The Mediterranean is an hommage to the sun and the sea. Based on fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish, and fine herbs, kitchens are filled with the scents of vacation, pétanque parties, and siestas in the shade of pine trees. And it's good for your health, too!
Begin like a Niçoise
For your aperitif, grab a table at a café terrace and order a pastis, an anise-flavoured alcohol. Then, in the Old Town of Nice, try the pissaladière, a pizza-like tart garnished with onions, olives and anchovy fillet, and at the Cours Saleya market, an anchovy and olive oil pan-bagnat. Omnipresent in Mediterranean cuisine, olive oil is the base of local specialties like anchoïade (anchovy purée), tapenade (olive spread) and aïoli (a garlic dipping sauce).
Extraordinary vegetable gardens
Fill up on sun-drenched fruits and vegetables at the markets in Provence. As a starter, prepare (or order) a pistou (the Provencal name for basil) soup, or a niçoise salad. Top this off with a ratatouille, petits farcis (niçoise-stuffed vegetables) or beignets de fleurs de courgettes (zucchini flower fritters).
Deeply intertwined with Marseille culture, today's bouillabaisse soup is prepared according to a specific charter, which indicates that the fish must be cut up in front of you. At the Miramar, the Marseille restaurant where this charter was founded, the bouillabaisse must be made with at least six types of rockfish.
A little meat
The Provencal daube, or braised meat, is a meat-based dish marinated in wine with herbs of Provence (thyme, rosemary, savoury). In Avignon, try the daube avignonnaise (lamb and white wine), and daube niçoise (beef, red wine and cèpes) on the Riviera.
Navettes (a dry orange blossom water biscuit), pompe à l'huile (an olive oil based bread), calissons (candied fruit and dried almond candy)... Provence is indeed gourmand! Indulge in tart tropézienne (cream-filled brioche), made famous by Brigitte Bardot, and in Menton, near the Italian border, opt for a slice of lemon pie - the citrus is celebrated here each year. For Christmas in Provence, tables are decorated with 13 desserts, including hazelnuts, dried figs, almonds, nougat...