If you find yourself on the backroads of Provence near Montelimar and exploring the wine road area you may run across Domaine Eyguebelle just south of the city. If you are not in the area, then make a point of getting there. Bringing tasty items like fruit syrop back from Provence in your luggage is always an exercise in the art of compromise. Bottles are heavy and the luggage weight limits on international flights are down to 31.8 kilos per check in bag. So if I had a choice of bringing home a bottle of French wine or a bottle of Eyguebell syrop, it would have to be a fairly rare bottle of wine for me to leave the Eyguebelle behind. You can always find a bottle of French wine back in the states. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who sells or even knows who this greatest of all distilled fruit syrops and liquers is. Even if someone made a lucky guess and suggested that you can buy Creme de Menthe at their shop, it is unlikely that they would know that it was actually invented by the monks at the Eyguebelle Monastery.

Hai Karate Aftershave

Ah yes, that wonderfully green forgotten liquer that tastes like mint.  The first time I had a taste of this concoction it was back in the 1960s when I was just a boy.  I was at a neighborhood friend’s house and there was a crystal decanter on the living room coffee table filled with an electric green liquid.  I don’t know whether it was just a 1960s era attraction to anything that would look cool under a black strobe light, or a James Bond attitude of “suave and debonaire” having purchased Hai Karate aftershave for dad at Christmas that heightened my curiousity.  Perhaps it was simply a kid’s fascination of things like bug guts that made the green liquid too hard to pass up.  I took a snort and recall being somewhat underwhelmed.  I am not a real mint fan.

But I didn’t even find out that the Eyguebelle monks had invented creme de menthe until I was about 1/2 the way through the factory tour.  I had been drinking other syrops like Tessier for years.  My wife’s family would send them to us each Christmas and the kids absolutely love mixing real fruit syrops like raspberry, almond and cassis with Perrier, San Pellegrino or even ordinary tap water.  I realized that these commercially available syrops were indeed “kids stuff” when it compares to the world of Eyguebelle.  Following the short factory tour and museum walk we wandered into a factory store with a bewildering array of shelves loaded with bottles of syrops, aperitifs and liquers for sale.  The entire family drifted away in a state of wonder, looking at all the flavors.

Eyguebelle Syrops

There was syrop for just about every natural fruit extract you can imagine.  Then there is a complementary alcohol-based liquer that matches each syrop in the same selection of fruit flavors.  For example, I was drawn to the fig syrop.  It just sounded interesting.  So when I elbowed my way up to the syrop bar – that’s correct, Eyguebelle has a syrop bar long enough to serve about 10 people and the boy behind the counter asks you for your flavor, pulls a full bottle from the rack behind him, puts in a shot, adds spring water and delicately places an ice cube in the glass – I asked for the fig syrop.  Tasting that cold fig in ice water was heavenly.  Then the bartender asked with a smile if I would like to taste the creme de figue.  This alcohol-based version of the syrop I had just tasted, he explained, won the bronze medal at the 2006 industry competition in Paris.  He was right.  This liquer, not mixed with water but taken with a simple ice cube in th glass, was over the top.

Fois Gras & Carmelized Fig

I think the reason I was so attracted to the fig flavor is that during my recent gastronomic adventure across Provence, I was turned on to the fact that fois gras goes very well with a sweet fruit and figs are often served to be eaten with fois gras.  So I hatched the plan that during Christmas, when fois gras is served at our home with friends, creme de figue would be introduced and blow the guests away.

So much for fig.  My wife was not terribly interested in fig.  My kids were wearing out thebartender with everything but fig.  I guess nobody else connected the fois gras thing.  Sometimes enjoying top shelf gourmet cuisine can be a lonely adventure.  The reality is that kids just like spaghetti.

So my kids were downing the raspberry (of course) and the strawberry and then advancing to the more sophisticated tastes of mandarine and green bannana (wow!)  My wife starting dipping into the flowers (yes flowers) and shared with me the poppy and the lavender syrop.  I began to realize that we were arriving at an impasse, yes a battle of wills.  With luggage already filled to the brim, how many bottles would it take to get the bag weight to within a gram of 31.8 kilos?  Then she did it.  My wife pulled out the famous Melonade liquer.  That single ice cube floating merrily in a couple of shots of this light orange liquid all resting in a pure crystal glass is nearly impossible to beat.  It tastes just like you are biting into a cold slice of fresh canteloupe.  So now I am thinking of prosciutto and melon rather than fois gras and fig.  She had me dead to rights.

Prosciutto & Melon

But alas, three children means six extra suitcases!!  So I am looking at my bottle cabinet with creme de figue, melonade and syrop of lavender, poppy, raspberry all at the same time.  What’s that hidden back there?  Could it be?  Yes!  It’s green bannana! What a holiday it will be.

Ciao for now!

For a real TechVoyageur experience, visit historic Rochemaure Castle in the heart of Provence!