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Aix-en-Provence


Joe H
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My wife and I will be in Aix next week. Is there a particular winery that I should be knocking on their door to visit? A specific wine that I should, well, "do whatever is necessary" to bring a bottle back from? Or a restaurant? (Excepting Clos de la Violette)

Please note that I am into full bodied reds....

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EEEEEEE! J'adore j'adore j'adore aix! Go out to the vineyards in Cassis and taste some great whites! Also I know that Jean-Luc Columbo is there.

I don't know what your dining plans are but I am happy to provide recs (I studied abroad there and was recently back in April.)

Thanks for the recommendations. I'm actually in Nice (L'Ane Rouge, Christian Plumail, Keisuke Matsushima are definite) for five days, Marseilles for one and two nights in Aix with one dinner. In Marseilles we're going to L'Epuisette (bouillibasse) and the dinner in Aix will be on Sunday night when many places are closed including Clos de la Violette. I'm seriously considering either Les Bacchanales or Le Passage. Any thoughts?

Thanks again.

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As you may know, Bellet is the only French AOC located entirely within a city limits, in this case, Nice. I had a wonderful Bellet at Christian Plumail a few years back -- and a fine meal -- and I believe that Chateau Bellet offers tours. At any rate, it's a wine not often seen in the U.S. you might want to at least track down a bottle or two on general principle. The whites are gfenerally well-regarded, the roses and reds less so.

As an outspoken consumer of pizza, ice cream and other "low brow" foods, I'm surprised to see you haven't devoted a day to the Cuisine Nissard -- the local cooking of Nice. It can be a little austere and heavu on batter-dipped, deep fried stuff, but it's worth a meal or two. And, of course, they make a decent pizza in Nice, as well.

Some say La Merenda is coasting on its reputation and too heavily touristed, but I think the stockfish was one of the most astounding things I've eaten in years -- not for the faint of heart (the waiter made me taste a cup before he'd serve me the whole order, apparently it is sent back, often. Dried fish, garlic, spice and olives in broth -- oh my). Everything else I've tried in two visits (ox tail, pesto, cheese) has been good, too. And I enjoy the funky atmosphere: no phone, no credit cards, no wine list -- just duck in between seatings and ask the waiter if there's space available.

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In Nice we had a superb dinner at La Merenda in the old city area. If you need another great meal, check it out. Its a tiny place and you need to stop by to make a reservation.

In Aix we had a nice meal at Bastide de Cours. Quality was very good, food wasn't 100% perfect but very satisfying and reasonably priced. It would make a good lunch place.

For wine - Chateau Revelete had some nice reds, though a lot of that is easily available here.

If you don't mind a trek, we had a fabulous meal in Gordes at Le ferme de la huppe, easily one of the best meals of my life. About an hour drive from Aix

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We have two nights in Nice without reservations; definitely La Merenda. The stockfish actually sounds incredible as does the ambience-I really enjoy trying dishes and places like this. We're actually going to stop at Domaine Tempier near Bandol on the day we drive the coastline between Nice and Marseilles. We'll probably spend quite a bit of time just getting lost in and around Nice as well as the countryside near Aix. Appreciate the suggestion for Bellet.

La Ferme de la Huppe sounds incredible: idyllic, romantic, rustic and, when you open their website ( http://www.lafermedelahuppe.com/en/base.html ) the very first thing you see is their opening date....April 4th.

That's the problem with a trip like this: three days of business and adding five or six for a small vacation but many places that I want to go to are closed. Still....we'll make do as best we can. :(

Thanks, again!

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When you are in Marseilles, try to visit Domaine du Bagnol in Cassis. Tell 'em "Neal" sent you. :blink:

In Aix, you really ought to try and visit Mas de Gourgonnier. I tried to visit them once, but couldn't swing it. Their olive oil is fantastic, but most of the U.S. importers don't want to bring it in any longer because with the exchange rate, it is prohibitively expensive. I used to sell the red, but Restaurant Nora buys all of it and I can't get any for retail :( I DO however get their rosé, which is as lovely as you would expect.

Here's a nice piece on some wineries in that area from the NYT: http://tinyurl.com/2kcoxp

If you have the chance, stop in Nimes. Really, really lovely. Largest Roman coliseum outside of Rome. I believe the restaurant that I liked there is called Danielli.

I hope that one of your suitcases is filled with Euros. :(

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I'm seriously considering either Les Bacchanales or Le Passage. Any thoughts?

I have not visited either one. Restaurants I can recommend are L'Amphitryon (2 Rue Paul Doumer, just off Cours Mirabeau), which I regret may be closed on Sunday, but worth an out of the way trip if you have time; Papagayo and other small hideaways among the Place de Cardeurs; oh! and Restaurant La Fontaine, this little bistro run by Italians with lots of "menus".

