Monday, June 13, 2011

French Food

Published: 28th May 2011

Arriving in Paris early in the morning I sat comfortably at a table ina little café for a coffee & croissant.
It amused me to see Parisian’s dropped in, stand at the bar to drinkingcoffee, eat a croissant, read the morning papers, and off they would go. Such is a busy life when you don’t have thetime to sit and enjoy breakfast.

At lunch queues wind around corners at the best boulangerie for themost fabulous quiches, tarts, rolls and salads; eaten on a stool in the shop oron the go in the streets. Breakfast andlunch ‘on the run’ is obviously made up for at dinner when the sidewalk cafesare brimming with customers who live in minute inner city apartments and userestaurants as their social space.

A glance at the many restaurant menus showed consistency in traditional French dishes, but I was looking for a different food experience. Going solo infrance I was happy to gather fresh produce and have it at my apartment where Icould rest my weary body from walking the streets of Paris all day. I find markets and food stalls more exciting than tourist restaurants.

The fishmonger who sets up his stall outside a fashion shop, and thebutcher who has a wonderful selection of meats that are cut or prepared in manydifferent ways, rabbit, different styles of branded poultry (corn feed chicken quail, duck, goose etc). I loved how the fruit and vegetable stalls presented their wares, with masses of punnets of berries, water features to cool the lettuces and signs that tell you where everything is grown or produced. The vegetables are proudly presented as quality and the spring season at present is right for large white and small wild green asparagus and bright red ‘saveurs ancienne’ (heirloom) tomatoes. The Fromageries are to die for with a vast selection of cow, sheep and goat cheeses. Where milk is raw (not pasteurised) the cheese has a sensational creamy flavour. It was the chocolate and macaroon shops that I had to resist.

But now I am in southern France on the Cotes du Azur and ready to experience more regional flavours. I am here for a week with friends at a stunning location just outside the village of La Colle sur Loup in a beautiful house with an olive grove owned by a recognised architect/interior designer Jacqueline Morabito. This very chic house has views over the Mediterranean Sea and across the valley to the ancient
fortified village of Saint Paul de Vence.

Only two hours from Italy the cuisine is a blend of Provencal French and Italian with a growing influence of North Africa. Meals are simple and dishes reflect the bounty of produce from the region. Street markets stock only the best quality fresh products and in true French style, presentation and packaging are foremost.

Our evening meals are usually taken in the garden overlooking the olive grove (the oldest tree labelled approx.1,500 years old) and in this northern hemisphere sunlit evening we sit around a large weathered table to enjoy a simple traditional Nicoise meal. Pissaladiere, roasted peppers with garlic homemade olive oil and balsamic, red tomato and Mozzarella, white asparagus gently steamed and served with butter and parmesan along with a green salad, batard bread and a pinot noir.

Simple but magnificent! I need to pinch myself.

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