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Eating Out » digest LA

salad nicoiseThe south of France is home to Provencal cooking, which is inspired by Mediterranean flavors. Cannes, however, is known more for yachts and celebrities than it is for its food. One of the local dishes that I got to eat a lot in Cannes was Salad Nicoise. I have never actually been a fan of Salad Nicoise, but in France it was delicious.

Nicoise means from the city of Nice, which is just 20 minutes down the road.

The definition of Salad Nicoise from a history of Salads & Salad Dressings page

Nicoise is a descriptive term for dishes served with particular foods used by the chefs of the City of Nice, France. This garnish usually includes garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, black olive, capers, and lemon juice.

Salad Nicoise is the most famous of all these dishes, consisting of potatoes, olives, green beans, and vinaigrette dressing. Even its “proper” assembly is disputed. Some people say the salad is served on a bed of lettuce and others say that tomatoes are the base. And some don’t arrange the elements of the salad at all, but just toss it all together.

Giant Sandwich

Michelle & the giant sandwich

I just don’t understand why sandwiches in the US have to be so mediocre. Sure, hoagies in Philly are delicious. And there are the occasional standouts like the steak sandwich from Mooncake foods in NY, but no one in the US can make a sandwich the way the French can. While I work on the wall here in Cannes, I have been eating a lot of sandwiches. The giant sandwich above is basically a Salad Nicoise in a sandwich. I think it was called Pan Bagnat and I got it from a kiosk outside for a few euro. Most days I get my lunch from a shop called Paul. Paul is a sandwich chain through all of Europe that even has locations in Florida. Florida! I need these sandwiches shops in NY and LA stat.

Pavot Jambon cru

Pavot Jambon cru from Paul

The sandwiches from Paul are just beautiful fresh bread (I like the ones with poppy seeds), a few thin slices of high quality meat, butter, lettuce and tomato. My favorite is the Pavot Jambon cru.

I remember the first time I had a sandwich from Paul was in the Edinburgh airport getting on a flight to NY. I grabbed a sandwich that was just some baguette and prosciutto and got on my flight. I took the first bite and actually turned to the stranger next to me on the flight and said, “this is amazing!” So tell me, what an we do to bring Paul to Los Angeles? And I don’t want some watered down version of Paul. We need to make sure it is only staffed by French people to get the atmosphere just right. In the meantime, I am filling overtime on sandwiches.

sole menuireI was excited for all the good eats I would have in Cannes, but so far I have been pretty disappointed. Besides the fact that I can barely afford to eat here on my work per diem, I have eaten most of my meals on the floor in front of the giant touch wall I am setting up in the Palais. Granted, the sandwiches from the cart out front are not too shabby, but I want to eat in this town for reals.

After a relatively bad day where we all missed our chance to get sandwiches for dinner, I found myself walking back to the hotel at 10 PM with no dinner plans. I decided this was my moment to really live it up. I found a fancy looking restaurant and ordered Sole Meunière, which I have been wanting to try since reading Julia Child’s description of arriving in France and tasting her first French meal.

It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. The waiter carefully placed the platter in front of us, stepped back, and said: “Bon appètit!

I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection.

I can’t say I ate it slowly, but it sure was delicious. Simple and delicate and lemony with just a touch of fried skin. Perfection! This was a real French restaurant. I wanted just a glass of wine with the fish so I randomly ordered something. “Oh no,” the waitress said. “Wrong wine,” and she brought me the perfect rosé. I finished with a crumble aux pomme. I didn’t know apple crumbles were French, but when a French person says crumble it sure sounds French.

cannes michelle

I am near the beach. Not at the beach.

I took a break out on the terrace and tried to get me in a picture with the pretty beach that is 100 yards from where I am working all day. Looks nice, no? Those are the red carpet steps from the film festival right behind me. After Saturday, I should be able to visit the beach after all.

seafood assorment

Seafood Assortment - Before & After

The review I found for this restaurant in Cannes, where I am working for the next 2 weeks, said it had “Clams, praires, palourdes.” The Google translation for that was “clams, clams, clams.” I figured I had to try a restaurant with 3 different words for clams. Looking around, everyone was eating the seafood assortment so I ordered it as well. The assortment had no description, but what arrived was a platter of large snails, raw oysters, raw clams, langostinos, prawns and small snails. I was tentative at first, but the meal was delicious. I especially liked the large snails. I got up to my elbows in the seafood while capoeiristas performed out front. I resisted the urge to jump in the roda with them and enjoyed a fine French meal.

