Coco Chanel Logo

I’d like to pass along a fun fact that I picked up from my good friend Jean Pascal.

JP is French, a wine expert, business owner, motorcycle enthusiast and is married to a beautiful woman from Sweden.  If I have ever had valid reasons to hate somebody, I’ve just listed them, but I can’t, Jean Pascal is a great guy.


He sometimes leads wine tours in Bellet, the old town of Nice, and into the French Riviera back country.  One of his stops, Chateau de Cremat in Bellet, the tiny wine region in the hills behind Nice, is particularly noteworthy for fans of the late fashion designer Coco Chanel.

Why? Continue reading

The Three Best Restaurants In The French Riviera Backcountry

There are few things I find more enjoyable than roaming around the south of France in search of delicious, thoughtfully prepared cuisine. It is a chronic hobby of mine. For the past seventeen years I have traveled the coastline from Theole sur Mer to sunny Menton, from the narrow, pedestrian-only streets of the old town of Nice to the chic, Disney-esque Principality of Monaco, from the glitz of Cannes to the grit of Cagnes, and almost everywhere in-between, in a never-ending quest for good food and wine. Along the way I have devoured bouillabaisse in Antibes, snails in Villefranche, and pizza in just about every place imaginable.

Lately, though, I will admit to being pulled north, away from the coast, more times than not for my culinary explorations.

Drive twenty minutes north from Nice or Cannes and you will find yourself in another world, one far removed from the bustling coast. Perched medieval villages dot the lush, mountainous countryside. Tiny vineyards produce beautifully complex wines, and around almost every bend in the road appears another idyllic spot waiting to be discovered. It is a spectacularly varied and beautiful landscape.

It is also chock full of good food.

My picks for the three best restaurants in the Riviera backcountry are, by most standards, modest establishments. There are no Michelin stars or celebrity chefs on my list. What you will find, though, are warm welcomes, fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and skilled chefs who care deeply about every dish they create.

To enjoy these restaurants you will need a car, a mild sense of adventure, and a little time, but don’t worry, like a fine wine left to breathe, you will be amply rewarded for your patience. Continue reading

Bon Manger

When dining out context plays such an important role that it’s sometimes difficult to focus solely on the meal. This is why I’m ambivalent when it comes to eating at 3 starred restaurants.

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It’s very difficult to focus on the food when there’s a complex dog and pony show going on around you.

I have rarely left a 3 starred establishment talking about the food, rather, I tend say things like “Did you count how many people were serving us?” or “My water glass never got below half-full!”

Dine at a 3 starred restaurant and you will no doubt walk away dazzled, but given the choice I’ll spend my hard-earned Euros at a good old mom and pop establishment anytime. Continue reading

L’Armoise, Champagne, and The New York Times

I received a handful of Emails on Sunday, each with a link to a New York Times article entitled “A French Riviera Gastrocrawl” by Alexander Lobrano.

In the piece Mr. Lobrano reviews four noteworthy restaurants along the Cote D’Azur (two in Nice, one in Cagnes sur Mer, and one in Antibes).

L’Armoise, his choice in old Antibes, has been at the top of my “to-do” list for some time, thanks in no small part to a beautiful blond Norwegian friend, Maren, a wonderful singer who lives in a stunning house in the old town.  She has been raving about L’Armoise and Chef Laurent Parrinello for years and insists that I make it my first stop during my next visit to Antibes.

So I had to smile when I read the last line of Mr. Lobrano’s article:

“Over dessert, we ended up falling into conversation with a beautiful blond Norwegian singer and drinking Champagne well into the night — a classic Riviera coda to the storied coastline’s terrific new cooking.”

The beautiful blond Norwegian singer, it seems, does indeed have good taste in restaurants.

The New York Times agrees.

L’Armoise
2, rue de la Tourraque, Vieil-Antibes
(33-4) 92-94-96-13
Prix-fixe menus 40, 45 and 70 euros
Closed Monday.

Maren’s 5 bedroom home, Casa Mare, is located on a charming, pedestrian-only street in old Antibes.  Available for weekly rentals year-round.  For more information click here

Une Etoile!

Never let it be said that Le Stuff fails to steer serious foodies to the proper table.

A favorite restaurant, about which I previously posted here and here, has received a Michelin Star.  

L’Hostellerie du Chateau, located in the small, absurdly picturesque village of Le Bar sur Loup, has hit the big time.

It is long overdue.

For those not familiar with the Michelin Star, let me give you a quick heads-up.

It’s a big deal, a really big deal, especially in France where top chefs can attain rock-star status.

So félicitations L’Hostellerie du Chateau!

I always knew you had it in you.

