Restaurants & Bars 4

France Round-Up: My Report

Steph | Sep 22, 200412:38 PM

Le Rouge Gorge on Rue St-Paul (Le Marais) - A lovely little wine bar with better-than-average food. The vichysoisse de courgettes was smooth, cool, and refreshing. Lapin farci was served cold with gelee, haricots verts & lentils. It needed salt to perk it up, but the rabbit was tender and flavorful, the greens were crisp, and the lentils were delectably garlicky.

Le Boulangerie Malineau on Rue St-Paul - Very sweet shop with a fabulous selection of freshly baked breads & pastries. The pain au chocolat was flaky and buttery with melted pockets of chocolate that were divine. I tried a few other items, as well, and they were all great.

Chez Imogene (25 rue JP Timbaud, off blvd Voltaire & a block from the Oberkampf metro) was given a blurb in a NYTimes travel section article, a few weeks ago. The crepes are buckwheat and perfectly cooked, filled with a range of melting combinations. I had a chevre & tomato sauce crepe for my main and the caramel crepe for dessert. The lunch "prix fixe" is 9 EU for both & includes a non-alcoholic drink. Inexpensive & simply excellent.

La Belle Vue in Agde (along the waterway leading to the beach) - Best moules frites ever. Why can't Americans figure out that fries are best served piping hot? The mussels had just come off a fishing boat, maybe 30 minutes before they hit my plate . . . Nothing's better than fresh shellfish. 10 EU.

I rented a house in Montagnac (abt 1/2way btwn Montpellier & Beziers) for a week. Buying fresh baguettes, croissants, cheese & pate was a real pleasure. 2 cheeses I've never had before: Carre d'Aurellac (a bleu brie-type) and tomette de la (semi-soft, aged, mild hints of citrus). Fresh palmieres from the ville's market were so buttery, the practically melted in my hands.

Chateau St-Martin de Garrigue makes a killer picpoul-de-pinet (white wine), which I'd love to find in the States. The reds are all good, but young in the mouth.

Le Bateleur (Pezenas) - Green salad with coquilles St-Jacques, crawfish tails, red caviar, black caviar, poached salmon, romaine, radicchio, shredded carrots & cucumber, and the "liver" of the scallops.

Magret du canard was a huge portion (enough for 2, at least) and perfectly cooked - not greasy or tough, at all. The poivre-vin sauce was heady, but not too rich. The plate was set with a huge fan of duck slices, then a small pile of bright green snow peas, a triangle of yellow polenta, a white dome of au gratin potatoes, a mound of sliced orange carrots, and a deep purple port-poached pear.

The cheese course included Roquefort, Tome, and Tete de Moine. Creme caramel for dessert. With a full bottle of wine, my meal came to 38 EU.

Oysters in Bouzigues . . . If you like raw oysters, please make a special trip to this fishing village & try the freshest, briniest, sweetest oysters you'll ever taste. I consumed 6 grosses, 6 moyennes, and 6 petites . . . for a whopping total of about 12 EU. Some kid kept running out of the kitchen & grabbing fresh buckets of oysters from a boat that had just "parked" on the landing across the street. The main drag is lined with restaurants, all of which sell oysters & other shellfish for about the same prices. Some are fancier, most are plastic chairs & disposable tablecloths. Even in NYC, our oysters are primarily kept on ice until they're shucked. This slows down the oyster & makes it nearly-dead when it hits your plate. In Bouzigues, the oysters "cringed" when I squeezed lemon juice on them!

L'Arcchiado (Rue Droite in Nice) - Highly recommended for soupe de poisson, which was exceptional. The rest of the food, though, was below par. The soup was pure, unadulterated fish essence and it would've served as a filling appetizer (7 EU). The entrecote de poivre was chewy, fatty, and blanketed in creamy sauce . . . NOT good. The haricots verts were cooked to within a millimeter of their lives, although the garlic-parsley-olive oil drizzled on top was quite nice. Go for the soup, forget the rest.

La Table de Mon Moulin (158 route de Nice, which is D2085 and in Le Rouret, about 17 km due north from Nice) - Owned & operated by the Silvas, who have quite a following in the area. M. Silva cooks, while Mme. serves. They clearly love each other, love their home, and love feeding friends . . . and once you set foot in their home, you are a friend. This was quite possibly the best meal I've ever had, anywhere, because the whole experience was unparalleled.

Provencal olives were on the table, when I sat down, and lunch began with toasted baguette, caramelized onion focaccia, and a small bowl of stewed lentils with garlic & pearl onion. This was followed by a salad of courgettes compote with lardo (M. Silva said it was the best in the world & from Italy), a courgette fleur, shaved parmigiano-reggiano, and arugula dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.

The fish course was "liche" a la plancha (a local white fish, resembling halibut steak) - seared and served over sweet garlic creme, multi-colored peppers, garlic and white beans.

A veal medallion was thick and meaty - not pounded into submission - and served medium-rare. Over a bed of snow peas, chive, sauteed chanterelles, and a szechuan pepper reduction sauce.

The cheese course provided 3 goats' milk and 3 cows' milk.

A dessert amuse offered homemade nougat, candied orange peel, dried apricots, and Mirabelles (small yellow plums).

Dessert was cinnamon creme, the last local raspberries of the season, peach confit syrup, apricot sorbet, and a violet reduction. With a bottle of Pellegrino and a glass of white wine, my meal came to 58 EU and would've been a good deal at twice that price.

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