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can you spot the lunch served at a 1 star michelin restaurant?

I live 6 months in Oregon and 6 months in France. When I am in Portland, I eat lunch occasionally in restaurants; I prefer to cook. On the other hand, in France I will eat lunch in a restaurant every day.

In Portland, a city celebrated for its food and where James beard was born after all, lunches consist of fast-food, such as pizzas, hamburgers, tacos, and so forth, plus food carts, and some good ethnic restaurants that might have started as food carts.

In my neighborhood in NW Porttland, called the Alphabet District, I have several favorites: Bhuna (Kashmir), Rice & Fish (Japanese), Fish Sauce (Vietnamese), Kim Jong Smokehouse (Korean), and Matador (Mexican). They are acclaimed, and I am lucky to live within easy walking distance to them.

Portland does have some restaurants where one can sit down and order two and three courses for lunch. Little Bird Bistro (French) comes to mind, and Bistro Agnes (French), Nostrana (Italian), and Piazza Italia (Italian). Notice they are European in style. There are other restaurants, but the two and three course meal is unusual for lunch.

Portland really excels during the dinner hours. The most acclaimed restaurants serve only dinner; they are never open for lunch.

That offers a segue to the French desire to sit down and eat a proper two or three course meal for lunch. It is one of the classic differences between the two cultures. On another occasion I have defined those meals. In short the French do eat fast food, and they like a main dish and a dessert.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

The pleasure that I have in living in France for six months each year is eating: I like the courses, usually two or three, and I want to drink wine when I eat.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

For three months I am in Antibes, France, a lovely, tourist town on the Côte d’Azur. As in Portland, I have some favorite restaurants, and when I venture outside of Antibes and visit another city, Nice, for example, I make sure that I have an idea where I will eat before I go.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Sometimes I might splurge and go to a Michelin starred restaurant. They are good and expensive and, unless you are wealthy, should be reserved with eyes wide open for special moments or when you wish to pamper yourself.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

My favorite French restaurants in France are often small with few tables and a staff consisting of a chef and a waiter. Once, I ate lunch at a one star Michelin restaurant that had five tables, and the waiter said they could at the most serve eleven or twelve diners during a meal. The day I ate lunch, there were five diners, but people wishing to eat but had not reserved were turned away. I assume the other tables had been reserved.

In Antibes I admire the following restaurants: Le Vauban, L’Arazur, and Le P’tit Cageot. The first and last require reservations, and soon L’Arazur will follow, I believe.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I have other favorites in Antibes, such as La Petite Escale and Côté Terroir, but have chosen the three above for this post because they are more refined. In addition I have chosen two restaurants outside Antibes: Lou Cigalon (Valbonne) and La Litote (Vence).

One of the restaurants above is a one star Michelin restaurant. I purposely did not identify it. With a little sleuthing, it will be easy to identify. What is interesting is that I would be hard pressed to pick it out from the photographs. I would argue as well that the meals in the non-Michelin restaurant were equal in caliber to the one star Michelin.

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