People really take pride in their produce in Provence, and they have every right to do so, as the quality of the products is very high. I found all the local shopkeepers and market vendors to be very nice and wanting to talk about their products. Sometimes there was a slight language barrier, but I'm determined to improve my French to be able to understand more.
I shopped for several different vegetarian food items and drinks there and here is a short overview of some of the lovely stuff you can get in Provence. The quality of the products is normally exquisite, so it was worth a bit of carrying on the Eurostar. You will see me using these products in my cooking now, and I hope that's okay for you. There are always ways to replace stuff, if you can't get the exact thing in a recipe, and this goes for all my dishes!
Wine – Well, what can I say to this subject on French wines that hasn't already been said a million times? I went to the Rhône area, which is a very large wine region with fields and fields of vineyards where ever you look. I sampled many of these wines, both whites and reds while I was there and also brought a few bottles back with me, which shall be saved for special occasions.
Olive oil – Olive trees are everywhere in Provence, hence the quality offer on olive oil as well. We got a recommendation in a friendly wine shop for this local huile d'olive by Bernard Trazic, and indeed it is the most fragrant and flavoursome olive oil you could imagine. I shall only use it for special drizzles on very good dishes only. Then I also purchased a couple of infused olive oils, mandarin and chilli pepper variations. They should be very good in cooking as well and the flasks just look too cute!
Bread – The quality of bread in France is amazing and you can find so many bakeries everywhere. Many days I survived just on baguette and cheese with a little wine. Well, maybe that's not such a balanced diet, but I didn't get tired of it yet.
Vegetables – As I already wrote previously, I did some serious vegetable inspecting and a little bit of buying in Les Halles in Avignon. Particularly the different tomato variations look and taste great. There seem to be fresh vegetables on offer everywhere you go in Provence, most fascinating are maybe those small stalls at roundabouts that sell vegetables and fruits. The French cook a lot with their vegetables, but only rarely make fully vegetarian dishes. That sometimes complicates things for eating out, but when you do a bit of research beforehand, you can find lovely veggie and veggie-friendly places.
Herbs – Herbes de Provence is a widely known dried spice mix typically consisting of marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano and savory. It is a great spice mix for vegetarian cooking and I use it quite often for spicing dishes and salads.
Lavender – When you see pictures from Provence, there's probably a lavender field somewhere on there. Now the lavender had already been harvested in the valleys and was only still growing in the mountains, where I unfortunately didn't have time to go to. In any case I got a bouquet of dried lavender for my home to bring a lovely scent. Have you ever cooked anything with lavender?
Tapenades – Tapenades are mainly olive based spreads that you can eat with bread. Here you have to be careful as a vegetarian and always read the ingredient listing as anchovies are often used as an ingredient. I decided not to buy an olive tapenade, but to make one myself soon (watch this space!), and got aubergine caviar instead.
Beer – Normally people wouldn't associate southern France much as a beer producing region, but there actually are some good local beers available. I'm most probably going to write a beer review of one local product later on.
This is a really quick overview what products can be enjoyed in Provence, but of course there are loads more. Have you been to Provence? What are your recommendations or favourite local products?