Saturday, January 27, 2007

Creme de la Creme

BERNACHON Patisserie et Chocolatier
42, cours Franklin-Roosevelt-69006
-Tél. : (0033) 04 78 52 23 65 -

Opening hours Tuesday to Saturday: 9.00 to 18.15
The above title is a French interpretation of being the best of the best. Six years ago, as a gift for my wife, N who was still then my girlfriend, I bought her a small box of chocolates from Paris' most famous hip and trendy Chocolatier, Jean Paul Hevin. The little box has since set the benchmark for good quality artisan chocolates in her memory. Nothing else came close or better till we stepped into Bernachon in Lyon. I am sure Jean Paul Hevin’s chocolates are still as good in taste and they continued to be marketed via a platform of modern haute couture sophistication. Benarchon on the other hand works on a formula based on traditional skills, a rich history, exclusivity, familiarity and warmth. A Lyon based culinary icon in the world of pastry arts and chocolate making, Bernachon is a third generation business having started by Maurice Bernachon the man himself.
Bernachon prides itself as a chocolatier that imports, roasts and process their own cocoa beans for chocolate making. Sourcing for the best beans from cocoa producing countries around the world, the different variety of beans and their unique characters allow the chocolate master to design his master pieces with unlimited creativity and maximum flexibility. Aided by modern technology with traditional methods of processing and recipes, the processed beans go through the two most important steps of chocolate making which is conching and tempering. Conching is a process traditional used to convert chocolate in its initial raw form which is doughy or powdery into smooth couvertures with cocoa butter. It’s like a fine milling process which makes the chocolate so smooth to taste on the palate and its takes patience and skill to understand the different amounts of required time for conching each different batch of raw chocolate. It can be anywhere from a few hours to a week depending on what kind of quality of chocolates is to be produced. Every Chef has their own recipes and it takes experience to bring out the best of the cocoa beans. Under conching will result in coarser grain chocolate while over conching it drives the chocolate to become plain or gummy in texture.

After the conching process which produces chocolate couverture, it is ready to be tempered where hundreds of creations with spices, nuts, liquers and flavours are produced. Artisan chocolatiers like Bernachon will then temper each piece with their respective signature flavours and profile while at the same time capturing all the finesse it takes to be. All their chocolates are handcrafted pieces and are produced daily for freshness. Unlike commercial chocolates with emulsifiers and stabilizers, Bernachon chocolates should be consumed within a month even when stored in right conditions. The sales staff explained to us that this is to encourage their customers to appreciate the freshness and full flavour of the chocolates and its fillings. The wide variety of chocolates on display was feast to the eyes. From simple nuts and couverture bars to regular truffles and the more sophisticated ones speck with gold leaves and exotic spice flavours like chili and lemon grass, each delicate piece is an elegance of its own kind. The chocolates are sold by batch weight in different box sizes and little touches like offering little sampling pieces randomly when they see that you are unable to make up your mind. We thought that was really a nice gesture.

The other strength of this institution is the Patisserie arm of Bernachon. The cakes both large and small well all beautifully decorate with elegance from carved chocolate pieces, fresh fruits and sugar work. It was a visual feast for the eyes and everything look so wonderfully delicious. Style of presentation also helps and the neat rows of mini pastries on display with different flavours and decorations were sending our sweet cravings to a high.

There were rows of fruit tarts, choux pastry favourites like hazelnut éclairs and Paris Breasts, flavoured mousse based slices, Magdelines, sumptuous looking white and dark chocolate slices, and the list can go on forever. Some of these pieces are crowned with visually stunning decorations that would seem to project an impressive high level of technical difficulty on a lay man’s mind. Besides pastries, there was also a colourful selection of macaroons, some with interesting flavours like cola, pineapples, Oreo cookies etc….. There were also fruit glaces and sugar coated fruit gummies on display. Beyond sweets, Bernachon also offers savoury items like different types of quiches featuring mushroom, spinach, smoked salmon and traditional Quiche Lorraine which was very good (see article below). The selection of croissants and daily de rigueur items like Pain au Chocolate and Pain au Raisins were also very tempting. I could fantasize grabbing one of those buttery flaky croissants and dipping it in freshly brewed coffee as sheer bliss in the cold winter morning.

