Local Food, Nice
If you like pancakes, crêpes, you HAVE TO EAT SOCCA (Note: this is salty). Socca is a sort of pancake made from chick-pea flour and on a large round (50-70 cm diameter) copper "pie tin" (plaque) and cooked in a very hot wood-fired oven for about six minutes, until the top is golden. The copper is important for spreading the heat evenly.
Note: You eat this with your fingers.
One portion costs around 2€50 - 3€.
My favorite one is from René Socca in the old town (2 Rue Miralheti)because they make it thin with crispy edges.
Monday 1st and every Sunday on May 7, 14, 21 and 28.
From 11 AM to 7 PM at Jardins des Arènes de Cimiez
Kids games, clowns, music, typical dance, local food stands, picnic. Local book fair.
I went to the last year's one and I ate a very good socca!!! It is mostly for families with kids who want to have a good time. You can bring your on food and games (soccer ball, roller skates, etc). Dog friendly.
Complete program (in French)
Socca is a large pancake made of chick pea flour, olive oil and black pepper. It is shaped into a large thin pancake and is cooked in a very hot oven. There are a lot of kiosks , cafes and restaurants that sell socca. There are many recipes online if you want to try this yourself. One of them is http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/512747. For a tip on where to eat socca, see my "restaurant tips".
Hot sun demands cold beer. But for a little extra Riviera style style ask your waiter for a "bierre pression "Monaco" " - that's draught beer with a liberal squoosh of Grenadine - a cordial of red and black fruits of the forest.
Once you get over the shock of the red, it tastes great, and you'll come back for more. And doesn't it look great against an azure blue sky? I want some now, just looking at it!
If unconvinced, try asking for a "Panache" (pronounced pan-a-shay".) Thats French for beer cut with lemonade, better known as a shandy. Or a bierre "gomme" - with creme de menthe. Hell, or just a beer. But unless you want a specific brand of bottled beer, be sure to ask for just a "Bierre Pression" - draft - and remember that the usual serving is a tiny 25cl - a half pint.
Ask for " a pinte" or cinquante - 50 cl but be prepared for a shock - its usually at around seven euro for a pint.
Whatever you order you can't go wrong. It tastes a whole lot better under Riviera sun.
You may think you like white wine, you may like red wine. But that is at home and you are not at home. You are in Provence and in Provence you drink pink.
Do you recall the Sixties, Mateus rose in those funny round bottles? Pink was for people who couldn't make their mind up if they liked red or white. Or at a teenage party, a punch made up of the assorted bottles of cheap white and red wine kids had brought.
However sitting in the hot Mediterranean sun, a Salade Nicois on your table, forget what you think - go pink. Chilled pink not only taste good, more importantly, it looks good. It goes with blue sky, its uncomplicated, and it partners your salad perfectly. Rose is an any time of the day drink, on its own or with food.
In France, ordering whole bottles in a bar or restaurant can be bad for your wallet - ask simply for un verre - glass, or smarter still "un demi pichet" - 50cl , a half litre - thats a small earthenware jug into which bulk wine is poured. A simple glass of rose is often the cheapest beverage on any bar tarrif - cheaper than a can of soft drink.
The house wine is usually perfectly acceptable. If you want to impress, "Cotes de Provence" is the generic name for the middle range, the top appelations are Bandol and Bellet which will cost a lot more for not noticably better.
When shopping for wine, remember the French take their wine very seriously. A long discussion with the wine merchant is customary before buying a bottle. Debating the merits of this and that, in the process showing you know a lot about wine, then calling for his recommendation, which of course you are now honour bound to take, since he is clearly an expert not a shop assistant.
It is a matter of national pride that French wine is best - don't even dream of discussing its merits against Australian, South African or Chilean. This merely demonstrates that you you are an ignorant foreigner who doesn't know what he is talking about. And for appelations which are well known, expect to pay a lot. After all, "the best wine in the world" is hardly going to be cheap, is it? The French are accustomed to paying.
I don't think you'll find them in restaurants. They are more of a starter and can be bought in good bakeries, to be eaten as appetizer with a glass of wine or Pastis.
They look like beignets made with rice, parmiggiano, oil and chard. The paste is rolled into balls and fried.
Okay, okay, maybe more italian than French, but you've got to try them.
Most restaurants serve them, either with red sauce, either with cream or cheese sauce.
They are basically small potato dumplings, quite without flavoured by themselves. Yet, though it is the sauce you select that conditions your experience, know that they should be soft, not chewy, and that as far as I'm concerned, them come best with rich cream and pepper sauce.
Like pasta, they are usually eaten on their own and don't come with meat or vegetables.
See tips on local restaurant to select a Nice place (see the pun?).
I didn't really care much for this salad when I was in Nice. I didn't mind the tuna or anchovies and I liked the light vinaigrette, but I wasn't used to a salad having potatoes and green beans. Nevertheless, give it a try, you might like it better.
1 large head Boston-lettuce leaves, washed and dried
1 pound green beans, cooked and refreshed
1-1/2 tsp. minced shallots
1/2-2/3 cup basic vinaigrette (recipe below)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 or 4 ripe red tomatoes, cut into wedges
3 or 4 "boiling" potatoes, peeled, sliced, and cooked
Two 3-ounce cans chunk tuna
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1 freshly opened can of flat anchovy fillets
1/3 cup small black olives
2 to 3 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large platter or in a shallow bowl. Shortly before serving, toss the beans with the shallots, spoonfuls of vinaigrette, and salt and pepper. Baste the tomatoes with a spoonful of vinaigrette. Place the potatoes in the center of the platter and arrange a mound of beans at either end, with tomatoes and small mounds of tuna at strategic intervals. Ring the platter with halves of hard-boiled eggs, sunny side up, and curl an anchovy on top of each. Spoon more vinaigrette over all; scatter on olives, capers, and parsley, and serve.
1/2 Tbsp. finely minced shallot or scallion
1/2 Tbsp. Dijon-type mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp. wine vinegar
1/3 to 1/2 cup excellent olive oil, or other fine, fresh oil
Freshly ground pepper
Either shake all the ingredients together in a screw-topped jar, or mix them individually as follows. Stir the shallots or scallions together with the mustard and salt. Whisk in the lemon juice and vinegar, and when well blended start whisking in the oil by droplets to form a smooth emulsion. Beat in freshly ground pepper. Taste (dip a piece of the salad greens into the sauce) and correct seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or drops of lemon juice.
Twelve-ish to two-ish can be a difficult time for those accustomed to 24/7 shopping. The French take their lunch very very seriously, and you are just going to have to lump it - they are out to lunch.
Every local restaurant is packed - not a seat in the house - for this daily social ritual. Salad and conversation are the main ingredients: commerce can wait.
After a while you begin to think - have they got it right or us? No brown-bagging at your hot-desk and "lunch is for wimps". For these folk it's called "quality of life". It's economically inefficient, its expensive ( but then they don't spend money on mortgages - in the main they rent) so they can afford it.
So how come they aren't all the size of a house? There is not many calories in a lettuce leaf.
Capuchino with Pain au Chocolate... at 5 pm.
The best way to close the day on the beach :)
Forget your diet and experience French coffee and desserts. That is the real stuff...