I’ve only been twice, and just for a day each time, but culinarily speaking, Nice is my mini-Mecca. It’s an enclave unto itself, with its own food that no one else makes, and its hectic vielle ville, the old part of the city with crooked streets and little shops. I plan to go hungry, so I can fill up on all the things I can only find there: socca, beignets, petits farcis. Soccas are giant chickpea flour crêpes, but they are made with olive oil, and are savory, and crisp around the edges and crumbly inside. I adore socca, and have never found it anywhere else. Beignets are, like in New Orleans, little fried puffy fritters, but in Nice, they are stuffed with zucchini flowers and, again, are savory. And petits farcis are vegetables, like zucchini, stuffed with meat and spices. There is also pissaladière, that fantastic Provençal pizza covered in soft, sweet onions instead of sauce, and topped with anchovies and olives instead of cheese. And, the best ice cream at Fenocchio, which has three cases of flavors (only one is pictured below) with classic flavors, and out-of-this-world flavors, like spekuloos, after those insanely cinnamon Belgian cookies, and riz au lait, or rice pudding. And then, there are the absurd flavors, which are my favorite, made with the produce of the region: black olive, tomato and basil, rosemary, thyme, poppy, lavender, orange flower, verbena. They’re not just novelty; they are actually really truly excellent, and it’s such an adventure going there.
For my day in Nice, I did what any sensible girl would do: I hit the soldes (sales) at Petit Bateau and Princesse Tam-Tam. And when that was successfully completed, I found my way to Lou Pilha Leva, a street food vendor for all the foods I listed before. That’s the best part of Nice–all the best delicacies are so casual. You just sit at one of the broad benched tables, and share. I bought two soccas for the three of us, and we had them with frothy, cold Kronenbourg. They were salty, crisp, perfect–just enough to take the edge off. One the way to dinner, I stopped in at a little bakery and bought a lavender navette, a little crisp tea cookies shaped like a boat, with dried lavender blossoms baked in. And then, to dinner at La Tapenade, a little corner café where I had a fantastic ratatouille, and tagliatelle pistou (not an authentic version–but it wasn’t bad). After a bottle of rosé, we broken heartedly watched the other tables with their crème caramel and chocolate mousse, but we were steadfast. We got up, and marched to Fenocchio. There’s no tasting, so I had to choose very wisely. My mom and M. Français shared vanilla, coffee, and spekuloos. But for me, I restrict myself to the local corner. Orange flower ice cream and thyme sorbet. The thyme sorbet was genius–cold, fresh, different but somehow not unfamiliar. And the orange flower ice cream was just slightly fragrant, and much less sweet than the more “normal” flavors. I loved them. After that, I shared my lavender navette among the three of us as we hopped the automated trolley to our car. I was honestly devastated at the thought I might not have another socca for years.
Lou Pantai – spice, sugar, tea, salt shop – 5 rue de la Poissonerie 06300 Nice – 04 93 62 12 25
Lou Pilha Leva – cuisine niçoise traditionelle – 10 rue du Collet 06300 Nice
Fenocchio – provençal ice creams – 6 rue de la Poissonerie 06300 Nice – 04 93 62 88 80
La Tapenade – restaurant – 6 rue Ste Réparate – 06300 Nice – 04 93 80 65 63