It seems like beef cheeks are quietly making a comeback. They were the signature dish at Babbo when it opened and everyone flocked to try the beef cheek ravioli.
We weren’t expecting to find them in Nice and really weren’t expecting them to be in a wine store.
La Part des Anges is a wine shop in central Nice that I discovered on my last trip. I wasn’t in search of wine, but their “plat du jour,” which is served daily in the back of the shop.
That afternoon, I had an amazing meal of Corsican sausages on a bed of polenta. It was so good and unexpected that I would have been back to see what else they would cook up, but sadly it was my last day of vacation and last lunch in Nice.
This trip, it was at the top of my “is it still there and still good” list, but it took a few days of cajoling before I could pry Frank away from his favorites.
After a busy Saturday at the marché, we were wandering towards home around lunchtime, so I suggested we try to find our way over.
It’s a bit off the beaten track, and the shop itself is small. Every wall is lined floor to ceiling with bottle after bottle of wine, even the area in back where there is a mélange of tables and chairs. Way back there’s a tiny space with a couple of induction burners that acts as the kitchen.
They had been posting braised beef cheeks as a prior day’s plat du jour. They looked great and they still had some when we got there.
The waiter suggested a red from the Rhone valley to go with them and it was a great choice (we even bought a bottle to take home).
Then the beef cheeks came. We’ve been kind of on a beef cheek thing, since Frank had them (a couple of times now) at Café les Baux in Millbrook, where they were a new special and really great.
These, however, were on a completely different level.
Rich, beefy, winey, with a touch of citrus (maybe some lemon zest?) it was the kind of meal that you just want to scarf down, but you don’t because you want to savor every morsel.
It was served with polenta, made with a slightly coarser corn than we usually get at home which made a good vehicle for soaking up the sauce from the beef.
I finally, sadly, gave up my empty plate (no chance of seconds, LOL, the table next to us got the last portion).
But there was dessert, which I don’t remember the name of — only that it was delicious!
It was a Meyer lemon custard with some crunchy bits on top and lemon zest that the chef added just before serving. Frank said it was like the best key lime pie filling ever and he was right. The sweet, tartness of the lemon was a nice reprieve from the richness of the beef cheeks and all in all, one of the best lunches ever!
And this time, we have lots of time to go back and see what’s cooking.
In China, at a Spring Festival banquet, our table was served beef cheeks roasted in the cow’s skull. It was shocking. And it was yummy.