Best Eats in Aix-en-Provence, From a Local

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Aix-en-Provence La Rotonde

Travel season is upon us, and I want to make sure you see and taste the best France has to offer! When it comes to Paris I’ve got you covered, but there are many other cities with exciting and delicious things for you to experience. So I’ve asked a team of French bloggers from different cities to share their favorite spots, and I am offering them to you in this new series.

In Aix-en-Provence, Clara recommends…

Clara Onuki Aix-en-Provence To explore Aix, we will be following Clara Onuki‘s footsteps ! Clara is a private chef and culinary instructor. She previously worked as a chef at hotels and restaurants before switching to freelance work. She specializes in healthy cooking and Japanese fusion, and is all about high-quality ingredients from small producers. Check out her site to know more about her services.

Aix-en-Provence, Clara says, is a lovely city where life is good. It has retained its old-world charm, with tiny cobblestoned streets, multiple greenmarkets, historical buildings, and the many fountains it is known for.

Aix denizens are true epicureans, often found on terraces (thanks to the Provençal sun!) sipping a happy hour drink, or biking around to run their errands in the small food shops.

A market or food shop: The greenmarket on place des Prêcheurs

Marche Place des Prêcheurs Aix-en-Provence

I could never live somewhere that didn’t have a greenmarket, since fresh produce is the base for all of my cooking. Here, I am spoiled: there are no less than six greenmarkets in Aix’s city center! I particularly like the Marché des Prêcheurs (opposite the Madeleine church) where you’ll find everything you need for a successful meal: local and organic fruits and vegetables, spices, and lots of terroir products!

Bonus tip: You can buy a handmade basket to do your shopping.

Where to go for sweet eats: Farinoman Fou

Farinoman Fou Aix-en-Provence

Although I am passionate about Japanese cuisine, I also love real bread! This exceptional breadmaker is only steps away from Place des Prêcheurs (in truth, Aix is such a small city that nothing is ever very far apart). The “Crazy Flourman” elevates bread to an artform, with original creations like “Les Boutons” (“The Buttons,” made with heritage wheat flour, saffron, rosemary, pine nuts, olive purée) or “Chair d’Aphrodite et puissance d’Eros” (“Aphrodite’s flesh and Eros’ power,” made with wheat flour, candied ginger, apple, fig, and fairy dust). These breads are so good you can simply eat them on their own as you walk away from the boulangerie — my favorite moment of the day!

Bonus tip: the matcha baguette on Fridays is a real treat, especially with almond butter.

Where to get tea or coffee: Plaisirs des thes

Plasirs des Thés Aix-en-Provence

Plaisirs des Thés is a traditional tea house: the owners, Guillaume and Cécilia, personally source high-quality teas from small producers in China and Japan. The range features almost 250 teas (as well as rooibos, infusions, and herbal teas) to drink or to buy.

You can also sit down at one of the small tables and drink your tea with a pastry (mochis, matcha financiers). This tea shop has earned my complete trust, and they supply the teas I need for my classes and demonstrations.

Bonus tip: I particularly appreciate the customer service here: They take the time to give kind and professional advice. And tea geeks will be pleased to know that the infusion times and water temperatures are perfectly respected.

A fun restaurant for dinner with friends: La Tradizionale

La Tradizionale Aix-en-Provence

What could be better than a glass of wine and a plate of Italian food for a nice evening with friends? Nestled on a pretty side street, La Tradizionale serves an authentic and delicious Italian fare. Here you will find well-crafted, traditional dishes made with super fresh ingredients.

I recommend their flavorful risotto, creamy but not too heavy. I also like their thin-crust pizza garnished with roasted vegetables and housemade pesto. Beyond those, the seasonal recommendations are always spot-on.

Bonus tip: you can make a reservation for a group, to celebrate a birthday for example. You will still receive impeccable service.

Lunch with co-workers: Le Môme

Le Môme Aix-en-Provence

Also located on Place Ramus, Le Mome is perfect for an al fresco lunch or an after-work drink. The short menu features a generous Mediterranean and Corsican cuisine, and you’re sure to eat well there.

