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21 days of eating in France - Our Odyssey

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Once or twice a year, my husband (MG) and I travel to Paris, where we love to eat, and then we also visit a region within France. This fall we were wanting to re-visit Provence and to start our trip in Nice, a city where we had not yet visited.

I researched this board (I had already been reading John Talbott's blog) for some updated tips on Nice and Provence, and also Lyon, and found some excellent recommendations from the hounds. Here is my report back on our wining and dining - I am going to divide it into four separate reports; NICE, PROVENCE, LYON, PARIS.

We are serious eaters, and also open-minded to eat at all types and classes of restaurants and bistros, including food stalls, local markets, and Michelin starred dining rooms.

NICE

As soon as we arrived in Nice, we dropped our bags and headed to the outdoor market in Vieux Nice for some socca, a ten minute walk from our hotel along the seaside. It was noon hour and the market was in full swing. We ate Chez Theresa's socca wrapped in paper as we strolled the market. They bring the socca down to the market by motorbike from their restaurant several blocks away. The socca was great, but even better was to be had another day. We bought beautiful ripe figs and plums for breakfast the next day, and then sat on a terrace and had our first glass of local rose wine.

LE BISTRO GOURMAND 3 rue Desboutin

1 Michelin star, traditional - modern French

This was dinner the first evening - a great rec- we loved the food and the wonderful service here. We both had the 4 course menu for 69 euros per person, which consisted of:

A delicious amuse of girolle mushrooms and a warm curried mussel soup.

Two starters - Artichoke barigoule with lemon confit and summer truffles and then -"Demon" a signature dish of black risotto with lobster, chorizo, piment d'esplette. (This was our favourite dish, followed by the amuse, and then the sea bream.)
The main was sea bream, grilled or baked, with spinach and fresh cepes from nearby Italy.
Two soufflés were on offer for dessert - Caramel with garnishes of poached pears and caramel ice cream, or classic Grand Marnier with orange sorbet. Both were excellent, and were followed by mignardises.
Two terrific wines:
Lacombes Rose - a great glass at 7 euro to start.
Clos Nicea, a local white blend from Bellet, the small appellation in the hills surrounding Nice - 59 euro bottle
With a bottle of Chateldon water and a glass of Vieux Pineau for MG's caramel soufflé, this brought the bill to 226 euros.

BOULANGERIE PIERRE BORDONNAT 21 rue Gubernatis

Another wonderful rec! This award-winning artisanal Boulangerie - Patisserie was a short walk from our hotel and is where we went for our morning café crème and croissant. Excellent local specialties such as pissaladiere and tourte de blette, which we also ate for breakfast. Natural levain breads,and touted as the best baguettes in the region. Inexpensive and friendly servers.

FLAVEURS 25 rue Gubernatis (next to the Boulangerie)

1 Michelin star, experimental (I would call their cuisine GLOBAL)

I am really not a fan of tasting menus, but sometimes there isn't a choice
if you want to eat at a particular place where that is all on offer. There are two tasting menus at Flaveur, and we did choose the longer Menu Decouverte at 90 euros per person. We were there from 8 pm to midnight, which was a very long time to sit. I lost count of the courses, but my best memories of the meal were the outstanding amuses, which included smoked haddock with lemon caviar, a crunchy black rice cracker, sea bream ceviche with wasabi, and falafel on humus. The best was the dessert, a contender for the best top 10 desserts ever eaten. It was an iced banana coated in white chocolate, with old rum, green apple matchsticks and passion fruit puree. It was a jolt of refreshment after so many dishes and tastes.
The courses were such: (I am shortening these - every dish was a compilation of so many spices and ingredients that it would be impossible to name them all.)
Escabeche of pigeon with yuzu
Carnaroli black risotto with calamaries, clams, shellfish jus
Blue lobster with champonzu and gyozu ravioli, colombo bouillon
Suckling veal chop, roasted curry masala, veal shank, spinach
Ewe cheese, yogurt, sake
Dessert and mignardises.

The courses were very small portions, which is normal for a long tasting menu, however, sometimes there just wasn't enough to really taste and remember. Each dish was beautifully presented - the chef is an artist. The only dish I really questioned was the cheese course - it was mostly dabs of yogurt, and a few teeny nibs of brebis - not enough to really taste. The dram of sake served with it was off-putting. Some of the combinations just didn't make sense to me.

They serve Pierre Bordonnat bread here and Bordier Yuzu butter.
Excellent local wines - we enjoyed a bottle of 2012 AOC Bellet Le Clos Saint Vincent from Gio Sergi at 53 euros. With Chateldon water and two more glasses of Bellet, an expensive evening was had at Flaveurs, 262 euros. An experience, but not to be repeated.

STREET FOOD

One could eat very well, and cheaply, if you seek out the wonderful Nicoise specialties around the city.

RENE SOCA on rue Miralheti, old town
The best socca we thought - sit down or take out from their window. 3 euros each. Also great sardine fritters, pissaladiere, OK farcis.
Just up the street from here, for fresh shucked oysters "sur plateau", CAFE TURIN on Place Garibaldi. You can take your shucked oysters and eat them under the fountain in the square, as we did.
CRESPI PIZZA on rue Massena. One day we needed an uncomplicated lunch, and we sat here and shared a good wood-fired pizza and a salade Nicoise. One of the better spots on this touristy street. Inexpensive.

CHEZ PALMYRE 5 rue Droite, old town

Local specialties of Nice and Provence; home-cooking

We loved this tiny, hole-in-the-wall. The food was traditional and genuine, and the service friendly. The three course menu is 17 euros per person, and we drank a 16 euro bottle of Domaine de Belle-Feuille Cote du Rhone 2011, from a small producer. It was still young, but fruity and good body. We both had the ricotta and red pepper terrine to start. There are a few choices for each course. MG had the Poulet Pot de Feu, that came to the table in the casserole pot, and I had the Beef Daube with potato puree. Both very good. MG chose the Fromage blanc with raspberries for dessert and I took the Ile Flottante, which came in a terrine with popped corn on top- that was a new twist, I'll say. At 50 euros for dinner for two, with a decent bottle of wine, you need to book here weeks ahead. Cash only.

Next stop - Lorgues, Bonnieux, Luberon, Grignan...

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  1. Flaveurs sounds like everything that is wrong with today's so called "cutting edge cooking". When we visit next spring we will be certain NOT to dine there.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jock

      Flaveur is actually consistently our fave restaurant in Nice, and is a pilgrimage that we are looking forward to this Christmas.
      Some pilgrimages indeed do not stand up. Last September we ate averagely well - no more - at Bartavelle in Goult, which has been our fave restaurant in Provence for years.
      But through the years, Flaveurs, like Saturne and Chez L'Ami Jean in Paris, has been getting even better. It's one of those rsetos where your best meal is your last.(And many people do believe that Saturne and CLAJ are not for everyone…)
      I will report back.
      Lastly, wonderful report by Française. A hound who does her homework and then report back in such a detailed, informative way, what not to like ?

      1. re: Parigi

        Now I must reconsider. Oh darn!

        1. re: jock

          Granted l did lunch there, but had a great meal.

        2. re: Parigi

          I believe it may have been your recommendation that led us to La Bartavelle in Goult - we had an exceptional dinner there recently. Thank-you! Sorry you were let down this last time - what was different this time?

          1. re: francaise

            "what was different this time?"
            It was good, not outstanding, not revelation, as I had expected it to be.
            The creativity didn't work. It felt like creativity for creativity's sake, which produces fussy dishes instead of tasty dishes. -- A little like your description of Flaveurs, LOL.
            Maybe we had an off night at Bartavelle, and you had an off night at Flaveurs.