Aïoli, the gutsy, garlicky emulsion that is sometimes referred to as the mayonnaise of Provence, has become a popular condiment on multi-culti menus. But aïoli (pronounced ay-OH-lee or i-OH-lee) is also part of a venerable harvest-time tradition in the South of France, a feast that begs for translation.
At the end of every summer, flyers go up in towns and villages all over sunny Provence announcing a communal feast, the ultimate potluck supper known as Le Grand Aïoli or Aïoli Monstre. Great bowls and mortars of garlicky aïoli are set up on long tables in town squares or in the fields, and people bring whatever food they have that is freshest.
Here’s how Le Grand Aïoli is being served around America.
Black Sheep Bistro
Spanish/French/Catalan restaurant in Tustin, California
Chef/owner: Rick Bouffard
Le Grand Aïoli Provencale
Party Platter (market price)
Available for parties of two or more on a call-ahead basis, this elaborate specialty features a large variety of different foods, including grilled chicken, lamb and fish, shellfish, and anywhere from 12 to 17 grilled and raw seasonal vegetables, depending upon the season and the number of diners.
Country French cooking in Oakland, California
Chef/Owners: Curt Clingman and Mary Jo Thoresen
Special Harvest Dinner
Multi-course Provençal-style dinner including boudin blanc (sausage) and Grand Aïoli, an assortment of seasonal and farmers’ market vegetables with aïoli. An end-of-summer menu is a perfect special event for this small, market-driven restaurant. Aïoli is also featured throughout the regular menu, often in the guise of a lemon-caper or watercress sauce for fish.
Mediterranean-style restaurant in the Lucerne Hotel, New York City
Chef/owner: Andrew D’Amico
Sunday Night Plat de Jour $19.50
Aïoli Monstre with salt cod, shrimp and fresh vegetables. Nice Matin’s traditional dish features chef D’Amico’s housemade salt cod aïoli. It’s also a component in the signature Five Napkin Burger and shows up with rosemary on roast leg of lamb.
Caterer specializing in fresh, seasonal and organic foods in Portland, Oregon
Owner: Grace Pae
Le Grand Aïoli Platter
$5.50 per person
Grilled artichokes and asparagus, fennel, roasted beets, hard-boiled eggs, roasted fingerling potatoes, capers and roasted peppers with sage garlic aïoli. Foodies are drawn to this convivial appetizer-platter option, which is offered year-round but varies according to what’s freshest in the market. Aïoli is also served as a sauce for grilled vegetables and on some of the specialty sandwiches.