Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bistros of Provence, Part 1. Lunch at one of Patricia Well's favorite bistros - Le Bistrot du Paradou

Le Bistrot du Paradou is one of Patricia Wells’ favorite bistros in Provence. Located in the tiny village of Paradou, it is a short fifteen minute drive from Saint Remy. We had stopped by earlier in the week to reserve a table for the Thursday lunch as that was the day they were serving the wonderful local lamb, l'agneau du Pays. 

We had planned this two month culinary adventure to Provence many months in advance. Since we would have our own kitchen at our disposal and planned on cooking, I brought along three Patricia Wells cookbooks: Bistro Cooking, Patricia Wells at Home in Provence and The Provence Cookbook, which ended up being the most useful of the three. Not only did it have fabulous recipes, it included all of Patricia’s tips on her favorite restaurants, where to shop for olive oil, wines, breads, cheeses, where the best markets were – essentially an excellent tour guide of the region.

When we arrived at Le Bistrot du Paradou, owner Jean-Louis Pons greeted us. He is the perfect French host and carefully protects his bistro’s reputation by never allowing more people in than he can comfortably seat. Reservations are advisable as this popular bistro has been discovered and is frequented by locals as well as tourists.

I had taken The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells with us to lunch.  My husband Meakin, in his best French, asked Jean-Louis if he and his wife Mireille would autograph their pictures featured in the book. “J’adore Patricia Wells,” he said as he smiled broadly, poured us both a generous glass of wine and took our cookbook to the kitchen for Mireille to sign.

During the cheese course, Jean-Claude returned to our table and asked to borrow the Patricia Wells cookbook. Confused, we watched as he took the book to another table where a woman was dining. He sat and visited with her for a few minutes, looked through our cookbook, and then rose to greet more customers at the door. We continued to wonder what was going on as our cheese tray arrived. 

Later the lady who had been visiting with Jean-Claude came over to our table to return our cookbook and introduced herself as Fran Warde. Fran, a cookbook writer and co-author of My French Kitchen with Joanne Harris, was visiting bistros such as this one throughout Provence and writing a new book.

On our drive back to Saint Remy we stopped in the nearby tiny village of Maussane-les-Alphilles and visited the Moulin “Jean Marie Cornille,” a mill dating back to the early 1600's, to purchase a couple of bottles of Patricia Wells favorite olive oil. This is the oil that Patricia calls “the Chateauneuf-du-Pape of olive oil.” We purchased two bottles, a red label, Fruite Noir, and their gold label, Vierge A.O.C.  

Fountain in the charming Village of Maussane-les-Alphilles

We noticed another bistro to try on our next visit to this beautiful area, Le Petite France. Outside was proudly displayed Maitres Cuisiners de France, meaning their chef was a member of the prestigious Master Chefs of France. 

While we were here, we made a reservation at this charming restaurant. I hope you’ll join us there for another dejeuner as we continue on our 2007 culinary tour of Provence.

This will be linked to Oh the places I've been at the Tablescaper.


  1. This is wonderful...I seriously have tears in my eyes (I'm a big baby)...thank you for sharing with us! I cannot wait to see your next bistro stop. I hope to do this someday, as well :)

  2. I'm enjoying traveling (and dining) through Provence vicariously through your posts! Your meal at Le Bistrot du Paradou sounds marvelous, especially the 'agneau du pays'. I look forward to our, er, your next stop!

  3. Sam I am so enjoying your trip through Provence. I can't wait to see where you dine next and what meals you share with us from Patrica Wells!

  4. Le Bistro du Paradou sounds wonderful, that must have been a great meal and what a cheese plate! I love your Provence culinary tour!

  5. That looks like so much fun. I cook quite often from her At Home in Provence book.

  6. You are, beyond a doubt, the best culinary tour guide I've ever had! I'm having way too much fun following your adventures.

  7. *Sigh* what a lovely time. Amazing that you got to meet Fran Warde. I'm excited about your recommendations of the Patricia Wells books too. I'm always looking for something good. I have gotten behind on my reading of your blog, I'm so sorry. This series looks so fun. I will be checking back in with you much more frequently!

