Friday, March 13, 2009

Bistros of Provence, Part 2. Le Petite France, The Grand Hôtel Nord-Pinus, Le Café La Nuit & Bistrot Decouverte

Le Petite France is a bistro located between the small villages of Paradou and Maussane, just south of Saint-Remy-de-Provence. We dined al fresco style under white market umbrella shaded tables. The menu consisted of four courses.

Tart of warm garlicky puree of salt cod tart with potatoes or cheese and garnished with fava beans, a Provence specialty.

Roasted pigeon with potatoes and stuffed tomatoes was followed by a cheese course (not pictured).

The menu called this dessert assiette gourmande. It was the best dessert of our entire trip.

Maitres Cuisiners de France signifies that the chef of Le Petite France is a member of the prestigious Master Chefs of France.

We now travel to a larger city nearby, Arles, an old Roman town. The Place de Forum is steeped in history but now is the heart of modern life in Arles and a good place to start exploring. An outdoor café is the perfect place to sit and observe life in the city. 

Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus in the Place de Forum, Arles.

The Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus is a gorgeous old hotel built around two surviving columns from a second century temple. We had dined here on a previous trip several years ago and enjoyed an elegant three course gourmet meal on their terrace, soaking up the atmosphere of this lovely city. For dessert that day we sampled a memorable Clafouti Framboise that we’d seen featured in Bon Appetit magazine’s Provence issue and drank an excellent local wine from the nearby city of Orange with our meal.

Today we decided to dine across the street at Le Café La Nuit.

Le Café La Nuit looked just like one of Vincent van Gogh’s painting and we succumbed to its feeling of walking into an old haunt of the artist’s to have lunch. Van Gogh painted over 300 canvases in the fifteen months he lived in Arles. This café is renovated to look as it did in his painting Cafe du Soir. We each ordered an appetizer and an entrée.

I think it’s fun to glance back and compare the meals. To me the portions at Le Café La Nuit were larger and more Americanized compared to Le Petite France or the dessert at the Hotel Nord-Pinus.  There’s no doubt in my mind that the next time we visit Arles, we’ll dine at the Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus and leave the table at La Café La Nuit for the tourists.

Bistrot Decouverte in Saint-Remy was our favorite local bistro.

Bistrot Decouverte quickly became our favorite local bistro in Saint-Remy and we dined there often over our two month stay. We got to know the owners, Claude and his wife Dana, and frequently stopped by mid-morning for a tiny cup of French espresso and to visit with them. Claude had been a wine buyer in London for a number of years and his bistro had an excellent wine cave. Throughout our stay Claude made many great suggestions of local wines for us to try.

Gorgeous dessert that my husband couldn’t help but sample before photographing.

One day we asked Claude and Dana if they ever served Lapin – rabbit. Not often they said, because it’s difficult to prepare. We went on to explain that we had made it at home but hadn’t been happy with our results and were anxious to try the true French Lapin. We asked them to call us if it was ever the plat du jour. About a week later I was walking along the boulevard when I heard someone call my name. Surprised that I might know someone in France, I looked around. It was Dana. We’re having Lapin this Sunday she said. Would you like to make a reservation? Needless to say I said Oui Madame, s’il vous plait. The  Lapin was delicious and was prepared a la moutarde – with mustard sauce. Claude quickly sold out of it and, much to our good fortune, featured it several more times during our visit.

Sunday entertainment on the boulevard near Bistrot Decouverte makes dining all that more special.

Patricia Wells said that she was never disappointed with Le Bistrot du Paradou as I mentioned in my last post. We felt the same way about Bistrot Decouverte. It didn’t take us long to learn it’s smart to get to know the owners. Claude, Dana and Bistrot Decouverte were some of our best memories of the trip.

Please note: Since this post was written, Bistrot Decouverte has changed hands. Owners Claude and Dana owned and operated the bistro for 7 years and sold it 2011. They've opened a fabulous new Italian and pizza restaurant across the street at La Cantina at 19 Boulevard Victor Hugo in Saint-Remy. Be sure to read my post on La Cantina here- by far the best pizza in town and in our opinion, in the world.  

Thank you for joining us on our 2007 trip to bistros of Provence. I hope you will join us again next time as we visit the boucherie –butcher shop, the boulangerie – bakery, and the patisserie - pastry shop in Saint-Remy.

This will be linked to Oh the Places I've Been at the Tablescaper.


  1. Everything is just beautiful...I'm enjoying if vicariously :)

  2. What a wonderful journey, complete with words that share the adventure and the food> Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  3. Everything looks amazing. I had salt cod for the first time at a restaurant not too long ago, I was very pleased to find that they sell it at my grocery store.

  4. Wow, those are some amazing eats and the pictures bring wonderful memories of my honeymoon!

  5. You are making life very difficult for my husband......I am constantly nagging him to go to these wonderful places now!!!

