As would be expected, some classics are better than others, but maybe they become classics because it’s hard to mess them up. Case in point, a couple of meals the Accidental Locavore had in Nice.
The first was in a rather touristy restaurant, slightly off the beaten track, in the old city, where I was pleased to see soupe de poisson on the menu. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the broth part of bouillabaisse. Like bouillabaisse, one of my favorite things about soupe de poissons is the aïoli and toasts, which combined, make delicious rafts to float in the soup. Sorry to say, but as long as the aïoli and bread are decent, they usually distract me from the quality of the soup (which in this case was pretty good).
Same for that old French classic, steak frites. If you can wrap your brain around the fact that French steaks are not the big slabs of beef found in any US steakhouse, you can, like I did, just sit back and enjoy a perfect lunch-sized hunk of meat, cooked to perfection, accompanied by golden cubes of fried potatoes (less calories according to Frank, because you “don’t eat the whole long thing-it’s not finger food so you just don’t keep reaching in”) and a sublime béarnaise sauce, that reminds you how good a well-made béarnaise can be.
Steak au poivre is something I always try to avoid-my theory being why ruin a good piece of steak by drowning it in peppercorns. Throwing myself at the whims of Virginie, the owner of Le Victor Hugo, had it making an appearance on my plate recently; however, this was not anywhere near what you would think of as steak ruined by pepper. It was a nicely sized piece of steak, covered in a thick sauce. Think butter, crème fraiche, cognac, and of course, peppercorns, married together in the best way possible, the flavor enhanced by the juices from the steak. Not only will I always be holding that up as the standard, I may have to cruise (and channel) Julia Child, for a recipe that will hold me until my next trip to Nice!
The last thing that has been on my “classics” radar recently, is mousse au chocolate. Not to be confused with its pallid American cousin-chocolate pudding-mousse, when well-made, is smooth, dark and dreamy. My friend Dave, has been teaching his sons to make chocolate mousse, because he believes it’s the one true way he’ll easily marry them off. If they add a little homemade caramel sauce to pour on top of it (like the one we had the other night), he’ll only have to worry about them marrying before they turn 15…