Posts tagged Patricia Wells
VintageGardenGal Turns Seven!

It is hard to believe my blog, VintageGardenGal is celebrating seven years! I started writing VintageGardenGal on September 4, 2008. With over 253 posts under my belt, it has been a wonderful experience to share with all of you. Thank you for your continued interest and support!

How does one celebrate a blog milestone? How about with a celebration "Grape Harvest Cake!" Ever since I read the book, We've Always Had Paris and Provence, A Scrapbook of Our Life in France, by Patricia and Walter Wells, I've always wanted to make Patricia Well's "Grape Harvest Cake" from Chapter 23. She makes this cake often May to September at her Provence Farmhouse, using various seasonal fruit, and grapes from their vineyard in the fall.

My husband, John, and I too, have a vineyard in which we grow Syrah grapes. Well, it is a bit of "lemons to lemonade" story. We did not have a good grape-growing year, low yield, and not even our traditional harvest event. Normally, I am so busy with the harvest, winemaking, family and friends in town that a "Grape Harvest Cake" is nearly out of the question. This year I took our "petite" yield of good fruit, and said, "I am going to make this harvest cake for my blog anniversary, and share it with all of you."

Grape Harvest Cake

Recipe Type:  Dessert
Cuisine: Provence
Author: Patricia Wells
Cook time: 55 mins
Serves: 12

A simple Provence cake that uses seasonal fruit, and grapes in particular in the fall. If you don't grow grapes, use fresh purple grapes such as Champagne grapes. This cake is made with olive oil, typical of Provence, creating a cake that is moist and light. You will need a 9 inch springform pan and an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Lightly sprinkle powdered sugar over the finished cake as an optional garnish before cutting and serving.


  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste ( vanilla extract)
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, and 1 orange, preferably organic
  • 2 pounds small fresh purple grapes (which have to be carefully seeded if they have seeds)


  1. Olive oil and flour a springform cake pan. Tap out an excess flour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the olive oil, milk, vanilla, and mix just to blend.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon and orange zest and toss to coat the zest with flour. Spoon the flour mixture into the egg mixture and stir to blend. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes, to allow the flour to absorb the liquids. Stir three-fourths of the fruit into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing over the top with a spatula.
  5. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining grapes on top of the cake. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels firm, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes.
  6. Remove to a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the side of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base. Serve at room temperature, cutting into thin wedges.
New Year 2014 Greetings!

Narcissus Winter Beauty Greetings to you all, and wishing you the very best in 2014! It is only natural this time of year to reflect on the fruits of the past year, as well as plan and dream for the year ahead. Consider gratitude as a foundation for your coming year.

One of the blogs I follow, Liz Denney Sanders of She Brand, had a wonderful gratitude post around Thanksgiving which included her top 10 gratitude quotes, More Gratitude Less Attitude. When I think about gratitude I attribute Oprah and Sarah Ban Breathnach as two people who brought gratitude awareness to the forefront and they are included in this top 10 gratitude quote list, too.

Dream big, and write your dreams down. It is said that the simple act of writing dreams down and looking at this list of dreams frequently--starts the momentum. What have you got to lose. Learn something new and exciting this year. The wonderment of learning engages us in life. List some adventures you have always wanted to do, and don't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone.

There are many highlights for me in 2013, becoming an author is a big one, and having the opportunity to meet two of my favorite authors who have inspired me in my life, Alice Waters and Patricia Wells are two others. I embrace the small highlights, as well as the big highlights. Having a healthy "cooing" flock of hens makes my heart sing.

For those that live in San Diego County, it has been very sad to hear of Loren Nancarrow's passing, a well-known San Diego TV anchor, and a garden enthusiast and advocate. He touched our lives in so many ways. He will be greatly missed.

Wishing you a very happy and exciting 2014! I am excited to share with you more garden living through writings, tips, photography, recipes,  and styling. This is a quote that I just love, that I saw this year which has stayed with me. I am not sure of the author. "Make Everyday Your Masterpiece."

