Fête du Melon

Our internet service is up and running, and just in time for me to tell you about last week’s excursion to Cavaillon for the annual melon festival. For those of you imagining this event has something to do with France’s policy regarding toplessness on its beaches (they are pro), those aren’t the kind of melons I mean. Perv.

This festival, held in the Provençal village known for having the best melon in all of France, features tastings, cooking competitions, open air meals and stands selling every type of melon-based product imaginable. Also on the schedule was the honor of “best melon” being bestowed upon some lucky cucurbitaceae (yes, people here take it seriously enough to know the fruit’s family name) by the honorable Chevaliers of the Order of the Melon of Cavaillon (no kidding).

Unfortunately, however, we got some faulty information and arrived a full day before the real festivities were scheduled to begin. So we missed all of that stuff. We did have an unforgettable lunch at the spectacularly famous Restaurant Prevot, though. Jean-Jacques Prevot is known throughout France (further, even, as I’ve seen articles about his restaurant in English magazines as well) for his haute cuisine approach to the humble melon.

He first began experimenting with different ways to prepare melon thirty years ago, and it took twenty-five before his ideas really caught on, an anecdote he shared with us when he came out to our table to say hello and even pose for a picture with us. People in Cavaillon thought he was crazy for suggesting that a melon might be baked or fried or served in any fashion other than sliced into wedges. He stuck with his vision, though, and his lifetime devotion to the melon is evident in every corner of the restaurant, where his sketches and paintings of melons hang on every wall and melon-shaped knick-knacks cover the surface of every shelf and sideboard.

The real attraction, though, was the meal itself, to which I can only hope that my description will do justice. Even the rolls were in the shape of melons! Photos of each course of the meal can be found under “Photos” at right.

We started with a melon-flavored cocktail called Mélanis (buy a bottle to take home!), served on ice with a melon ball floating on the top. This came with mushrooms sautéed in garlic and olive oil and tiny choux pastries with thick-cut smoked ham skewered on top of them.

Next arrived a savory melon crumble topped with minced guinea hen and a deep-fried melon accompanied by a tiny snifter of caramel sauce. Then we enjoyed cold melon soup with a melon ball and black sesame seed salad, which tasted as though a splash of the aforementioned melon alcohol had been added.

Then came the big guns: melon and sea bass layered and served upon a hot stone with a melon seed sauce and a side of steamed green and yellow zucchini with ginger. And in case you thought you had seen it all, lobster and melon soup baked inside a Cavaillon melon with a flaky crust on top.

Dessert was a trio of melon delights, including a slice of melon sautéed in vanilla and rum, fresh melon slices surrounded by raspberry mascarpone and a melon macaroon surrounding a scoop of homemade melon sorbet.

Needless to say, Restaurant Prevot lived up to its well-deserved reputation for serving
fresh, delicious, totally original dishes. Bravo, Jean-Jacques. On behalf of these two diners, thanks for sticking with it. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the virtues of melon and after this lunch, we didn’t feel bad about missing the festivities at all.


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