Food is love. Or wait, maybe it’s just that I love food. Either way, to me, food = love. Every time I am fortunate enough to visit my family in the US, I whip up a blueberry cobbler for my brother and nephew. I truly enjoy making it for “my boys”. Like, the cobbler is gone in minutes. My nephew always asks what I do to make it taste the way it does. The answer is simple–I tell him: I make it with love. This is when he usually gives me an eyeroll, a skill I have taught him. Well, the food in Nice is no exception to this theory.
On our second day in Nice, Sunia and I ventured out into the heart of the old part of town for our dinner. The first thing I noticed is that the area didn’t really come alive and restaurants didn’t start to open until 6pm. Now, I am an older person in a younger body (keep the remarks to yourself) and 6pm sounded so late! But, being in France and not having a whole lot of choice, I dealt with it. The amount of cafes and restaurants available to dine at was overwhelming! So many options! I definitely craved something French. After debating our million options, we settled on a place that had a 3-course dinner special.
My food senses took over as it glanced at the menu options. I was going to enjoy this meal! My first course was escargot. Yeah, I know. Snails. But, luckily I had dined upon snails when I lived in Shenzhen, China, so I was cool with the gastropods. They were sauteed in a garlic butter sauce. I ate all of them! The main course was a sea bream caught in the Mediterranean Sea. It was fresh and crisp with flavor. But the best (and usually in most cases, my favorite) course was the dessert. A molten chocolate fondant (fancy way to say lava cake). It was brought out and placed in front of me; I started salivating. I am not sure how I had room in my stomach, but I knew I would be finishing this delectable piece of heaven. I took my fork and split the small chocolate goodness in half. Chocolate lava oozed out in a slow flow. I couldn’t wait anymore. It was gone within a minute. And, truthfully, if I didn’t think it would be unclassy, I would have totally licked that plate.
On another day, we took a walking food tour with TAG Tours. Highly recommended! And this is something I would do if (well, when, because I’m going to make it happen) I get back to Nice. As a warning, I am a horrible blogger and did not write the names down of all the actual dishes or some of the restaurants we stopped at. I apologize and vow to do better in the future. We met near one of the plage (beach) entrances along the Promenade close to the Opera de Nice. Our guide was bubbly and energetic–it was evident she loved the food and area. She presented each of us (there were only three of us on the tour, which was nice) with a tourte des blettes from a bakery called Multari; we were asked to take a bite first and guess what it was. I’m never very good at these sorts of games. I knew there was some kind of greens in it, but that was it. The savory treat she offered us was actually a swiss chard tart with the greens, raisins, and flaky pastry. I admit, it was pretty good for something involving raisins.
As we strolled along the pathway along the entrance to the Opera de Nice, we stopped in front of the most fantastic looking sweets shop, Maison Auer. This shop was established in 1820, has been in the same family for five generations, and according to our guide, was a favorite of Queen Victoria for tea when she was in the area. Upon entering the shop, the smell of all things sugary assaulted my senses (in a totally good way). Barrels of candied fruits filled the shop. We were offered samples of the sweet candied fruit, which I had not tasted before. I now know that I prefer the tart candied lemons over candied oranges. In the back of the shop, intricately designed chocolate eggs sat atop glass displays of little chocolate pieces. I couldn’t help myself. Sure, I purchased some candied fruits for gifts for family, friends, and to share with my students, but I also bought a couple of boxes of chocolates for myself. I treated myself to one that night. It was filled with a hazelnut cream filling that was positively delightful. I saved the rest for when I returned home so I could transport myself away to the South of France when I needed a mini-escape.
After finally being forced out of Maison Auer, we headed to Caprioglio, a wine shop where you could bring your own bottle to fill! The price was super cheap; in fact, a litre of wine was cheaper than a litre of water from the convenient store.
Next, we were headed towards a market a couple of stops away via the tramway. At this market, we tasted unpasteurized goat cheese. I’m not a cheese person, but I do love goat cheese. This goat cheese we sampled was the creamiest I have ever tasted. I even purchased some so I could snack on it throughout the tour (you know, in cases I got hungry on the food tour).
We then went into a small little storefront that housed a bar (yay for some rose!) and a few deli counters. We were able to sample some onion tarts with a small glass of rose. I think that tart was one of my favorites…well, now that I think about it, it was all my favorite. Feeling good from the rose, we crossed the road to the seafood section of the market. One of the vendors was a good friend of our guide and offered us fresh (like, just shucked) oysters with a dash of lemon juice. I was happy to feast on them! We also had a chance to taste socca, a pizza like snack made with chickpea flour. It was chewy and delicious, a good snack food if you ever find yourself wandering around the streets of Nice.
We took the tramway back towards the Old Town area, but took a quick stop at PaneOlio for some antipasti, salad nicoise, glass of rose, and a frozen espresso. By this time, I was starting to feel a bit full and stuffed, but I didn’t allow this to stop me. My parents didn’t raise a quitter.
Going back into Old Town, we stopped at a shop that’s specialty was olive oil. This was Olio Donato. The process of extracting olive oil and the differences between the various types of olive oil were explained to us, but I was more impressed with the other items the store sold. We were allowed to sample the lavender honey; the honey was smooth with a light floral undertone. We were also allowed to sample the truffle salt. Damn! I could inhale that stuff; it made me a believer in truffle. Needless to say, I walked out of that store with “gifts” that I intended to give to family and friends, but ended up staying with me to enjoy.
After a gelato break at Roberto’s, our tour was over. It was hard to believe the tour was only 4 hours long, but so full of amazing food. This was an experience I would tell anyone to go do…well, taste in this case. Clearly, the people of Nice love their food, but also love sharing it, for which my stomach, taste buds, and I are grateful for.