Paris, Provence, Patricia Wells

DSC_0026 Patricia Wells has a new cookbook out, The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence. Last weekend, Owner and Founder, Susan McBeth's Adventures by the Book hosted culinary legend Patricia Wells at Torrey Pines Lodge. Check out Adventures by the Book, you'll never go to another regular book signing again. McBeth features what I call value-added creative author interactive book events, such as author-guided travel, fund raising, intimate dinners, receptions, and more.

Wells is delightful in person, very warm and friendly. She spoke briefly to local fans on some of her guidelines, principles, and tips she showers her students with during her week-long cooking classes in her Paris kitchen studio or her 18th century Provencal farmhouse. Wells has had a very storied culinary career with many accolades, four James Beard Awards amongst her many cookbooks to start, but what I cherish about her is her willingness to share all that she knows about Paris, Provence, and her food world. Who her favorite cheese monger is, her favorite chefs, her favorite wines from all regions, her favorite markets--I could go on and on. The French Kitchen Cookbook is filled with delightful recipes that urge you to make them now. Wells also shares many of her personal styling tips and kitchen suggestions that are fabulous.

I have been extremely delighted with her suggestions through her articles and books over the years, and have used her recommendations for the backbone of my Provence itineraries. One such adventure was eating at Le Bistro du Paradou Provence, Karma or Coincidence, and having a chance encounter with Princess Caroline of Monaco.

Ironically, after being a long time devotee of Wells, she and I are both coincidentally in the magical book, Lunch in Provence that was published fall 2012, by coauthors Jean-Andre Charial and Rachael McKenna. Wells wrote the engaging introduction, and I am serendipitously quoted in the book on the radiating beauty of Provence. This I know for sure, "like attracts like" and we both share passion for Paris, Provence, and delicious food.

Lunch in Provence

Lunch in Provence If you have been following VintageGardenGal for a while, you know how smitten I am on Provence. I even have a Provence category on my left side bar with posts about my trips to Provence. There is something magical about Provence. The geographical setting, the people you meet, the markets, the food, the wine, the beauty. I could go on and on. I am not sure if it is just the best of "simple country life" personified or the timelessness of this garden spot and the sharing presence of past civilizations who once appreciated it, too.

Regardless, I urge all of you to visit Provence one day, and experience if for yourself. If you have had the good fortune to spend time in Provence, you most certainly know what I am talking about.

About a year and half ago, New Zealand publisher PQ Blackwell contacted me requesting literary permission for a quote of mine highlighted in green on the post, Encore Provence . I remember vividly writing this particular sentence, and its words must ring true for others as well. My contribution is but one small quote, but I'm so honored to be a part of this beautiful book.

This special book is part coffeetable book with Rachael McKenna's vivid photography, part cookbook with Michelin-starred chef Jean-Andre Charial's 35 Provencal recipes, and an introduction by none other than one of my favorite Provence authors, Patricia Wells . Lunch in Provence  has a running theme of beautiful quotes. The quotes are beautiful and poignant about Provence, and that is where I fit in. This is a great gift for gardeners, cooks, and world travelers.

With the anticipated release of Lunch in Provence, the Laguna Beach Garden Club has asked me to be their November speaker and give a talk on "Bringing the Magic of Provence to Your Home and Garden." Program is Friday, November 9, 2012, at 9:30am. Guests are welcome. Books will be available for sale. For more information, please visit Laguna Beach Garden Club.

For more information on speaking engagements and topics, please got to Great Garden Speakers--Bonnie Jo Manion .

Please share if you have been to Provence, and what draws you there. Please share your stories on Provence.

Provence on a Plate

Dried Lavender on Market Day Special guest writer, Julie Mautner, shares with us her thoughts on cooking with lavender, assisted by a generous dollop from some of her favorite chefs. For those of you who miss Provence, or simply must feed your inner Provence fix,  you will be charmed by her travel and food blog out of Provence, The Provence Post.

Julie Mautner has lived in St. Remy de Provence on and off for more than ten years. Prior to running off to the South of France, she was the executive editor of Food Arts Magazine in New York for ten years. Today she freelances for food and travel magazines and sites in the US and the UK. Her first book, The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook, will be published by Clarkson Potter in November 2010....VintageGardenGal

Here in the South of France, lavender looms large. You see it everywhere in summer and you smell it in the breeze. If it weren’t for lavender, the postcard and poster people might very well go broke. It's the rare gift shop that doesn’t sell lavender sachets or soap or sweets or something.