Meat lovers should consider a cheese and charcuterie plate from Corsica, or the signature Corsican burger — brioche bun, ground beef, mountain cheese, fig jam, caramelized onions, fried egg, and tomato — with a glass of red wine. Otherwise, don’t miss the beautiful burrata salad with arugula, pine nuts, artichoke, and honey.

Bonus tip: everything is homemade, and it shows. I will also give a quick shout-out to the excellent pecan cheesecake, smooth and not too sweet.

Where to go for an intimate dinner with a date: Drole d’endroit

Drôle d"Endroit Aix-en-Provence

Hidden on a charming side street, this pretty restaurant is a must-visit. The ambiance is quiet yet vibrant, the daily menu features high-quality ingredients, and… the chef is a woman, which is pretty cool. The restaurant regularly displays the work of photographers, so you’ll also benefit from an art exhibition along with your meal.

For a date, I recommend you go on a weeknight and avoid Thursdays and Saturdays; reservations are a must on any day. Their vegetarian plate is a real treat, but all of their dishes are good, and the kind staff will be happy to make recommendations.

Bonus tip: there is live music on Thursday nights, and an open-mike night every month.

Wild Card Spot! Book in Bar

Book in Bar Aix-en-Provence

If there are two things I’m passionate about, it’s food and books. I grew up surrounded with books, and they hold a very special place in my life. I adore this spot, and bilingual readers will too, as Book in Bar is an international café and bookstore.

Located right in front of the newly opened Caumont Art Center, and mere steps from Cours Mirabeau, Book in Bar is a true gem with a charming, one-of-a-kind vibe. It’s the perfect place to work in peace, with a ginger lemon tea and a homemade scone by your side (the pastries are made by Laetitia, who runs House Cookies & Co., also in Aix).

Thank you so much for sharing, Clara!

You’ll find all of Clara’s recommendations mapped out below:

Do you have your own favorite spots in Aix-en-Provence? We want to hear about them in the comments below. And if there is a particular city or area you’d like featured in this series in the future, please speak up!

Photo credit: Clara Onuki.

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One-Pot Pomegranate Roasted Chicken Recipe

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Pomegranate Roasted Chicken

Pomegranate molasses was the topic of my very first column in ELLE à Table when I started writing for the French cooking magazine in the spring of 2008. (Pick it up if you’re ever visiting France!)

In this article I shared my enthusiasm for this amazing ingredient, obtained by reducing pomegranate juice to a thick, dark red syrup. A staple of Lebanese and Persian cuisines in particular, this fruity and acidic condiment is a treat for fans of tart flavors, of which I am a card-carrying member.

In fact, pomegranate molasses is one of my secret weapons when I want to add a little zing to my cooking, an extra trilling note that will be hard to put your finger on but will make all the difference. I may add a few drops to a vinaigrette, stir a spoonful into a yogurt sauce for bulgur, and use it in muhammara of course. I have glazed duck breasts and fish fillets with it, and seasoned mashed root vegetables as well; it is particularly good with celeriac and parsnips.

When dessert time rolls around, pomegranate molasses can be used with a light hand to season fruit salads (especially berries and blood oranges) and poured over roasted figs, to be served with fresh cheese.

In the recipe I am bringing to you today, pomegranate molasses lends depth and sparkle to a lively marinade for a cut-up chicken. Thus voluptuously coated, the chicken goes into the oven (the stovetop or the grill are equally good options depending on your preference and the weather) and comes out fall-off-the-bone tender and divinely caramelized. It is irresistible.

Pomegranate Roasted Chicken

This is a minimalist recipe that has you mix everything in the pot you’ll use for cooking, and I think you’ll want to add it to your repertoire of simple yet wowing dishes: such rich flavors make it feel like you’ve surely put a lot more effort into it than you really have.

The only special ingredient involved is the pomegranate molasses. I buy mine at Heratchian Frères, my official supplier of Near Eastern ingredients in Paris. You can also order it online or make your own, from bottled pomegranate juice. If worse comes to worst, I grant you permission to use balsamic vinegar instead.

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One-Pot Pomegranate Roasted Chicken Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Serves 4.

