Ten Typical Treats on the Côte d’Azur

 

It’s one of the most beautiful areas in Europe that makes many people’s “bucket lists.” For those fortunate enough to go, RealFoodTraveler.com’s Europe Editor, Irvina Lew, tells us which iconic, local foods we should have on the Côte d’Azur.

Images of iconic food to have along the Cote d'Azur.

Save this list to Pinterest to help you plan your culinary journey in the Côte d’Azur. Photos top row, l-r: Charcuterie for two, Socca. Middle row: Chickens cooking on a rotisserie spit, paella, Irvina’s zucchini beignets at home. Bottom row: Vegetables and aioli, Salade Nicoise. All photos by Irvina Lew. Graphic by RealFoodTraveler.com.

The Côte d’Azur refers to the long stretch of blue waters along the south of France, the second most visited area in France, after Paris. The region starts at the Italian border, in Menton and Monaco and continues to Nice, Cannes and Saint Tropez from the Mediterranean Sea inland, towards the Alps. The fertile, sun filled region is known for its local fish and impeccable produce, which are sold fresh at specialty shops, at open-air markets as well as in supermarkets.

In the past thirty years, I’ve visited more than a dozen times spending one to three weeks on each occasion and eating most meals in restaurants, cafes and markets. Since I started renting apartments, in 2018, I’ve been shopping for prepared foods, too, at the “traiteur” or patisserie and, always, at food markets, where I purchase local specialties.

From A to Zed, here are ten typical treats on the Côte d’Azur, that I’ve discovered, order, eat and, occasionally, make.

 1. Aioli

Aioli is a garlicky-mayonnaise sauce made with olive oil and often spiced with Dijon mustard. It’s traditionally served as a dip with crudité, whether those raw veggies are in a grand Panier (basket) — at Le Maschou, in Cannes, and La Colombe d’Or, in Saint Paul de Vence – or on a plate, as at Louis XV Alain Ducasse in Monte Carlo. It’s also served with croutons alongside Bouillabaise, a traditional fish fish soup that incorporates a variety of local fish poached in a saffron-enhanced broth. The Soupe de Poisson is a specialité from Marseille, where I’ve eaten it at Chez Michel, and at Chez Camille, outside Saint Tropez, and Maison de Bacon, in Antibes.

Raw vegetables with aioli served in a Panier (basket) at Le Maschou, Cannes.

Raw vegetables with aioli served in a Panier (basket) at Le Maschou, Cannes.

Hungry for more? Listen to Irvina’s podcast conversation with the team from Le Louis XV.

2. Crèpes

Crèpes are super-thin pancakes often made from buckwheat, water and salt. (My personal recipe is ¾ flour and ¼ buckwheat.) Ladled on to a hot, round, non-stick crèpe maker, they are served folded or rolled. Whether plain or topped with sugar, salé (with salted caramel) or ice cream, they are a popular snack or dessert; for a savory meal, they are stuffed with ham and cheese, and sometimes topped or stuffed with an egg. Crèpes originate in the north of France, but they’re very popular at Riviera street carts and restaurants. Gourmandise is a little bar at an open window, on an ancient street in Saint Tropez; each mid-afternoon, the owner and his side-kick serve crèpes to a constant crowd of crepe-lovers. (I order one topped with Grand Marnier!)

 

A typical sugar-filled, chocolate-drizzled Crèpe

A typical sugar-filled, chocolate-drizzled Crèpe. Photo courtesy Pixabay.

3. Fougasse

 At lunch, Fougasse is as typical a choice as a baguette. It’s a salted, olive-oil rich flatbread similar to an Italian focaccia and used for sandwiches or as a snack. The dough is often enhanced with local olives, fresh herbs, cheeses, and/or anchovies.

4. Pissaladière

Pissaladière is neither a focaccia, nor a pizza, but it is similarly delicious. The flatbread topped with a thick layer of caramelized onions and, usually, garnished with anchovies is a traditional recipe, said to originate in Nice, where it is influenced by a long history of being a part of Italy.

5. Pistou

This vegetable-based Niçoise specialty starts with olive oil and leek, celery, onion, carrot, garlic. String beans, zucchini, sometimes pesto, are added; then, cannelloni beans and, for the final minutes, skinny vermicelli. At the table, the soup is topped with grated parmagiana. In 2019, I interviewed Chef Olivier Gaïatto, at Hôtel du Cap Eden-Roc and asked: “What is pistou?” He explained that it was a familiar, family-style vegetable soup. As a surprise, during lunch, he served me a portion that he had prepared just for me. (Now, Chef Gaïatto is at Restaurant Le Safranier, in Antibes.)

Bowl of Pistou, vegetabel soup served on the Cote d'Azur

Pistou, the Provençal vegetable soup with beans and vermicelli pasta.