By now N has assembled a box of flavoured chocolates and picked up a bag regular ones as well while I had been happily snapping pictures of all those lovely items around here. We picked a selection of mini French pastries. Given the favourable winter weather which was like a big open air refrigerator at 2°c, it took us two days to finish the pastries with every bite of satisfaction.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Saloon

42, cours Franklin-Roosevelt-69006
-Tél. : (0033) 04 78 52 23 65 -
Opening hoursTuesday to saturday: 9.00 to 18.15

Same words with different meanings in English and in French, the tile of this blog specifically refers to a tea room. Welcome to the world of passion in pastry arts and fine chocolate works as you descend upon Bernachon (I will talk about it in a later post) and Passion by Bernachon which is just next door.

Three generations of family have successfully managed the patisserie and chocolatier business, Bernachon was started by Maurice Bernachon who had learned the craft from age fourteen. Buying over the confectionary shop from the chocolate master when he retired, Chef Maurice transformed it into a worldwide recognized icon of fine chocolates and pastries in the city of Lyon. There is only one Bernachon Kitchen in the whole of France and its right here in this culinary capital. Today it is managed by the third generation of the Bernachon family with traditional recipes and skills a la Lyonnais style still being practiced daily aided by modern technology.

Passion By Benarchon
How could we not visit this culinary landmark in Lyon when here? Friends in the chefs industry have told me that this is a must see place as the best and one only chocolatier with no other manufacturing branches in the whole of France. This is what that makes it exclusive and every trip to Lyon should include a stop over here.

Passion by Bernachon is a tea saloon offering both sweet and savoury pastries with luxurious tea blends, gourmet coffees and a special in house formulated hot chocolate for afternoon tea. It also offers a lunch menu of some classic French dishes. The saloon is not opened for dinner and closes at the same time with the patisserie. Lunch is often packed so reservations are absolutely necessary. However, N and I took the chance of walking in an hour before they opened where some staff were already preparing for the lunch service. We had kind of overslept through the breakfast hour and lunch was just an hour away. With our tummies growling and not wanting to go elsewhere, we politely asked if we could just come in for tea first and order some pastries from next door to munch on as they get ready. We also indicated that we would like to have lunch as soon as they are ready. In the line of restaurant business, you do not turn away polite customers even if your house is not ready. The right thing to do is to host them on the side in a corner while the rest prepares for service. After all it doesn’t take much to host two people over a coffee table by the side which also translates to extra revenue.

We ordered Quiche Lorraine from next door to share as lunch was to be soon in forty five minutes. N wanted to go for the hot chocolate while I prefer my de rigueur cafe au lait to start the day with, something which I regretted with later.

While I normally do not comment much on beverages and my coffee was as good as I expected, I need to highlight this cup of dark brown looking liquid that sent my wife on a heavenly high at almost noon time. Hot chocolate is a very common drink that can be very comforting in the most uncomfortable of situations for example cold weather, hungry stomachs….etc. Its appreciation dates back to Mexican Aztec history when cocoa beans were used as trading currency. However, it does not enjoy the kind of hype and gourmet status of coffees even though the prices of cocoa beans are not really any cheaper to that of coffee. Bernachon’s version looked ordinary when it came by but the light up on N’s face at the first sip; I knew it just wasn’t simple stuff.

I used to think that Max Brenner offered the best hot chocolate but while it is still good, it is not something like Bernachon’s that sends N on high spirits. This cup of humble looking hot chocolate has that rich robust taste of cocoa beans that is so thick; its viscosity would put others pale in comparison. Its was like drinking a bar of melted dark chocolate couverture with all the flavours of sweet, bitter, toasty notes and a very light acidity in the background. And chocolate does have aphrodisiac properties because they trigger the feel good hormones into your system.

Good chefs know that to create the ultimate dining experience, food has to be sexy. To achieve that, presentation, balance of taste, temperature and texture has to be in the right place and the resulting synergy is an orgasmic sensation on the palate.

