Monday, July 23, 2007


One thing that's interesting about traveling is how the food culture changes from place to place. In Pisa and Marseille, and really, Tuscany and Provence in general, it's very similar, a Mediterranean culture that really takes pride in its cuisine and time over meals- often to the exclusion of other cuisines- i.e., you're not going to find many ethnic restaurants - maybe one or two Chinese, one or two Indian, and a few middle eastern places, usually all pretty mediocre.

In the two day interlude I had in Geneva in between, I ate mostly at the home of my mom's old school friend (man, was it nice to eat home-cooked Indian- watching the Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final, eating pakoras [deep fried vegetable fritters] with spicy chutney and drinking beer is about as good as it gets) and at ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Indian)- so I didn't really get much of a sense of the food culture.

Israel, where I am now, is still on the Mediterranean, has a much more "American" food culture- fast food being very popular- of course fast food here is mainly falafel, pita, hummus, kebabs, shawarma, etc. I don't really know what the ethnic food (i.e., other than middle-eastern) situation here is, but I did have some mall food-court Chinese, which was oily, gross, but somehow very satisfying at the time.

Anyway, wanted to describe a very, very good meal I had in Marseille at a small restaurant called Resto Provencal, which serves, as you might have guessed, typical Provencal food. It's in the Cours Julien neighborhood, which is a big open-air pedestrian plaza with lots of bars and restaurants, and a lot of children playing and in general people enjoying themselves.

The restaurant itself is unassuming, but I remembered it from when I had gone to Marseille in 2003, and hell, if a meal sticks in your mind for 4 years, it must have been good (or possibly very bad). I went with my colleague and friend Erwan Lanneau and his girlfriend Vacianne, and we all decided on the 3 course prix-fixe menu, and a bottle of rose, which is what you drink in Provence in summer (in Tuscany, of course, you drink red wine. Delicious, full bodied chianti, for the most part. wine).

I started with the onion and anchovy tart, called Pissatiere, which was really fantastic- the salty anchovies and olives nicely complemented by the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the rich, very buttery pastry. I also tried a bit of Vacianne's salmon tartare, which I had back in 2003- still very good. Erwan's soupions (squid, I think, but I'm not sure), grilled, tasted fresh and firm, as they should be in a coastal town.

For the main course, I stuck to what I had eaten 4 years ago- filet de dourade en bouillabaisse- a filet of the fish dourade served in bouillabaisse, the famous Provencal seafood stew. On the side comes little toasts with an aioli-like spread called rouille. I hate to keep using the same words, but the fish was clearly fresh, and the soup surrounding it was delicately flavored- though it could have use a little more salt.

Dessert was an absurd chocolate mousse. Dark, dark, almost black, and thick, rich, and probably more calories than in the rest of the meal, it sent me almost into a stupor- luckily E. and V. then took me out for a digestif, a fiery pear brandy, which was the perfect restoring tonic.

As you can see, I'm missing being in France.

1 comment:

trophywife said...

What mall-based Chinese food isn't oily and still delightfully satisfying? I think that's all part of the appeal.. Nothing else explains random craving for Panda Express.