What to Eat in Provence? Paradise for Food Lovers
Provence is a buffet for food lovers. There are markets every day of the week. Chefs find inspiration in seasonal fruit and vegetables, Mediterranean seafood, and free-range lamb. A suitable climate and good soil mean an array of locally produced almonds, cheese, wine, olives and olive oil. In the spring and fall, there’s a good chance you will see sheep and goats grazing in the fields before black truffle season. Provence is a food lover’s paradise.
Provence Market Days
Provencal markets, like French cheeses, come in many sizes and varieties. For food lovers, selecting just-picked produce, fresh fish, local meat, and cheeses is a culinary delight. This is often precisely how local chefs decide their daily menus and the signature plat du jour.
In addition, to markets, watch for signs along your travels that read “vente directe” or “vente des champs” or the like. This is your chance to buy directly from the farmer. The hours and selection may be limited at these farm stalls, but rest assured, you are buying just-picked produce at the height of the season.
No matter where your “home” base is in the region, rest assured that the local market will not be far away. There is a market day in almost every city, town, and village in Provence. Large cities such as Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Marseille, and Nice benefit from daily markets. Most markets start around 8:00 am and end by 1:00 pm. During the summer, there are also several evening markets throughout the region.
Here is our resource guide for the Markets of Provence and the Côte d’Azur. This reference directory to better-known markets, producers’ markets, and more. It would be impossible to list every market in the region, and at the end of the day, the best market is the one you have a chance to visit.
Black Truffle Markets
It is more common to see summer truffles in the markets than in the past. However, this summer tuber may be related to the “Black Diamond,” but the taste is certainly not as distinctive. There is also a significant price differential between the summer and winter varieties. In peak months, the black truffle will command about 10 times the price (per kilo) compared to summer truffles.
The black truffle is typically harvested between November and early March in Provence. During these months, you will find weekly truffle markets in the following locations, but arrive early!
Restaurants and Michelin Stars
The first Guide Michelin appeared in 1900 when bicycles greatly outnumbered cars on French roads. It was a brilliant marketing plan by André and Édouard Michelin, brothers and owners of the tire manufacturing company. Their idea was to increase demand for cars and specifically tires, by encouraging French drivers to get out on the road and drive, maybe to a restaurant or hotel. At first, the guidebook was offered for free, and it included helpful tips for car travel, including mechanics, gas stations and maps.
Starting in 1920, the Michelin Guide was no longer free; it cost seven francs. The idea of awarding stars to restaurants began in 1926. By 1936 the ranking system of one, two, or three stars was established:
1 Star: A very good restaurant in its category. (Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie)
2 Stars: Excellent cooking, worth a detour. (Table excellente, mérite un détour)
3 Stars: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey. (Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage).
Acknowledging that many restaurants serve “Exceptionally good food at moderate prices,” the company began publishing the Bib Gourmand in 1955.
Where to Eat in Provence?
Provence is filled with dining possibilities, from picnics to Michelin-starred tables. The good news is it is hard to get a bad meal if you follow your nose and a few ground rules.
Cafés offer table service for coffee and other beverages (think rosé and pastis) throughout the day. Typically cafés have long open hours to serve espresso drinkers in the morning and alcohol at any time. In addition, most cafés serve light snacks – croissants and baguettes in the early hours, chips and peanuts later.
Café-restaurants and brasseries are one step fancier where the proprietors offer a limited menu. A safe bet is the plat du jour, the dish the chef prepared that day in theory with the freshest, in-season ingredients. These establishments might be open most of the day. However, menu service is limited to meal times (12-14h for lunch, 19-22h for dinner). You can almost always drink.
Salon de thé is a tearoom or coffeehouse. Usually, they serve sweet treats along with your drink of choice. On the other hand, a salon de thé might be part of a patisserie where you have a wide selection of sweet temptations – thankfully, only for limited hours.
What to Eat in Provence?
There are many traditional recipes from Provence, and many households have perfected their variation on a classic recipe. If you get an invitation to eat at someone’s home, do not pass up teh opportunity! Most of these dishes are easy to prepare and do not require extensive ingredient lists. Let your taste buds explore this digest of traditional Provencal recipes and innovative culinary twists using regional, seasonal ingredients from the South of France.
Starters and Snacks
Soups and Salads
Mains Courses and Sides
The Sweet Stuff
Wine Villages in the Rhône Valley
If you like French wine, there is a good chance that you have sampled some vintages from the Rhône Valley. Some vineyards in the southern Rhône are near the famous Mont Ventoux – PProvence’sgiant mountain. This article focuses on six (6) villages in the Côtes du Rhône wine region. These six (6) towns are only some of the 51 villages surrounding Mont Ventoux, each with a distinctive character. While these villages share the same geography and historical background, each town is unique and worth visiting.