Provence produces nearly 80 percent of the world's lavender and the famously alluring flower blankets the countryside every June and July. Harvesting continues through September and is mostly mechanized although, in some areas, lavender is still cut by hand and collected in cloth sacks slung over the back. Today, about 20,000 acres of lavender flourishes annually in Provence, although most of it is reserved for the making of cosmetics and perfumes.

The early Romans and Greeks bathed in lavender-scented water and, to this day, most people associate the flowery scent with soap. The word lavender, in fact, comes from the Latin "lavare," meaning to wash. But lavender has always had its place in the kitchen as well. In the days before vanilla became available and affordable, cooks used a variety of different fruit and flower flavors. Lavender, for its part,  was popular in teas, cakes, meat dishes, quick breads, biscuits and beverages. All lavenders are members of the Lamiaceae family, to which most culinary herbs (including mint, basil, oregano and sage) also belong.  While English Lavender (Lavendula officinalis or angustifolia) is most commonly used for perfume and soap, it's usually French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) that's found in the kitchen.

Cook with lavender as you would with most herbs: go lightly at first, then add more as needed. The darker the blossom, the more intense the flavor.

“Use restraint,” cautions Joe Simone, chef/owner of The Sunnyside Restaurant in Warren, Rhode Island, just outside Providence. “Lavender is extremely potent. Using too much will make whatever you cook taste like your grandmother's lingerie drawer.”

“I love lavender and used to grow a bumper crop back when I still had a garden,” says Nick Malgieri, director of baking programs at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. “It has always been a small element in herbes de provence and I think this is the key to using it in cooking and baking - a pinch or two along with other aromatic flavors, rather than a full-on assault of lavender alone.” Indeed the most common use of lavender flowers is in the seasoning mixture called herbes de Provence. To this blend of thyme, savory, basil and fennel, lavender adds a perfumey and slightly musky taste, along with a hint of citrus, which makes it ideal for use with fish, grilled meats and stews. Chefs also use it in red sauces for pasta or pizza, and it makes a good garnish on salads and entrees.

Throughout Provence, you'll come across lavender on many restaurant menus, in dishes both savory and sweet. At L'Hostellerie du Val de Sault, chef/owner Yves Gattechaut loves the taste of lavender with lamb. One dish he loves is a lamb carpaccio with homemade lavender vinegar, served with beignets d'herbe. He also makes lamb cutlets topped with a sauce that's been subtly tinged with lavender. "If you visit this region in summer," Gattechaut says, "you can't possibly ignore the color and smell of lavender. It is blue and gold everywhere you's absolutely inspiring."

In the village of St.-Remy, at the restaurant La Serre, chef Serge Gille-Naves serves monk fish in a daube or a fricasee, lightly perfumed with lavender, or he'll wrap the fish in parchment and bake it along with lavender, lemon and butter. Using a recipe developed by his grandfather, the famed patissier Gaston Lenotre, Gilles-Naves adds lavender to his pain d'epice, along with anise and orange, to give it a depth of flavor not usually found in a simple spice cake.

Lavender has found favor with American chefs as well. Chef Joe Simone likes to drop a few grains of it into his marinades and dry rubs, and he uses it for "pickling" certain vegetables. (For instance, he’ll marinate paper-thin slices of fennel in simple syrup and rice wine vinegar, with just a touch of lavender.)

In North Miami, Allen Susser of Chef Allen’s loves to serve lamb with a fennel-and-lavender crust. To make the crust, he toasts the fennel seeds, along with cumin and black peppercorns, and then crushes them when cool, along with lavender and a little fresh garlic. “The aromatics complement each other,” Susser says. “The lavender adds a rich, flowery depth to the earthy anise flavor of the fennel.”

