Provence abounds with gourmet goodies to savor on the spot or take home for lucky friends or family. Here’s a list of some of the more popular items you can find around the region. Somehow these treats seem to disappear quickly in our home, so if you find yourself in the same situation, I’ve included a few links for boutiques selling many of these products online.
Most often associated with Aix-en-Provence, calissons are made with a paste of candied fruit and ground almonds & topped with icing. Similar in texture to marzipan, but with fruiter tones, calissons are frequently almond-shaped.
*Take a morning off to book a tour of Calissons du Roi Rene, a calisson factory in Aix-en-Provence: http://www.calisson.com/
According to tradition, the “real” Provencal nougat is “noir” (or dark) and considered one of the stars of the annual 13 desserts of Christmas (treize desserts de Noel). You will find both white & dark varieties composed of 50% honey, 50% almonds, & “papier azyme” – and 100% guaranteed not to stick to your teeth.
Herbes de Provence
Provence is famous for its herbs, and quite rightly the culinary “poster child” for this region is this mix of savory, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, & fennel (some combinations vary). Used to season everything from chicken to gratins, you’ll find this magic herb combo at supermarkets and gourmet shops.
What would a trip to the fabled lavender capital of the world be without picking up a sample or two? Not to worry, you won’t be disappointed in your selection. From lavender sachets to lavender-infused honey, you’ll have ample souvenirs to take home. Lavender soaps are especially easy to tote in your suitcase as gifts. Here’s a post about one of my favorite “lavender boutiques” in the village of Le Castellet.
There are wine-tours and vineyards galore in the south of France, and even though you might be tempted to stick a few bottles in your suitcase, thankfully many domaines also offer shipping all around the world. And since on our last tasting, the owner mentioned his greatest orders of Rosé were going to Americans I thought he might just offer us a few cases in the form of international goodwill. Well, it’s always nice to have dreams.
Soaps (Savon de Marseille)
You’ll find many colorful soaps at the Provençal markets, but few qualify as official Savon de Marseille – whose ingredients and processing follow strict guidelines. Personally, I go in for the pretty little bars that smell nice, but if you want the real deal, be prepared to spend a little more and look for a label of authentication.
You may be a bit surprised by this one, but believe me, Provence has some of the finest chocolate makers around. Namely, one family-run operation named Puyricard. If you choose to gift someone with a few of those golden boxes, you might possibly have a friend for life. Simply delicious.
Now we’re entering dangerous territory, as the markets have a wide range of edible goodies and housewares that might see you buying more valise (luggage) to carry all those precious finds. As with the Savon, make sure to check that some of the ceramics are the “real deal” and not just cheap replicas. Let the buyer, and kindly tourist, beware.
Here are a few online shops specializing in Provençal foods & housewares: