- purplescout Aug 2, 2009 02:50 PM
My family's HomeLink exchange in Marseille was a success! My kids were sick for the first 10 days, so we didn't get a chance to do as much chowhounding (or day tripping) as planned, but I do have some finds to share.
Our house exchange was located in the Montredon neighborhood, which is a southern suburb of Marseille. Someone on the board wrote about Chez Didi, which was just a few blocks away. The prices at Chez Didi were ridiculous, considering the offerings, so we didn't go there. Our best neighborhood meal was at the Trottoirs de Marseille in the square at Point Rouge, a local restaurant far beyond the main tourist track. We went for a Sunday lunch and it was packed with locals. We sat on the patio, where intermittent blasts from a water mister on the ceiling kept us cool. I had an excellent bouille (not the whole bouillabaisse, but the essentials) and my husband had mussels. We were delighted not only with the main courses, but also the desserts. This restaurant is known for its homemade desserts. There is a case inside with 20+ different desserts. You can choose a single one, or an assiette or 2, 3, 4 or 5. We had a plate of three - - a rich chocolate gateau, a rhum baba with strawberries, and a coffee-flavored whip cream pastry. There was a 10Euro kids menu that included chicken nuggets, fries, a drink, and an ice cream, so my kids were happy, too.
Also located in the square at Point Rouge is a little artisanal ice cream place. We enjoyed ice cream cones from the take-away window, and also sitting down inside for a real treat. They have fancy serving pieces to match the theme of various creative combinations. My son says that this ice cream place was the best part of the whole trip.
In Montredon, we thoroughly enjoyed wood-fired pizza from Bella Pizza, delivered right to our door by a fellow on a moped. It was still so hot when it arrived that I burned the roof of my mouth. A large pizza was 9 Euros. Crispy crust, delicious fresh toppings...perfect vacation food. Our favorite was the pizza with a sunny side up egg in the middle.
We tried all the local boulangeries and Pain du Harmonie is by far the best in the area. The "o-tentique" baguettes were fab, as were the ham and cheese fougasses. My kids converted from pain au chocolate to brioche sucre about half way through the trip because the brioche were so unbelievably delicious.
Chez Marcel, one of two local boucheries/charcuteries, was exceptional. His homemade pates were wonderful, especially a smoky Corsican variety called pate figatelli. When my kids were sick, I bought a farm chicken from him to make a pot of chicken soup. It was ridiculously expensive (about 15 Euros) but so, so good. Rotisserie chickens were 7 Euros and also quite tasty.
Once a week, there is an organic produce market at Cours Julien in central Marseille. I thoroughly enjoyed gathering up a feast there that included all kinds of fruits and veggies, a basket with a variety of fresh chevres (10 Euros for the whole basket), organic breads (including a dense wholewheat raisin bread that was the perfect match for the chevre), and a couple of octopus pies. The organic farm eggs were unlike anything I ever get in the U.S., including the eggs from my local farmer's market...dark yellow/orange yolks, rich taste, and just more satisfying overall.
We tried quite a few local wines, mostly rose, and ended up drinking mostly Bandols during our stay. I wish we could find the same wines here in Los Angeles (at the same reasonable prices!). We also polished off an entire bottle of Pastis over the course of two weeks, sitting in the evenings on the patio of our house as the temperature began to drop.
More to come, separately, on the Paris leg of the trip.
"I had an excellent bouille (not the whole bouillabaisse, but the essentials..."
Please forgive me for asking but what exactly does this mean? There is a great bouillibasse restaurant in Marseilles that Johnny Apple once raved about, L'Epuisette, that I thought was superb. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/07/din... is the link for a superb essay about his experience with bouillibasse) But they serve a traditional bouillibasse. My wife and I had an incredible experience in Nice at L'Ane Rouge with another traditional bouillibasse: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/485636 Both of these were rather complicated and necessarily expensive dishes (E 70 per person) dishes that involved sourcing a large number of fish and a stock reduction which resulted in a flavor unavailable in the United States because of the inclusion of rascasse among other fish. I've never heard of a bouille. Again, please forgive me, but what exactly is this and how is it similar to a traditional bouillibasse?
As monchique suspected, it was a fish soup served with rouille. The pictures below give you a sense of what they served.
As for the kids...alas...one daughter (in the photo) is a budding gourmand and loves to try all kinds of new things. You can see her eager to try my lunch in this photo. The other two kids will give a few things a try, but they mostly stick to what's familiar. I'm not giving up on them, though! The family with whom we exchanged homes has two sons, and apparently they only ate pancakes and t-bone steaks the whole time they were here. ;o)