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In Aix, you really ought to try and visit Mas de Gourgonnier. I tried to visit them once, but couldn't swing it. Their olive oil is fantastic, but most of the U.S. importers don't want to bring it in any longer because with the exchange rate, it is prohibitively expensive. I used to sell the red, but Restaurant Nora buys all of it and I can't get any for retail :( I DO however get their rosé, which is as lovely as you would expect.

I second the Mas de Gourgonnier rec. I love their wines- and, by the way Joe R., I've been able to pick up a couple of their reds (04 and 05) at the P Street Whole Foods in the past. But yes, of late I've only seen the rose there. I do know of a NY distributor though if you're interested.

And to Joe H.- please smuggle back some inexpensive whites from Cassis.

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When you are in Marseilles, try to visit Domaine du Bagnol in Cassis. Tell 'em "Neal" sent you. :blink:

In Aix, you really ought to try and visit Mas de Gourgonnier. I tried to visit them once, but couldn't swing it. Their olive oil is fantastic, but most of the U.S. importers don't want to bring it in any longer because with the exchange rate, it is prohibitively expensive. I used to sell the red, but Restaurant Nora buys all of it and I can't get any for retail :( I DO however get their rosé, which is as lovely as you would expect.

Here's a nice piece on some wineries in that area from the NYT: <a href="http://tinyurl.com/2kcoxp" target="_blank">http://tinyurl.com/2kcoxp</a>

If you have the chance, stop in Nimes. Really, really lovely. Largest Roman coliseum outside of Rome. I believe the restaurant that I liked there is called Danielli.

I hope that one of your suitcases is filled with Euros. :(

Will definitely stop in Nimes. Appreciate the recommendation.

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I second the Mas de Gourgonnier rec. I love their wines- and, by the way Joe R., I've been able to pick up a couple of their reds (04 and 05) at the P Street Whole Foods in the past. But yes, of late I've only seen the rose there. I do know of a NY distributor though if you're interested.

And to Joe H.- please smuggle back some inexpensive whites from Cassis.

I am on a first name basis with a particular beagle in the customs office at Dulles...

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I nipped into the Pont du Gard -- one of the most heavily touristed sites on Earth -- about 9AM, before the tourists busses arrived, and we practically had the place to ourselves. Early rising is well rewarded. After, we had a wonderful lunch after at Aux Plaires des Halles, some excellent rascasse, as I recall. Nimes/Gard claims brandade de morou as a local specialty, btw, if your tastes -- as mine do -- run to salt cod.

If you're all the way at the Pont du Gard, btw, you could slip up to Uzes for the Wednesday market and just to hang out in a cool little town.

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If you're all the way at the Pont du Gard, btw, you could slip up to Uzes for the Wednesday market and just to hang out in a cool little town.
And if you get to Uzes, the restaurant Les Trois Salons there is magnifique!
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Probably not the kind of help you are looking for, but I was amused to see a Rachel Ray trip to Aix and southern France airing this weekend.

Oh no. Ohhh no. She did not...

ETA: And to add insult to injury, she misspelled 'L'Amyphitryon.' RR, if you're gonna visit my favorite restau in Aix, the chef that taught me how to cook, at least get the name right!!!

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Again, I sincerely appreciate everyone's recommendations but we ended up bringing back a dozen bottles and tasting a number of different wines in Nice, Aix, Monaco and Cannes.

The best wine that I have tasted so far is 2001 Chateau le Puy Barthelemy. I had a bottle there and have also opened one here. It is superb and very difficult for me to find in the States. In Nice it sold for E 47; here I have only found one store in Southern CA that has it for $100 a bottle ('03 vintage). Full bodied, I think 80% merlot with cab and carmeniere with two years in barrel, it is a "terroir" wine this is absolutely delicious.

Domaine de la Solitude, a fairly good Chateauneuf du Pape that sold for E 24 in an off year, 2004.

Domaine Tempier 2003 Bandol La Tourtine, about E 45 and, I expect, to be outstanding when I eventually open the only bottle I could find.

Domaine Tempier 2002 Bandol Cuvee Speciale Cabassaou, about E 40 which I will drink during the Super Bowl.

Thierry Allemand 2003 Cornas, about E 75 which I have not tasted yet.

While in Aix we focused on less expensive wines in our restaurant meals, probably E 40 or less with nothing notable. Also, we ended up spending a whole day driving from Nice to Marseilles along the coast and a similar day returning that we didn't visit any wineries.

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Again, I sincerely appreciate everyone's recommendations but we ended up bringing back a dozen bottles and tasting a number of different wines in Nice, Aix, Monaco and Cannes.

