Got your Thanksgiving menu all planned? How about throwing a little French curve ball before the meal and making a tapenade appetizer? It's a classic olive paste frequently served in Provence with toasted bread. It's also great as a condiment alongside fish or chicken.
Although olives are the main ingredient, its name is derived from the Provençal word for capers, or tapenas, because capers are essential to the recipe.
I enjoyed this delicious appetizer just before lunch at a restaurant in the town of Châteauneuf du Pape, as part of my visit to Provence with Bliss Travels.
Châteauneuf du Pape literally translates to "the pope's new castle" because the town became the summer home of the popes following a schism when popes resided in Avignon rather than Rome. This fascinating period of papal history, from 1309 through 1376, became known as "the Babylon captivity" and you can read about it here. The actual papal abode in Châteauneuf du Pape is little more than ruins of the ancient castle.
Along the drive to town, don't be surprised to come across this other castle though, now a winery and hotel.
Speaking of wine (and when aren't we speaking of wine when in France?), there are lots of wine producers to visit.
But lunch was on tap first, starting with the luscious tapanade and toasts.
Of course, we had our share of wines to accompany the meal.
First course was a delicious tart with vegetables and cheese.
Some of the group ordered this as a main course - stewed meat with pasta and vegetables.
I opted for fish served over polenta. No, that's not a pickle on the side, but a zucchini.
More wines flowed throughout the meal, including this delectable dessert wine. Luckily, I found places here in the U.S. (and the U.K.) where I can buy it online, and you can find them here.
Of course, if you're drinking dessert wine, it's only natural that you need dessert to go with it, and the restaurant didn't let us down, serving a strawberry tiramisu.
Sitting outdoors on the patio, as the warmth from the Provençal sun beamed down, I could have stayed there all afternoon, sipping the muscat wine.
But the prospect of a walk through town (did someone say shopping?) and a winery tour beckoned, so I reluctantly pulled myself away.
Walking through the twisting streets, charm oozes from nearly every angle, every corner, every archway.
The colorful shutters and lace curtains reinforce the old-world atmosphere.
And then you arrive to the entrance of the tasting room, with its wine bottles pointing the way.
Before you know it, you're down in the ancient cellars amid the casks.
And the pouring (and tasting) begins:
About 95 percent of the wines here are reds, but we sampled some white wines also.
Grapes used in making Châteauneuf du Pape wines come from 13 varieties, with granache the most predominant.
The vines are grown on soil that's covered in rounded, smooth stones called galets (gah-lay). The stones aid in absorbing the warmth of the sun, helping the grapes to ripen. They also help in holding in the moisture so that the soil isn't parched by the hot Provençal sun.
Speaking of moisture, the skies were looking a little threatening, but we were ready to head back anyway. We took a different route going back, past the ancient city walls of Avignon.
If you like, set aside some time for a detour to visit the papal palace in Avignon. You'll need at least a couple of hours to do it justice though.
Au revoir Châteauneuf du Pape. À toute à l'heure.
Thanks to photographer Anthony Bianciella for the helpful photography tips (and use of his lens) throughout the day.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I give thanks for so much goodness I have in my life, and hope that all those who are still suffering due to Hurricane Sandy will have some respite for a day. For those of you reading this post, I hope you'll be thinking of them too and offering support in whatever way you can.
2 cups pitted olives, niçoise or Kalamata
2 T. capers
1 2 -ounce can anchovies (filets from a can - not the "fresh" white anchovies
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a sprig of rosemary or thyme (2 T. minced)
1 T. lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
Place everything except the oil into a food processor. Pulse until you get a rough paste, scraping down sides of bowl. Slowly add the olive oil and process until it has reached a coarse consistency. Serve with toasted bread.