In France, September 17th, 2012 kicks off the week-long nationwide dining-out promotion called Tous au Restaurant, which means "Everyone to the Restaurant." Launched in 2010 by superstar chef Alain Ducasse, it's meant to motivate people to eat out: in mom-and-pop bistros, in top Michelin-starred restaurants and in everything in between. Organizers hope it will be particularly appealing to young people and others ''discovering the world of gastronomy for the first time.'' The first Tous au Restaurant event drew 82,000 diners; by last year that number had swelled to 400,000. This year, roughly 1,200 restaurants across France will participate. The promotion ends September 23rd and the reservation ''hotline'' opens Wednesday, September 5th.
So what's the deal? Diners who reserve can enjoy two prix-fixe meals (appetizer, main course and dessert) for the price of one. Pas mal!, as the French would say, when something is very good indeed.
As of this writing, there were 69 restaurants in Provence participating. These include some of the top tables in the region, many of them with Michelin stars : Restaurant Marc de Passorio at the Hotel Vallon de Valrugues (St. Rémy), Le Croc Chou (Verquieres), the Auberge de Noves (Noves), La Fenière (Lourmarin), Le Petit Nice (Marseille), Crillon le Brave (Crillon le Brave), Hièly Lucullus (Avignon), Le Saule Pleureur (Monteux), L’Hostellerie Berard (La Cadière d'Azur), the Chateau des Fines Roches (Chateauneuf-du-Pape), La Cabro d'Or (Les Baux), L'Oustau de Baumanière (Les Baux), Restaurant Prevot (Cavaillon), La Bastide de Moustiers (Moustiers Sainte Marie), Hostellerie de l'Abbaye de la Celle (La Celle en Provence), Le Moulin de Mougins (Mougins) and many more.
Organizers say the week-long festival is not designed to be a money-maker—many restaurants just break even--but rather to get people out dining, discovering and enjoying. It’s a great opportunity to sample a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try...or to act like a big shot and treat a friend to a fancy meal.
New this year is a bus transformed into a mobile restaurant--the "Resto Truck"--that will park at ‘’emblematic’’ spots in the French capital and serve 80 meals at lunch and dinner, each prepared by a different chef, some of them quite famous such as Thierry Marx.
Reservations for all participating restaurants will be available online only, starting September 5 at 10 am…and they go fast. So eyeball the list, pick your favorites and get your tables booked, people! Details about each restaurant’s specific promotion (lunch vs. dinner, what days, what price) are currently being posted as they’re sorted out. The Tous au Restaurant website in English is here.
But wait, there’s more! Next we have the Fête de la Gastronomie on September 22, with almost 900 culinary events currently planned in France and other countries. The idea here is to celebrate the diversity of French cuisine and food traditions. The program was inspired by the format of the nationwide Fete de la Musique, when open-air music fills streets all over France. Ths year’s patron is famed chef Michel Guerard. Among the many events are free food samples at stores all over France, special markets, live cooking demos, lavish picnics, an amateur cooking competition and discounts at restaurants. It’s a little hard to figure out what’s what on the website so I’d wait a couple weeks...then click here and plug in your postal code to see what's being offered near you. Bon App!