Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur

The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is an administrative region of southeastern France. It is often referred to by the acronym PACA.

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It is bordered by Italy, separated by the Southern Alps. To the north it borders with the Rhône-Alpes region and the west with the Languedoc-Roussillon which marks the boundary by the Rhône river. The PACA region is bordered to the south by the Mediterranean Sea.

The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has six departments, from the provinces of the old regime of Provence and the Dauphiné. A part of Vaucluse was added, after the annexation of Comtat Venaissain during the revolutionary period, and the left bank of the Var in the Alpes-Maritimes that was the County of Nice, attached to France in 1860 during the Second Empire (County of Nice was a old part of the duchy of Provence until 1388, until the dédition of Nice to Savoy).

This is the third region that produces more the wealth in France.

Provence, between Camargue and the Bay of Saint-Tropez, delights us with Ubaye canyons, the Gorges du Verdon and large fields of lavender around Valensole. Marseille has exuberant rivals, the quiet Luberon or the Papal city, a World Heritage Site by Unesco. The Hautes Alpes lead us to the Barre des Ecrins and the borders of the Italian Alps, the Côte d’Azur allows us to mix the Mercantour wild deer or the underwater fauna of the beautiful Blue Sea.

The “PACA” gourmet is found in the scents and flavors to enjoy in the shade of olive trees, sheltered from the Mistral or the Tramontana. Everything feels good in this region: the wormwood which is actually a great liquor, fruits and vegetables on the colorful market stalls, herbs like thyme, rosemary, garlic which embellish the specialties of Camargue, bull or merino sheep.

In the land of Auguste Escoffier, “King of Chefs and Chef of Kings,” creator of the Peach Melba, let us try the anchovy paste. Marseille and its old port offers its bouillabaisse while in Gap we acclaim the fresh pasta gratin with spinach and country cheese. At the peak of the heat, salad nicoise refresh us, lest we forget the sweet treats of the favorite Madame de Sevigne.

Provencal markets, often traditional markets – some dating back to the Middle Ages – occur in all department of the region. Occupying space and alleys, they allow local and tourists to discover the place and provide for tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, green and black olives, onions, garlic, apricots, peaches, figs, grapes, truffles, etc.. After the fruit and vegetable production, artisans present through the stalls colorful fabrics, including tablecloths, napkins, placemats and bedspreads, cushions, quilts and fabric by the meter. The tableware is always present with local artisans that offer pottery and Provençal pottery in the form of plates, dishes, bowls, jugs, cruet, salt, pepper, etc..

This is a milestone in the life of the town or village that looks like a celebration of local identity, a collective ceremony, each of them is both actor and spectator, a meeting place where everyone is treated on an equal footing and where no one is excluded. Two principles govern this type of market, the price of goods is secondary and everything should remind us of fun and entertainment

Le Bistrot is committed to providing services that no longer existed in the village, bread, tobacco, newspapers, grocery store, etc.. Its external customers are also provided with tourist information: flyers, postcards, etc.. Its main objective is the promotion of local products, which requires it to hold at least three times a year, festive and cultural events on this topic. When Bistrots provides a complete menu in the establishment, it must offer on tyhe menu a maximum of local produce and regional recipes. Otherwise, it provides at least a snack at any time, based also on local products.

As part of the Mediterranean region, and close to the Italy basin to which the County of Nice was even once attached, the region is marked by the influences of the Mediterranean cooking: use of olive oil, olives, as in tapenade, garlic, herbs (thyme, rosemary, thyme, sage, etc..). Vegetable consumption is important: eggplant, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, etc.. In the south and center of this region, lamb and mutton are widely used (both for meat and for sheep milk), as are the products of the sea. In the North and the Alps, the cooking is richer, with an abundance of meats and cheeses.

The thirteen desserts after the “big dinner” of Christmas are part of the Provencal Christmas tradition, ancient tradition when it comes to desserts and young regarding the number thirteen. In Marseille, from the seventeenth century, fresh fruits, dried fruits and pumps “feast people the last two days” before Christmas.

In the 1820s, in the Bouches-du-Rhone, the “big dinner” Christmas ended with a “more or less splendid according to the families, consisting of cakes, dried fruits, jams, biscuits and sweets “chestnuts and pompes.

Before the twentieth century, there apparently is no proof of an association of Christmas desserts with the number thirteen. Frédéric Mistral, meanwhile, does not mention the number thirteen, but evokes the exquisite treats of Christmas Eve. In 1885, a columnist notes: “The big dinner is no more than a legend.”

