Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Taste of Nice!

Over the past full week I had the opportunity to travel along the Mediterranean in the Côte d'Azur region of Southern France, spending the largest chunk of time in the gorgeous city of Nice. That being said I was able to indulge in some delicious Provençal cooking, some of it particular to Nice itself. Ironically, however, the one thing I did not consume was the infamous Salade Niçoise. Le must go on.

Lou Pilha Leva
One restaurant which we had read about in our handy guidebook, Lou Pilha Leva, presented us with the opportunity to try several of the city's specialties while in the old town. The first of said dishes were farcis, small roasted vegetables stuffed with a simple pork, egg, oil, herb and breadcrumb mixture but whose taste is anything but simple! In our case the vegetables (or fruits, in the case of the tomatoes!) were tomatoes and courgettes. I'm sure every Niçoise grandmother has her own recipe, and I look forward to perfecting my own at some point.

Our next dish was the Socca, more or less a crêpe made from chickpeas, flour, and oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. To be perfectly honest the socca didn't do much for me - I found them a bit bland - but with some anchovies and olives I'm sure they would be just delicious.

Next on the list was pissaladière, a delicious flatbread/pizza made with sauteed onions, garlic, and olives and topped with bits of anchovie. The crust is a bit thicker than that of what I could consider standard pizza, but its just perfect with all the oil and juices from the toppings soaked into it. Last but not least was a hearty serving of Moules Frites - delicious mussels in a mustardy broth served with French fries. Of the three times I had mussels in the city, these were definitely my favorite - not at all overcooked and very plump and flavorful.

Le Resto
The best restaurant we went to in Nice was tucked away in the Old Town and called simply 'Le Resto'. I couldn't resist doing the menu, given that for around 20€ I'd get 3 courses, so I started out with some nice crisp bread with an anchovy pate and an olive tapenade for spreading. Both were excellent. For my main dish I opted for the Ravioli Niçoise, choosing to lean a little toward Italy and check out some of Nice's pasta offerings. This dish was incredible - the little pouches of dough almost melted in your mouth and were doused in delicious oil and herbs, primarily fresh parsley. Inside was beef and who knows what else, but whatever it was was divine. Alex chose a dish of fresh scallops baked into a small casserole and smothered in buttery breadcrumbs, zucchini, and just overall deliciousness. On the side came a mound of rice with a nice sweet taste that complemented the casserole nicely. Kelsey went with the gnocchi smothered in a gorgonzola cream sauce - how bad can that be?! As to be expected the gnocchi were wonderfully cooked and the sauce left you wanting to lick the plate. My dessert, a tiramisu-esque concoction, was quite tasty but not overly emblematic of the region
and hence not worth writing home about.

One last treat we couldn't help but indulge in in Nice was lavender ice cream! Provence is hands down the place for lavender, so why not make an ice cream with it? This was a winning combo for anyone who likes that strong floral flavor and just the right amount of sweetness.

Oh Nice, I'll miss you!

Notes - Le Resto is located at 2, Rue Rossetti, 06300 Nice and Lou Pilha Leva at 10 rue du Collet - Vieux Nice