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Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to chat with food writer Rebekah Peppler about her new cookbook, Le Sud. You’ve probably seen Peppler’s work in The New York Times, Bon Appétit, or Condé Nast Traveler, or perhaps you’ve picked up one of her previous books, Apéritif or À Table. An American living in Paris, she has spent a lot of time delving into the vast world of French cuisine, and her latest book zeroes in on the food and drink of Provence.

At the end of this month, I’ll be shipping out to France for two weeks, for a whirlwind trip through the Loire, the Camargue, and the Côte d’Azur. And I’ll actually be spending some time in Menton, a small town on the French-Italian border that gets quite a few mentions in Le Sud. Peppler and I gabbed about this beautiful village, a mutual obsession for us. This town is a foodie haven, since it actually has a subtropical microclimate that makes it warmer than other towns in the region. The mountains behind the seafront town create a protective barrier, isolating this sunny town (with an average of 316 days of sunshine per year) from the sharp chill of the mistral wind that cuts through Provence in winter and early spring. This means that food can be grown there that wouldn’t thrive anywhere else in France. In particular, the warm days and cool nights are perfect for growing citrus, which is why the local lemon variety, the Citron de Menton, is a protected species, and a symbol of the town. Local legend has it that when Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of heaven, Eve dropped a lemon on her way out, and the town of Menton was born.

While I’m there, I plan to eat and drink every lemon-based thing I can get my hands on: raviolis, pastries, lemonade, limoncello… Last time I was there—unfortunately, just for an afternoon this past September—I got a little taste of Menton’s citrus at Mirazur, Mauro Colagreco’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Menton. This restaurant is absolutely incredible, and I would be going back in a heartbeat if the tasting menu there didn’t cost more than my Airbnb for the weekend.

When I went, I was given a tour of the gardens embedded in the steep hills behind the restaurant, where much of the food served at Mirazur is grown. We were greeted with banana trees and other tropical fruits, and led to a garden shed where they catalog rare seeds for future use, including seeds for a species of onion that almost went extinct. This pink onion, known as the Rose de Menton, was revived only in recent years through dedicated efforts by small local farmers. It was explained to me there that in the “universe” of Mirazur, they believe in 365 seasons in a year—by which they mean that every day the garden brings new surprises that the restaurant’s kitchen team must adapt to for the daily menu.

This kind of extreme farm-to-table ethos speaks to the connection the Mentonnais feel to the land, and anyone who visits can sense the powerful synergy of the sea and the mountains, a town enclosed by a particular kind of magic. When I visit this time, I plan to see some more farms specializing in the Citron de Menton, and to explore some of the botanic gardens in and around the central hub of the harbor. In particular, I’ve got my eyes set on the Jardin d’agrumes du Palais Carnolès, where 137 varieties of citrus—many of them extremely rare—surround a palace that was once owned by the royal family of Monaco.

Anyway, I’ve got lemons on the brain. If I’ve gotten them on yours, too, you might want to grab a copy of Le Sud and try out Rebekah Peppler’s recipe for Tarte au Citron (ideally made, she notes, with Citrons de Menton, though Meyer lemons are a passable substitute). You could also dive into this newsletter Caitlin wrote in December on the French history of lemonade. Or maybe these Herbes de Provence Thumbprint Cookies with Lemon Curd, brought to us by Kate Christensen, are more your speed.

I bet I’ll pick up some more ideas for how to use these fabulous fruits on my trip, and I’ll be sure to share my finds when I do. In the meantime, I’ve got my eye on the Cannes Film Festival, which kicked off yesterday. You can stay up to date on our Cannes coverage with Andrea Meyer’s guide, below, which will be updated as the festival progresses.

Catherine Rickman, Editor-in-Chief

Stay in touch! I’d love to hear from you: [email protected].


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