Friday 2 May 2014

Hiatus (Côte d’Azur 2014)

A brief hiatus,

Well, that’s the general gist of this post. I normally seek to excuse my tardy submissions by mentioning my overburdened schedule and my swamping workload but this time it’s a bit different. Why you may ask? Because not only am I working… I’ve been robbed of my kitchen! It’s rather hard to post to a cooking blog when one is kitchen-less!

Well actually, that’s not totally apt, the kitchen is still mine but it appears that in reality it has been robbed of me. By what, by whom? Well the simple answer yet again is: by work. Now now, I’m sure this all sounds horrid, Nick without a kitchen, that’s like a pug without folds or the queen without corgies but in reality it’s not so bad so hold onto that sympathy. I’m not infiltrating North Korea, or perhaps worse, on a trip to Northern Ontario, I’m simply on a research trip…to France.
This part of France...

More specifically, I’m in a region referred to as les Alpes Maritimes in a sleepy village called Villeneuve-Loubet which for those of you who may not have bothered with the French, is tellingly sandwiched between the famed Côte d’Azur and the French Alps.  Now now now, before the urge to wring my neck like a gog-eyed turkey arises, let me remind you that I am, in all technically, here to work. So sun, sand (or rather pebbles) and castles aren’t the only thing on the agenda. This means that life is indeed slightly more challenging than the usual morning dilemma of choosing if I want to eat a pain au chocolat or croissant (the answer to that is inevitably an easy one, both).


 For those of you interested in the historical aspect, I am here to work at the Auguste Escoffier museum, studying the menus, recipes and work of the famed chef of the same name. Using material sources I hope to study how Escoffier affected the diffusion of French cuisine in Britain, among other places, and how this tied to different aspects of society. For more information on the topic, please feel free to consult my yet unwritten MA thesis.

However this is a food blog, so here’s the scoop so far for anyone who might be inclined to dine in the area, as we’re on a student budget price is key.

1)      Salade Niçoise is, predictably, really big here…like it’s everywhere . Though the famed salad’s authenticity can be a touchy subject (green beans or not? What about garlic? Vinegar? AHHHHH!!!!) most cheap eateries seem to make it as a leafy tuna salad with hardboiled eggs.
Might not be authentic, but it does hit the spot.
2)      Also, you can have something similar to a Niçoise but in a sandwich called a “Pan Bagnat”, this make a great lunch or dinner, and ours are available at our delightful bakery in town here!
3)      When it comes to eating out, it is important to note that most restaurants seem more prone to serving lunch (déjeuner) over supper (diner), actually in the wee villages out here sandwich boards sporting menus tend to eclipse themselves around two in the afternoon and restaurants then close their kitchens, generally only serving beverages such as coffee, wine or the local pastis (an anis based beverage) from this point on.
4)       While this is much less of a problem in Nice central, the issue of eating out there is far more complicated due to the treacherous swamp of touristy joints willing to swindle you out of your hard earned euros (certainly with this exchange rate, eek!) in exchange for mediocre seafood or steaks, limp fries and frozen veg. Prices here are quite steep for a travelling student and quality/ price ratios on sit down meals can be heartbreaking. Though do keep in mind, that tax and tip is included in the cost of the meal (yay! No mental math!).
5)      Never fear however! Nice, like apparently everywhere in France, is loaded with cheap wine, cheese, bread, sausage and pastry which is (mostly) absolutely delicious. The region is also laden with delicious olives. So word of advice should you choose to venture down here? Opt for the picnic.
6)      EXCEPT! When you feel inclined to sniff out a relatively snazzier join and maybe splurging a tad, our splurge was the delectable Michelin starred “L’Univers” of chef Christian Plumail who offers a delicious lunch on weekdays for the equally tasty price of 23€…but that is a story for the next post!

Mmmmm  Pan Bagnat...


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