One-Pot Pomegranate Roasted Chicken Recipe

Ingredients

  • One organic chicken, about 1.7 kilos (3 3/4 pounds), or 4 chicken legs
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (make sure it is gluten-free as needed)
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs, such as Herbes de Provence or a mix of thyme, rosemary, basil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 large shallot or 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • For serving:
  • Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Steamed rice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
  2. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces (2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks) following this excellent video tutorial; save the backbone for homemade stock.
  3. Alternatively, have your butcher cut it up for you, or use just thighs and cut them in two at the joint.
  4. Place the chicken in a Dutch oven or other heavy, ovenproof pot with a lid.
  5. Pomegranate Roasted Chicken
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the cilantro, and stir well to combine. (You can prepare this a few hours to a day ahead -- without preheating the oven! -- and allow the chicken to marinate in a covered container in the fridge.)
  7. Pomegranate Roasted Chicken
  8. Place the lid on the pot, put it in the oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours, checking every 30 minutes or so to flip the chicken pieces and baste them with the juices. (If you find that you don't have very much juice, which depends on the chicken and the airtightness of the lid, add a splash of water.)
  9. Remove the lid and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
  10. Pomegranate Roasted Chicken
  11. Serve over steamed rice, with a shower of fresh cilantro.

Notes

  • This can also be cooked on the stovetop for the same amount of time.
  • If you'd like to use your slow cooker, set it on low and cook for 7 to 8 hours
  • In grilling weather, you can cook the chicken in indirect heat on the barbecue.

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Pomegranate Roasted Chicken

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12 Foods To Bring Back From France

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What To Bring Back From France

Planning a trip to France, and not sure what to bring back as an edible souvenir for yourself, or a thank you gift for the kind soul who’s watching your dog/goldfish/child while you’re away?

I have twelve suggestions of artisanal products that are typically French, won’t break the bank — all items are under 10€ — and will actually get used and eaten in your or your friend’s kitchen when you get back.

Those are all easy to find, too. For each item I’ve recommended where to look!

Note: Different countries have different customs policies limiting what you can and can’t bring back in. Before you leave, be sure to check with your local customs office and print out their recommendations to avoid the heartbreak of having your treats confiscated. As an example, here’s information from the US Customs Department. And if you’re flying, anything liquid (even remotely so, such as mustard) must be placed in your checked luggage.

Buckwheat flour

What To Bring Back From France: Buckwheat Flour

Brittany is the land of crêpes, and the savory version is made with buckwheat flour, giving them an incredibly aromatic, nutty flavor. Look for locally grown farine de sarrasin and use it in your baking — it is gluten-free — and, of course, to make your own buckwheat galettes.

Where to find: organic stores, mainstream supermarkets.

Related: Where to Buy Organic Food in Paris.

Canned sardines

What To Bring Back From France: Canned Sardines

The French have a passion for canned sardines, mostly fished in the Atlantic, and they like to buy them in decorative tins that make them lovely collectors’ items. They are wonderful to keep on hand for an easy and enjoyable lunch, and to make a quick sardine rillette spread, or this dish of pasta.

Where to find: organic stores, fish shops, fine foods shops, mainstream supermarkets.

Fleur de sel

What To Bring Back From France: Fleur de Sel

Sea salt is harvested in salt marshes, and the very top layer is the prized fleur de sel (“salt flower”), which comes in delicate and slightly crunchy crystals. It is best used as a finishing salt on fish, meat, vegetables, or in baking, such as in these lemon shortbread.

Where to find: organic stores, fine foods shops, mainstream supermarkets.

Rice from Camargue

What To Bring Back From France: Camargue Rice

You might not think of France as a rice-growing country, yet the Camargue region is an exceptionally rich marshland where the grain thrives. Seek out red or black rice for a nice change of pace, and savor their full flavour, with nutty and woody notes, and subtly chewy texture. You’ll find a recipe for my delicious Red Rice, Green Bean, and Almond Salad on page 66 of The French Market Cookbook!

Where to find: organic stores, fine foods shops, mainstream supermarkets.

Herbes de Provence

What To Bring Back From France: Herbes de Provence

This traditional mix of dried herbs usually contains a base of thyme, basil, tarragon, oregano, and rosemary. It is very versatile: apply it on meats and fish as a dry rub or marinade, fold it into bread or cracker dough, and use it to flavour grains, legumes, and vegetables. Seek out “Label Rouge” mixes to guarantee French-grown, high-quality herbs.