At the Milwaukee Country Club, chef Olivier Bidard loves the subtle taste of lavender with fish and seafood, but stresses that it's important to use a sweet, meaty fish. With fresh sea scallops or arctic charr, for instance, Bidard will make a beurre blanc-type sauce using white wine, shallots, butter, a dash of lemon and lightly blanched fresh lavender. (Dried lavender is fine too.)  "The taste and smell of lavender with fish always reminds me of summer at home in France," he says.

Desserts, however, are where lavender is most lovely. A lavender-tinged creme anglais is delicious, hot or cold, over cake, fruit or any other dessert. Add a pinch of lavender to sugar cookies or a simple frosted cake, or use it to flavor ice cream. Patricia Wells' offers up a divine lavender honey ice cream in her book At Home in Provence, while Amanda Hesser suggests a simple lavender sorbet, inspired by Jean-Michel Bouvier, chef/owner of L'Essential in Chambery, France, in The Cook and The Gardener.

“Lavender’s aromatic strength pairs well with lemon zest and vanilla in anything custardy,” offers Nick Malgieri. “And a small amount added to cracked black pepper and orange zest for poached pears would be perfect.”

Indeed lavender pairs well with fruit, especially raspberries and blueberries. Joe Simone loves to toast angel food cake and serve it with a syrup of summer berries and lavender.

Simply take a bowl of fresh berries, adds a little superfine sugar, a pinch of lavender and a dash of orange blossom or rose water, then refrigerate for a few hours. (Orange blossom water and rose water can be found at gourmet groceries and Middle Eastern markets.)  Then slice the cake, broils it until golden and serve topped with the berry syrup.

While Simone prefers to buy his lavender from a local organic farm market and dry it himself, he says a high-quality store-bought product is fine.

“I spent the most marvelous week in Provence a few years ago,” he adds. “And when I’m feeling a bit of withdrawal, I’ll break out the lavender in my kitchen. All those amazing tastes and smells just come rushing right back to me.”

Please share if you cook with lavender. Please share  your experience with lavender in Provence.

Provence: Karma or Coincidence

Menu Board Outside Le Bistro du Paradou "Some spots are the cradle of genius, Provence is one." --Lawrence Durrell. Locals have always known it. Provence's magic, like a magnet, draws many types of people to its charming countryside and ensuing lifestyle. There amongst the markets, cobblestone roads, bistros, shops, and restaurants, look closely and be observant. You might see your favorite author, fashion czar, cookbook writer, painter, actor, director, Michelin-star chef, celebrity, winemaker, photographer, and the list goes on.

Sandwiched Between Princess Caroline's Cars

"A Royal Encounter" When we visited Provence our first year we had tried to eat at Le Bistro du Paradou, a wonderful country bistro full of Provencal charm, however, we were too late for lunch and too early for dinner. Mireille and Jean-Louis Pons' country bistro is one of famed restaurant critic and cookbook writer, Patricia Wells' favorites in Provence. Well, it was worth a second try on our second trip, and we were successful in experiencing an incredible lunch. Everyone shares the same house table menu, choice of house wines, and gracious service.

After lunch, I pulled Jean-Louis Pons aside, and asked him a few questions, and thanked him for such a lovely lunch. He proceeded to tell me, "That it is afternoons like this, when Princess Caroline of Monaco and her husband come, I am especially pleased. She comes every spring, and is sitting there now at the table under the window." Can a jaw drop to your knees? Mine did. She was facing me across the room, surrounded by an entourage of people at her table who had floated into the bistro unnoticed. I looked at her for a long time, so I might forever keep her vision that day in my memory.

Wait, there is more. Once out in the parking lot, we notice our rental car entirely blocked. My husband asks me to go back to the bistro and find out whose car it is. Fate beckons us, and it is none other than Princess Caroline's pristine 1959 Deux Cheveux. Mon Dieu! First comes the waiter to help move the car, second comes someone from her table, and third comes Princess Caroline herself, speaking in perfect English, and apologizing profusely.

As we slowly left Le Bistro du Paradou moving on with our afternoon, I thought to myself, "Wow, this magic of Provence is intoxicating!" Le Bistro du Paradou, 57 avenue de la Vallee-des-Baux. Le Pradou. (tel) and (fax) (0)4-90-54-32-70. Closed Sunday. I recommend calling for hours, menu of the day, and reservations.

