One of the charms of France for the Accidental Locavore are the many, often tiny, shops specializing in a type of food. They’re often from one specific, local producer and occasionally, even made on the premises. Some people (my mother comes to mind) might find them a little too precious, with stacks of products arranged by the colors of the tins, but I give them props for treating their wares as visual display pieces, rather than just stacking them up on shelves.
On this trip, there were two lovely new shops, one in Antibes, the other in Nice, that I’d be happy to have in my NY ‘hood! The first, Froggy Gourmet (be sure to check out their video, very cool), in Antibes had some really interesting stuff, a lot of it geared towards serious cooks, into things like molecular gastronomy. Along with Roquefort powder (used to flavor pastas etc), they had gels for creating desserts and sections devoted to grains, pastas etc. While there, the Locavore pretty much blew out her taste buds trying super-concentrated “essential flavors”. They were the most intense tastes of things like lemongrass, cilantro, citrus fruit, and my favorite – Thai flavor (check what exactly this is). Froggy Gourmet had a good selection of flavored mustards, but what made theirs different was the packaging – large silver tubes, like great big tubes of paint along with some unusual non-mustard items, like a cream of cornichon, to be used on pâtés and steak tartare. Oh, and by the way, if your yacht needs provisioning, call them.
The other store, Premier Pression Provence, was in the old city in Nice. Here were local Provençal products: olive oils, flavored vinegars, jars of pâtés and tapenades. What made them unique was that the oils were all from a single type of French olive ranging from Picholine to Cayon. There were at least a dozen different types, divided into green, mur (fruity, picked at full maturity) and black and subdivided within those categories. Celine, the most helpful vendeuse, first asked what flavors you like (or don’t) in olive oils and then offered tastings based on those preferences. You might be surprised at how much like wine tasting it is, with a huge difference in the scent and taste from olive to olive. We put together a box of three, mostly in the green and mur varieties.
The store also carries a variety of flavored vinegars which they make when the ingredients are at the peak of ripeness. As much as I’m not a fan of raspberry vinegar, theirs made me appreciate it, tasting of amazingly ripe, just-picked raspberries. When that gets together with a duck breast or two…well you’ll just have to stay tuned, n’est pas?