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Provence for the Impecunious


Sure, I'd like to spend the summer in Provence; who wouldn't? Sipping a dry rosé somewhere along Aix's Cours Mirabeau, a sparkling fountain always in sight, is my idea of an afternoon well-spent, but alas, not this year. By way of compensation, there is, however, the Fig Tree's “A Taste of Provence” summer menu available until July 31st. As the Fig has become the city's premier classic-French restaurant, opportunities such as this are not to be dismissed lightly. $48 dollars (plus $12 for a recommended wine pairing) will get you a trip to the south of France that doesn't require language lessons. You should take them anyway, of course.

The menu begins with a choice between beignets de fleurs de courgette farcies or the terrine de legumes. Ok, they're translated as zucchini blossom beignets (or fritters) and vegetable terrine, but I still think French classes are a good idea. You just never know�With your choice, if you have elected the wine pairing, comes the exquisitely fragrant but elegantly restrained Chateau Routas Rosé Var, 2008. Crevette bleue a la provençale and loup de mer grillée are the next options. If it were up to me, the sea bass would beat out the shrimp, but it would be hard to trump the Mas de la Dame Rosé du Mas 2008 from one of the region's legendary producers.

Moving on to a deeper wine from Mas de la Dame, the Rouge 2006, one finds its partners in either pan-seared, marinated lamb tenderloin or grilled lamb chops with roasted garlic creamâ??a toss-up, if you ask me. Dessert consists of a Hill Country peach croustade or the poached fruit of the day a la mode. There's no paired wine, but the Fig Tree's list can surely come up with a honeyed Sauternes or Banyuls should you be so inspired. It's not necessary to wear linen or read Peter Mayle beforehand, but just like French lessons, it can't hurt.

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