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Foodies: Just back from a wonderful cooking trip to Provence

Foodies: Just back from a wonderful cooking trip to Provence

Mar 10th, 2001, 06:09 AM
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Foodies: Just back from a wonderful cooking trip to Provence

I just spent 7 wonderful days with 8 other people in Grasse, near Nice, for a culinary trip.

We stayed at Michelin-starred chef Jacques Chibois' 'Le Bastide St. Antoine' in Grasse, which sits high on a central hill in an olive grove, with sweeping views of the coast and ocean. It was breath-taking with all the bright yellow provencal villas, olive groves, citrus trees and all set against the ocean!? It was like being in a Matisse painting!

The 'chef' was incredibly generous and gracious. His enthusiasm for sharing his passion of cooking using only fresh organic ingredients was contagious...we all felt like we could be starred chefs! Uh, that is until we tried to keep up with the kitchen staff scraping and grating and slicing and dicing! We were just terrible! But the staff were good humored (thank goodness)!

We started each Monday, Wednesday and Friday with a visit to the food market in Nice, guided by the chef, at 4 a.m. (for those who braved the early hours)to the 'professional' market, meaning, not the central food market in old Nice...this market is strictly for chef and restaurant professionals making purchases...it was amazing to be there to see the clamor of activity that early with chefs going through vendors selling fresh flowers, produce, seafood and meats.

The chef shared insight into how to choose the best products from so many being offered and he even picked up peas and tomatoes for us to sample to taste the difference(s) for ourselves! The best tomato I've ever eaten was this juicy sweet little pumpkin shaped red and green tomato...

The only product he does not buy from the market is fish, because he won't serve fish that wasn't in the ocean that morning.

Then we would take the 'goods' back to the Bastide for a private hands-on three hour cooking demonstration using these products, to be served at lunch in the restaurant. We learned amazing techniques to prep and cook asparagus, truffles, artichokes and duck using herbs and olive oils.

While we were doing one of the cooking demonstrations, he told us we'd have to reverse the order of courses because the fish hadn't arrived yet. When it arrived from the fishermen, he wasn't kidding about it being fresh...because one of the one fish still had the hook in its mouth!

On Tuesday and Thursday we spent the mornings in the kitchen assigned to an area to work with the staff to make pastries, lamb ragout, canapes, scallops and foie gras.
(A total Seinfeld episode trying to keep up and understand the French being shouted across the kitchen...but it was a REAL blast!)

After lunch, we would visit olive mills and vineyards, and on one day we went to a perfume factory and spent two hours in a 'lab' creating our own perfume from fresh flowers and leaves. For the men in the group, this was a total riot to watch.

In the early evening, we would meet with
the restaurant sommelier to discuss and sample his choices of wine before dinner.

The dining rooms are decorated in period furnishings and there are fireplaces in each room...with the fabulous food, congenial conversation reliving the day's events, glow of candles and fire light along with THAT view, it was like being in a dream.

At the beginning of each course a monsieur would show up table side to describe each dish as we tried our best to get through the seven courses!

It was a great time, and the group could not have been more diverse, but the dynamics were great!

I'd be happy to share more details for anyone who is interested...

I'm not quite sure I EVER want to eat again after all that food!


Mar 10th, 2001, 10:28 AM
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Thank you, wendy. It sounds like you had a delightful time.
Mar 10th, 2001, 12:11 PM
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Thank you for such an interesting report.
Would you mind telling the cost of the whole trip? And what about the accommodation?
Mar 10th, 2001, 12:58 PM
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It was around $3600- definitely worth it for the behind the scenes special things we did, in addition to the great food!
the Bastide has a website at

But they don't organize it, I went through a culinary company that organizes these trips all over France.

Mar 10th, 2001, 01:32 PM
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What a wonderful trip! We're leaving for the South of France in two weeks. The plan is to stay in Nice and then visit the other towns on day trips.
Did you do any of this and, if so, what were your favourite places?
Also, what was the temperature like? What did you wear? I have no idea what to pack...