"Meeting My Heroine" After playing bumper cars with Princess Caroline of Monaco, we didn't think our visit in Provence could get any better. Little did we know that there was much more excitement to come. I first saw her book in the travel section of a bookstore about three or four years ago. Her book is, Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France. I was not familiar with Kristin Espinasse before or her writing, but immediately enjoyed her wonderful and endearing stories, woven with humor about her husband, children, cultures, and antics of Provencal every day life, and not so every day life.

Kristin's book actually morphed from her popular "thrice-weekly" blog, . Kristin's blog is wildly amusing, and a fun way to stay in touch with your "inner French language", and Provencal fix. Kristin is my heroine, because she lives and breathes the authentic Provencal life every day, and gladly shares it with all of us through her wonderful words and stories.

Kristin is an American, and as she pens it, "a former desert rat from Arizona", who meets her husband to be in Provence during a foreign language exchange program. She falls in love with this handsome Frenchman Jean-Marc, marries, and has two adorable children. They live in Provence, and have followed one more of their dreams, owning a farm house, vineyards, and making award-winning wines in the Lower Rhone Valley.

Once again by incredible luck and unusual circumstances, my husband and I are enjoying a private tour of some of the local wine producers in the lower Rhone Valley, by one of the leading wine consultants in the area. Half way up the long gravel driveway of Jean-Marc and Kristin Espinasse, I realize we are visiting Domaine Rouge-Bleu, their winery and vineyard. I'm pinching myself thinking I can't take any more of these surprises. A quick introduction and visit with Jean-Marc and Kristin, a quick tour of their winery, a taste of their wine, results in a lifetime of memories.

Kristin is just as warm and friendly in person, as she is in her writing. She encouraged me to start a blog. I am so grateful and thankful for her kindness. Sometimes you meet people along the journey of life that touch your lives in so many ways, and they might not ever know. Thank you Jean-Marc and Kristin for touching our lives. We hope our paths will cross once again.

"Postcards From Provence"

Magic of Provence, Red Poppies Blooming in May I am not an expert on Provence, France, but I have studied, researched, and created two wonderful 2007 and 2008 spring itineraries that my husband, John, and I followed to experience the heart and soul of Provence. There is something so magical about Provence, it reaches to my very core. I snapped the above photo, roadside on an early Sunday morning, heading to the famous and fabulous L'lsle-sur-la-Sorgue antique market.

It is hard to pinpoint why Provence is so special. Is it the light that Van Gough would talk about and try and capture in his paintings? Is it the Roman influence of ancient engineering masterpieces, roads, and villages that survive to tell their story? Is it the legendary "mistral wind" that bellows through the famous Cote du Rhone valley? Is it the unspoiled rural countryside beauty? Is it the absolutely charming people full of rich tradition and culture? Is it the incredibly fresh and mouth-watering seasonal foods and time-proven wines? Is it the fact that you never know who you will run into at a cafe, or bump elbows with at an outdoor market? Ah, you will just have to go sometime and ponder these questions yourself. If you have been to Provence, and have some wonderful stories, please share.

Writing about a few things that makes Provence so magical a place is difficult. I could jot down a long detailed list, but prefer instead to share with you a few snapshots, that those fortunate to call Provence their home experience on a regular basis, if not daily.

Generally, my itineraries are "off the tourist beaten path", preferring to visit the lesser known special places, such as Edith Mezard's tiny linen and embroidery shop in Lumieres, the Abbaye St. Andre gardens across the river from the popular city, Avignon, or the little cheese shop, Lou Canesteou, in Vaison-la-Romaine, to name a few. Rick Steves' Provence and The French Riviera 2009 is a good guidebook for general information, tips, and proven itineraries for those wanting a starting point.

Some of my favorite books written about Provence, were the catalyst to visit this special part of France, and experience it first hand. If you can't get to Provence in the near future, perhaps you would like to begin by reading some of these wonderful books. For more information on these books, just "click" on their titles. A Good Year. A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France. A Year in Provence. Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France.

Please follow along with me for more snapshots of Provence.