why should i eat at a michelin restaurant when i can eat a dorade royale rôti elsewhere?
Let’s get real. Eating at Michelin restaurants is not fun, sometimes: they cost too much money for the formule of three courses, one must order three courses because à la carte is way way way–did I write “way” enough times–too much money, the ambiance is sometimes stuffy and formal and everyone knows the dishes will be refined and beautifully presented.
But . . . give me une dorade royale entière rôti any day. It is one of my favorite preparations for a freshly caught whole fish; and make it à la provençale, I will believe to have died and gone to heaven.
I want now to spend a few minutes describing some meals and dishes that can appear in ordinary, typical French restaurants.
At the end of La Plage de la Salis in Antibes is a small restaurant Casa Gianni that faces the Mediterranean Sea. I like the restaurant for its simple, good meals and for its terrace and large windows. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
The black slate outside of Casa Gianni, which are commonly seen at other French restaurants, is called an ardoise. It lists the dishes and suggestions for that day.
When I see a dorade (daurade) royale entière on the menu, I cannot resist it. Often it is served with rice and some vegetables. My favorite vegetable accompaniment is à la provençale, or a Provençal-style preparation, usually with tomatoes.
Ice cream is a wonderful dessert and after a meal of fish or meat it is an excellent palette cleanser. Many refined restaurants will make their own ice cream and sorbet.
The dorade is not always served whole; it is more often filleted. That is the way it is served at La Cour des Thés, a small restaurant hidden inside a small courtyard near the bus station in the center of Antibes. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
A small ardoise is brought to your table. The server does something else as well that I have not seen in any other restaurant in France. The two suggestions for the day, already prepared, are shown to you already plated.
La Cour de Thés is well known for its desserts. Tout est fait maison, or made on the premises. It would be odd to go there and not select one.
Grasse, France is where perfume is made, or was made. When I go there, specifically into the old village, I have difficulty finding restaurants. Usually, I end up revisiting Brasserie des Artistes. That is all right. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
This day I saw a salade chèvre chaude on the carte, another favorite dish. It consists basically of small crottins of goat cheese, toast, lettuce, bacon, and vegetables.
The main dish was fish, un cabillaud, or cod, common in southern France. In this particular instance, it was placed in a folded pouch (papillote) and then baked with vegetables.
La Petite Escale in Antibes is small, very small, with a chef and a server, more precisely, une serveuse. It is not necessary to reserve a table but, I believe, that will change. During the high season it is certainly recommended. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
I began eating at the little spot ten years ago when it had another name, a tattooed, long hair chef, and occasionally a waitress. The spot was sold and became a fancy hamburger bistro. Maybe one year ago–I forget–La Petite Escale moved in and has been an immediate success.
Most will find the formule sufficient for lunch, a main dish, either fish or meat, and a glass of wine. Here I chose two courses, a salad with a poached egg and bacon for an entrée and veal with vegetables for the main dish. Unlike in the states, veal can often be found on French menus.
The dishes shown above are unusual for various reasons. I would like to explain each one. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
The first one is une salade mixte from Da Cito, a small restaurant next to the Marché Provençal in Antibes. It was the most satisfyingly fresh salad I have eaten. The chef had chosen the ingredients from the market that morning and dressed it with a special house vinaigrette.
La Badiane in Antibes specializes in Bouddha Bowls and healthy meals. The chili cone carne caught my eye. The waitress warned me that it would be spicy. I have never known the French to cook spicy, and this dish did not measure up either in that respect.
Can anyone name a restaurant in the states where they serve bone marrow in a first course, or in any course? When I can, I order it. It comes usually with salt and toast and a spoon to scoop out the marrow.
Can anyone name a restaurant in the states where they serve stuffed cabbage for lunch? Le Pin Parasol, only a few doors away from La Badiane, has one of the most varied menus of any restaurant in Antibes. The choux farcis was proposed one day, and who knows when it will appear again. Each day one will see a new plat du jour.
Finally, one should drink a pastis periodically, or maybe regularly. In many seaside cities and towns on the Côte d’Azur, the terraces on a sunny day will be filled with people, and they will be sipping wine of various colors or relishing a tall narrow glass of pastis.
Finally, I will introduce a modest, plain meal at a family restaurant Le Jardin, situated in a stressed neighborhood of Cannes. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
The salad was sweet red bell peppers with an anchovy sauce, pickles, tomatoes, and lettuce and cabbage. Of interest though might be the second dish, une andouillette de Troyes. It is an acquired taste, and should be tried once in a life time. The andouillette de Troyes, made from pork, is one of the more well known types of andouillette. In this instance it was served with a mustard sauce and some frites. The dessert, a tart made with pears and chocolate, is always wonderful. I love the combination of the two.
The prices are low. I ate a three course meal, drank un quart de vin rouge, and drank an espresso, and I paid only 21 €. (A quart de vin rouge is one-third of a 750 ml bottle of red wine. Or, another way to explain it: it is one-fourth of a liter, un quart.)