Baron, Bourbon and Doughnuts

Baron, Bourbon and Doughnuts

Last night a bunch of us visited Grace Restaurant for their Bourbon and Doughnut flight. Once we all sat down, we realized that we didn’t really know what a Bourbon and Doughnut flight was. We also realized that we were pretty hungry. So we started with a meal.

pork chop

Pork Chop

Brian ordered the pork chop. He wasn’t sure between the chop and the shank, but since none of us knew definitively what a shank is, he got the chop. The chop was big enough to feed the whole table.

Scallops and English Pea Risotto

I ordered the scallops, but cobbled together a tasting menu by also trying out the pasta, beet salad, olive oil poached halibut and the pork chop. The scallops were definitely my favorite. Of course, scallops are probably what I would order as my last meal (maybe a little surf and turf).

Here is a little Michelle origin story about my love of scallops… When I was just a wee scallop in my mom’s belly, she went to Paris with my father. He was on a business trip, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take my mom to that classy city. I think it was both of their first times in Paris. They agreed that every night, one would order the seafood special of the night and the other the… uhhh… mammal special. On the first night, the seafood special was Coquilles St. Jacques. My mom loved it so much that she preceded to spend the entire trip ordering it at every restaurant. Because I gobbled up so many scallops before I was even born, I was bound to love them.

my parents in france in the 80s

My parents in France

Here is a picture that I really love of my parents in France, years later.

Coolhaus Ice Cream Truck

Coolhaus Ice Cream Truck

The other day, I came across the Coolhaus Ice Cream truck outside of Heath Ceramics during Heath’s Studio Sale. What a confluence of goodness.

From the Coolhaus website:

A Coolhaus is many things. It is an architecturally inspired ice cream sandwich. TheCoolhaus consists of all-natural handmade ice creams of classic and seasonal varieties or custom-made to suit your needs, packed between two cookies of your choice. TheCoolhaus is set in your hands in an edible wrapper custom-printed upon with edible ink to commemorate a place, person or event.

A Coolhaus is also an ice cream sandwich truck; a converted postal van with chrome rims (or Rem’s), a pink top, and a fold-down bar and table. The Coolhaus truck is happily driven by architects, designers, developers, artists, bakers, actors, writers, musicians and people from other walks of life.

A Coolhaus is also a thinker, a thinker about reclaiming public and urban space for eating and gathering, when and where it is least expected, or when it is invited to share its decadent treats with interested eaters. A Coolhaus is an innovator about how to reinvent or redesign food with epicurian sensibility but also with a search for sustainability and minimal waste. A Coolhaus is passionate about food, where it comes from, how it is made, and how it is given to the eater. A Coolhaus has a curiosity for the day-to-day gastro-experience and a devotion to the public for social merriment.

ice cream sandwichI ordered chocolate chip cookies with Red Velvet ice cream and got six pasta bowls at Heath Ceramics.

coolhaus menu

Coolhaus menu

Kogi BBQ tacos at Alibi Room

Kogi BBQ tacos at Alibi Room

Two of my dad’s least favorite foods are Korean and Mexican. When I told him about the Kogi BBQ tacos at Alibi Room, he said hrmmm. I say mmmmm.

Sorry for the bad pic. See better Kogi BBQ taco pics at Flickr.

I recently spent the day at a gigantic software corporation for a conference. Besides sticking out like a sore thumb in my super cute orange striped tunic (aka the Michelle uniform), lunch was the big highlight of the day. Usually these types of events cater something easy like sandwiches, but not this unnamed gigantic software corporation. They served salad, rice pilaf, and a choice of chicken breast or hazelnut patty. What to do in this conundrum? Chicken breast is sure to be dry and bland, but hazelnut patty sounds strange and vegetarian. Always risk adverse and sensible, I took one of each option.

food plate

Hazelnut patty on top of chicken breast... yum!

First of all, what is the deal with rice pilaf? Am I supposed to like it? It seems like something invented just for airplane food and crappy catering. Am I missing some magical essential rice pilaf experience?

I took one bite of the chicken breast and ruled that guy out. It was a gigantic chicken breast too so I felt pretty wasteful. It is like my dad always jokes, “The food is terrible, but at least they give you a lot of it.”

The hazelnut patty, pictured on top with a blob of marinara, saved my day. It was actually kind of awesome. It was crunchy and hearty and tasted like food. I made some friends at the table talking about the lunch offering and then finished my meal with a slice from some sort of gigantic birthday cake. (Seriously, if their software was designed like their catering… oh wait.)

During the lunch break, they made an announcement for all the vegetarians that they were preparing more hazelnut patty. Either the patty was a huge hit or an awful lot of software nerds are becoming vegetarians.