France

La Fin

by Anne Maxfield on February 29, 2016

Accidental Locavore Nice at NightIt’s always at the end of a trip that you discover stuff you wish you’d known before. On the next-to-last day in Nice, the Accidental Locavore discovered that if you hit the good bakery just at 12:30, the baguettes are blissfully warm! If I didn’t have a lunch reservation at one of my favorite restaurants, Le Victor Hugo (another last day discovery on a previous trip), the bread would have been covered with one of several cheeses I’d collected. And if Victor Hugo was open for dinner…

Accidental Locavore Green and White TulipsAnother idea that occurred to me on the way to the marché, was that I should have been looking for events etc. on Meetup. Duh. One of my goals there was to build a network, but it’s difficult when you really don’t have a starting point. I’m also used to the old France, before smart phones. People had conversations in restaurants with whoever was sitting next to them (or at least their dogs). Now everyone is so involved with their devices (also guilty) that they’re in their own little worlds (and the dogs look bored).

Accidental Locavore Sausage and PolentaChecking out a couple of AirBnB apartments for future trips would have been a good idea and it would have been fun to see some real estate. There were a couple that looked good in the pictures, but I’d want to know exactly where they were before committing for a month.

Accidental Locavore Fountains in the ParkMy last lunch was at a tiny wine store, not far from the Promenade du Paillon, a beautifully rebuilt series of parks, dividing the old city and the beach from the rest of the city. They’ve got a great selection of biodynamic (organic) wines and a small area in the back with marble tables and funny Formica chairs you may remember from kindergarten. There’s a plat du jour but only at lunch, otherwise, it’s just cheese and charcuterie (never a bad thing). That day it was Figatellu a Corsican sausage, slightly smoked, and served over polenta, with some poivron for color. So simple and just amazing—I’ll be back!

Accidental Locavore Along the MedLike tomatoes in August or wine at lunch in France, some things are just better sur place. I’ll take home with me the memories of walking along the beach by the Promenade des Anglais, hearing the tumbling of the rocks in the sea. I’ll wish I was one of the insiders at Safari, getting bisous from the waiters who have been there as long as I can remember. And if I was a resident, maybe even bisous from the women at Victor Hugo and the crew at the boulangerie.

Accidental Locavore Golden PotatoesI’ll come home and wish the potatoes had flavor, the bread had crunch and the cheese, ah well the cheese. But I’ll also know that I’ll be back, and soon!

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Frozen in France

by Anne Maxfield on February 8, 2016

Accidental Locavore Frozen FoodWell, it’s not what you think. Yes, the Accidental Locavore was in the South of France, and no, there was no snow there (sunny and warm). Out of curiosity, I wandered into a store I’ve always seen here and never gone in—Picard. It’s well know all over France, selling nothing but frozen food. It’s so far beyond anything you’ve ever seen in any grocery store in the US, I thought it would make an interesting story.

Accidental Locavore Picard InteriorWhen you walk in, it’s glacial (looking, not temperature). Shiny white walls and endless rows of white freezers. There are categories for every type of international foods, with an emphasis (might be just seasonal) on Asian dishes. All I can say is that you’ll wish it was a shorter flight home and you could pack a freezer bag (they sell all different sizes) full of goodies.

Accidental Locavore Frozen Dog FoodOne of the things I would have brought back in a flash was a big bag full of trimmed, ready to stuff, artichoke bottoms – extremely reasonable at about $8 for a kilo. There were eight kinds of mashed potatoes, from straight-up ones, to purple, truffled and more. Leeks come whole or sliced (because you know how hard it is to slice up a leek…). Dog food makes an appearance as well as that old party staple–pigs in a blanket.

Accidental Locavore Pigs in a BlanketI settled on a dozen escargots and some beef carpaccio. It was too warm for soup, but it would have been great when I was sick and craving soup. Even though the photo of the saumon en croûte was beautiful, but too much food and maybe a little risky for a first attempt. The other issue was that while there’s an oven here, it’s extremely complex and just getting it to microwave took me a couple of days to figure out, so if the escargots (which need a hot oven) didn’t work out, it wasn’t going to be a huge loss.

Accidental Locavore CarpaccioThe carpaccio was pretty good and certainly easy enough to prepare. You just unwrap it, plate it and pop in in the fridge for 3 hours until its thawed. The basil olive oil sauce that came with it was fine, a little shaved Parmesan would have been lovely with it, but someone forgot and was too lazy to go get some.

