Gastronomic France

Welcome to my Gastronomic France page.  I love this country.  So much so that I named my son Paris and my youngest daughter Soleil, have put an F sticker on every one of my vehicles and fly the French flag on the back of my house over the summer months.  Why do I love this country so much?  Because I am a chef and I have had such a long connection with the country.  I learned French twice as a child.  It was the first language I learned when our family lived in Madagascar and I had to learn it all over again when my father moved us to Morocco from Ohio when I was seven.  I have many close French friends and I often feel more French than American, however when I am in France I often feel more American than French.  I guess I am more an amalgamation of the two cultures.

The French are in love with food and they easily spend twice as much per person on food as every American. They are consumed with what they are going to eat. They reminisce about and plan their meals with equal fervor.  They are arbitrators of food and dictators of etiquette.  Many hate them for this, but there is no doubt the world owes them for the finer foods in life.

If you are interested in visiting France or want to really get to know a country you have visited once and fallen in love with,  then I can help you to experience it like you never have before.  I will gladly work out a personal travel plan that will maximize your time there with some of the most talented food and wine professionals on the planet.  My area of expertise is Provence (specifically the Vaucluse) and I can hook you up with cooking classes in a twelfth century castle, a private guide,  place to stay short term and long, private chef, wine visits, restaurants, restaurant stages, wine tours and everything else you could need including yoga classes and chiropractic visits. Just write to me at Chef-Floyd@comcast.net

The following are addresses I have personally visited and most I have a relationships with.  Businesses come and go and sometimes I can’t be there to personally visit each establishment again.  So in the unlikely event that some of these places just closed their doors then forgive me. Please send me any updated information and any critique you may have.

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Provence: It is not hard to imagine why every consequential impressionist painter came to this area, some even leaving their ear and mind.  It is beautiful and quickly becomes home.  I am home when I am there and my friends are quick to remind me that I am indeed “chez moi.”  19 months over the course of 10 years has made me somewhat of a local figure in Avignon and the surrounding area. This area has left the most profound imprint on my cooking and philosophy.  The following are just a few of the many places I recommend.

Avignon: The seat of the Papacy under Pope Clement the V and the present headquarters for the wines of the Côte du Rhône.  I know every cobblestone segment of this medieval city.  Many of my closest friends inhabit the town.  It is quaint, beautiful and yes a little dirty.  It feels like home.

There are some great restaurants in the city and since I have placed many of my students in their kitchens for stages, I am on first name basis with many of the chefs.  So this is what I recommend (and feel free to drop my name and my blog if you found them through me):

Christian Etienne: Christian is the embodiment of Provence and considered to be the king of gastronomic Vaucluse.  Nothing can happen in the area without him having a say.  He is at every event and festival.  His all tomato menu is legendary.  His restaurant is a one star Michelin and probably deserves two.  His building is connected to the Palais des Papes by a sort of buttress.  The food is all Provence.  For many years my good friend Kelly McAuliffe worked here. He was at the time the only American somellier in a starred in Restaurant in France.  I have dined here on numerous occasions and it has always been good.  Many of my students did their stage here and learned tons.

Hotel Europe: Bruno d’Angelis is the chef at this amazing hotel restaurant. The hotel has also taken many of my students as stagiaires and they have loved it.  The GM is Hendrik Daudeij and is a very nice man originally from Holland.  The restaurant is 1 star and the Hotel is a luxury stay.  The location is great. Just far away from the center that you have peace and quiet and close enough that you can enjoy anything you might want.

La Mirande: Almost as close to the Palais des Papes as Christian Etienne.  This is another luxury hotel that hosts a 1 star Michelin restaurant. Luckily for all involved they have replaced the odious chef with a more sympatique chef who is very driven by green and local.  They also offer cooking classes in their beautiful small venue near the kitchen.  Olivia Aurelle is the director for the classes provided to the public.  She stayed with us in Colorado and I have been a tenant at her mother’s apartment for many visits.  They are good people.  The hotel is a great place to stay and very centrally located.

Restaurant Brunel: Owned by my good friend Robert Brunel, this restaurant is what allowed him to purchase his dream restaurant Numéro 75.  He is the most connected chef in Avignon.  His open and adventurous spirit is infectious and I have spent many pleasant hours at both of his restaurants in the best possible company.  Antoine is the chef and Robert Brunel’s right hand man is the chef pâtissier Roger. Together they execute a flawless rendition of Robert’s provençale cuisine.  Right down the steps from the Palais des Papes on rue de la Balance.

