Potatoes Gratin prepared in the style of Michelin-starred chef Eduoard Loubet’s grandmother.

THE LUBERON - After a blissful three days in Provence our next stop was the Luberon, where we met the Centre Pompidou Foundation travel program. The group is essentially an “American Friends” committee that helps build the collection of American art at the museum through purchases and gifts, building on the legacy of Dominique de Menil, who led the group for twenty years from 1977-1997.

We checked into a charming hotel in Gordes after visiting the outdoor market in the town of Loumarin, and trying, without success, to have a grand aioli for lunch. The group was arriving from Paris the next morning, and we were to meet at the newly opened Château La Coste in Le Puy Saint Reparade, where architects Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, and Jean Nouvel have constructed a winery and other buildings on the beautiful 250 hectare estate which is populated by artworks by Louise Bourgeois, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Sean Scully, and Andy Goldsworthy, to name a few. Alas, I thought we were going to the Château de Lacoste, a medieval castle in the nearby town of Lacoste, the former home of the Marquis de Sade – which is now owned by Pierre Cardin and is open to the public. So we were stranded there, without transportation (it was lunchtime in Provence after all, and not one taxi driver could be persuaded to help), for a torturous afternoon (pun intended). We finally caught up with the group for dinner at La Chabaude, the home of Scott Stover, the executive director of the Centre Pompidou Foundation, and his partner Philippe Cottet, a renowned landscape architect who has artfully developed a magnificent green garden for the estate.

Two-star Michelin chef Edouard Loubet with Ann Colgin and Scott Stover of the Centre Pompidou Foundation’s Executive Committee.

Scott invited Edouard Loubet, a two-star Michelin chef who owns a restaurant at La Bastide de Capelongue in the nearby town of Bonnieux, to prepare our dinners.  Loubet was trained in the style of Marc Veyrat, a chef from the Haute-Savoie region who specializes in the use of mountain plants and herbs harvested in the French Alps.

Enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while taking in the sunset.

After copious hors d’oeuvres while we watched the sun set, we started our multi-course dinner with a soup of agastache (anise hyssop, in case that helps!), with a girolle mushroom mousseline and truffle oil. None of us had had anything remotely like it before, and it received rave reviews. We also loved the second course – a summer truffle en croute, with popcorn and burnet leaves. The fish course was a loup, or Mediterranean sea bass seasoned with fleur de sel, and a light infusion of sage, decorated with orange chips. But we weren’t done yet. The chef produced a cast iron pan in which he was grilling and smoking a rack of lamb on a bed of fragrant wild thyme. With that came a classic gratin that was his grandmother’s recipe – as rich and gooey and delicious as you could ever hope for.

A chocolate and crème anglaise cake with a truffle crumble on top.

For dessert, truffles appeared again as a crumble on top of a cake of chocolate and crème anglaise lightly scented with thyme.  We couldn’t believe how fantastic the food was and how much we ate, although we were slightly nervous about the next night, when we would be eating at his restaurant, where we were told he would make a more complicated and more finessed menu.

Lawrence Weiner’s installation, Ruptured, part of the The Masterpieces of the Yvon Lambert donation on view at the Collection Lambert through 11 November.

The next day, we embarked for Avignon, to visit the Collection Lambert. The gallerist and collector Yvon Lambert donated his collection of some 350 works to this contemporary art museum, which contains a strong core of Minimal and Conceptual Art, as well as exceptional works by Cy Twombly, Robert Ryman, Anselm Kiefer, among others. Housed in an eighteenth century building, it has beautiful high ceilings and large windows that create an ideal setting for the art. We were also fortunate to have lunch at Yvon Lambert’s home, where museum director Eric Mezil toured us through his eclectic personal collection from antiquities to contemporary art including work done specifically for the home by Kiefer, Nan Goldin, Louise Lawler and others. We dined in the garden, starting with a beautiful spring salad of greens, asparagus, and shaved parmesan, trying to show some restraint, because dinner awaited.

The filet of beef en croute served at the Bastide de Capelongue.

After the briefest of siestas and a glass of rosé in Judith Pillsbury’s garden, we arrived at Loubet’s very charming Bastide de Capelongue for dinner. Happily, common sense prevailed, and the menu was slightly simplified, although we still had a feast. We started with a thin-crusted pizza with summer truffles – we couldn’t get enough of these so they just kept on coming. In a beautiful pool of pale green foam, little snails stewed with a “tobacco” of Luberon herbs; followed by a lobster and marjoram preparation with steamed vegetables and citrus notes; and finally a filet of beef en croute with profusion of herbs, crispy salad, and by now the ubiquitous truffle juice. Dessert was a raspberry millefeulle with cardamom white chocolate mousseline and a bergamot-scented raspberry coulis.  The cuisine was inventive, fresh, and brilliantly orchestrated as the herbs and truffles became the connective tissue between courses. Will the Michelin team give this talented chef a much-deserved third star, please!