Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stephane Furlon...La Litote's Master Chef

Look carefully. This is the image of a one man band playing Mozart with precision and fluidity. Stephane Furlan is proof that great things can come in small packages,or that great food can come from small restaurants with a tiny kitchen.  Here we see him at work in his zone of authority. The Devil Dog asked him when he can expect his Michelin star. He laughed and said, "Michelin star...with this kitchen....oh no....I would need a saucier, a desert chef, and several thousand more square feet". Then he laughed again, and went back to work. I guess the point is that he serves Michelin star gourmet meals with flair and inventiveness with what he has. Imagine what he could do with a larger restaurant. Until that day comes, whenever I am within 50 miles of Vence I will be making the return trip to La Litote. Great restaurants are hard enough to find. Exceptional boutique establishments like La Litote are priceless.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Restaurant La Litote in the old city of Vence

Of all the amazing meals we had on this trip, and I mean all of them, one of the best was right here at this little bistro on a quiet cobbled street in the old city of Vence, La Litote, where owner and head chef Stephane Furlon has created a fabulous, if tiny enclave of innovative cuisine.  

We had a romantic table in the stone walled room, and the meal that followed was nothing short of spectacular.  Foie Gras with mango chutney was ridicuously good.  Lobster salad with bean sprouts and beat sauce was extremely fresh and innovative. Black tagiolini with unshelled braised prawns was nothing short of a masterpiece.  And all of this coming out of a tiny kitchen where Chef Furlon is a hands on multitalented artist.

La Litote is in a beautiful building, with a lovely second floor dining area with an ancient wood beamed ceiling.  The Devil Dog thrives on authentic charm, and La Litote fits the bill in many ways.  A small out of the way restaurant with an owner chef serves up spectacular cooking with quality on a scale that demands recognition.  It is very popular with the locals, at lunch ( as seen below) and dinner.  La Litote is the kind of restaurant it is worth going out of your way to discover and explore.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Galerie Regards in the old city of Vence

Along the cobble stone streets within the old city of Vence stands the Galerie Regards, the art gallery of Caroline Hauptman, a former retoucher at the Louvre who has pursued her art with florid style and grace at this beautiful corner of Vence. The Devil Dog is always in search of the artist, the genuine article, a person who stands alone to display their passion with clarity and precision, tempestuousness and fierce confident determination.  We find it in many places and we found it at Galerie Regards with Caroline. Thats her and my wife Alison below standing in her 800 year old stone studio and gallery.

We wandered into her shop and were pleased to discover that it was an art studio as well as a gallerie, for there she was in the act of painting, surrounded by her other works in various stages of completion, and full of the vitality and active engagement that displays a person on fire inside.  Below is her workspace in the middle of the shop, her working canvas surrounded by paints and the furbishments of her trade.  Caroline was a delight and a talented artist that speaks to a growing community of regional artists practicing their craft because they are driven to do so.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tourrettes Sur Loup at dusk

But before we proceed into Vence lets take one last look at Tourrettes Sur Loup, seen above on a brilliant day as the sun was beginning to go down, long shadows casting their way down the rocky cliffside.  The Devil Dog never tires of the tiny villages and towns spread across the valleys and hilltops throughout the south of France.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The ancient city of Vence as seen from Chateau St. Martin

The ancient walled old city center of Vence, dating back thousands of years, forms a perfect oval as seen from the patio deck of Chateau St.Martin.  As we shall see, this labyrinth of streets has restaurants , galleries and shops in a lovely setting. Vence is a genuine working class town, very un-touristy, but fascinating for for its glimpse into the genuine character and life of the average French citizen. Here below we get a different angle on the centre of Vence, yet still captivating, and ready to explore.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bright eyed and bushy tailed at breakfast

It was early in the season so we found we had much of the Chateau St. Martin to ourselves, which gave us the feeling of our own fully staffed mansion at our disposal.  Breakfast is served here in this magnificent room. In the back you can see the portal for the omelet chef to take your individual requests.

If it can be believed this is the semi-formal dining room. The views stretch endlessly to the Mediterranean Sea. The atmosphere at breakfast is one of complete serenity, casual elegance that is timeless in its essence. Breakfast is an elegiac experience  suspended in an almost timeless moment that is over all too soon.

Breakfast, like so much about Cheateau St. Martin, is truly  like something out of fantasyland. Sitting in a wide open space with incredible views, exceptional personalized service, made to order omelets and specialties, it has the air of wandering into the sanctuary of your own mansion.

