alexandra Wilson and her French team will welcome guests from 10:30-16:00hrs, with they say, ‘immense plaisir’.

A trip out to the vineyard and a walk round the village afterwards is a perfect antidote to lockdown!

Everybody loves pizza, writes Sam Gish, because as Karl Marx famously said – ‘La Pizza est L’Opium du Peuple’. Well, maybe he didn’t actually say it, but he got the sentiment right. The trouble is that there’s Pizza! and then there’s pizza. Going out for pizza is a bit like playing roulette or rolling dice. Sometimes you get lucky and find the ideal crust, with the right proportion of sauce and cheese, perfectly cooked. And sometimes you find a cardboard crust with plastic cheese and something that almost but not quite resembles tomato sauce – a slice of pizza that has less flavour and texture than the paper napkin you use to wipe the ‘sauce’ off of your chin. 

Continue Reading »

Eurostar announced late yesterday that services to Marseille, as well as Avignon and Lyon, due to start last month, won’t now run at all during 2020 or 2021. Continue Reading »