Numéro 75: Robert Brunel’s flagship restaurant and where you are more likely to find him.  This is the former residence of Mr Pernod of pastis fame.  The Pernod/Ricard company is prsently the largest liquor company on the planet.  So needless to say the space is amazing.  It sports a courtyard that is nicely sheltered from the mistral yet provides a luxurious garden feel.  If it gets cold he can seat tons of people insided and even sit private parties on the first floor.  He also has a good friend that plays piano on Thursdays and you can always just sit at the salon for drinks and appetizers.  A must visit when in Avignon.  Drop my name. Nicholas will most likely be the one working the front of the house.

La Vache a Carreaux: a local haunt that is one of the few restaurants open on Sunday.  Word of advice make a reservation if you plan on coming in on that night. I have sat at the bar and watched as Francois or Sebastien turned countless people away. The focus of the Menu is on dishes cooked with cheese.  Great wine list and a fun place to hang out.  After hours they close their shutters and their friends can spend a few extra hours hanging out. I know this obviously from experience.

Wine Stores: Avignon is the headquarter to the Côtes du Rhône wine region.  InterRhone the marketing arm for the Côtes du Rhône is on the rue des Trois Faucons. There are even vines growing on the sides of the Rocher des Doms the must see park right beside the Palais de Papes.  There are few really good places to buy local wines.  If you are visitng the Palais des Papes then you will eventually be forced through a glass door and down a staircase that ends up in the Bouteillerie or wine store (if you go down the next flight of stairs then you will end up in the gift store).  They have a very good selection of the wines of the region and are subsidized by InterRhone.  You can buy the wines at the same price as you would at the vineyard.  If you want to bring some wines home they can ship them for you.  However, you need to send a lot back to make it worth your while and you will need to fill out an USDA form in the US declaring that you are not bringing in harmful substances into the US.  A huge pain, but I have successfully brought over shipments of 50 cases or more.  If you live in Colorado and this interest you, contact me.  You might be able to piggy back on one of my shipments.

La Coupe d’Or is run by my good friend Marc Mageillan and has a great selection of the wines of the region as well as around France.  There is a healthy mark up but his selection is excellent and if you are a good enough client he will give you discounts.  He also holds weekly tastings with vintners.  He will make deliveries which can be convenient.  He has another much larger store on the route de Lyon that has easy parking (always a factor in France). He carries two of my most favorite vineyards in the region.  Domaine Antonin and les Aphylantes.  Get yourself a bottle and you will see what I mean.  His father is great guy and I could listen to him speak all day with his amazing provencale accent.

Liquid: Hugues and his wonderful wife Delphine own this little store which is devoted to all things liquid.  Good though smaller selection of local wines and surprisingly a good selection of international wines.  The French are notoriously patriotic when they purchase wine.  It’s as if the rest of the wine world didn’t exist, so it is refreshing to see a place that actually stocks up on international wines.  Hugues used to be the front of the house manager for Robert Brunel at his la Balance restaurant.  He is a great guy and speaks fairly good english.

Villeneuve les Avignons: Just across the river from Avignon is the small town of Villeneuve.  The chateau served as a communication tower between the two cities.  There is a great market here each Thursday and very cool sort of bric a brac market every saturday.  You are in the department of the Gard once you cross the Rhône.  On this side of the river you will find the wine growing regions of Tavel and Lirac.  You are on your way to the A9 suprehighway that will take you to Spain.

In Villeneuve there are a few notable places to eat.  Jean Claude Aubertin 04.90.25.94.84 and the recently acquired by Andre Charial of Oustau de Baumaniere fame: Le Prieuré this place is magnificient and the grounds are peaceful and well shaded.

Carpentras: About twenty minutes northeast of Avignon is the small town of Carpentras.  This is a town to avoid (the traffic around its little beltway is horrendous) except for a few exceptions.  There is a market every Friday which is quite impressive and if you are here during truffle season this is the place to see the action.  Apparently the whole town smells of truffles that are being sold with a minimum of control out of truffle hunter’s trunks.

Two must see places:  Patisserie Jouvaud and la Fromagerie du Comtat . If you stop in to la fromagerie which is the best cheese shop in the area, then make sure to say hello to Claudine from me.  She is truly a great ambassadrice to the area.

