Tag Archives: chevre

A communal feast under a majestic oak tree

Le Castellas in Sivergues

While editing these images my head started to fill up with the stuff that travel dreams are made of, and as I type this, I’m feeling 100%, no holds barred, shamelessly nostalgic. The only reason I can think of can be drawn from the following quote:

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway,

No, we didn’t go to Paris, but lunch at a goat farm in Sivergues will be the meal to remember for life! Sitting in the shade under an old oak tree, beautifully presented platters of food to be shared at the table, a soft breeze, chatter, refreshing sips of Chateau La Canorgue’s blanc – what a sublime experience. It was unlike anything we’ve ever had while traveling around France. It’s as if we had stumbled upon a secret.

Le Castellas after lunch

Recently reopened after 2 years of closure, Le Castellas is under new ownership and offers lunch and dinner for the summer season. Reservations are a must. The website is in french which we understood well enough, but being able to converse (english) during the meal with 2 multi-lingual guests made the afternoon even more enjoyable.

Le Castellas oak tree

The website describes the simple menu so if you can live without ordering from one, are not at all shy about sitting elbow to elbow with perfect strangers, and treasure that farm-to-table atmosphere, then this is the place to go. The service is perfect, the staff discreet, and as my photos will show (I hope!), the setting is like one of those period films shot in the Provençal countryside. Ciak!

Le Castellas boss goat
My guess is that this goat is head honcho of the herd

Le Castellas du pain et du vin
Half liter of Chateau La Canorgue’s Blanc and a gorgeous loaf of artisan bread

Le Castellas les fromages
Clockwise from left: chevre from local producers – lavender, plain, thyme, and I think pepper flakes?

Le Castellas charcuterie
Assorted charcuterie, paté, and toast nibbles

Le Castellas salads

Guests helped themselves to a variety of cold salads (caponata, chickpeas, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomato, cabbage) that were brought to the table in flip-top mason jars.

Le Castellas almond cake

Dessert was a double delight – you could choose between fresh fruit purees (to be poured into your empty water glasses), or spoon a luscious apricot-thyme compote over a slice of dense almond cake. We tried them all 🙂

Le Castellas fruit purees
Mason jars full of strawberry and melon fruit purees and apricot-thyme compote.

Merci beaucoup Le Castellas!

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Peillon, perched villages, patisseries and picnics

Inevitably, Perosa Argentina’s proximity to France meant that we could not come this far without going all the way. We usually cross the border via Montgenèvre to the east of Torino, but this time headed south, and for the first time ever, used the Tunnel du Col de Tende, just 20 miles south of Cuneo. There is no tariff to traverse the 2-mile tunnel, and it was fairly quick even if only one line of cars is allowed to pass at a time. There was about a 15-minute wait (on either side) before the queue got the green.

Balcony view from Auberge de la Madone
Balcony view from Auberge de la Madone in Peillon, France

Our hotel lay in Peillon – one of those tiny villages perchés that are so cute to look at but often a pain to reach. The pain was mitigated by the fact that we would be driving through a scenic route that included old french villages and the things that we love best about them: boulangeries, patisseries and fromageries.

Tende, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
1st stop, Tende. Boulangerie des Merveilles is on the road that passes through the village.

Boulangerie des Merveilles

This is the first time I’ve come across the onion tart pissaladière (center). What awesomeness it was! The custard tart and pastries (frangipane, apple and apricot) were for next morning’s breakfast in bed because at 20€ per person, Auberge de La Madone’s petit-déjeuner is ridiculously expensive. Maybe if they had promised truffled eggs with foie gras…

Goodies from Boulangerie des Merveilles
Yummy french pastries.

The next day came all too quickly and we ate our pastries and italian coffee (I’ll have to show you my set-up one of these days) at dawn. There was a long haul ahead of us to return home – the same way we came instead of the quicker Nice-Genova autoroute – but not before stocking up on more goodies and one last picnic.

Sospel
On the way back to Italy: Sospel in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France.

Patisserie Alexis Demaria in Sospel scores big for desserts, but what caught my eye from the start were barbagian / barbajuan, a sort of fried ravioli said to be the national dish of Monaco. The seasoned filling is made with chard, spinach, rice, and parmigiano and they were a bit expensive at 3.20€/100 grams, but the taste makes them worth every cent.

Chevre from Auchan and barbagian
Chevre stash from Auchan in Nice; barbagian from Patisserie Alexis Demaria.

Desserts from Patisserie Alexis Demaria
Raspberry tart, lemon curd tart, chocolate eclair! Around 2.50€ each.

Tuna bento from Auchan in Nice
Mini tuna bento (7.10€) picked up at Auchan supermarket in Nice.

Salmon and tuna chirashi from Auchan in Nice
Salmon&tuna chirashi (12.80€) from Auchan’s made-fresh-daily sushi department in Nice. We also had a baguette and french charcuterie!

les Goats N’ Roses (part 1)

Super Banon
The best little cheese shop in Banon.

With just one full day for exploring, the plan was to stock up on fromage, go to Banon to buy fixings for a picnique, and pay a visit to the rose garden at l’Abbaye de Valsaintes. Located in Boulinette (southeast of Simiane-La-Rotonde), the 45-minute drive should’ve been a piece of cake. But when you’re oohing and aahing over every little view in the french countryside, that number tends to draw out. It didn’t help that we came across signs like this.

Following the cheese trail!

Following the cheese trail!

Le Petit Tourtouil signpostAnd again further on, with an arrow that shows 3.2 km to go. My fondness for the horned beasts goes way back to when I was a kid (pun intended!) at my grandpa’s goat farm on Kauai, so this brought up a lot of memories. When we arrived at Le Petit Tourtouil, a sign on the gate said that the farm was open when the owner was in, or… after 6:30pm. Flies everywhere, which is one aspect that I had totally forgotten about, being around goats n’ all. I only remember poop!

Le Petit Tourtouil fermier
C’est ici!

Butterflies rule at ValsaintesEventually we make it out to the garden of Valsaintes abbey, but not before chasing more cheese signs. A note about the weather: we were lucky to have pleasant conditions – 20°-23°C daytime – during the whole time. We’ve never had it so good on any of our previous trips to Provence. Forecasts report a sizzling 30°-34°C in Cruis this weekend, and as strange as this is gonna sound, coming from a Hawaii person like myself, I would’ve been one hot mess if our plans were off by a week! Next up…part 2 of les Goats N’Roses

Fromagerie de Banon