Tastes of Provence

There are two restaurants in Provence that never seem to let me down. For nearly 20 years, La Beaugraviere and Le Bistrot du Paradou have been the sites of some of my finest gastronomic memories, and recent visits were no exception.

The black truffle season is almost over, but for the next month you should be able to sample Guy Jullien's creations at his famed Beaugraviere in Mondragon, 14 kilometers (9 miles) from Orange. Current specialties range from a simple and sublime truffle tartine (an open-face sandwich layered with giant slices of fragrant raw truffles) to a memorable salad of nutty ratte potatoes layered with a thick coating of truffles.

Main course offerings include a featherlight portion of cannelloni stuffed with chicken, finely chopped mushrooms, and of course more truffles. This should be followed by a sandwich of warm Saint Marcellin cow's milk cheese layered with truffles, and then chef Jullien's surprising truffle ice cream.

Two wines to try with the meal include the hard-to-find white 1995 Domaine de la Grange des Peres, a rich and meaty wine that blends all the character of viognier, bourboulenc and grenache grapes; and the pleasingly fragrant white Lirac, Domaine de la Mordoree, Cuvee de la Reine des Bois 1998, a bargain at 160 francs a bottle.

Friday is aioli day at Le Bistrot du Paradou, the popular table d'hote restaurant in the heart of Les Baux olive oil country. Here Mireille Pons works magic in the kitchen while the outgoing Jean-Louis tends the front of the house.

The all-you-can-eat aioli feast includes meaty local snails, Mireille's tender salt cod, potatoes in their jackets and steamed carrots, and of course plenty of that rich and golden garlic mayonnaise. Wash it down with plenty of the house red, and you are in heaven.

La Beaugraviere
84430 Mondragon.
Tel: 04-90-40-82-54.
Fax: 04-90-40-91-01.
Closed Sunday dinner. Truffle menus vary from 395 to 700 francs.

Le Bistrot du Paradou
13520 Le Paradou.
Tel: 04-90-54-32-70.
Closed Sunday. Open year-round for lunch; dinner mid July to Sept. 5. Lunch, 180 francs, including wine. Reservations suggested.