St. Didier: This is such a small village deep in the Vaucluse and not far from Venasque, that you could easily drive by it and never think twice.  When I first went to France with my students at CSR, we stayed in the even smaller village of le Beaucet.  So I got to know this village and consequently all the backroads leading to every other small village in the shade of the Mont Ventoux.  There is a delightful litttle restaurant here called l’Autre coté du lavoir.  They have very good food and is the only game in town.

Isle sur Sorgue: Jardin du Quai, is owned by my friend Daniel Hebet.  Daniel was the former chef of La Mirande in Avignon.  He was also the chef for the President of Peru.  The restaurant is so named because it is right across the street from the train station.  It is this very cool building with a great garden for outdoor dining. In the summer he also opens up the sliding doors to his dining room and the place becomes al fresco dining.  His formula is very easy.  He has one menu each night (no choices) and it changes every night based on his whims.   So you know the product is fresh.  He has a really close nit team that have been with him for awhile.  He is a big practical joker and an awesome chef.  Many of my students have done stages with him.

Eygalieres: The Bistrot d’Eygalieres or Chez Bru is one of the best tables in the area (2 stars Michelin).  Wout Bru is the owner is from Belgium and is an alum of l’Oustau de Baumaniere.  He has also taken students of mine on stage. However this is a very small village and it was hard to coordinate transportation and lodging.  I highly recommend this restaurant.  If you can, make the backroad trip to Maussane from there. It is one of my favorite roads in all of Provence.

Gordes: Les Bories This is an amazing property overlooking the Luberon.  Gordes is one the most beautiful hill top villages in Provence.  My wife and I dined and spent the night at this incredible inn.  It was a luxurious experience we will not soon forget.

Joucas: Le Mas des Herbes Blanches This Relais et Chateau properties has one of the most beautiful views of the Luberon valley.  You can see down to Roussillon. My wife and I went to dinner here and it was sublime.  The view, the service and the food were all top notch.

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Paris: The city of lights needs very little selling and is best visited on foot.  The Parisians have an undeserved bad rap as rude and impatient sots. They are besieged by the greatest number of tourists any major cosmopolitan city could hope for.  Yet I have had nothing but pleasant experiences here.  The city is truly one of the most beautiful on the planet and is equally gastronomically enticing.  The following are few addresses that have impressed me and that I happily share with others.

Restaurants:

Café des Musées 49, rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris T. 01 42 72 96 17 (never had a bad or expensive meal here)

Le Comptoir d’Yves Camdeborde (also known as the Relais de l’Odeon), 9 carrefour de l’Odeon 75006 T. 01 44 27 07 97 (this place is amazing, never had a bad meal. Problem, very small so hard to get a seat. Best bet is to arrive at 11:45am and stand in line for a moment for lunch. impossible to get a place on a weeknight as it is reserved many months ahead. Weekends are another story but be smart and show up before the rest of the dinner or lunch crowd arrives and you will have success).

La Ferrandaise, 8 rue Vaugirard, 75006, T. 01 43 26 36 36, www.laferrandaise.com I went here one night on the recommendation of the head waiter of le Comptoir when we couldn’t get in there. The place was awesome. Great value and very tasty food. It is right across the street from the Jardins de Luxembourg. Ferrandaise is a species of cattle, so that is the theme of the restaurant. Needless to say you can get good steak here.

Chez Paul, 13 rue Charonne, 75011, T. 01 47 00 34 57, This place is a classic and best of all is open 7 days a week (a rarity in Paris) This is great burgundy bouchon food and the place is always packed. I used to take my students there for their first night in Paris.

Bistrot du Sommelier, 97 Blvd Haussman, 75008, T. 01 42 65 24 85 (The master sommelier is Philippe Brac and they do specialized food and wine pairing menus and also serve Alleosse cheeses, not overly priced). The one time we went there we took our 2 month old son and I experienced the whole meal with him in a baby bjorn. This is a challenge I can tell you. They were terrified when they saw us come in, but pleasantly surprised by how well he behaved.