  6. What an enticing journey! I could spend hours in these bistros and cafes. It is a beautiful way of life!

  7. Nice places and great food! Thanks for sharing and passing by!



  8. What a wonderful trip. The food all looks so amazing, especially the Clafouti Framboise. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Sam, it all looks so enticing. I am toying with a savory clafouti concept - maybe grape tomatoes in place of cherries - still in the planning stages. Enjoying your dream trip.

  10. Sam, Thanks for the information and the inviting pictures.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your marvelous journey! The photos of the food, hotels and restaurants were beautiful - so colorful and appealing. I have had rabbit before but never pigeon (would love to try the dish shown here) and the desserts were real standouts in this entry. As I scrolled through your post, my first reaction to the picture of the salad plate at Cafe du Soir matched your own: it looked like an unusually large amount of food compared to the previous photos!

    One of these days . . . !

  12. I'm so glad each of you are enjoying visiting these bistros with us. It would be very easy for us to live in France.....if only we could.

    Penny - Jamie made a delicious savory clafouti of potatoes, asparagus and blue cheese on her blog Life's a Feast.

    Here's a link to the savory clafouti:

    Your idea of cherry tomatoes sounds
    like a winner. Let me know how it turns out. I think it would make a nice appetizer.

  13. I love the tour and the photos of all those delicious meals :)

  14. Wow! I feel like I am living vicariously through you!

  15. As always, your photos are gorgeous. I wonder what was in the dessert that was the best? You didn't say.

  16. I love the decoration of the plates with drizzle and drazzle, and was wondering did this begin in France?

  17. I love looking through your photos. Like a virtual vacation. My three year old convinced me to buy lapin at the butcher the last time we were there. It wasn't cheap so I stuck it in the freezer so I could find a good recipe to feature it in. Do you have a moutarde recipe?

    Thanks for reading along with me during Mindless Eating too. It's fun to read your comments.

    Have a great Sunday!

  18. I really need to get back to France. I love it there. We had a great time at our French cooking class. Your photos are beautiful!

  19. What a lovley trip and I don't balem your husband for sampling the dessert before photographing it! All of the food looks wonderful. Have you tried to re-creat any of these meals at home?

  20. Thank each of you. I always enjoy reading your comments.

    Judy - our favorite dessert was the one with four things at Le Petite France.

    Patti - I've tried to research where decorating the plates with drizzles from squeeze bottles originated, but haven't had any luck. Anyone know?

    Joie de vivre - the lapin recipe is on the way to you by separate email. We used grainy mustard (they call it Ancienne I think) because we couldn't find plain Dijon in the supermarket in France. Your son is very adventuresome and that's terrific.

    Marie - I would love to know where you attended cooking classes. We would love to do that someday.

    Katherine - we've made the lapin at home and it was (thankfully) much better than our first attempt. If you overcook rabbit, it is tough, which is probably what we did the first time we made it.


  21. Hi Sam, if you go to my blog, today's post, you will find the following.
    I just received recognition from Vicki Lane in at in the form of a "Fabulous Blog Award" for Here, Where I Am.

    I really appreciate this award from my friend Vicki and am paying it forward. Here are five picks -- some of the most frequent posters of the blogs I follow:

    1. Living Above the Frost Line
    2. Ruminations from the Distant Hills
    3. Discriminating Reader
    4. My Carolina Kitchen
    5.Flint River Gallery Journal

    The rules (not mine, they came with the award): You must pass it on to 5 other Fabulous Bloggers in a post. You may find their email addresses on their Profile page or, if not available, post as a "Comment" to their latest post.

    You must include the person that gave you the award, and link it back to them. You must list 5 of your Fabulous addictions in the post.
    You must copy and paste these rules in the post.
    Right click the award icon(on my blog) & save to your computer then post with your own awards.To my way of thinking, this is not only a nice tribute, it widens the reading audience.

    5 of my Fabulous Addictions: poetry, reading, landscape/environment, recipes, and visual art.

  22. Your writings are so marvelous to read...and the food pictures just make me think..."Pack sweetie, we need to get to France, and fast"!

    Thank you for following my humble ramblings and 'home gourmet', Sam!

  23. You make we want to travel so badly, I cannot stand it. This economy has made travel a far away luxury in my household though. GREG

  24. Had to pop in to say hi and look at your photos again. *Sigh*, they are lovely.

  25. Love this post Sam! And I am a fan of Decouverte too!! xv

  26. I love this post!!! The food is wonderful. I love seeing the specialties and how they are presented. Makes my mouth water. Looks like you had fabulous weather also! Thanks fo sharing.. xo marlis

  27. Oh, this looks absolutely fabulous. They look divine, I can only imagine how amazing they must have actually been.

    Thanks for being a part of "Oh, the places I've been!". Looking forward to having you be a regular contributor.

    - The Tablescaper

  28. What an mazing tour. The scenery, food all look just spectacular. One of my dream places for sure. Thank you for sharing.


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