Foodie adventures in the south of France
For the last two weeks I’ve been staying in Villefranche-sur-mer, close to Nice, France. I was awarded the fantastic opportunity of attending a course from the International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group (IOCCG) – more on that to come in a later post! Villefranche is a quaint little place, right on the sea, with a little centre of tiny streets which are full of seats for the patrons of the various small bistros. On the whole the food has been very good, with the influences from nearby Italy very apparent. The emphasis always seems to be on good quality ingredients, cooked in a simple way and in vast quantities – this has gone down very well with the variety of students on my course – who had come from Argentina, Australia, Russia, Kenya, Brazil, the States and various places in Europe.
The wine has also been good. It’s nice to go to a bar where the cheapest (and most delicious) thing to drink is wine! Even the cheap house wines are really very good. I’ve not been able to use my wine knowledge from SA as much as I would like as mostly wine here is labelled by region, rather than varietal, but I have definitely enjoyed the resulting “lucky draw” approach!
Since moving to Cape Town I have progressed to doing most of my food shopping at the various food markets within the city. I’ve raved about a number of them on my blog previously (see here and here), you can usually get good ranges of well priced and ethical produce.
The IOCCG course finished on friday, so yesterday my friends Kate and Evgeny and I went to Nice to explore its legendary flower and food market. Apologies for the picture quality, I’ve been without my favourite photographer for this trip
The Cours Saleya food and flower market is on every day except mondays (there’s a flea market then instead!) and takes place just off the Nice seafront. We took the train in from Villefranche and spent the morning wandering around the stalls, tasting delicious ready made foods and marvelling at the sheer volume of fresh, local produce.
I can’t really communicate quite how vast this market is compared to those in CT. I love our little veg stalls, but there is at least 25 times the amount of produce at Cours Salaya than we typically see. Everything from artichokes to aubergines and from fresh figs to fresh almonds is available here on a daily basis. I could probably manage to live in Nice!
We decided to celebrate our last night together in Villefranche with dinner at Le Bistrot de la Rade – a small restaurant in one of the backstreets of the town which is highly rated on trip advisor. We sat at a little table outside and the menu (a big blackboard) was brought to us along with olives and bread to nibble.
Both the waiter and waitress who served us were very knowledgable and spoke great English, allowing us to consider some of the more unusual dishes on the menu. The service was impeccable, none of us poured our own wine all evening! Everytime a glass emptied either our waiter or waitress would appear to refill with the chilled rose we had ordered.
Deciding to go for something a little special for our last meal, we ordered a couple of entrees and main meals to share (the portions here are so huge, there’s no way you’d eat a starter and main to yourself!). Kate chose escargot (snails!) and I chose the baked camembert with a pear and nut chutney. As much as I love food, there’s somethings I just can’t get over the image of when eating them – snails is one, octopus and oysters are others! Kate thoroughly enjoyed the snails though, they came in a cute little pot drenched in garlic and herb butter.
The camembert was perfectly baked – just gooey enough on the inside, with a slight crust on the outside. The pear and nut chutney was fantastic – I’m going to have to try and recreate it at home!
Kate and I shared a steak tartare for our main course. For those of you who don’t know steak tartare is usually a minced raw meat dish – sometimes marinaded in wine/vinegar and spices. Ours was delicious, the meat was very soft and perfectly seasoned, served with a generous portion of chips and salad.
Guangming ordered a mixed seafood grill which looked delicious. The scallops were very nice, but he wasn’t so impressed with the other parts of the dish – the fish was a little over cooked and so a little bitter and the rice (his speciality!) was also overcooked. A shame as otherwise our dinner was perfect! I’d definitely recommend a visit to this delightful little place if you are in Villefranche. The service was better than average but the prices were definitely less than average – a winner!
Tomorrow I head back from the sunny summer weather of Villefranche to wintery Cape Town. It’s been fun but I’m looking forward to getting back and indulging in some of Cape Towns fantastic winter restaurant deals and cooking lots of warming winter meals!