The quiche arrived at the right temperature as they had taken the initiative to serve it warm. This makes the lovely savoury custard meltingly good in the mouth and allows the pastry to give off a nice buttery note on the crust when you bite into it. By serving it warm also reduces the unpleasant feeling of eating cold grease. N is not a food connoisseur by training but she can go on raving for hours about it if she bites into something that would trigger an orgasmic experience on her palate. The quiche did just that and I must admit it was really one of the best quiche that I have tasted. Sweet onions, lightly sautéed with lardons(pancetta) not bacon was suspended in between sensational smooth custard and lovely topped with melted Emmental cheese. It reminded us of those wonderful freshly baked Sweet Egg Tarts from Leung San in Chinatown, Singapore, where the custard is still warm and runny. With the exceptional hot chocolate earlier, you could naughtily say that my wife had “multiple gastronomic related orgasms” before we could even hit lunch.

By now, the tables were ready and we were ushered to another corner where we could go through the freshly printed menus du jour (today). N left the choices to me so we opted for Pate Encroute with a Petit Salad and Salade Lyonnais as starters. As N wanted to taste that wonderful North Sea Cod again which I had in Le Nord a day before, I ordered it done with a tomato basil salsa for her. For me, the Fillet of Daurade with Lemon Beurre Blanc, Pink Peppercorns and Parsley was my choice.

Pates are traditional foods in France where pork meat is blended, seasoned, paired with liver, pistachio nuts, ham and some times foie gras or truffles. It is then sometimes encrusted in pie pastry with ornamented cuttings before baking. Served cold with toasted brioche bread, salad and pickles, it's the standard fare for lunch or dinner starters. Pate making tests on the skills of the chef in the art of gardemanger (cold kitchen) as preparing one is no easy feat.

We had a huge generous slice of Pate Encroute that came with a petit salad or marche leaves and other baby greens. The pate filling was rich, creamy and smooth with chunks of meat, ham and pistachio nuts. A small piece of savoury jelly from the meat juices that leeched out during baking provided a nice contrast on texture for the palate. The pie pastry was pretty standard but the petit salad had a nice mustard dressing which cut the richness of the pate perfectly together with the side pickles.

My Lyonnais Salad was a bed of mix leaf lettuces with mustard dressing, speck with sautéed smoked lardons (pancetta), tomatoes, crispy croutons and a warm poached egg. The sharp vinaigrette cut through the fattiness of the delicious smoky lardons and the runny egg yolk provided an element of subtle neutrality to the salad taking on a diplomatic compliment to the rest of the ingredients. The croutons resolved any crispy textured cravings bringing harmony to the dish’s well balanced taste and texture.

In between the next course, I had a chance to peek into the kitchen from my sitting position where much of the action was going on. I saw a racial mix of staff from Asian to African faces rather than just native French. Rather than think them as third world immigrant workers, I would perceive them as keen apprentices. Being such an institution in the world of pastry arts in Lyon, any aspiring pastry apprentice would sure loved to have a year or two of training in that level of passion and finesse.

Back to the food, both main courses arrived together with the Cod Fillet Cabillaud shinning from the drizzle of olive oil and the tomato basil salsa. Not losing out to the fantastic one we had just a day before in Le Nord, N totally enjoyed the lovely moist piece of fish and its delicate flavours accentuated by the tomato basil salsa and a squeeze of lemon. She was still basking in the glow of satisfaction from the earlier experience.

My Daurade fillet was equally tempting with the accompanying creamy tart beurre blanc. Its very crispy skin and moist flesh was already a sensation of its own, paired with the sauce, a well orchestrated combination. Bite into one of those generously sprinkle of pink peppercorns, an explosive burst of flavours to a lovely finish as you chew on.

We had a lovely Roesti Potatoes and Cauliflower Au Gratin for the sides. The cauliflower was especially tasty, being in the prime of the season , beautifully gratinated with Comte Cheese, giving it a nutty character. If there was a dash of truffle oil, I would have given it a perfect 10+. The Roesti Potatoes were normal but nicely done so having them with the fishes was just as beautiful.