Where to find: fine foods shops.

French lentils

What To Bring Back From France: French Lentils

Lentils are a traditional crop in France, and the varieties we typically grow are small, flavorful, and retain their shape when cooked, all traits that make them perfect for lentil salads of all stripes. Some of my favorites are the famous lentilles vertes du Puy (protected by an AOP) and the lesser-known but Slow Food-approved lentilles blondes de Saint-Flour.

Where to find: organic stores, fine foods shops, mainstream supermarkets.

Dijon mustard

What To Bring Back From France: Dijon Mustard

The French kitchen would not be complete without a jar of strong mustard, to use as a condiment with virtually everything, or as the all-important ingredient in mayonnaise and vinaigrette. Since most French mustard manufacturers nowadays work with mustard seeds grown overseas (hello, Canadian friends!), I favor the Edmond Fallot brand. This family-owned, Burgundy-based mustard company makes stone-ground mustard and is promoting and supporting the local production of mustard seeds.

Where to find: organic stores, fine foods shops (for the Edmond Fallot line). (Mainstream supermarkets will carry industrially made mustard.)

Bean-to-bar chocolate

What To Bring Back From France: Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

Bean-to-bar chocolatiers control the entire process from the cacao bean to the bar you actually eat, and the resulting chocolate typically has lots of personality. My favorites are Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, Stéphane Bonnat, Rrraw, and Pralus.

Where to find: chocolate shops, fine foods shops.

Related: French Chocolate Shop Do’s & Don’ts

Aniseed drops

What To Bring Back From France: Aniseed Candy

Among the most cherished of regional French treats is the aniseed drop from Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, which has been manufactured in this medieval Burgundy village (where the 2000 film Chocolat was shot!) since the sixteenth century. The simplicity and freshness of this candy — spiked with natural flavourings such as lavender, clementine, ginger, or black currant — make it easy to love, as do the quaint, pretty pillboxes adorned with romantic illustrations of a shepherd and his sweetheart, which young French children covet to put away their treasures.

Where to find: mainstream supermarkets in Burgundy, organic stores, fine foods shops.

Aged comté cheese

What To Bring Back From France: Comté Cheese

Comté, a mountain cheese from the Jura, is France’s favorite, probably because it’s both a great cooking cheese and an excellent snacking cheese. Cheese shops worth their salt offer it at different stages of ripeness, and aged comté — 24 to 36 months old — is a must-taste, developing aromas of truffle and crunchy salt crystals. (Learn more about comté here.) For best traveling conditions, ask the cheese vendor if they can vacuum-pack it for you.

Where to find: cheese shops, organic stores.

Related: Buying Cheese Like The French.

Saucisson (dried sausage)

What To Bring Back From France: Dried Sausage

There are pork farmers in every region of France, and one of the most popular charcuterie item you can buy from them is the saucisson, a thick dried sausage that may be flavored in various ways. No apéritif spread can be called French without one; serve in slices with cornichons (pickles) and crusty bread. Unopened saucisson will travel fine at moderate room temperature. (Important note: Meat products are among the most closely watched by customs policies, so triple-check your home country’s regulations before traveling.)

Where to find: charcuteries, butcher shops, organic stores, fine foods shops (*not* mainstream supermarkets).

Related: Buying Meat Like The French.

Artisanal butter

What To Bring Back From France: Butter

The taste of artisanal French butter, sweet and rich and nutty, is one you don’t soon forget. Admittedly this isn’t the easiest item to travel with, but butter is such a cornerstone of French cuisine and pâtisserie that I had to include it for those of you who might not be traveling very far, or will be traveling with an insulated bag and an ice pack. Seek out beurre de baratte to favor artisanal production; my favorite kind is the demi-sel (lightly salted).

Where to find: cheese shops, organic stores.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever brought back food gifts from France? What did you pick out, and whom did you give them to? What will you make sure you purchase on your next trip?

Planning a trip to Paris?

I am available to take you on a private walking tour to show you some of my favorite food spots, or to draw up a customized itinerary for you so you can make the most of your time in Paris. Please get in touch and I will be happy to provide more details and a quote.

What To Bring Back From France

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