Among the multitudes of food festivals happening during the summer months, Aïoli fêtes are among some of the most numerous and most popular. And you’re quite unlikely to find a more traditional, lively, and classic Provençal experience.
Plus, as we discovered, they’re just good fun.
Having never experienced one of these garlic-filled evenings, we combed one of our favorite sites, Visit Var, for local fêtes and found quite a few villages were hosting aïoli parties in our area.
If you’re not familiar with aïoli, it’s a garlic mayonnaise used as a spread for vegetables, fish, and crusty breads. In the case of a grand aïoli, there is a well-defined list of foods to be served with said spread, namely cod, snails, mussels, eggs, potatoes, and summer vegetables.
For the night of our grand aïoli, which took place in the small village of La Moutonne (a commune of La Crau) in the Var, we had to reserve with the local pizzeria/café/ village gossip-hub, and as soon as I got off the phone with barman “Jimmy”, I had the feeling we were in for one special night.
All jokes aside, when Nicolas, Kathy, and I strolled up to the main square of La Moutonne on that Saturday night, we had half a mind to pile back in the car and head for a real pizzeria.
Luckily, Jimmy came out of the pizzeria and spotted us right away: “Ahh, les anglais!” Well, I love the English as much as the next person, but we were going to be American & proud that evening – at least me and Kathy were… And then we were seated at one of the back tables with perhaps the nicest bunch of strangers I’ve ever been fortunate to participate in a conga line with… Yes, after our aïoli course (which, let’s admit is an acquired taste for some; ie… mucho garlic) we danced the night away with our new friends to Michael Jackson, French pop classics, and just a bit of Salsa to get les hips moving.
Don’t be afraid to dip into a bowl of aïoli, or to get off the beaten path in Provence, these villagers really know how to treat their guests right.
To Learn More:
David Lebovitz’s Aïoli recipe here.
Must Love Garlic: Summer Aïoli on NY Times.
Steamed Cod with Favas & Aïoli recipe.
Summer Aïoli Feast, NY Times.
Warm Chickpeas & Green Bean Salad with Aïoli recipe.
Simple Artichokes + Aïoli, Sprouted Kitchen.