The French Riviera is renowned for its glamorous lifestyle, attracting the rich and famous who arrive on their luxurious yachts, vacation in gorgeous villas, gamble in elegant casinos and hobnob at the famous Cannes Film Festival. However there is much more to life on the Côte d’Azur than wealth and fame and nowhere is this more evident than in the farmers markets, cafes and restaurants which abound with local produce and local cuisine. Even the most budget minded traveler can enjoy the various culinary specialities that are found on this stretch of the French coast.
Bouillabaisse originated in Marseilles. The famous fish soup was originally made from fish that the fishermen couldn’t sell. They would build fires on the beach, fill buckets with sea water, set it to boil and throw in their catch. Served over croutons with rouille (a spicy, saffron, olive oil based sauce), the updated versions of this dish have become legendary.
A refreshing summer salad, Salade Niçoise is another specialty that has gained global appreciation. Originating in Nice, salade Niçoise, like bouillabaisse, began as a poor man’s dish though today it has become popular in many prestigious restaurants. This salad is usually composed of hard boiled eggs, olives, tomatoes and tuna or anchovies with a simple olive oil dressing. Green beans and potatoes as well as other ingredients can also be added though purists would shake their heads at such sacrilege.
An onion and chickpea flatbread, Socca is another specialty of the region that, like Fougasse (another flatbread often incorporating olives and cheese), can be found in most of the markets and make great snacks while wandering among the produce.
Ratatouille (a stewed vegetable dish often made with eggplant, tomato, garlic, and onion) and Soupe Au Pistou (a vegetable soup a bit like Minestrone served with a sauce similar to pesto) are two more popular dishes from this area.
According to legend, the Tarte Tropezienne was created by a Polish chef in St. Tropez in the 1950s. Brigitte Bardot, Roger Vadim and crew were filming “And God Created Woman” across from Alexandre Micka’s bakery and they so loved the tarte, Bardot suggested the chef should name it “la tarte de St. Tropez,” thus the “Tarte Tropezienne” was born.
There are many more culinary delights to be found along the Riviera among which are tapenade, aioli, daube, nougat and pissaladière. Whatever your taste you can be sure to find something you’ll love when you visit the Côte d’Azur.
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