For my last post on France, I want to share with you some Provençal dishes we tried.

We actually didn’t have too much luck finding good Provençal food while we were in Provence (we probably weren’t looking in the right places). Ironically, it wasn’t until we got to Nice (technically part of La Côte d’Azur rather than Provence) that we finally got to sample some pretty great Provençal specialties.

It was almost luck that brought us to Le Safari in Nice’s Cours Saleya — the long strip in the center of the old town that serves as a marketplace in the mornings and a square and extended terrace to the bordering (mostly overpriced) cafés the rest of the time. It was drizzly and cold in Nice that day, and we were rather tired, uninspired, and unmotivated in terms of where we should eat. So we turned to our guidebook (lately I’ve been preferring Fodor’s over Lonely Planet) and found an affordable option that came well recommended. Despite the hokey-sounding name, this nevertheless turned out to be a classy restaurant serving up some excellent food. And in cold weather, the terraces are also covered and heated, so that made dinner extra cozy.

We knew we had to order daube when we saw it written on the chalkboard menu. This is a classic Provençal beef stew braised with red wine and vegetables. This version was deep and rich and flavorful and served over a bed of beautifully made ravioli.

We also had tripes nicoise — tender cooked tripe with carrots and potatoes in a tomato-based sauce. (This was a bit tomatoey for me, and I could’ve used some pasta to go with it.)

There was actually a lot of Italian food in Nice, being so close to the border. This scallop risotto we ordered was perfect — the scallops just barely cooked, and the risotto creamy but still retaining plenty of bite to it. All this sat in a sea of, if I remember correctly, fresh pea sauce, which helped offset the richness with a brighter flavor.

But the highlight, I think, was the gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce. This was the pillowiest gnocchi ever, coated in luscious gorgonzola cream. We savored every bite!

I felt especially grateful to have had such a good meal on our second-to-last night in France, despite this area being rather touristy. In fact, when we defaulted to this neighborhood again for our last meal the next night, we ended up having rather lackluster renditions of salade niçoise, ratatouille, pasta, and a few other unmemorable dishes.

We did, however, sample socca a couple times while in Nice, where this chickpea flour crêpe originates. Once was at the morning market, where the socca was softer and more crêpe-like. And once at a restaurant, where the socca was denser, thicker, and more cakelike. This specialty seems to have a number of variations, one of which is more crispy from a more authentic wood-fire cooking method.

Here is the socca that topped the Provençal sampler plate on our last night in France. I have a feeling it is not so authentic of a socca, but I really have not had enough socca to say.

And so, friends, that is how it all went down in France. If you’ve been following along, thanks for making it through to the end! I know I have been so backlogged on travel posts, and since I’m still learning my way around Beijing, cooking these days has been more figuring out what I can do with where I happen to have gotten groceries on a given week. I’ll have to share more about that process.

What’s next: I hope to have a couple recipes for you and, as I mentioned, some updates on what it’s like to live and cook and eat in Beijing. I also have much to share with you about my trip to Saigon back in September. And in three days, we’ll be heading to Seoul! It’s a much-needed vacation for my husband after a tough month of work (and he had not gone to Saigon with us, so he is definitely in need of a vacay). Be back soon!

Le Safari
1 cours Saleya
Old Town / Port
Phone: 04-93-80-18-44

For more posts on France, see…
Eating in Paris
Not Eating in Paris
The Bastille Quarter
Bistrot Paul Bert
Markets (Paris)
Oh, the Cheeses We Ate
Markets (Provence)
(La Vraie) Bouillabaisse in Marseille