6. Ratatouille

This summertime vegetarian and vegan-friendly dish includes gently- and separately-sautéed eggplant, garlic, onions, red peppers, tomatoes and zucchini, folded into a tomato sauce rich with olive oil, basil, onions, garlic, and herbes de Provence (lots of thyme and oregano). Ratatouille can be a meal or an ideal side dish with fish or meat.

Ratatouille is made of onion, tomato, peppers, eggplant and zucchini on the Cote d'Azur

Ratatouille combines separately-sautéed summer vegetables in a tomato sauce.

7. Salade Niçoise

This green salad is named for the tiny, black Nicoise olives that add a bit of saltiness to the mix. It’s my favorite warm weather lunch at home, where I often use fresh tuna, and on the Riviera, where canned tuna is preserved in olive oil. Along with the usual lettuces and tomato, cucumber, Salade Niçoise includes haricots verts (string beans), boiled new potatoes and anchovies. It usually comes topped with hard-boiled-egg-halves, which I omit. I sometimes serve the salad deconstructed, so guests can add what they like; and, occasionally, I stuff the salad into a baguette and serve, that’s called a pan bagnat.

A classic Salad Nicoise with tuna, hard boiled egg, olives, tomato and lettuce is served on the Cote d'Azur.

The iconic Salade Niçoise features tuna and local black Niçoise olives

Hungry for more? Here’s Irvina’s recipe for Salade Nicoise at home.

 8. Socca

Socca is a rustic flatbread made from chickpea flour water, and olive oil; it is prepared like a pancake batter, poured into a pan, and baked. In the Marchéé des Lices, in Saint Tropez, the husband baked it in a portable brick oven; and, the wife cut the triangles and served the portions. At the marketplace in the Place du Jeu de Boules (Place General De Gaulle) in Saint Paul de Vence, it was prepared in an oven in the back of a truck. This socca maker cut it up into a zillion shreds and served it in a paper cone. At Table Rose, in the Casino in Monaco, the socca round was served like a salad-topped pizza on a plate. (See a picture of a finished socca in the Pinterest collage above.)

Yellow truck with oven used for making socca in France.

Have oven-will-travel to markets selling chickpea-based Socca (a pizza-like flatbread)

10. Tarte Tropézienne

The brioche-based cake, filled with two types of cream and topped with crunchy sugar, was created by Polish baker Alexandre Micka who had a patisserie in St. Tropez, during the 1950s. It became a favorite of Brigitte Bardot, who reportedly named it. My first taste was prepared in 2012, by the pastry chef at Byblos, in St. Tropez, and I’ve enjoyed them ever since.

Sweet Tarte Tropézienne and other treats in a bakery on the Cote d'Azur

Tarte Tropézienne, the pastry specialité of Saint Tropez.

10. Zucchini Blossoms

The late great chef, Roger Verge, at Le Moulin de Mougins, who passed in 2015, was so famous for his stuffed courgettes (zucchini blossoms) that his recipes are still online. He stuffed them with black truffles, on special occasions. I taxied to Mougins, once, to dine quite alone just to taste this dish; it was an appetizer and even then (early 2000s) it cost about $75 Euro. This May, season, zucchini blossoms garnished many dishes. The best were from a woman who grew them and prepared them at the market in Saint Paul de Vence. She dipped the silky and delicate flowers in a simple pancake batter (eggs, flour, milk) and deep-fried them on a table. She sold five crisp, hot and absolutely delicious courgettes for $5Euro and handed them to us in a paper cup. I’ll try to make mine that way, this summer.

Vendor making zucchini beignets on the Cote d'Azur

The agriculturiste grows zucchini blossoms and fries beignets at the marché in Saint Paul de Vence.

Wherever you may find yourself along the beautiful Côte d’Azur, be sure to try some of these local specialties to really get a flavor for the region.

To learn more about traveling in the area, visit the local tourism board website, here.

-Story and photos by Irvina Lew, Real Food Traveler Europe Editor

 

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Author:  <a href="https://www.realfoodtraveler.com/author/irvinalew/" target="_self">Irvina Lew, Europe Editor</a>

Author: Irvina Lew, Europe Editor

Irvina Lew, RFT's Europe Editor, is an author and award-winning culinary travel writer, who savors traveling the world, especially to the countries in western Europe to which she has returned, regularly, since she studied at The Sorbonne, at age 19. Irvina is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Society of American Travel Writers and an alumnus of Travel Classics, whose freelance features have been published in dozens of national and regional publications. The Long Island based widow is a former French, Spanish and ESL teacher, mom to three daughters, grandmère to Emma Lov and abuelita to Sage. Her mission is to meet new people, sip wonderful wines, sup memorable meals, stay in haute hotels and spa in splendiferous wellness retreats (@sipsupstayspa). Her new book: Forays in France: A FLAVORFUL MEMOIR will appear soon.

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