The Coast of Nice
I was eager to get to Nice from a culinary point of view. Though I have been to the South of France before, I have never been here, and I have always considered it something of a New Orleans: surrounded by traditional Southern fare, but with a cuisine all its own. As you will see, I was not disappointed. What struck me most besides the individuality of Nicoise cuisine was the way it integrated Provencal flavors with Italian and North African influences that were prevalent in everything from kebabs and couscous to gnocci and polenta pistou.
The Salts of Nice
Whether I am the salt of the Earth is not for me to decide; but if I could decide, I would be a salt of Nice. I came across this little salt and spice shop in the old city, selling salt flavored with everything from Moroccan rose and Provencal lavender to luxurious truffle East Asian wasabi and bamboo.
Truffle Salt, Pink Peppercorn Salt
Wasabi Salt, Bamboo Salt, Salt from the Camargue
Garlic Salt, Lavender Salt, Moroccan Rose Salt, Salt for Vegetables, Spiced Salt, Crazy Salt
Australian Salt, Salt for Vegetables, Lavender Salt, Spiced Salt, Garlic Salt, Crazy Salt
Yesterday, I told you about those enchanting orange flower navette cookies that I found in La Cadiere d’Azur. Here in Nice, I came across a cookie haven, piled high with all sorts of Navettes, from orange flower to cinnamon to chocolate, and their Provencal cousins, from calissons to pine nut crescents.
Vanilla and Orange Flower Navettes
La Plage, Nice
Fenocchio Ice Cream
Fenocchio was the best ice cream I have ever had, for two reasons. First, the texture is like gelatto: it has that creamy elasticity that moves with your mouth when you eat it. Second, they are like alchemists with their flavors, spinning sweet gold from the most basic provencal ingredients. I was able to taste black olive ice cream, lemon verbena ice cream, lavender ice cream, thyme ice cream, fig sorbet, and poppy ice cream. And I walked away with a cone of my very favorite: fleur d’oranger. Orange flower. You won’t believe the other flavors they offer. Everything is inspired by the culinary traditions of Provence, and made from ingredients farmed on the surrounding land.
Fenocchio’s 96 Flavors
Vanilla & Pink Peppercorn, Tomato-Basil, Black Olive, Thyme, and Rosemary Ice Creams
Cactus, Melon, Lemon Meringue, Pear, Lemon, Grapefruit, Lime, and Mandarin Sorbets
Black Currant, Blackberry, Fig, Strawberry, Raspberry, Sour Cherry, and Apricot Sorbets
Rose, Lavender, Beer, Calisson (Provencal Almond Cookie), Cranberry, and Candy-Embellished Ice Creams
Jasmine, Poppy, Violet, Rose, Rosemary, Thyme, Tutti Frutti, Pina Colada, and Beer Ice Creams
Avocado, Orange Flower, Lemon Verbena, Jasmin, Cabbage Tart,
Vanilla & Pink Peppercorn, Tomato-Basil, and Rosemary Ice Creams
Orange Flower Ice Cream
Oliviera, Olive Oil Dealer
There is a restaurant in New York called Fig and Olive. When you sit down, they bring you bread and a tray of four different olive oils. I am always surprised, after using the same olive oil day in and day out in all my salads and breads and meals at how extraordinarily different they taste. The phenomenally well-versed owner of the shop allowed me to try four oils: Arlesienne, which had the salty, olivey finish of black olives, Baux de Provence, which was grassy, Picholine, which was bitter, and Bouteillan, which had an almost tropical fruitiness. He insisted that his menu was equally imaginative, and if I ever get the chance, I will go back to try the zucchini flowers stuffed with vegetables and the pasta with picholine pistou.
Olive Oils, kept in dark bottles to prevent oxidation
A Large, Quaint Selection of French First Cold Press Extra Virgin Olive Oils
Olive Oil Tasting
Nicois Street Food at Lou Pilha Leva
My guide book ordaned all sorts of gourmet places to stop and try the specialties of Nice. As per Provencal tradition, they all closed at one o’clock. Oops. A local sent me to this corner-window joint on the Place Centrale, and while nothing was freshly made to order or indeed quite perfect, it gave me the perfect late afternoon glimpse into some of Nice’s most traditional foods. Pissaladiere is pizza dough topped with sweet, soft onions, Nicoise olives, and anchovies. Socca is a chickpea flour and olive oil pancake, thin as a crepe. And zucchini and zucchini flowers beignets are little fried fritters of dough surrounding one of Provence’s most iconic vegetables. I’ll be back for those beignets.
A Corner Outdoor Fast Food Joint with Nicoise Specialties
Nicois Street Food
Zucchini & Zucchini Flower Beignets with Lemon
Socca’s Crisp Edges
Me, and the Coast of Nice