I had never heard of Èze until the day before I went there. My awesome friend Nadine put together an amazing itinerary, and because I was hyper planning every other part of the trip once I finished the leg of the trip with her, I was pretty much hands off with the finer details of that part of the trip. I even tried to limit my research time, often literally scrolling through stuff she sent me with one eye closed, forcing myself to skip over pictures. I wanted to be stupefied over how miraculous the world is and I didn’t want pictures to dull the experience beforehand. Yes, I know, I’m big on having perfect experiences.
Anyway. I digress. Èze is a small medieval village located in the south of France. It is tucked away in the hills that define the area. At every bend in the winding road leading to the top of the hill, you’re either treated to breathtaking views of the Mediterranean, lush foliage, or villas dotting the hillside. It is located in the Provence region, which I had heard of, mainly through reading French food memoirs, and because of an herb & seasoning blend called Herbes de Provence.
My life kind of came full circle when we happened upon a spice & herb stand in the hills of Èze. Trays and trays of different blends, all written in french (I do believe learning french is easier when you’re in a supermarket), somehow preserved by the fresh air. I bought Herbes de Provence IN Provence! I had a serious food nerd freakout…I rushed to my friend and the conversation sort of went like this:
Me: “we’re in Provence, right?”
Nads: “Well, we’re in Èze, but -”
Me: “No, but we’re IN the REGION of PROVENCE??!”
Nads: “Yes” (slowly backs away)
Me: *runs to the stand while trying to look nonchalant like I buy herbs and spices in the mountains all the time*
We also got to check out the famous Fragonard Perfume factory. For such a big brand, it was amazing to see how small the operation is, and the speed at which the operators work. We got to play a blind smell test game, and while I identified two of my favourite scents (coffee and lemon) correctly, I’m ashamed that the bored looking men on the tour seemed to be able identify more scents than I did.
What I’ve noticed is that Herbes de Provence refers to a generally standard combination of dried herbs, but the amount of each herb varies. You can easily make your own combination and refine it based on your taste. The Herbes de Provence mix that I bought goes heavy on the thyme and rosemary, and there are varying amounts of marjoram, oregano, and savory. Many combinations include lavender, although that seems to be optional. I’ve even seen recipes with sage and fennel. Martha Stewart’s Herbes de Provence recipe found here is a pretty decent mix and seems to best resemble the combination that I bought, once you switch the rosemary and savory measurements.
Whenever I come across a new spice blend, I tend to use it in the most foolproof, regular way possible to really taste how it is, and to figure out where to go from there. I decided to go with old faithful, oven baked fries. You can rarely go wrong with good old potatoes.
Lemony Herbes de Provence Oven Baked Fries
Preheat oven to 410 degrees. Toss potatoes with olive oil, Herbes de Provence, salt and black pepper. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Flip fries over, and bake for another 15 minutes until crispy. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve immediately.
I had these fries with moutarde – I will continue to call it moutarde because hey, it’s still funny. Check my Salade Nicoise post if you don’t get the joke.