We were none the worse for wear after a great evening, bright eyed and bushy tailed with a side order of bleary. The day lies ahead. We go forth to the city of Vence below.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A glass of Chambertin

So if you are going to wear a white tuxedo jacket and eat in a 5 star restaurant at a world class resorts in the hills above the south of France, then you might as well drink a Chambertin Grand Cru from Cote de Beaune.  With amazing food, an incredible wine list, fabulous service, and the shear serenity of the surroundings, dinner at Chatesu St. Martin is an out of body experience, made all the more so with several glasses of fine wine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dressed to the Nines

Dinner at Chateau St. Martin  is a dress up affair, and rightly so. Master Chef Yannick Franques, fresh from several years at the Hotel Bristol in Paris, brings new meaning to fine dining.  Foie Gras with an artichoke sauce is a revelation, and the risotto, is like something form a dream with mascarpone cheeses and a touch of anise.  The room is beautiful, with stunning views of the Mediterranean coast. Service is singularly attentive and fabulous. The Devil Dog loves a great mealin sumptuous surroundings. He found it at Chateau St. Martin.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Bar at Chateau St.Martin

After a day of tooling around the French countryside we return to Chateau St. Martin, put on our finest clothes and prepare for dinner in their fine dining restaurant. But first a cocktail. The Devil Dog has always been one to respect tradition, so in this case a late afternoon martini (Bombay Sapphire with olives and onions, served up, shaken, not stirred) hits the spot before a triumphant dinner. The bar at Chateau St.Martin is something to behold, with rich dark woods, sumptuous tapestries and an air of classic indulgence. in the hills above the Riviera.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

View from my balcony, Chateau St. Martin

And so there we stand on the balcony of the Devil Dogs stunning suite at Chateau St.Martin, looking down across the back patio (where lunch is served in the summer) at the sweeping majesty of the rolling hills around the ancient city of Vence, and the Riviera below stretching out to Cap d'Antibe and Canne in the distance.  The Devil Dog could not have been more impressed with the hotel after having had lunch here in the summer of 1995, and admiring it for a dozen years or more, only to experience its full glory for three days of sublime exhaltation.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Private Hillside Villas at Chateau St. Martin

So finally, here they are, the private hillside bungalows of Chateau St. Martin, the exotic villas of the celebrated, set on the rising slopes of Baou de Blanc. It was here that Elizabeth Taylor stayed, here that Brangelina encamped during Canne several years back,  flying in and out of the hotel to the festival location by helicopter.  The Devil Dog was impressed by the phenomenal views and sumptuous accommodations of the villas, altho he was equally enthralled with his own amazing suite in the body of the main hotel.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Front Entrance of Chateau St Martin

It looms above the city of Vence, framed by Baou de Blanc, a fortress in the sky, that you reach along a winding rode leading up into the hills, and then you turn into the driveway, and the imposing castle on the steep mountainside is a startling oasis of luxury and intimate refinement. It is Chateau St. Martin, an almost mystical experience that the Devil Dog considers on of the truly great resort hotels, whose front entrance we see below at the end of a garden path.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Knights Templar ruins at dawn

So the Devil Dog rose at dawn to walk the grounds of Chateau St Martin and capture the morning sun glinting thru the ruins that date back to the 12th century.
In the background above this spectacular wall you can see some of the private cottages that dot the hillside above the hotel. Below is a stark reminder of the power these grounds convey, all while housing a spectacular 5 star resort hotel.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Knights Templar ruins of Chateau St. Martin

Here we see how the outer wall of the ruins from the Knights Templar is a framework that blends seamlessly with the main buildings of Chateau St Martin. The tower you see in the photo below is the backside of the room next to ours from the earlier posting.  The ruins stand out against the morning sun and a stunning blue sky.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Chateau St Martin seen from above

As imposing and brilliant as Chateau St. Martin may look from below, and it does, it is equally amazing when seen from above, with a sweeping view of the buildings and grounds, as seen from a series of very exclusive cottages, essentially private bungalows, spread out on the hillside above the main hotel. It is from here that we took these pictures of the chateau.

A former castle of the Knights Templar, the ruins of the older structures are intertwined with the superstructure of the rest of the hotel.  Chateau St Martin is as tranquil and exotic as it is imposing and otherworldly.  A grove of olive trees hundreds of years old graces the grounds leading up to the private cottages.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The View from Chateau St. Martin

High above the countryside of the Riviera, with captivating views stretching to the Mediterranean, Chateau St. Martin is like a mountaintop redoubt...indeed that is exactly what it was for hundreds of years, a fortress on a hill for the Knights Templar. In these pictures we se the mansions and fine houses that fill the hills just below Chateau St. Martin, with Canne and Cap d'Antibe there in the distance.