…so I left you in Piedmonte, Italy. The journey then continued in our little Alfa across the border into the south of France and the fragrant region of Provence.
We had a forgettable lunch in Nice. Somebody please give me some tips for next time because I thought it was trashy, touristy, dirty and awful. But then again, we were only there for a few hours so maybe that’s not fair. Anyway, we were relieved to get out of Nice and into Grasse, a beautiful little place full of Perfume factories. I dragged Dave to the Fragonard museum and gift shop. Have you seen that episode of Mr Bean in the perfume department? 🙂
We were staying at a little B&B called La Surprise run by an English couple and we had the best breakfast of our trip here. The combination of good (strong) tea and coffee with home made fresh fruit salad along with fresh bread and patisserie from the local boulangerie was magnificent. A pity we only stayed one night.We had a wonderful dinner at a little town 5 minutes drive from there and were lucky to get the last table at a tiny restaurant swathed in red fabric with an interesting looking menu. The waiter was the husband and his wife was the chef.
A spiced dip to start
Deep fried fish balls, delicious though quite rich
A savoury cheesecake
Pesto risotto and pan fried white fish
Some local cheeses
Bananas in baked custard
Some beautiful house made macarons
The next morning we took our host’s recommendation to get off the motorway and take the scenic route to our next stop, Aix en Provence (called ‘Ex’ for short) via the stunning Gorge du Verdon.
Dave did a stellar job of navigating the windy roads with no guard rails and drivers who don’t slow down for blind corners!
It’s embarrassing just how pleased I look with this apple tart that I bought at a little town we stopped at for lunch on the way to Aix-En Provence.
A laid back restaurant we found in Aix that had a delicious foie gras and specialised in grilled meats:
Our accommodation was amazing, one of the most memorable of the trip…Le Clos des Freres Gris:
We dropped our car back at the TGV train station where we caught the fast train up to Paris. Less than 4 hours later and we arrived in Paris! A cab to our apartment where we were met by our greeter who showed us around the apartment, handed us our keys, left us with a bottle of wine and some restaurant recommendations. We felt at home already.

Just for a little bit of Meta-blogging…
I managed to persuade Dave to see Julie & Julia the movie last night. I’d read the book which wasn’t all that well written (in my opinion) but still enjoyable for the food factor. The movie however, was highly entertaining, with several moments when I realised I was probably laughing a little too loud. The best bit was when I looked over and realised Dave was enjoying it almost as much as I was.
I was aware of Julia Child’s book ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’, but hadn’t actually seen any of Julia Child’s shows before. So I didn’t fully appreciate Meryl Streep’s brilliant work until I watched a few YouTube clips of Julia’s cooking shows. Streep nails her voice and mannerisms perfectly. I highly recommend watching the movie, if not for the chick flick factor then definitely for the food porn.

Julia Child is a wonderful teacher and such an eccentric person, she’s a pleasure to watch.

On the corner of Avoca Street and Belmore Road is a special piece of Randwick’s (and my) history. Once a butcher, a post office, and numerous other establishments including a lovely little cafe called Al Dente where I used to work while at Uni.
A favourite place of mine to go for the food, the service, the ambience and the memories. They still do the Pre-Ritz special where you can have two courses plus tea/coffee for $55. I found it to be as good as ever, excellent value and a fantastic night out.
A leek and potato veloute to whet the appetite
Entree of white asparagus with poached egg, celeriac and manchego
Braised veal shin and spring vegetables
served with roast sweetbread, smoked bone marrow and pearl barley
Macleay Valley rabbit and trompette pie with a ballontine of saddle and baby carrots
A generous serve of Firstlight venison with spiced quince, red cabbage and parsnips
Pear tart fine with prune and almond ice cream
Marscarpone and rhubarb mille feuille with a short rendition of ‘happy birthday to you…’
Restaurant Balzac 141 Belmore Road Randwick NSW 2031     Ph: + 61 2 9399 9660
Tues to Sat –  from 6pm
Friday Lunch only – 12pm to 3pm
Last Sunday of every Month – from 6.30pm (Seasonal Degustation only)

Bistro heaven. Professional service, but not layed on too thick, the food arrives quickly but with enough time between courses for conversation and anticipation. Food so good we order the cheese platter after we have had dessert, because judging by the previous courses, we know it won’t disappoint. We’re right.
Simple, beautiful salmon
Three pairs of greedy eyes all with menu remorse
N.B. I have since gone back to Damien Pignolet’s French book and made his basic double baked souffle. The recipe is written with such helpful detail you are much more confident of success. It is utterly delicious, however be warned if you don’t normally eat cream and cheese in copious quantities you may find it rather rich. I choose to put this in the ‘once a year’ file.
Phoebe tries to convince us that Joel has made the best choice with his crab souffle, but we all know it a ploy to keep us from the French Onion Souffle and crispy melting gruyere around the edges
Pasta may seem like a strange choice to order at Bistro Moncur, but it was perfectly salty and addictive with anchovy, ripe tomato, fresh basil and a herb sauce.
This is going to sound sacriligious but the crackling on top was so light it was like the ones in a chip packet. I forget the name, anyone, anyone, Bueller? The Berkshire pork was tender and flavoursome and tasted like it had been cooked with many herbs.
N.B. I have since had to go to the butcher in search of pork and crackling and even made apple sauce to go with it. I stuffed it with a silly amount of fresh herbs and learnt that pork can handle it and my overgrown herb pots have had a nice pruning in the process. I also used a new method for the crackling where you go over the scores that the butcher makes for you so they are really separated and then pour boiling water over it in a colander in the sink which helps open up the scores and then rub the top with sea salt. Made all the difference, didn’t have to remove the crackling so the pork underneath stayed nice and moist.
The figs were juicy and ripe with a gorgeous raspberry coulis
White nectarine souffle with creme anglaise
Two types of cheese with more fresh figs and some wonderfully crisp lavosh
Satisfied Customers? I think so.
Think I’m in a food coma

I just got a lovely book for Christmas called The Food of France, a journey for food lovers. Indeed it is. It has been a source of some serious inspiration over the holidays and I have found a new favourite recipe. This is one where you make your own pastry- and I think it makes all the difference as the tart has such a clean zingy flavour so texture is important in the crust.