JP’s Wine Corner: Cheese Assortment, Cucumber Soup, and Beef Tender

My good friend Jean Pascal is a Sommelier/Consultant who runs a successful business in the south of France specializing in the wines of Provence and the Cote D’Azur.  He has forgotten more about ClaretPinot Noir, and Cabernet than I will ever learn in my lifetime, but has graciously agreed to let me take full advantage of his expertise here at Le Stuff.

JP will be joining us on The French Riviera in June for the Mini Cooper Driving Adventure!

My mother called the other day with a simple request.  She was planning a dinner party for several friends and needed help with the wine selection.

Our conversation was quick and to the point:

Mother: “If I email the menu to you can you help me pick out some wines?”
Me: “I’m sorry, did you say you were going to email the menu to me…. on the
c-o-m-p-u-t-e-r?!!”

Mother: “Yes honey.”
Me: Who the hell are you and what have you done with my mother?”

The Menu: Continue reading

Jean Pascal’s Wine Corner: Grilled Fish, Vegetables, and Fingerling Potatoes

My good friend Jean Pascal is a Sommelier/Consultant who runs a successful business in the south of France specializing in the wines of Provence and the Cote D’Azur.  He has forgotten more about Claret, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet than I will ever learn in my lifetime, but has graciously agreed to let me take full advantage of his expertise here at Le Stuff.

Need some wine advice?

Leave your questions for Jean Pascal in the comments section….

Jean Pascal subscribes to Le Stuff…. why don’t you?
It’s easy, just click here.

JP will be joining us on The French Riviera in June for the Mini Cooper Driving Adventure!

Today’s question comes from Noel:
Any suggestions for a meal of grilled white fish (Halibut) with lightly sauteed vegetables and roasted fingerling potatoes? A light dry Rose perhaps? Thanks again for your help.
Hi Noel,

 For your grilled Halibut with lightly sauteed vegetables and roasted fingerling potatoes, your choice of a light dry rosé is not bad at all. The important things to watch for are

Continue reading

Jean Pascal’s Wine Corner: Hamburger and Fries

My good friend Jean Pascal is a highly skilled Sommelier/Consultant who runs a successful business in the south of France specializing in the wines of Provence and the Cote D’Azur.  He has forgotten more about ClaretPinot Noir, and Cabernet than I will ever learn in my lifetime, but has graciously agreed to let me take full advantage of his expertise here at Le Stuff.

Need some wine advice?

Leave your questions for Jean Pascal in the comments section….

Jean Pascal subscribes to Le Stuff…. why don’t you?
It’s easy, just click here.

The Meal:
Hamburger (medium rare) with french fries.

Jean Pascal’s Selection(s):

Red :
Château Plaisance 2008.  A.O.C. Fronton.
8 Euros.

Grape varieties:
Negrette (local grape variety), Syrah, Cabernet-Franc.  Located in the Tarn region in South-west of France.

J.P. says:
A deep red color, genuine, very well-balanced with some Continue reading

PE.P’s Pizza

PE.P is the unofficial savior of Le Bar sur Loup.

You’ll find him open most nights toiling away in his tiny, two-seater pizza joint tucked inconspicuously into a corner of Place Francis Paulet (the main square).  A sole purveyor of affordable goodness, PE.P’s light shines like a beacon of hope to hungry souls in need of a quick and delicious fix.

Made to order in minutes using only the freshest ingredients, PE.P’s pizzas have saved me from certain starvation on many nights.

12 Place Francis Paulet
06620 Le Bar sur Loup, France
Tel. 04 93 60 19 82

“I Feel it Tonight”
Written by Charles Arndt
Performed by Bunny Austin

Like what you see?  Subscribe to Le Stuff here.

L’Hostellerie Du Chateau….again

I’m thinking about starting a blog devoted solely to my favorite restaurant in the south of France, L’Hostellerie du Chateau.  My wife and I had lunch there the other day and it was even better than I remembered.  Only five months in, the new owners have created an exceptional establishment in the village of Le Bar sur Loup.


L’Hostellerie Du Chateau from a distance

Listed below are five reasons, other than the sublime food, why I think L’Hostellerie du Chateau is top notch.

1) The Dining Room
Simple, sophisticated, and elegant.
I don’t need to eat in a circus tent surrounded by a non-stop dog and pony show to prove I’m getting my money’s worth.  At L’Hostellerie Du Chateau, I don’t have to.

2) The View
Located on the Place Francis Paulet in the 14th century village chateau, guests enjoy a stunning view across ancient rooftops to the verdant
Loup Valley.

3) The Service
Attentive and efficient without being overbearing.
If I have to listen to “Jason” at Fudruckers introduce himself and then force-feed me his life story Continue reading

French Dining Etiquette: Both Hands on the Table Mister!

When dining in France I try to remember to keep both hands visible.

This, I’ve been told more than once, is very important.

Sometimes I forget because it’s in direct contrast to the way I’ve eaten my entire life. In the States we’re taught to place the non-dominant hand in our lap unless it’s being used to help with cutting meat, buttering bread, etc.

