Every year Jody participates in a cooking-cycling tour. People like traveling with what Jody jokingly refers to as a “GCC,” that is, a “genuine celebrity chef.” Over the course of 5 – 7 days people bike, visit local restaurants, vineyards and artisan producers of local products, and help prepare a multi-course meal based on the local cuisine with lots of instruction and guidance from her. Accommodations are typically cushy. The biking ability of participants ranges from novice to expert and everybody has a great time. People abandon any inclination to count calories (and why would you?) after they experience a day of pedaling about the countryside. Most people return to the US with at least one new discovery–a technique or taste sensation. The top contenders on this trip were peeled tomatoes and rabbit. My own favorite was rouget, small red fish from the Mediterranean, undoubtedly delicious in lots of ways, but I can personally vouch for them sautéed in butter with a little lemon and parsley. Runner up was smoked cod roe, which I’d never even heard of before this trip–creamy, rich, unbelievably good when spread on a fresh baguette.
This year’s tour with DuVine Adventures, focused on the Vaucluse region of Provence, was unusual in that we were already familiar with much of the area. The Vaucluse, as I like to describe it, is a place where if you stand on the side of the road with your face inclined to the sky and your mouth open somebody will put something good to eat into it. That’s as true now as it was when I first visited France two-thirds of a lifetime ago. Paris has changed dramatically in the interim, but in the countryside you can squint at the mountainside villages and convince yourself that it is the same as it ever was. True, “Bio,” the French term for organic, is visible everywhere, and olive oil producers have orchestrated tastings as choreographed as any Napa Valley vineyard, but hand-lettered signs at the side of single-lane country roads still invite you to get off your bicycle to buy plums or tomatoes or Brebis, a local aged sheep’s milk cheese.
We’d like to extend our thanks to DuVine Adventures for putting this trip together. Biking and eating your way through the Vaucluse is a special experience. No one has done a better job. All three of our guides–Stephane Gallet, Stephanie Olson,and Thomas Kevill-Davies–were smart, funny and laughed at all the right places. I’d particularly like to give a special thanks to Tom, blogger and author of The Hungry Cyclist. He helped Jody shop and cook so much of the great food we ate. But what really distinguished him was his willingness to turn second-story man when we returned to our hotel VERY late one evening (after nearly colliding with a wild boar en route) and found ourselves locked out. Fortunately I remembered the entry code before he was arrested. Amy, whom we loved even before she offered up her house up for our fabulous final meal, has only burrowed her way deeper into our hearts.
Everyone on this trip was a brick, as my father-in-law used to say. We’d ride and eat with any of you again anywhere (and hope we do). Enjoy the pictures–we’re going to be cooking a lot of the food you see in these pics over the next month. Ken
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