Any advice would be great!
Mar 10th, 2001, 02:56 PM
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What a fabulous trip! It must be hard to come back to reality....;-)

Could you provide us with the name of the culinary company? Thanks,
Mar 11th, 2001, 12:33 AM
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I need to make an ammendment on the web address: www.jacques-chibois.com

I looked through a lot of 'culinary' companies offering trips, but they all offered itineraries I could do one my own. This company that organized this trip, is called 'Les Liaisons Delicieuses' (I had asked about them on Fodors before re: if anyone had ever used them)and they were the only ones who could provide the special behind the scenes spend a week with the chef things. As a few of us rolled along in his car at 4 a.m. to Nice watching the stars over the ocean on the way to the private market, I knew I'd probably never have this wondeful experience again!

I'm looking at doing another trip this fall with them to the Dordogne where we do our own truffle hunting and foie gras extravaganza with another chef...but there are many more to choose from. Their site is [email protected]
The owner came with us as host and she was INCREDIBLY gracious and is elegant to a perfect ten.

Believe it or not, the seasons changed in front of our eyes. The first two days there was terrible rain, then the heavens opened and it was incredibly warm and sunny! Although not yet full summer, I could have used more short sleeves for sure! As a matter of fact, the morning we were leaving I was standing in a full ray of sun on my balcony window looking at the olive/citrus groves and ocean as the porters interrupted my catnap and came for the bags. It was gorgeous, around 65 for the high, and a cool 40 at night.

As for day trips we went to Nice, Cannes, Mougins, an island south of Cannes to visit a monastery of Cisterian Monks who are reviving an old vineyard (but this is very private, cannot be done on one's own)and Antibes.

I thought to myself, "In another two weeks the weather would be perfect!" So enjoy!
Mar 11th, 2001, 12:36 AM
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Oops, I gave you the e-mail addy, site is www.cookfrance.com
Mar 11th, 2001, 07:31 AM
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We did a similar trip last fall. Our culinary/French culture school was near Grasse at Plasscassier. We stayed in Julia Child and Simone Beck's houses and had our cooking lessons in Julia's kitchen. It was called "Cooking With Friends in France" and is taught by Kathie Alex. We had cooking classes interspersed with trips to two-star restaurants, restaurant kitchens, the market in Canne, a cheese cellar and other food related places. Kathie limits the number to 8 - we had seven members of my family, 3 generations. It was absolutely wonderful. Kathie is the perfect hostess and teacher. Our afternoons were free to sightsee - we went to the hilltop towns of Tourettes-sur-Loup, St. Paul de Vence, Biot; also Antibes, Mougins, and the Verdon Gorge. The cost of this trip is $1950 and includes staying in the Child and Beck homes for six nights and all but 4 meals. The website is www.cookingwithfriends.com. It was the most wonderful week of food (and the company of my family) that I've ever had!
May 6th, 2001, 08:57 AM
Steve W
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Sounds great!I'll be in the area in late May would like restaurant suggestions.
Thanks,Steve W
May 6th, 2001, 09:02 AM
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I'm definitely going to look into Cooking with Friends - it sounds wonderful. A cooking school option in North America is "Boot Camp" at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park NY. It's an amazing week of cooking, eating, wine, etc. If you would like a copy of my trip report just e-mail the above address.
May 6th, 2001, 01:23 PM
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Wendy-we did one in Burgundy w/trips to vineyard,wine tasting,cooking classes,2star michelin rest.,and chateaus-ttl for land portion only $2695 pp plus air. Go to www.savourof france.com and ask for David
May 7th, 2001, 03:32 AM
charles henry
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we organised in our family chateaux and in morroco some cooking class with the same company that wendy is speaking about . and we can tell you that we are doing our best in order to show you the best of thoses two wonderful places.
patty ravenscroft who is the manager of les liaisons delicieuses , really work hard in order to create wonderful gourmet weeks. she is doing that all over france and morroco .
don't hesitate to call her she is absolutly charming
by the way our chateau is located between loire and normandy and patty from les liaisons delicieuses is planning a gourmet week here in october and in march in marrakech
you can join us if you want
you can visit our web site

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