Ooh, it is a cold and rainy Monday morning in Arles, so I thought something to warm us all up was in order. And there is nothing like fine eats to get the blood pumping now is there?
Why had I not thought of it sooner? It now makes utter sense: when searching for a vacation rental, the top criteria is not the location, the number of bedrooms, nor cleanliness, no, of utmost importance is that the owners should be caterers that also have an épicerie fine or gourmet boutique on site. For you see, that is exactly what Evencio Vazquez (affectionately called "Banco") and his charming wife Véronique do in addition to welcoming guests at La Buissonade.
And what a fine welcome it is. As we arrived just in time for Easter, the couple had just finished producing massive amounts of goodies for the holiday and so two chocolate figurines plus a jar of strawberry jam were waiting for us as our "welcome gift." But that was just the beginning. For you see, Evencio and Véronique are genuinely generous. Remi and I both felt that they provided some of the finest hospitality that we had ever seen. Anywhere. Because it came from the heart.
We were offered some tasty treat or other nearly every day and our stay was topped off with a farewell lunch that was out of this world...oysters with leeks and bacon in a briny white wine emulsion, possibly the best épaule d'agneau I have ever had, grilled local goat cheese crostini and a cake...chocolate, hazelnut mousse, créme caramel au beurre salée...I don't even like cake! But this was like munching on an especially tasty cloud.
Evencio, who cooked professionally for twelve years--including at Michelin-loved restaurants in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie--showed off his Spanish roots on another occasion by whipping up a platter of squid and shrimp tapas with an aîoli dipping sauce but shared his interpretation of a French classic, the millefeuille as a surprise on Easter Sunday. He also gave us a tender cut of chevreau along with a roll of Banon from the neighboring goat farm. Pity that Kipling stoll the cheese from right under our noses! Shameless. We were enjoying it too.
I loved that there was no pressure whatsoever to even set foot in their boutique. But of course, we are no fools and my highly attuned food radar was telling me to take some of this fine experience home with me.
Remi and I have yet to taste all of what we purchased but have been delighted by everything so far--créme de Noix, two balsalmic reductions (one with honey and spices, the other with lavender honey), truffle olive oil, two vinegars (one with lavender honey and another with raspberry pulp), several jams (rose, fig with red wine and spices to serve with cheese and one that Remi quickly devoured that had white chocolate in it), a confit d'oignons au gingembre...All interesting, beyond the norm combinations. Does it seem as though we bought out the entire shop? We could have! Especially as their prices are incredibly reasonable for the fine quality of ingredients used.
The couple hopes to open a restaurant in the future and we both strongly urged them to consider offering tables d'hôtes or fixed-price dinners, as well as cooking courses for the guests of the cottage. Wouldn't that be wonderful? And yes, if you are so fortunate as to live in the area, they are excellent, creative caterers as well.
Evencio Vazquez and Véronique Nitard
Veronique's cell for English speakers: 06 20 64 21 08
Pour mes amis Francophone, Evencio's: 06 03 17 23 31
Website for La Buissonade: here
To read more about my Tastes of the Luberon, please click here. And it hopefully goes without saying that in no way is this a sponsored post, I am just happy to spread the word about some incredibly kind and talented people.
Have a great week everyone!
PS. Folks, I am no longer accepting anonymous comments. The spam is just way too out of hand and there are actually very, very few of you who have used this. From here on out, you will need a registered profile. Thanks for understanding...