Gastronomic Restaurant in Nice

Situated on Coco Beach just after the port of Nice,  “La Reserve” is a well-known “restaurant gastronomique, ” famous for its proximity next to the sea, high quality dining, and providing panoramic views.  The ambiance is formal, with a contemporary interior design, and sound effects from the waves lapping the shoreline.  The food was first-rate, service excellent (but not personable), and views spectacular.  But, I had a little reserve about La Reserve….a feeling that something was missing that I couldn’t put my finger on.  It wasn’t just the pricey menu (expected for this type of restaurant), but rather a lack of “soulfulness” – everything felt too robotic.  It was a black and white, rather than colorful, experience – figuratively speaking and difficult to explain.  Do you know what I mean?  Have you ever experienced this at a restaurant?

(The above is my personal opinion and not meant as a critique of the restaurant to sway tourists – your experience may be totally different.)

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Escargot Thuirinois: A Snail Farm

While I was in Thuir, in the Midi-Pyrénées region, I visited a snail farm: not something I really had planned on doing, but thought it would be interesting and oh so, French.

The reception area was a small trailer, with regional products displayed for purchase, where the owner cordially explained his business. It turned out that since the harvesting season is from March to mid-May, there wasn’t much to see other than empty crates and crinkled, Polaroid photos of the various stages of snail development.

I hadn’t really thought about how snails reproduce, albeit slowlyand learned that they lay eggs.  I also learned that the soil in which they mature cannot include fertilizer, as it burns the snails eyes, and that it takes about 3 months to reach snail adulthood.

This farmer raises about 50,000 snails each season, first in indoor plastic crates as an incubator, then they are transferred to the outdoor soil.  He said that generally, there is a 30% snail mortality rate (who knew?), and even higher with a too hot or too cold variation in temperatures. He showed enthusiasm and passion for his craft, even though there was an absence of les escargots à la catalan (recipe below).

Recipe credit: Symdicat Producteurs Pyrénées Orientales

Pear Champagne Anyone?

This is a guest blog, written by Kathy Morton, who organizes culinary tours in France.  A heartfelt thanks to her for sharing this interesting post.

Normandy has miles and miles of apple and pear orchards. In the springtime, blossoms perfume the air and provide stunning views of the countryside. In the fall, the scent of ripe juicy fruits is undeniable.

Most apples and pears air plucked from the trees, but some bitter pears are purposely left until the drop to the ground, carpeting the area known as the Bocage Domfrontais.  Because this fallen fruit – an unusually tart and fragile pear – is quick to spoil, it is swooped up from the ground as soon as possible to be pressed into juice. The result? One of France’s most unusually distinctive drinks: Le Poiré.   A glass of Poiré, or “pear champagne,” makes a perfect aperitif before a meal.

Described in 1607 as “wine made from pears,” golden-hued Poiré is sometimes known as “perry.”  Light and fruity, this effervescent drink has low alcohol content and, like champagne, can be enjoyed before and during a meal.  In Normandy, Poiré  is made much the same way as the local apple cider, but unlike apples which are stored for a time to make the cider, the ripe pears that have fallen off the trees are pressed as soon as they are gathered.

A journey along the Route du Poiré  entices travelers to stop for visits and observe the fruit-bearing trees, most of which are over 30 years old.   A visit to one of the local producers such as the award-winning family of LeMorton – who has been producing poiré for generations, renders a first-hand look at the method of production and a unique opportunity to taste the exceptional libation.  Visits are always followed by une dégustation, a tasting of the final product. Michelin-starred restaurants and upscale markets like Fauchon carry LeMorton’s exceptional Poiré.

It’s always fun to go to the source of a product and meet the local producers. Next time you find yourself in Normandy, a tasting of this local product is a must!