Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur’s nature reserves are a feast for the eyes… And the tastebuds! Each has their own speciality and everything here is locally-made. From aperitif to dessert, here’s a little selection of must-haves.
A drizzle of olive oil – always!
The olive is a source of many culinary delights and the Alpilles Regional Nature Reserve is a master of the art of extracting its delicious oils. Vallée des Baux AOC olive oil is produced in 70% of the area, including 20% organic (or converting to organic) oils. Over 2,000 growers continue to uphold traditional know-how dating back over 400 years in this exceptional natural setting. Mercantour National Park is home to many producers of AOP “Huile d’Olive de Nice” AOC olive oil. An absolute must, this oil made from freshly-harvested olives is ripe and fruity on the palette – a genuine gourmet voyage of almonds, lemon and even raw artichoke. You can enjoy meeting with local producers and discovering yet another appellation – “Olive de Nice” – in the Roya and Bévéra valleys.
Pairing wine & food
The aromatic excellence of our vineyards
The Luberon Regional Nature Reserve produces delicious wines coveted by oenology buffs and French gastronomy lovers alike. United in a cooperative, the 300 Terres Valdeze producers are at the origin of three vintages awarded the Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional quality label. The Keras AOP (Protected Designation of Origin) – a promise of recognized winegrowing expertise – is produced in red, white and rosé. Whatever your penchant, you’ll love its characteristic refreshing flavour combining Mediterranean and medium-altitude mountain influences. One of the area’s best wine cooperatives, also producing reds, whites and rosés, Le Temps des Sages is a rightful holder of the Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional label. Make sure you stock up on their delicious “Le Temps des Valeurs A.O.P. Luberon“, “La Félicianne A.O.P Luberon” and “Les Opiniâtres A.O.P Luberon“. Cheers!
Character-filled mountain produce
Queyras mountain cheeses are packed with personality, from powerful to light-hearted and include hard, pressed and soft marvels to savour on a chunk of baguette or melted… Yum! Cheesemaker Château Ville Vieille offers visitors a tempting foretaste of things to come… Hop over to the Fromagerie de Château-Queyras, a Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional establishment, where you can take part in a culinary workshop and learn some well-kept cheesemaking secrets. How about the classic bruschetta with cured ham and Queyras cheese for starters?
Beekeeping reigns in the high valleys lining the way to Écrins National Park, where rhododendrons, fireweeds, firs, blueberries and raspberries produce plentiful pollen to nourish the park’s exceptional biodiversity. These honeys are incomparably sweet and delicate – all you have to do is decide which pot to purchase while you’re roaming the local farmers’ markets and boutiques! Foodies will love hunting down specialities from each valley or visiting, for example, the Ferme des Écrins: this farm’s succulent “Esprit Parc National” goat cheeses are triple award-winners.
Always room for dessert
Confectionery, fruit and sweet treats
First stop: Nougat Silvain, an artisan nougat maker tucked inside the Ventoux Regional Nature Reserve. The heir to generations of traditional expertise, this family firm in Saint-Didier is bathed in delicious aromas of grilled almonds and honey – a true gourmet paradise you can discover with a 45-minute tour. Change of direction: Maffren Confiseur awaits you at the Baronnies Provençales Regional Nature Reserve with a tempting line-up of nougats, almond pastes and caramels, produced traditionally since 1945 and spiked with a contemporary twist. Last but not least, the Massif des Maures in the Var area is home to Collobrières, the capital of sweet chestnuts. You can savour them roasted or candied and the local forests produce several varieties such as the fairly-rare Pignansie, dark and sweet Marron du Var and Sardonne, reputed for its sugary and delicate fruit.
Feet under the table
À la carte: the best of local courtesy of our chefs
Nestling in the Préalpes d’Azur Regional Nature Reserve, the restaurant La Capelline is a temple of Nice cuisine. This former tram station serves local, seasonal fare including daube (beef stew), farcis niçois (stuffed vegetables) and octopus salad… Home-made and traditional recipes rule here and the atmosphere is friendly and authentic throughout, from the plate to the vintage decor. Heading to Camargue, the restaurant Le Flamand Rose is located between Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. A proud holder of the Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional and Maître Restaurateur labels, Frédéric Lacave is a master of the art of Provençal cuisine concocted with local produce. Don’t miss his gastronomic Camargue bull meat, fish and shellfish specialities: an ode to Mediterranean locavore cuisine and fair trade.
Gastronomic classes and workshops for budding chefs
The association Les Amis de la Cuisine Provençale has set down its bags in Roquebrussane, in the gorgeous landscapes of the Sainte-Baume Regional Nature Reserve. Created by a group of friends, all working for free, the association flies the flag of tradition and ancient Provencal family recipes. You can enjoy a range of cookery classes there for children, groups and adults, but all use local, seasonal Provencal produce and the menus change every 3 months.
Last but not least, the Maison de la Truffe d’Aups et du Verdon in the Verdon Regional Nature Reserve hosts year-round exhibitions, gastronomy workshops, truffle hunts and tours of the local truffle fields. This multisensorial truffle temple, set inside a beautiful 17th-century former hospice, promises a fun and flavourful voyage into the world of the black diamond for all the family courtesy of its “Truffle Adventure” tour. Good enough to eat!