The Accidental Locavore thinks that sometimes the old saying “no good deed goes unpunished” doesn’t hold true in France. Many of our most memorable meals come when my husband and I have been exploring places one of us has little or no interest in (all the F1 racetracks in France) and afterwards, as a reward we always seem to find an amazing meal.
Such was the case when we went off in search of the one big tourist attraction in Nice we had never seen, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. This was an adventure that the Locavore had wanted to do for a while, but Frank is not a big church guy and it was pretty far off our regular routes. Along the way, down Avenue Victor Hugo, possibly the most beautiful street in Nice, we came upon a little corner bistro, with a simple but interesting menu, a possibility for lunch later.
After a mostly nice, long walk we came to the Cathedral. Built by Tzar Nicholas and finished in 1912, it’s big and beautiful, with azure and green tiled onion domes surrounded by an intricate cast iron fence…locked! Now why a church would be closed on Good Friday is beyond me, but it’s probably because the Russian Orthodox religion has Easter on a different calendar than we do. Back home we schlepped, with me hoping that lunch at le Victor Hugo would be good enough to erase his short-term memory of a long walk for a closed cathedral.
You had to know it was going to be fine when the musician (my husband) was seated under a painting of a conductor. You had to know it was going to be fine when there was no menu, just a recitation of the day’s three main courses. You had to really hope it was going to be fine, when Frank ordered a lunchtime pastis. And you had to relax and know it was going to be fine when you got really hungry, seeing what the guy at the next table was eating.
While Frank sipped his drink, the hostess/waitress brought an amuse bouche of salami and a smooth pâté on tiny slices of ficelle (a baguette’s skinny cousin) I had a starter of white asparagus with green tips in a simple vinaigrette. Then we both had the côte de boeuf, perfectly grilled, sprinkled with sea salt and served with béarnaise sauce on the side. It tasted as good as it looked! But what would any steak in France be without a side of frites? These were small cubes, golden brown, hot, salty and amazingly good! As Frank noticed, somehow each and every piece of potato was perfectly fried on each surface. Definitely in the top ten of potatoes I have eaten, and believe me, we ate all of them!
As we left, Frank looked at an adjoining table and said wistfully (and on a full stomach) “They got an entree portion of the potatoes….”