Accidental Locavore EscargotsThe escargots were another story. I did figure out the oven and managed to cook them until they were properly bubbly and hot. The butter sauce wasn’t garlicy enough and the escargot were sort of flaccid. I ate a few, dunked a piece of baguette in the sauce and dumped most of them. Probably the soups and other less adventurous dishes are fine and if you don’t want frozen food, there are stores popping up that sell nothing but canned fish…Accidental Locavore Canned Fish

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It Started With Olives

by Anne Maxfield on January 25, 2016

Accidental Locavore Green Olives and PitsIt started with the olives…small and green with garlic and herbs. Six, to be savored while sipping wine and waiting for the main course. Well worth searching out.

Accidental Locavore Nice PortTo be truthful, it actually started out the other day when the Accidental Locavore was walking around the port. In another year or two it will once again be spectacular, but for now, it’s a glorified construction zone, awaiting the continuance of the tram. I saw a cute place on the corner and the menu looked interesting, so I filed it away for a future lunch.

Accidental Locavore le Passe Plat InteriorLe passe-plat is an open room, casual, with lamps perched on top of piles of wine boxes. There’s an open kitchen – rare for here, filled with copper pots, mason jars with spices and a handsome chef, Anthony Coppet, straight from central casting, dark hair, piercing blue eyes and two days’ stubble.

I went in, curious about the pot au feu with Thai spices, but ended up with the plat du jour. On this particular jour, it was a veal steak with a wild mushroom cream sauce and mashed potatoes.

Accidental Locavore Veal With Cream SauceThe veal turned out to be grilled and had that great grilled taste. The cream sauce was wonderful, with lots of mushrooms and possibly just a hint of Roquefort. There were a couple of cherry tomatoes as garnish, roasted into sweetness. And what can you say about mashed potatoes? It’s France and they were great!

One of the things I always wonder about here is why most restaurant tables have four legs. It’s what French Morning NY would call a question bête, but here’s my answer – more room for dogs to stretch out. It struck me as amusing that the couple sitting by the window (with a dog) had risotto with scallops, which were served in a dish that had an uncanny resemblance to a dog’s bowl. Just saying.

Accidental Locavore Cheese Board in NiceExpanding on my vocabulary, I learned that the ardoise de fromages was what I was hoping for – a cheese plate, and since ardoise means slate, it arrived on a handsome slab. On the slate were a Brie, a chèvre rolled in herbs, a gooey vacherin and a semi-soft cheese like a mild Pont-l’Évêque. They were all good and worked well together and with the fig compote, but the chèvre was outstanding! Another thing to try to hunt down. I was happy and will be back to try the pot au feu soon.

 

 

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The New Maille Store: Mustard on Tap

by Anne Maxfield on December 15, 2014

Accidental Locavore Maille CrocksThe Accidental Locavore thinks there’s a big difference between how French and Americans use and approach mustard. Americans put it on hot dogs, sometimes on burgers and maybe on an occasional sandwich (mostly when the doctor has warned you off of mayo). The French use it for all kinds of dishes, sauces, salad dressings, and it’s always on bistro tables as a condiment for meat dishes (pot au feu, steaks, etc.). And their mustard is strong! For whatever reason, even the French mustard that’s brought over here is never quite as pungent as the day-to-day stuff you find there.

Accidental Locavore Amora MustardSince we were on our fourth jar of Amora (two of which we schlepped back from France), when I heard about the opening of Maille, a classic French mustard company, with a mustard sommelier (apparently not working on a Saturday night), it needed to be checked out.

Accidental Locavore Maille StoreIt’s a very tasteful shop on the Upper West Side, with big urns of mustard waiting to fill the classic white and black mustard jars.  I’ve been feeling just a little guilty paying more than $10 for a good-sized jar of our favorite French mustard, Amora from Amazon, but all that guilt disappeared the minute I set foot in Maille!

When I told the vendeuse what I was looking for, she pointed me in the direction of a mustard with white wine. It was good, not great and certainly not anywhere near as strong as our “fine et forte.” The price of filling a small jar? $27 and a large size of the truffle mustard will set you back $99! Accidental Locavore Maille Blue CheeseThe even smaller jars with flavored mustards (fig, mushroom, blue cheese, etc.) were $9 and would be good for about five sandwiches. Oddly enough, as one of my friends pointed out, there were no coarse-grain mustards, the closest being a country mustard, smooth, with a few mustard seeds and a pleasant flavor.

Accidental Locavore Maille on TapThere were a couple of select oils and vinegars, and their cornichons, but at $14 for a large jar, I’ll use up the ones we have before investing in more. In France, all these things are basic supermarket items and while the Maille store is much nicer looking than any local Monoprix, I’d be happier with the real deal and less ambiance, and while shopping at the Maille store, might save on air fare; as my pillow says, “I’d rather be in Paris!”

 

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