Day 14 June 15, 2012
Have we mentioned that the food is better in France?
Jim and I signed up for a culinary walking tour of Aix-en-Provence and this morning was our tour. http://tastesofprovence.com/ Our guide was from California, moved to England when she got married, and has lived in Aix for about six years. I’ll skip over her stories about the Greeks, the Romans, the building of the 200+ mansions on the orders of Louis XIV, and get right to the food. Our first stop was at the first pastry shop built in the “new” aka Louis XIV part of town. It is still run by the same family. The 75 year-old matriarch of the family is working the cash register and her son is the pastry chef. Compared to the shop of the MOF, these pastries were somewhat less ornate, but the beauty was nothing to sneeze at. We tried several savory pastries to begin our tour. When the kitchen was remodeled ten years ago, they had the exhaust fans in the kitchen vented to openings by the front door. You can’t walk by without being drawn in by the smells. http:www.//youtube.com/watch?v=DLtaszN9JcA
We then headed to a chocolate shop, a coffee roaster, a cheese shop, the famers market, and a wine shop with stories and tastings at each. Since I don’t drink coffee, I had a hot chocolate that was in a tiny glass and was so rich and thick that the tiny spoon could practically stand up in it. At the market we were told the melons were really great so we decided to get one. We asked the farmer to select a melon for us and he asked when we were going to eat the melon so he could pick the correct degree of ripeness. It was perfect. The tour really was fun and gave us some insights into the culture of Aix.
We did a little shopping and we were surprised to find that some of the classic Provencal specialties were rather difficult to locate. While there are certainly some tourists here, it isn’t very “touristy”. We did a few other things this afternoon, but I want to save space to tell you about our dinner.
I read about Pasta Cosy quite a while ago and forwarded the reviews to Amy and Jim. This was really the first night in Aix that we’ve left our lovely porch by the pool and eaten out. I was worried that this tiny hole-in-the-wall place wouldn’t live up to the TripAdvisor recommendations. Perhaps the owner just paid relatives to write great reviews. It was all that one could hope and more. We started with several small vegetarian tapas dishes; goat cheese with vegetable jelly, dill crème brulee, olive panna cotta, gazpacho, Gorgonzola and pear wrapped in phyllo. Each was lovelier than the next. All four grownups ordered the famous pasta purses filled with pears and Gorgonzola. I will dream about this dish for years to come. It had toasted sesame seeds and a cream sauce that will take lots of treadmill miles to work off. The owner was outgoing and fun. We shared the desserts of a fresh strawberry mascarpone riff on tiramisu and a chocolate, coconut, hazelnut concoction that had people ready to write sonnets about it. We toasted the end of an incredible vacation. How come there is never an airline strike when you want one? We head home tomorrow.
In the end, France delighted us at every turn and exceeded expectations. We dream of returning to explore other regions.
Note: As of 2016, we have learned that Pasta Cosy has closed. We like to think that the cheerful owner has gone to live on a farm with many well-fed puppies and kittens where they spend their days frolicking in fields of lavender.