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an illustrated journey of an american in paris
“La Cigale!” was the very first thing out of everyone’s mouths when I was compiling a Nantes to-do list. Everyone mentioned the celebrated brasserie with sparkles in their eyes. And I was instantly enamored by this powerhouse, Art Nouveau brasserie : the warm woodwork, the mosaic lobsters on the walls, the uniformed garçons and the overall theatrics of fine dining. I was easily tempted by the complete prix fixe menu at a cool 17 euros (cold zucchini and mascarpone soup, onglet, et crème brûlée). But my dining companion, also known as mon mari, ordered maquereaux marinés, marinated mackerel, off the menu. And I have been thinking of it ever since. And it looked a little something like this…
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Although I intently packed my watercolors with high hopes of capturing the many hues of the Côte d’Azur, I have fully embraced both my idleness and writer’s block. Viva les vacances! Grammar-be-gone! Me lazy. Nevertheless, because I cannot say it well with words, here are a few snapshots of a few Niçoise discoveries.
The zucchini flowers are in bloom! And they fry up beautifully. Find beignet de fleur de courgette, legumes farcis and other traditional Niçoise specialties at Le Safari (1 Cours Saleya 06300 Nice).
Along with coming to the realization that I will never be as glamorous as my 70-something mother-in-law and resident of NIce, she has been more than generous with sharing her secrets to aging flawlessly, eating impeccably, and inviting me to sneak a peak into her Mediterranean kitchen.
Despite her disapproval of my self-inflicted summer bob, here is one thing that is mother-in-law approved. Stock up on zucchini flowers and the freshest fish at the Marché de Libération,
specifically these little macarels at Poissonerie Gris.
Purple green beans? I beg your pardon!
Another seasonal treat from the Marché de Libération were these tiny mara de bois fraises. Intensely sweet and bitingly acidic, they were a strawberry reawakening . Surprisingly enough, although France is home to the best pastries in the world, yogurt and fruit are the most common ways to finish off a well-balanced meal. In my dream world where baguette has nutritional value, I would eat profiteroles everyday for dessert. However, these little beauties were a perfectly satisfying addition to a well-rounded dinner of fried fish and heirloom tomato salad.
Yesterday, we got up early and perused the crowded stalls of the weekly Cours Saleya flea market. I have been in the market for a wedding ring since mine split in half shortly after we got hitched. Not the best metaphor for marriage, but so far so good otherwise. At the market, an antique aquamarine rock jumped onto my finger and my husband could not resist. “It’s the same color as your eyes,” he cooed. Although my eyes are green, I was undoubtedly charmed. Sold. Since we had neither a proper proposal nor an engagement photo session, I indulged in a Titanic “Heart of the Ocean” moment overlooking the sea from the Parc de la Colline du Chateau.
Thank you, Nice. My heart will go on.
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