Devon Fredericks might be married to one of New York’s food icons, Eli Zabar, but she has her own amazing story as one of the previous owners (with Susan Costner) of the tiny but iconic Loaves and Fishes market in Sagaponack. They sold it to Anna Pump in 1980, and published the original Loaves and Fishes Cookbook the same year.
Original copies of the book, which sold for $7.95, have been found online for four figures–but occasionally, you can find them for less. I bought a copy on Amazon recently for just $92 plus shipping–a comparative bargain.
Eli Zabar has long been associated with the Upper West Side thanks to his father and brothers’ eponymous specialty food shop, but it’s the Upper East Side where Eli built his empire, starting in 1973 with E.A.T. on Madison Avenue. Today, there is Eli’s Manhattan, perhaps the most pleasant place to shop for groceries in the city and Eli’s Table, a perfect-for-any-occasion restaurant that was recently renovated and reopened. Eli also has a hugely successful bread business, shipping loaves of his French-inspired bread to restaurants and shops across the city.
And Devon is the creative queen of Eli Zabar’s gift baskets. Though they’re available year-round, basket orders soar in the fall and over the holiday season and she packs the most abundant and fun gift baskets to ship all over the U.S., such as “The Gift of Good Coffee” or the “Organic Gift Basket,” plus the ultimate holiday baskets–Chanukah with a menorah-shaped challah bread or the Christmas Classic with ginger cake and holiday cookies.
Eli and Devon have homes in New York, Paris and Mustique, where they gather with friends and family, including their twin sons, Oliver and Sasha, both of whom are now working for and innovating on new projects for the family business—Oliver runs Eli’s Night Shift, a café that turns into a wine bar in the evening, at 79th Street and Third Avenue. But Devon calls their home in Provence her “favorite place on earth,” and she has shared her insider tips below.
Until your next trip, you can order the “Provencal Gift Basket,” filled with Eli’s signature olive rosemary crisps, black olives, French cheeses and much more.
Devon Fredericks on Provence
How would you describe yourself professionally?
“When I married Eli Zabar I knew I was marrying someone who worked all the time and that I would work alongside him if I ever wanted to see him. I imagined our children dying of boredom as we endlessly discussed ”the business.” Never did I imagine that 30 years later, the four of us (add twin boys) would be endlessly discussing “the business.” It’s our life.
Thirty years ago we bought a house in the Vaucluse. The village is Ménerbes. It is my favorite place on earth. Arriving after months in New York I need only to breathe deeply, push a few pieces of furniture into place and I am home.”
Breakfast or coffee spot
“Home in bed, always.”
On favorite restaurants
“This is a region that suffers from a lack of simple, easy, good restaurants. Home is the place to eat. That said, Café du Progrès in Ménerbes is nice for coffee or lunch with a killer view.”
What To See
“La Louve, the garden of Nicole de Vésian [who designed for Hermès in the 1950s and ’60s] and the Louise Bourgeois Chapel, 20 steps from each other, both in Bonnieux, both by appointment.”
“On Saturday mornings, you have to choose between the huge vibrant market in Apt, continuous since Roman times or the small, easy and has everything-you-really-need market in Petit Palais, where you are likely to bump into a friend and have a coffee.
Apt also has the wonderful wine store V Comme Vin and there are stores that offer poterie d’Apt, one selling marvelous antique pieces (treat it like a tiny museum) and one with new services made to order. I’ve had my plates for 30 years, made by M. Faucon. I always tried to convince him to lend me one of his donkeys for the summer, but he said they were badly behaved.”
Where To Shop For Clothing
“Do not be tempted to invest in Provençal-style clothing. It only looks good in Provence.”
Where To Shop For a Special Gift
Where To Shop For Food
“The markets are everything, but we love Poissonnerie LO in Coustellet for fish (ask them to order tellines) and the tiny cheese store they have added next door. Last summer we got kind of addicted to the pissaladière from Boucherie Malavard in Apt, an old store rediscovered.
A new store we love is La Croûte Céleste in Robion for excellent sourdough loaves and fantastical bread sticks. Get in line at 3:00 p.m., if you want a loaf.”
For First-Time Visitors
“I like reading about the place I am while I am there. Two books about Provence that I love and force on anyone who shows interest are: A Village in the Vaucluse by Harvard sociologist Lawrence Wiley and The Road from the Past: Traveling Through History by Ina Caro.
This is not the easiest region to be a tourist in, especially in summer when it can be very hot. It’s a place for living, breathing, admiring the light and just being (maybe that’s called relaxing)
Life is labor-intensive, and for us market-driven. If you are in a hotel, you miss the opportunity to treat shopping as an activity, followed by cooking and eating. Is there anything else? The rhythm of the region is up early for walks, food shopping, whatever activities you’ve chosen, then lunch and a long nap in the shade. Life resumes at the end of the afternoon as people emerge and prepare for l’apéro, pétanque and ultimately, dinner, although it’s often after 9:oo p.m. before anyone feels like sitting down and eating. Sadly my old favorite activity, buying the Herald Tribune [which ceased publication in 2013 and changed to the International New York Times] and whiling the morning away over coffee in a village cafe is no longer a thing.
Watching the sun set is a major activity, with color coordinated rosé of course!
It is an area with good bike routes made better by the use of electric bikes. A market can then become a source for your picnic along the way.
PRO TIP: “If jet lag and the heat get you, there is a wonderful evening market in Velleron at 6:00 sharp every night but Sunday. People are only selling what they grow, proudly displaying farm to market in the very truest sense.”