In the early twentieth century, as a result of Mistral and its Félibrige, nostalgia for Christmases is fashionable in Provence. In 1925, in a special Christmas issue of the newspaper La Pignato, an Aubagne writer, Dr. Joseph Fallen, writes about desserts: “It takes thirteen, yes thirteen, more if you want, but not less, our Lord and his apostles! “. The following year, the novelist Marie Gasquet wrote in Provencal of a childhood at Christmas “there must be thirteen desserts, thirteen candy dishes, twelve gracing the country’s products, from the garden, the more beautiful is the thirteenth filled with dates “. In the early 1930s, the Museum of the Terroir in Marseille devotes a room for a Christmas dinner, the tradition begins.

All the southern departments of the region are producing truffles. Vaucluse is in France leading producer of Tuber melanosporum. Its market is outsized because it is the only production to evade inspectors tax administration, no transaction being paid by check. In season, this is the market of Carpentras, one of the largest in the region, which sets prices. Since the end of November 2008, it is held every Friday in the courtyard of the Hôtel-Dieu. It is at the market of Richerenches, Enclave of the Popes, that is traded every Saturday almost a third of the national production. The rabassiers (truffle gatherers) will say to justify the price that the “black diamond” comes from the rains of the two Virgins. The abundant rainfall should be between the Assumption (15 August) and the Nativity of Our Lady (September 8). This is far from being false because experts have verified that a good year depends on both a summer of strong sunshine followed by rain between mid-August and mid-September.

The truffle is harvested between 500 and 1000 meters. Preferring calcareous soils, it is still growing in symbiosis with white or green oak, ash and hornbeam. It is said that the finest grow in the shade of the lime.

The truffles come in the preparation of many dishes. They are inserted into parts of meat, poultry, foie gras pâté, pies or terrine. They also mingled with some stuffings or sauces or pasta (gnocchi Truffle) or bouchees a la reine. Whole, they can be baked in the ashes, braised in wine, be the sole component of a stew, or, sliced, stewed in cream. Truffles are also used in recipes containing eggs, in two ways. One is to sprinkle small clippings over an omelette. The other is to enclose fresh eggs with a piece of truffle placed in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Eggs quickly take the scent of truffle, without having to use them.

Pastis (the Provençal Occitan Pastis block or mixture) is the name given to alcoholic beverages flavored with anise. It is the result of the maceration of several plants: fennel and licorice. Fennel has been replaced by the Chinese star anise which are much richer in anethole. It is drunk as an aperitif, supplemented with water. It is usually added five to seven volumes of fresh water to a volume of pastis. But everyone is free to drink more or less “thick”, depending on your tastes and the outside temperature. When the mixture is done by pouring water, a rather transparent amber color with a slightly milky cloudy yellow occurs. This cloudy effect results from the precipitation of anethole, slightly soluble in water, and if you wait a few hours, the precipitate disappears. This phenomenon also appears in the refrigeration of pure pastis (we say that the pastis “paille”).

The herbs de Provence are a set of fresh or dried herbs originate in the Mediterranean regions and historically from Provence. You should know that the term “Herbes de Provence” is a generic term and that 95% of the mixtures come from the Central and Eastern European countries (Poland and Albania in the lead), North Africa and China.

This term includes different varieties of plants like thyme, thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, chervil, tarragon, lovage, savory, sage, bay laurel and fennel. Some of these plants enter in the composition of the bouquet garni. These plants have long been subject only to a gathering in the wild. This practice has become obsolete and are now increasingly cultivated. Beside the production of family-type herbs growing in the garden or in pots on balconies, this organized production represents half the market.

The entire regional harvest, mainly concentrated in Haute Provence, is absorbed by the production plants that market herbs or dried or vacuum-frozen. There are no figures for the market of fresh herbs but their massive presence on the markets of Provence, Nice and Comtadins ensured the reputation of those. They are accompanying grilled meats, sauces, stews, roasts, fish, pasta and tomato dishes.

Olive oil of Provence has several soils classified Designation of Origin (PDO). Like all other olives from the periphery of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean climate, it is a cornerstone of the Mediterranean cooking (or Cretan diet and the main source of omega -9). Organoleptic characteristics vary depending on the soil and agronomic practices, variety (or cultivar), and stage of maturity at harvest. It can be used both raw (in salad dressings or in place of butter in the pasta, for example) or cooked (for cooking meat or vegetables or frying). This oil has beneficial health properties, including the cardiovascular level, thanks to its vitamin A, vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids. The benefits related to vitamins are especially observed in cold oil consumption, as in salads, as vitamins are destroyed beyond 40 ° C. Compared to other unsaturated fatty acids, olive oil is fairly stable during cooking and stores in this case its beneficial effects on cholesterol.

With few exceptions, all the local wines are red, rose and white. Depending on their colour, they can traditionally accompany red or white meats, game or venison, freshwater fish or seafood, all Provencal cuisine, and even desserts with natural sweet wines of the Vaucluse department .

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