    I'm excited that you're reading Mindless Eating along with me! Even with Tangled Noodle covering some of the studies the author talks about, it's impossible to cover them all and there are some really good tidbits in there. See you then!

  8. I had to come back to take a second look at that cheese tray. Yum....I signed up to follow you too so I won't miss a post now!

  9. Sounds totally wonderful to me. Wish I could have been there.

  10. Love to read all your posts. I like Patricia Wells and hopefully someday I'll be visiting this place.

  11. What a lovely tour! I do love the Patricia Wells books - they offer such an intimate taste of different regions.

  12. Wonderful! There are so many kind of cheese on the tray! It must be really yummy...

  13. What a wonderful adventure. The platter of cheese is making me drool!

  14. Sam, What a trip. We took a cruise a couple of years ago and my favorite mealtime memories were sampling the different cheeses. Doesn't say much for my appreciation for the rest of the excellent cusine, but I've always been a cheese person.
    Your blog is fantastic -- very professional. (I tried to comment earlier but must have done somehthing wrong.)

  15. Oh my how I would have a total time with that cheese...if it went missing you would find me licking my paws in the corner with a melted and milky smile!

  16. Hey there, I suppose it's more than a bit ironic for me to be sitting here in Angers, reading a blog from North Carolina about French cuisine. In my defense, I should emphasize that the sun hasn't yet come up this morning...

    Two Patricia Wells Facts you might enjoy:

    1. The freelancer who manages Patricia's website lives in, of all unlikely places (but this is, after all, the Cyber Age), Carrboro, NC.

    2. Have you yet tried her recipe for a comaraqtively "light" daube in a white wine/mustard sauce? It's in the book (I always get the titles confused) that has a photograph of Chanteduc on the cover. In any case, it's wonderful and the favorite in our half-french household back in durham. My ultra-discriminating French mother-in-law, having had it there, has taken it back with her to Tours and now makes it regularly.

    All done and said, that Wells recipe (I believe it's one she concocted herself) is also my favorite standby, particularly during those times (these occur often at my house) when you've had guests for three days, done all the shopping previously, but somehow (i.e., you've been cooking at least two other meals per day, everyday) forgot to begin preparing your daube 24 hours in advance. It's a good recipe to give to folks who (like my literature professor mother-in-law) are not exactly the sort to submit themselves to the demands of a "classic" daube.

    By the way, I envy your having the time to stay in St. Remy for two months at a stretch; we've never stayed for longer than a week. When we're back in Fraqnce (which is about four times per year), we spend a lot our time shuttling around, visiting various great aunts in their houses and rest-homes (which are scattered everywhere between Perpignan and Limoges).

    this week, we've fled Tours after Christmas-With-The-Whole-Family and are quite contentedly holed-up in Nantes and Angers....two towns where we have absolutely NO family or connections. As my partner (who's French, obviously) said on the drive down, "It'll be nice to be just another tourist...make sure you don't speak any French, or someone will want to talk to us..."

    This backfired last night when we found ourselves besieged by a wildly-clinging couple in Ohio State sweatshirts and tennis-shoes. (which reminded me of David Sedaris's line about a visiting couple from Texass: "Why show up in a foreign country dressed as though you intended to mow its lawn?"


    David Terry

  17. I thought I had perused your site thoroughly, but missed this post. How wonderful.

  18. Thanks for the tour! This must have been a fun trip. Would like to experience Patricia Wells cooking school.

  19. What an amazing journey - 2 months, wow!

    Great to have your be a part of the premier of "Oh, the places I've been!"

    - The Tablescaper

  20. Oh, what fun! I have not visited the bistro, but have been to Provence and love Saint Remy!! I need to read your column, since food is the last thing that I think about, when I am traveling (I truly hate to admit that)!! My husband usually has to drag me out of a museum to make me eat! Yikes!

  21. This sounds like a very fun trip. It would be ideal and would be so enjoyable for culinary artists....Christine

  22. Oh my...a culinary tour. How great would that be!? Yours looks wonderful. I have never been to France...yet.

  23. Ah, you make me green with envy talking about Provence. I can think of no place where I enjoy food more.


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