As we planned to buy some pastries from next door, we order a simple Frozen Soufflé of Red Berries with Raspberry Coulis, Caramelized nuts and Creme Chantilly (whipped cream). The frozen soufflé was lovely with the sauce and we both like the caramelized nuts as sheer nibbles. However the Creme Chantilly was a humongous serving,way too much but the paper thin almond tulies and chocolate cigarettes will surely please any child. It was like some kind of a fairy tale dessert that every child would fantasize in their mind.

The meal was a lovely experience!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The North Star

Brasserie Le Nord
By Paul Bocuse
18 rue Neuve (Place Du Republique)
69002 Lyon
Tél. 04 72 10 69 69
Fax. 04 72 10 6 68

Lyon is the second biggest city in France after its Paris but is often recognized as a more significant gastronomical capital of the country. Blessed with its closed proximity to the Rhone Valley and Burgundy (Bourgogne), it’s the synergy with the wine producing regions defines it as the culinary capital of France. The wines are also part of many famous classical French recipes like Beef Bourgogne, Coq Au Vin, and Pears in Red Wine Compote. Other signature dishes from this region include Escargot Bourgones, Salad Lyonnaise and Potatoes Au Lyonnaise.

As the culinary capital, Lyon is home to many great French chefs and undisputedly the greatest of them all, Chef Paul Bocuse. Widely recognized as a mentor to many of todays successful French chefs even way before Alain Ducasse came along with his repertoire of Michelin Stars, Chef Bocuse at 80 years old is still the champion for his contribution to the development and celebration of French cuisine in the last fifty years. Besides his signature Restaurant Bocuse, Chef Bocuse also consults for a group of brasseries that is licensed to associate their menus with France’s number one culinarian. Le Halles, the most prominent market in the city is dedicated to the Great Chef and Chef Bocuse is also accredited for many culinary events like the world renowned Bouse D Or and World Pastry Cup which are traditionally held in Lyon every five years.
One of the highlights of our trip to Lyon was to dine at one of the Great Chef’s associated brasseries instead of his flagship restaurant as we had only budgeted for the luxury of one fine dinning experience on this trip. We had already booked for Le Louis XV by Alain Ducasse in Monaco so checking out one of the Bocuse associated brasseries was the next best thing to do while we were in Lyon. Of the five Bocuse associated brasseries aptly named Le Nord, L’Est, L’Ouest, Le Sud and Argenson. We picked Le Nord due to its more traditional French menu that also exhibits Burgundy styles of cooking.

We opted to visit Le Nord for lunch as we aren’t used to heavy French style dinners before sleep (jetlag) in the early evenings. Besides we could walk around and shop after lunch to help digestion. We got in right at the peak hour with the brasserie almost fully packed with diners. Being the first time there, we had made reservations a day earlier by walking in, we weren’t given the best seating place in the house.

Being two persons, we were given a small table by the corridor with busboys zooming pass by every other minute to tables behind us. Being Asians, they gave us French menus with no other translations available. Luckily I have built up a fairly good understanding of French culinary terms during the five years of working in the Provence region so I could decipher eighty percent of the items on the menu though not accurately to the point. We opted for the French Onion Soup, what else if not in France and Escargots Bourgogne to start with. The winter weather helps in building up of appetites for such fare which normally would be not that really suitable for tropical sunny Singapore. For the mains, I chose a Grilled North Sea Cod, (Cabillaud) while N took on a Mixed Seafood Grill Platter. As these were very traditional and down to earth dishes, I was not expecting any “Wow” factor in presentation and brasseries are usually more casual then fine dining restaurants. I tend to expect more on the taste, temperature and skill of the chefs in catching the right doneness of ingredients when cooking these dishes over and over again for the entire winter season.

The next twenty minutes was spent trying to tell three different waiters that we wanted water from the carafes just like every other tables around us despite having ordered wines as well. Two of them spoke decent English but somehow have the tendency to forget about it once they realized the bottle of water that what we wanted was not a bottle of Vittel or Evian but the recycled carafe. Another ten minutes later it finally came after N made an unimpressed glance at one of the three waiters as he passed by before realizing that we were still not getting our water. From then on, service was prompt.

The Onion soup arrived expectedly as vision with an Emmental Cheese crouton floating on top. Going beyond the crouton where the saltiness of the cheese crouton complimented very well with the sweetness of the onions, the meaty aromas of the broth indicated that a good beef stock was used as a base for the soup. The onions flavour reminded me of caramelized Spanish Vidalia onions that was once used in a recipe by a chef friend in Provence. The Malliard reaction between the caramelizing sugars from the onions and proteins from the beef stock created a slight lingering acidity to the soup that balances the sweetness of the onions and the saltiness of the cheese crouton. While this soup is also common on the menus of many French restaurants in Singapore where it is made with more pungent Tasmanian or Indian onions, having a chance to experience it in France with made with their local ingredients was really something of a different sensation.

Few minutes into the soup, the Escargots arrived without their shells bubbling in garlic parsley butter. Representing an important icon in French Bourgogne cuisine, these garden snails were cooked just right in the fragrant garlic butter sauce. Each morsel was a slithery delicateness down our throats, gone within ten seconds. Rather than pick on criticizing the snails being overflowed with the butter sauce, the excess sauce provided us with a delicious option to mop it up with the warm bread serve on the side with plain cold butter.

Being France, do not expect your main courses to arrive immediately when dishes from the earlier courses are cleared. Reasonably be prepared to wait 15-20 minutes for the next course as the chefs will cook your order only when its time to expedite. The dining culture in France is if you are rushed for time; just grab a baguette sandwich and go. When dining in a restaurant, customers should wait for their food and not the other way round. This is also a form of respect for the food that you are eating and appreciating the chefs’ talents in serving them to you at its best.

The mains finally came and I was right. The Cabillaud was very well cook with a crisp skin yet moist and juicy in the center, exhibiting the chefs skills of handling such delicately flavoured fish. Because of its freshness and perfect execution, the juicy fillet was simply brought out to its best by a good salt, quality olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Freshly diced tomatoes provided colour and a variety of buttered vegetables from peas to broccoli and f
ava beans were on the side. Take note that vegetables in Europe are cooked the European way so do not expect crunchy textures like in Chinese cooking. You can in fact say that they would have been overcooked in our kind of cuisine but that's the way it is in the whole of Europe. If you want your vegetables crunchy, eat a salad. Buttery herbed steamed potatoes with creamy textures and nutty flavours provided substance to our main courses.

My wife’s platter of Mixed Grilled Seafood was served with the same accompaniments but with more variety of seafood to choose from. She had two great pieces of caramelized scallops, decent sized prawns, sweet tasting red mullet fillets which are prized for their taste despite its petit size and a lovely piece of black daurade fillet (sea bream), one of the best fishes from the Mediterranean Sea. Again the freshness of the seafood accentuated by good olive oil and great cooking skills made every morsel a perfect pleasure in taste. At the end of the day, it just reinforces the belief that if you have great produce with great skills, you do not really need complex sauces to pair them with.

We were very happy with our main courses and started to look around other tables for clues to what looks best for dessert. Classic offerings on the menu consist of Creme Brulee, Tarte Tartin, ice creams, mousse and parfaits where they are usually the norm. We choose Tarte Tartin as we didn’t want something too heavy. We ordered two Cafe Au Lait and I must say the only time I drink coffee is when I know they are served European style. I am not a fan of instant coffee and the lousy quality offered in the office pantry just reinforces it. The apple tart came only on its own with a nice buttery crust and slices of baked green apples on it. Wonderfully fragrant from the butter and a hint of cinnamon, it made our coffees tasted even lovelier. The sweet ending to this dinning experience was two complimentary pieces of dark Valhorna Chocolates to go with your coffee, something that you can only dream of in Singapore……

Stay tuned for the story on Bernachon.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Marches in Cote D Azur

No! No! I am not talking about military style marching here in the blog. Its pronounced French style as in 'Maar Ches". Before I post further on the exciting gourmet adventures in the last 3 weeks in the land of cheeses and the Union Jack, lets take a look at where these exciting ingredients can be found first.

Cote D Azur is also known as the French Riveria that stretches from St Tropez to Monaco featuring many playgrounds for the rich and famous. It also has been home to me for five and half years during the formative years of my chef career cooking on one of the Supersize Yachts that we hopefully get to see here in Singapore when the Integrated Resorts are completed. Many of the world's superyachts often ply the riveria during summer and this is where i had the chance to explore the markets in the different cities and we call into the ports. This time round, rather I had the chance to explore them at my own sweet time with my wife N, instead of rushing from one stall to another before hopping back to my gallet to prepare breakfast for the yacht owners and their guests.

Marche Forville, Cannes

Located near the Palais De Festivals which is the annual hosting venue of the Cannes Film Festival annually. Marche Forville is a battered stucco structure with a roof and a few arches but no sides. Every morning except Monday, it usually functions as the fruit and vegetable market that supplies raw materials to the dozens of restaurants near the old port of Cannes as well as the luxurious private yachts at the nearby Port Canto. The excitement starts around 7am in the morning but no shouting and hard selling.

Many vendors have their own little niche of regular customers and are already busy processing orders that have also been sent in by restaurants and yachts. The range of products here is enormous and many individual stalls stand out on their own. Winter season produce like cabbages, kale, chards, fennel bulbs and potatoes are the main highlights at this time of the year. Citrus fruits like lemons, clementines and oranges were in season though there were also other imported items from warmer climate countries. We sampled commercial strawberries from Spain and artisanal grown ones from Portugal with big differences in appearance and flavour intensity. While the commercial ones look big and tempting with vibrant colour that comes with extra sourness, the smaller Portuguese lighter but more uniformly coloured ones were more flavourful with natural sweetness and strawberry aromas.
Besides the huge fruit, vegetables and flowers selection, there are also stalls selling artisan cheeses made from farms in the Provence regions, air dried salamis and saucissons from Alps Maritime. Most of these artisan cheeses are not available in commercial suoermarkets as the volume produced are limited. They represent the art of fine cheese making with traditionals skills and techniques driven by passion pass down from many different generations. Made from goats, cows or ewes milk, the cheeses are also flavoured with Provencal herbs like rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. From soft creamy textured cheese to those hard ripened chunks exploding with nutty, sharp and pungent flavours, there is something for everyone to enjoy with their baguettes. Cheese to the French is like tofu to the Chinese and is traditional accompaniment to their wines after dinner. Ironically much as France is one country with the largest variety of cheese, you can hardly find such a thing as a cheesecake in the patisseries. The French are very traditions oriented when it comes to their cheeses and they celebrate the efforts of their cheesemakers hardwork by respecting the way it should be appreciated, unadulterated in their natural form. Many of these cheeses are created based on traditional skills passed down from generations and usually come with a story to tell. Personally I preferred nutty flavoured semi hard cheese with a slight acidity though there many creamy soft ones like brie and salut which are heaven for me when eaten with fig jam or red berries confitures.

The cool and dry winter air from the Alps provide an ideal environment to practise the art of saucisson making. These air cured sausages are an important ingredient in French cooking, lending flavour dimensions to soups and stews, served on charcuterie platters and stuffed into baguettes sandwiches. Made with different cuts of meats or butcher trimmings, they represent the art of meat preservation in French culinary history way before the refrigerator was invented. Unlike Spanish or Italian sausages that tend to be more infused with North African spices, Provencal type sausages are flavoured with local herbs and sometimes encrusted by them too. The air dried meats are full of "terroir" dimensions coming from what the animals feed on from the enviroment and the cold mountain air that dries up and concentrates the flavour of the meats after curing. The saltiness of these air dried meats are often balance by pairing them with a sweet fruit like melons or figs when they are served au natural while the sides and trimings are often used for cooking. Besides sausage and air dried meats, another favourite item that the French love from their markets is homemade pate or pate du maison. Its a softer finer blend of meat mixed with nuts, foie gras or truffles encrusted in a pie pastry and baked. The pates are then chilled and serve cold with salads and are sometimes used to as a spread for their breads. Just like cheesemaking, making sausages and air dried ham are also an artisanal art for the butchers and represent a signfication part of French culinary traditions.

