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Provence Cuisine: Plan the Perfect Day to Sample the Flavors of the Region

From fresh fish to ripe tomatoes and fragrant herbs, Provence cuisine has a distinctly Mediterranean flair

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France is known around the world for its fine cuisine, deep culinary traditions, and elevated dining experiences to please the palette. However, for those that have never set foot on French soil, the variation in popular foods and meals by region can be quite a surprise. For example, the heavier, more decadent dishes found in Paris are nothing like the fresh, light fare you find on the menu in Provence.

Provence, in fact, is a truly unique area of France when it comes to food due to its location. Positioned in the southeast corner of the country, Provence is bordered by Italy on the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Because of that, Provence cuisine has an interesting (and delicious) Italian and Mediterranean influence. Fresh fish is extremely popular, along with tastes of garlic, olives, ripe tomatoes, fragrant herbs, truffles, and lemons.

If you only have one day in Provence to wander through the lavender fields, quaint villages, and historical sites, it’s essential to make a plan in advance when it comes to your daily meals. After all, if you are going to spend one day in Provence, you have to make sure you do it right. For the true Provencal experience, keep an eye out for these classic Provence dishes and foods.

WIMCO_SB_2015_11_29_Breakfast_071Planning One Ideal Day in Provence? Cuisine Selections You Cannot Miss

Breakfast (Le petit déjeuner)

Breakfast in Provence is very traditionally “French” — most people enjoy a strong cup of coffee with a croissant, pastries, or bread with butter and jam. This is the smallest meal of the day and never a huge indulgence. The best way to enjoy breakfast in Provence is at an open-air café, sipping your café noir or café au lait slowly, and savoring the buttery tastes of a freshly baked croissant.

Lunch (Le déjeuner)

Lunch is more substantial than breakfast, but not as robust as dinner. If you are walking around Provence in the summer months, you will likely want something light, but filling.

  • Salade niçoise is a truly classic dish in Provence. You may find slightly different variations depending on the restaurant as chefs sometimes like to get a little creative or add their own twist. The original salade niçoise is known for quartered artichoke hearts, raw peppers and tomatoes, black olives, and anchovy filets. The dressing should be olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, mustard, and chopped herbs, including parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon.
  • Artichauts a la barigoule is a light creation that is sometimes served as a side dish or as a full vegetarian meal. The name translates to “artichoke hearts stewed in olive oil” and it is so simple, yet bursting with flavors of fresh garlic, olive oil, and herbs.

Aperitif

Aperitif is a charming custom in Provence that is similar to happy hour in the States. In France, people set aside time at the end of the work day and before dinner to just eat, drink, talk, and enjoy each other’s company. Some people will meet for an aperitif at a bar or café, while others will host in their homes. Wherever you choose to take part, make sure you nibble or sip one of these local dishes:

  • Tapenade is an olive dip usually made of black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, and olive oil. There are many different variations, and all are delicious. Tapenade is accompanied by small toasted baguette slices.
  • Olives, nuts, and radishes with butter or salt
  • A light drink, preferably either one of the region’s famous rosés, or Pastis, an anise-flavored spirit.

Dinner (Dîner)

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Dinners in Provence are usually the largest meal of the day and can end up being a few different courses. This is when you can really take the time to sit, relax, and savor the flavors of Provence cuisine.

  • Bouillabaisse is considered to be the signature dish of Provence, and more specifically, the Marseille. It is a saffron-infused seafood stew that combines freshly caught fish in a heavenly tomato broth. Bouillabaisse is usually served with a toasted baguette smothered in aioli.
  • Ratatouille is a traditional dish of stewed vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and onion. The fresh, local vegetables are covered in an olive oil with garlic and herbs.

Sweets 

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You can indulge in the homemade sweets that Provence cuisine has to offer at any point during the day, but keep an eye out for these treats:

  • Calissons are small cookies made from a paste of ground almonds, candied melon, and orange peel on a thin layer of wafer covered in icing.
  • Tartes are classic French desserts, but if you have the opportunity to try an apricot tarte in Provence, jump at the chance.
  • Lavender ice cream (sometimes combined with another flavor, like honey) is refreshing on a hot summer day and a perfect Provence-themed treat due to the popularity of lavender in the region.

One day is lovely, but won’t you stay a bit longer?  

Visiting Provence can be a truly immersive experience, and with so much to see — and eat — you may want to extend your time in the region. Contact a Provence Villa Specialist at WIMCO Villas to learn more about Provence, booking a private villa, and the best times of the year to visit this French treasure.

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