Provencal Christmas Menus by Cocoa and Lavender
Admittedly, it was his mouthwatering food photos and tempting wine pairings on Provence WineZine that first attracted me to David Scott Allen the face (and chef) behind Cocoa & Lavender, a weekly food blog based in Tucson, Arizona. However, “food porn” alone is not enough to build a lasting friendship (although some Provencal rosé never hurts).
David is funny, creative, an excellent photographer and apparently a passionate foodie. A couple of months back I asked him if he might be interested in curating a Provencal Christmas Menu from the growing database of recipes on Perfectly Provence. In his usual fashion, David went above and beyond to produce not one but four (4) complete menus for the holidays (seafood, poultry, meat and even a vegetarian option). Watch for his menus on Perfectly Provence along with his gorgeous photos the week before Christmas.
While the frying pan was still hot, I took the opportunity to ask David a few questions.
Tuscon is a long way from France. How did you end up in Arizona?
We chose to move to Tucson (from New York State) so that we could be in a place we loved, as we poised ourselves for eventual retirement. We fell in love with the city and moved here after quitting our jobs and selling our house. We knew no one here and just took a leap of faith. We haven’t looked back, and we love it here.
When you are not dreaming up the next recipe for Cocoa & Lavender what are you doing?
I am a fundraiser for the University of Arizona Honors College, a job I love especially because of our students. My training is as a classical musician, and I was principal bassist of the Albany (NY) Symphony Orchestra for 14 years.
What are your earliest kitchen memories, and how did you hone your cooking skills?
I started cooking with my mother when I was very young but didn’t become serious until I was in my early 20s. I have no professional training, other than the occasional cooking class although I did work for a while as a caterer.
Food and wine pairing is not an obvious skill for anyone. Have you had formal training?
I have taken no wine and food pairing course, but learned from years of practice! LOL
Even when I was relatively young, I was very sensitive to how well – or poorly – wine would make food taste, and vice-versa. Not “normal” for a 20-something. I am a firm believer that our taste receptors are as individual as our fingerprints, too – what works for me may not work for others.
Any food photography tips you can share with readers?
I have been a photographer for a long time, learning on my father’s 1940s Argus C3. Food photography has been a fun challenge for me, and I have learned a couple of things that I find critical. Natural light is the best light, but it should be defused. Direct sun on food doesn’t help anything, and sauced food with light reflections looks pretty bad, too. If you are getting lots of reflections, try a different angle (from above, or higher) or from another side (to see if reflections are minimised). Beware that when photographing shiny spoons, that you will be in the photo, too, and it is never a flattering image!
David plans to be in France for Christmas, a country he first visited at the age of 14. The plan is to have something completely different (i.e., not traditional North America turkey) for Christmas dinner. “Something unique and seasonal that I find in the market stalls on the Rue Mouffetard in Paris, where I will be spending Christmas.”
Enjoy the four menus that David has compiled from the recipe file of Provencal specialities.
Happy Holidays and Bon Appétit!
David and Carolyne
Image credits: David Scott Allen @CocoaandLavender