Chez Michel, 10 rue Belzunce, 75010, T. 01 44 53 06 20 ( this a quaint little bistrot in an unlikely place. Good inexpensive food from a top chef who used to work as Chef to President Mitterand and at the Ritz)

l’Ardoise, 28 rue du Mont-Thabor, 75001, T. 01 42 96 28 18 (great honest food and inexpensive. Located right beside Place de la Concorde)

Cheese Shops:

Alleosse, 13 rue Poncelet, 75017, T. 01 46 22 50 45. This is without a doubt the best cheese curer in all Paris. Many of the 3 star Michelin chefs buy from him and he deals with international shipments. He is Philippe and his wife is Rachel. They have generously showed me their cheese cellars on occasions with my students and he has enlightened me about the world of cheese.  Buy his Cabri Arriegois and his Reblochon.  It is hard to go wrong on any of his cheeses.

La Ferme St Aubin: 76 rue St. Louis-en-l’Ille, 75004, T. 01 43 54 74 54, This where I used to go for my cheese before I met Alleosse. Just strolling though the Ille St. Louis is worth the trip. Make it even more cool by visiting Notre Dame and then strolling past its left flank heading east and crossing the bridge into the Ille St. Louis. Stop, turn around and take in Notre Dame’s buttresses, turn around again and go straight to Berthillion ice cream and get a scoop of the best ice cream on the planet. Then go buy some cheese at St. Aubin.

Androuet: Too many locations in Paris to list. Click on this Androuet to find a location that suits your needs. This is the original cheese curer for Paris and used to have a restaurant that featured all dishes made with cheese and of course a cheese selection.

Restaurant Supply Stores:

E. Dehillerin: 26 rue Coquilliere, 75001, Talk to Emille a man of Indian descent. This a must do for any chef. One day in 1989 I walked in and stumbled into Jean Louis Palladin and Michel Richard. I knew Jean Louis from my time as a student at l’Academie. I talked to Jean Louis for a little bit and then turned to Michel and asked do you work for Jean Louis. He turned to me and said “I own Citron in L.A.” (he had that you are cretin for asking look on his face). All you have to do is walk around the general vicinity of the area to find the rest of the restaurant supply stores in the area…. Explore. Don’t be surprised if you stumble on the sex shop & prostitute district which is not far east from here on the Rue St. Denis. (or maybe you are coming to the kitchen supply store from there?).

Pastry Shops: Without question the best pasty shops in the world are here (in my experience). You can visit all the great outposts within a few blocks from each other in the 6th Arrondissement. Here are my favs:

Pierre Hermé: 72 rue Bonaparte, 75006, This is a shoebox of a place but once you walk through the doors you realize that you have entered a pastry art gallery. Pierre is the Channel of the pastry world. This shoe box sized Patisserie is right across the street from St. Sulpice cathedral. Made very famous in the Da Vinci code and in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Closed Mondays

Gerard Mulot: 76 rue du Seine, 75006, T. 01 43 26 85 77 This place is awesome and I have visited the production area which is under the store. It is a rat maze and made even smaller when you take a group of 15 down with you. However what they manage to do with that limited space is amazing. Annoying is the ordering method. You ask for what you want, the server gives you a ticket and you must go to the cashier to get a paid receipt to pick up your order. They not only do pastries but a whole lot of savory items and breads.

Ladurée: 21 rue Bonaparte, 75006, T. 01 44 07 64 87. These three pasty shops compete every year for the best macaroons. Each of them produce amazing macaroons, so hard to say who would win. This Ladurée has a beautiful tea room that you can enjoy breakfast in or have afternoon tea. None of the other two places have a seating area.

High end Grocers:

Fauchon: 23 -26 Place de la Madeleine, 75008, T. 01 70 39 38 00. This is a gastronomic landmark almost on par with Harrods in London. Everything is at peak of perfection and price.

Hediard: This is right across the Place de la Madeleine from Fauchon and has all the luxury canned goods you can pack into your Louis Vitton suitcase. Also right beside them you will find Petrossian Caviar and if you start heading back toward the Seine you will stumble onto the former restaurant Lucas Carton and a little further you will see another outpost of Ladurée.

Wine Stores:

Lavinia: 3 Boulevard de la Madeleine, 75008. I believe that this is the largest wine store on the planet.  I love to go into the exclusive wine room and see the legendary bottles of Yquem, Latour, LRC etc. You are only a few blocks away when you are at Place de la Madeleine that you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity. They have a wine bar there as well with many wines by the glass if you get thirsty.

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