Summer in France means a lot of things in France. En masse vacations, a blissfully empty Paris, price increases (which notoriously happen during August, when everyone is out of town – of course), and vide-greniers and brocantes, known elsewhere as flea markets, where people sell all kinds of things. If you’re lucky enough to take a trip to the countryside, the brocantes are amazing. But some small towns in France also have little antique shops that are always worth poking around in. And when your other half has a station wagon, well, the possibilities are endless. (And sometimes voluminous!)
Results tagged peach from David Lebovitz
Shortcake is one of those uniquely American desserts; a big, buttery biscuit floating on top of a cloud of whipped cream and lots of juicy, sweet, summer fruit. Sure, the components may be inspired from other places, but no one puts them together in a way that celebrates summer like we do.
One of the high points of my year is when peaches and nectarines are in abundance at the markets. As summer marches on, when prices are reasonable, I just can’t help buying a lot more than any one person would consider prudent. I just keep putting more and more in my bag at the market, until I can barely carry it home. And for the rest of the week, I scramble to use as many as I can while they’re dead-ripe and at their peak.
When I go out to eat, it’s usually not with the intention of writing about a place. I go out to eat to have a good time with friends and enjoy the food. (And perhaps a little wine.) But I found that whenever I don’t expect it, I hit on a place that merits talking about. Septime opened and caused a ripple of excitement in Paris. A number of years ago it was gastro-bistros, usually owned by well-regarded chefs who’d closed their larger, fancier places to open smaller dining rooms serving variations on traditional French food, at reasonable prices. They all appealed at the time, when regular dining had because out-of-reach for locals and visitors, and it gave the chefs a chance to relax and serve the kind of food that they (and guests) were happier to eat on an everyday basis.
Then a few years ago, a younger generation of cooks came up through the ranks, who wanted to break from traditional French cooking, the génération coincé, or “cornered generation”, who felt constricted by the rules and traditions, and started doing things out of the boundaries. Some didn’t (and still don’t) do a good job, but those who do, at restaurants like Vivant, Jadis, and Les Fines Gueules do it successfully. And I’m happy to add Septime to that list.
I started off with Velouté refraichi / Haricots verts / Pêche blanche, a rafraichi bowl of room temperature soup blended with green beans. Parisians don’t go for ‘sparks’ of flavor; they prefer subtle and smooth, replying on herbs as the underlying flavors rather than chiles and spices. And I missed those ‘sparks’ of something salty or lemony, or something peppery, to offset the uniform smoothness of the soup. I think the white nectarines meant to provide that jolt, but having big chunks of fruit on top of vegetable soup was a little incongruent. But the somewhat sexy mound of rosy white peach mousse on top served the purpose of incorporating a fruit element successfully. Although I should confess, I’m generally not a big fan of sweets or fruits in soups or salads and it would have been nice to have something salty or assertive to perk it up.
But then again, I don’t even normally order soup in restaurants. So what do I know?
During my trip to the Côte d’Azur with Matt and Adam, after the second or third day, we realized that we hadn’t eaten in any restaurants. With the fresh ingredients available, we were preparing our own meals (pretty well, I might add), and we didn’t feel the need to hand over the cooking duties to a third-party. It was a bit of heaven being in part of the country where garden-fresh vegetables are abundant, and we found ourselves gorging on local specialties that we made ourselves, like aïoli and socca, and not craving any meat or cheese.
But one restaurant did catch my eye, which many consider the best restaurant on the Côte d’Azur, and that’s Mirazur, located in Menton, a small town that meets the radiantly blue Mediterranean and is literally walking distance to Italy. When I wrote to Rosa Jackson, who teaches regional cooking classes in nearby Nice, about the restaurant, she wrote me right back; “… if you go, you should arrange in advance to visit their vegetable garden, it’s amazing!”
In the south of France, they’re pretty generous with les glaçons. It’s never any problem to get ice cubes, which are often brought to the table heaped in a bowl, and sometimes even already added to the rosé for you by the barman.
Contrast that with Paris, where a drink with ice may have one puny cube roughly the size of a Tic-Tac, languishing on the surface, tepidly melting away. Which I’ve always attributed to a couple of factors: