The ‘Route des Arts et Gourmandises de Provence’
Dedicated foodies – and art and craft lovers – should follow one of the ‘Route des Arts et Gourmandises de Provence’ itineraries (French website only), along which you can meet almost 200 professionals in their boutiques or workshops. The foodie trail involves sampling as many as 40 local and unexpected specialities, while the craft route uncovers exceptional talent and amazing, original creations.
No trip to Aix-en-Provence would be complete without tasting this delicious almond-shaped sweet. Its origins are fittingly charming, created to celebrate the second marriage of King René to Princess Jeanne de Laval in 1454. Calissons are made from almond paste, candied melon and orange peel, on a thin layer of wafer topped with royal icing. It’s impossible to leave Provence without letting one of these melt on your tongue…
In the salt marshes of the Camargue amongst the flamingos and the bull-herding cowboys, you’ll uncover the thriving production of a pulse more commonly associated with Asia. The French rice production is of red rice – so-named after its colour – which developed from centuries-old wild rice. Agricultural production started after the Second World War, and today represents hundreds of rice-growers throughout the Camargue area.
This unusual fungus is known as the gold – or in this case, Black Diamond – of the culinary world. Notoriously difficult to find (you’ll need either a trained dog or pig), they hide beneath oak trees on chalk plains and can sell for astronomical sums of money. The best time of year to catch any of the events and festivals surrounding this fragrant fungus is between mid-December and June. Truffle markets are held from mid-November to March: Saturday mornings in Richerenches and Apt, Wednesday mornings in Valreas, and Friday mornings in Carpentras.
Fruits confits d'Apt
The product of an ancient art form of candying fruit, delicate and made exclusively by hand, originally as way of preserving fruit for the winter months. The fruit is boiled, soaked in syrup and coated with a thin film of sugar to preserve the flavour. You can find figs, plums, cherries, melons, apricots, pears and citrus fruit.
Berlingots de Carpentras
Legend has it that it one of Pope Clement V’s bakers from Carpentras who created this hard candy during a banquet in the 4th century. They are pyramid-shaped, made from syrup and marked with white stripes; the concentration of the syrup gives them their hard, translucent structure.
‘Les 13 desserts de Provence’
Provence’s 13 desserts represent Christ and the 12 apostles at the Last Supper and they’re a Christmas speciality in the region. They comprise a collection of small sweet items to be eaten before Christmas Eve midnight mass. Raisins represent the Domenicans, hazelnuts or walnuts the Augustines, dried figs the Franciscans and almonds the Carmelites; black and white nougat represent good and evil; ‘pompe à l’huile’ (olive bread) is designed to be broken as Jesus did; and the six remaining items are made up of a selection of other fruits, nuts and pastries.