The best wine that I have tasted so far is 2001 Chateau le Puy Barthelemy. I had a bottle there and have also opened one here. It is superb and very difficult for me to find in the States. In Nice it sold for E 47; here I have only found one store in Southern CA that has it for $100 a bottle ('03 vintage). Full bodied, I think 80% merlot with cab and carmeniere with two years in barrel, it is a "terroir" wine this is absolutely delicious.

This is not a Southern wine, is it?

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This is not a Southern wine, is it?

Actually, no. The winery is in Bordeaux roughly between St. Emilion and Pomerol. While we tasted a number of Southern wines (Aix, Bandol, etc.) so far this is the wine that I have liked the most.

The stockfish at La Merenda was very good. I suspect that because I got the last portion of the day (we were one of their first customers!) that it was heated over from the night before. Still, I liked it and would go back for this alone. The rest of the meal was not very good, however. We left sincerely disappointed in the meal despite the many raves I've read about it. Yet the restaurant has a fantastic amount of character, albeit truly cramped, but I am very glad we went. An experience not available here. I might even be tempted to go back believing that we were there on an off night in the middle of January when only a handful of people were in the restaurant. It could be an entirely different experience in another month.

Of course L'Ane Rouge, L'Universe and the other restaurants we went to all were crowded or nearly so. Only La Merenda had so few diners.

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Actually, no. The winery is in Bordeaux roughly between St. Emilion and Pomerol. While we tasted a number of Southern wines (Aix, Bandol, etc.) so far this is the wine that I have liked the most.

The stockfish at La Merenda was very good. I suspect that because I got the last portion of the day (we were one of their first customers!) that it was heated over from the night before. Still, I liked it and would go back for this alone. The rest of the meal was not very good, however. We left sincerely disappointed in the meal despite the many raves I've read about it. Yet the restaurant has a fantastic amount of character, albeit truly cramped, but I am very glad we went. An experience not available here. I might even be tempted to go back believing that we were there on an off night in the middle of January when only a handful of people were in the restaurant. It could be an entirely different experience in another month.

Of course L'Ane Rouge, L'Universe and the other restaurants we went to all were crowded or nearly so. Only La Merenda had so few diners.

I suspected that a merlot-based "terroir" vin might not be from Provence.

Too bad about La Merenda. I'm sure it doesn't aspire to be in the same league as some of the other restaurants you visited, but my visits have been defined by excellent, simple cooking. As you probably know, chef Le Stanc (good name for someone who dishes out stockfish for a living) used to command two Michelin stars at the Negresco, before he decided to devote himself to more soulful fare.

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That was part of the appeal for visiting his restaurant. We stayed at the Negresco (this was the "host" hotel for a tradeshow that I participated in) and because of this, were able to make the reservation: they literally sent someone from the hotel to his restaurant and made the reservation for us. Knowing his background I REALLY wanted to like this place a lot! And, I did. But other than the stockfish, not a lot of the food. Sitting in the restaurant was an incredible experience. Character, style, a chef's backroom"-this was a restaurant that I really wanted to love and rave about. Even a unique dish, Stockfish (known locally as the ugliest fish of the Mediterranean) , that was difficult to find anywhere else, even in Nice. And, arguably the best here. We even sat next to a really interesting couple: the artist who does most of the illustrations for the Harry Potter books. He and his wife have homes in Brooklyn and Bordeaux. They make annual pilgramages to Nice specifically to eat at La Merenda. I do believe that their reaction on this evening was similar to ours', however.

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I just returned home from a lovely visit to the south of France which included a day in Aix. We stayed at the Hotel Cezanne. Tired from traveling and wanting to eat in that night, I ventured out in search of takeout pizza for dinner.

I eagerly volunteered for this task, thinking I would stop at a little eatery adjadent to the hotel that I spotted earlier that day. On closer inspection, however, the photos posted of their cheese pizza looked like something one would find at a child's birthday party, so I kept walking.

I came across a lovely Italian restaurant about a block up the street, and while they offered carryout, pizza was not on the menu. With no table or utensils in the room, I figured pizza was still our best bet, so I kept walking. There are plenty of charming restaurants lining the streets of Aix, but carryout pizza was not to be had.

About to give up, I smelled the wonderful aroma of garlic. La Piazza PaPa came to my rescue. For just under 18 euros I got a good-sized jambon parmigiano pizza, a calzonetto au salmon fume, and a salad. The waitress was friendly and the service was quick. I was back in a flash with dinner. Two groups of people stopped me on my way back and asked where I got the pizza, so I was not the only one in search of it that night.

The meal hit the spot, and the salmon calzonetto went particularly well with the rose wine from the honor bar in the lobby. Having eaten a lot of fish and not much meat during the first week of our trip, I almost didn't get the calzonetto. I am glad I did. The crust was tasty, and the smoked salmon and goat cheese filling went well together. I preferred it to the pizza, which was topped with fresh Italian ham and parmesan cheese, but the crust was not as crispy as I like. 

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