In France, though, it’s considered impolite and even weird to do this.

I once asked a French friend why and was surprised by her response.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Why is it so important to have both hands visible when dining in France?” Continue reading

The Corkscrew: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

I came across something on-line recently that caught my attention; a Silver Rabbit Six-Piece Wine Tools Kit for $54.95 plus tax.

The kit included:

-Silver Rabbit
-Wine Collar
-Champagne Stopper
-Foil Cutter
-Wax Whacker
-Extra Spiral

Silver Rabbit?  Wine Collar?  Wax Whacker?

Are they serious?

Am I opening a bottle of wine or rehearsing a scene from Pulp Fiction?

Have we really reached the point where we require 6 different tools to open one bottle of wine?  What’s next, the all-inclusive six-in-one shoe lace tying tool?
Or maybe the multi-faceted hand-shaker helper?

Opening a bottle of wine is a simple task requiring Continue reading

L’Hostellerie du Chateau: Le Bar sur Loup, France

I’d like to tell you about a terrific dining experience I had recently at L’Hostellerie du Chateau, a small hotel and restaurant tucked into a fifteenth century castle in the picturesque working class-village of Le Bar sur Loup.

Insider Tip: Don’t go to L’Hostellerie du Chateau if you are “volume challenged”.  I’ve never eaten in a quieter place.

My wife and I arrived at seven on a breezy spring evening and were warmly greeted and shown to our table by an attractive woman I could only assume was the proprietess (I didn’t want to ask, someone might actually have heard me).

We started with Continue reading

Addendum: Le Stuff’s Pronunciation Guide To Vacqueyras

Reader Comment – “That’s great about the “s” but what about the rest of the word?  The “s” was the least of my worries when looking at the jumble of c’s, q’s ue’s, and yr’s.” – Grace

Well, Grace has a point.

In my last post I wrote about how the “s” in “vacqueyras” is not silent.
I neglected, though, to give an adequate explanation of how the entire word is pronounced.  That’s kind of like telling someone “hey, the “g” in “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is soft” and leaving it at that.

So please forgive me Grace and here, just for you, is the proper way to pronounce “vacqueyras”.

va-(as in va-cuum) * cquey-(as in ke-boom)* ras-(as in Ras-tafarian)

Le Stuff’s Pronunciation Guide To “Vacqueyras”

How many times have you avoided ordering a particular wine at a restaurant because you didn’t know how to correctly pronounce it?  If you’re like me, more times than you care to remember.

With that in mind I’d like to pass along a little pronunciation tidbit I picked up recently in Provence.

I had always assumed that the “s” at the end of Vacqueyras was silent because there’s no vowel after it, and of course, any hayseed with a double PHD in French would know that, right? Continue reading

Oppede-Le-Vieux: Le Petit Cafe

I have been attempting to eat my way through the entire country of France for some time now, so it would be perfectly reasonable for me to have a jaded, rather road weary attitude when it comes to French food, n’est pas?

Been there, done that, right?

Not exactly my friends.

After so many years I am still absolutely amazed at the quality of cuisine, service, and wines that can be found in the most unexpected places in this wonderful country.

Is there someone out there championing the cause of the country auberge, the bistrot de pays, the common man’s stomach?

If not, sign me up, I’m your guy.

Why am I on such a foodie high?

Simple.  My wife and I have just dined at Le Petit Cafe in the strangely charming Provencal village of Oppede Le Vieux (that’s Peter Mayle country by the way, and if he hasn’t been here he’s really missing out).

Situated on a charming corner of what appears to be the town’s only drive-able street, Le Petit Cafe is Continue reading

Paris: The 10th

I realize this is a blog mainly about the south of France, but occasionally I feel the need to branch out a bit, and this happens to be one of those times.

So bear with me.

Lately I’ve noticed much blogging about the 10th arrondissement in Paris.  The 10th is garnering a lot of attention as one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods in the city of light.  For those looking to snatch a good deal on a Parisian apartment, I’m told this is the first place you should look.

The Canal-Saint Martin neighborhood is in the 10th, between the Gare du Nord and Republique in northeastern Paris.  It is quirky, a bit seedy, and Continue reading

Domaine St Joseph

Domaine St Joseph is a small vineyard comprising roughly 3 hectares of olive trees and well-tended vines.  The grapes from those spoiled little vines produce surprisingly sophisticated wines and aperitifs, and even if they did not, you would have trouble finding fault with this charming place.

Located in a residential area below the main village of Tourrettes sur Loup, Domaine St Joseph is the perfect stopover for those seeking a more intimate wine experience.

Call ahead to schedule a tasting.

Gérard et Julien Bertaina – Proprietors
160 chemin des Vignes 06140 Tourrettes sur Loup
Tel. 04.93.58.81.31