Picasso, Matisse and all the Others

by Anne Maxfield on February 4, 2016

Accidental Locavore Arp EggOne of the promises the Accidental Locavore has made herself is to look at more art. Being in Nice, you’re surrounded by it but there are always special places to check out. Since I didn’t have a car this trip, I’ve been exploring on and with public transportation, which has been easy to figure out (and the locals are always helpful).

Accidental Locavore Antibes Old CityThe Picasso museum in Antibes is always a good excuse to wander the old town, hit the market and drool over the building where Picasso worked. You just have to watch your timing as they close very promptly for lunch at noon. Accidental Locavore Steak Tartare in AntibesMore than a few good places to eat and my husband’s favorite place to taste artisanal pastis always makes it a must-go. It’s an easy and quick train ride.

Accidental Locavore Matisse MuseumBack in Nice, the Matisse museum is another place to picture yourself living and working in. More of a traditional Niçoise maison it’s an easy bus ride from “downtown” up into the hills. There’s an archaeological museum next door and across the street is an amazing beaux art building, the Hotel Regina (and Matisse stayed there too). Accidental Locavore Hotel ReginaIf you’re a fan of Chagall you can trot down the hill to his museum, but I’m not really so I haven’t.

Accidental Locavore Russian ChurchOn foot, I made another attempt at the Russian Cathedral. The last time, we were shocked to find it closed on Good Friday, but I guess it is a different calendar. Which reminds me, on the BBC recently the Archbishop of Canterbury was calling for a fixed date for Easter. What do you think? Makes sense to me. Anyway, this time it was open (I checked before leaving) and is just stunning! If I knew more about Russian icons, I might have appreciated the hundreds of them inside, but the tile work on the exterior made it all worthwhile.

Accidental Locavore Foundation MaeghtA trip to the South of France wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Foundation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence. It’s such a special place and at this time of year almost devoid of tourists (as actually all the museums have been, including Saturday at the Matisse), making it even more tranquil. The show that was up wasn’t one of their best and I especially missed seeing my favorite Giacometti, but it’s the exterior that is my favorite part. Again, this was an easy bus ride (but an uphill slog to the Maeght) and I had plenty of time to wander the streets of St. Paul. Accidental Locavore St Paul de VenceNow that I know how easy getting around is, my next trip I’ll be heading out of town even more. Corsica anyone?

 

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February 2nd: Groundhog vs. Crêpes

by Anne Maxfield on February 1, 2016

To the majority of people reading this, February 2nd is Groundhog Day. However, in France the Accidental Locavore discovered a much better way to “celebrate” this day—la Chandeleur, Fête de la Lumière, or Candlemas. It’s also known as the Day of Crêpes.

I’ve never been a fan of Groundhog Day. Why do we suddenly revere a rodent we spend the other 364 days trying our best to get rid of? Seriously.

It seems like a much better idea to whip up a few crêpes and let them predict the coming (or not) of spring. Why crêpes? Because they’re golden and after a long winter, look like the sun.And this is how it works: “It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.” The other benefits? Everyone will want to toss crêpes and the only thing that will get bitten is the crêpe (are you reading this Bill DeBlasio?).

Accidental Locavore Chevre CrepeCandlemas actually inspired Groundhog Day, marking the mid-point of winter. Germans in Pennsylvania brought the tradition to (ready for this?) Punxsutawney PA, with more of a focus on weather than wealth. After the groundhog did his prognostication he became lunch, supposedly tasting “like a cross between chicken and pork”. One less groundhog messing up the yard.

Given the choice between some rodent or a pan full of hot crêpes predicting the coming of spring, what would be your choice? For the first time ever, I’m looking forward to celebrating February 2nd and will definitely be hitting one of the crêperies near me! It might also be the excuse I’ve been looking for to get a crêpe pan and start making some of my own. If you’re far away from a good source of crêpes, pancakes are a perfectly good substitute. Enjoy!

 

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Markets, On and Off the Beaten Track

by Anne Maxfield on January 28, 2016

Accidental Locavore Liberation MarketThere’s something everyone always searches out when they’re traveling. For my father, it’s hardware stores, for the Accidental Locavore, it’s markets. And when it comes to markets, the one in the old town of Nice is pretty much the standard. Beautiful flowers, perfect produce, it’s hard to find fault with it. However, I’ve known for a while about the “real” market in Nice–where the folks who live there shop. It’s in Liberation, one stop north on the tram from the train station. I hopped on the tram the other day and went up to check it out.

Accdental Locavore Purple ArtichokesWhere the Cours Salaya market is fairly compact, the one at Liberation ambles on for blocks. It’s almost exclusively produce and there’s a lot of repetition, but if you look carefully you’ll find treasures like these beautiful purple artichokes. Prices are lower too, but if you figure in the tram ride it’s probably a wash unless you’re stocking up (something that most French people never do).

Accidental Locavore Scallops

Down a side street, you’ll find fish mongers selling everything from the tiniest anchovies to whole fish to scallops still in the shell. It’s supposed to be the best place in Nice to get seafood and you can easily see why.

Accidental Locavore Lots of Lettuce

I took home a couple of the purple artichokes and some lettuce to go with a roast chicken from the local butcher. Like a lot of purple food, once cooked, the artichokes lost their color, but were still delicious, a little more citrus tasting than the ones we get at home.

Accidental Locavore Antibes Market

For sheer variety, there’s always the market in Antibes. Very dog-friendly, as you can see, there are a huge variety of goodies to choose from. Along with produce, you’ll find some great charcuterie, local products like olive oils and tubs of tapenades.

Accidental Locavore Olives Antibes

I’ve been on a mission to find green olives with garlic like they have at Le Passe-Plat. Although I still don’t think these were quite as good, I seem to have eaten half the container already (and am looking for an excuse to go back to Antibes for more).

Accidental Locavore Cheese Vendor Antibes

While the cheese guy was easy on the eyes and the cheese was good, I resisted and went on to find Frank a bottle of pastis from his favorite place and had a great lunch of steak tartare and frites.

Accidental Locavore Steak Tartare in Antibes

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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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