Funghi lovers will be thrilled that despite being only one mushroom stall around, it has a wide variety of wild and dried mushrooms. Fresh morels, truffles, chanterelles, bolotus, cepes and portobellos are some of the variety that can be found here in different seasons. Its interesting to see an entire stall sell an interesting whole range of edible fungus both grown above and below the ground. Yes, truffles are in season though they were also coming to end by this time of the year. French soil only produces black truffles from the regions of Perigord. There were fresh chanterelles, yellow mushrooms and black trumpet mushrooms on sale too. Unfortunately due to their high perishable nature, otherwise I would have loved to take some home too.

Another interesting find here are certain varieties of rare fresh herbs like lemon verbena, pineapple sage and purple basil leaves. A wide range of locally made infused oils and vinegars can also be found here. Different kinds of Mediterranean antipastos like semi dried tomatoes, pickled olives, marinated grilled vegetables adds an impressive visual sight.Some exotic fruits that are found here are wild tiny strawberries, mulberries and prickly pears. Nearby Marche Forville on one of it sides facing the port, Paul's, a croissanterie and boulangerie bakes some of the best artisan breads and croissants that I have tasted in the world.

Marche Port Antibes, Antibes

Antibes is a sleepy old Mediterranean town by the sea across the Baie Des Anges (Bay of Angels) from Nice,France. In late spring and early summer, this little place becomes alive with its little harbour filled with fishing boats. More importantly, pleasure yachts belonging to some of the well known rich and famous people, gather here to pick up their guests as well as to do provisioning for their summer cruise season. During my time as Executive Sous Chef onboard Lady Moura (above right), this was one of my favourite ports of call as it was also an English widely spoken French town.

Marche Port Antibes is a smaller version of Marche Forville but being situated in the heart of an old town with no modern architecture in sight, a trip to the market often creates a nostalgic feeling like walking back in history. Cafes and boulangeries in and nearby the market provide a whiff of aromatically brewed coffees and freshly baked French pastries.
At the entrance to the market, rotisserie shops display racks of succulent tender roasted chickens, stuffed pork loins with prunes, baby short ribs and home made potato crisps. The aromas of roasting chickens, freshly baked pastries from nearby patisseries and boulangeries (bakeries) and French accordion music from street buskers create a village feeling as we soaked up the best of a rustic sleepy old French town off its peak from the hustle and bustle of the summer and autumn seasons.
Walking through the market was a visual and inspiring treat for the senses as u see rows of local produce from marinated olives, artisanal cheeses, sausages, infused oils, spices, fresh herbs and home made pates. Being non locals, the stall owners were not only friendly to us, they also invited us to sample some of their produce on display.
In the market, besides the regular fruit and vegetable selections, the most significant sight is to see local fishermen selling their daily catch. With coastal weather permiting, the boats come in daily up to the old port with their catch from the Mediterranean where most of the time, the seafood ends up in the kitchens of local restaurants as many of the chefs have already established their contacts with the fishermen. Some of the freshest seafood that I have found here are line caught Mediterranean seabass, black and red Dorado(sea bream), monkfish, tuna, swordfish ,sea urchins(seasonal), octopus, calamari (squid) and divers scallops. Oysters and mussels were in season with many being snapped up by shoppers and local restaurants as soon the crates were opened.

Marche aux Fleurs, Old Town,Nice

Though fruit and vegetables are only part of its theme, its dominance is the huge selections of flowers grown by the farmers in the local Rivera region and the Alps Maritimes. Situated on cours Saleya, located behind the Vielle Ville, the Old Town. These florists here are not only keen just to sell their flowers to you, but are also happily willing to conduct the serious business of adorning the interiors of homes and businesses with bouquets.
Nice is home to the Nicoise olives grown in the surrounding regions which lends its name to a significant Provencal dish, Salad Nicoise. The aolives are harvested, cured and marinated before being sold as snacks or used in cooking.Another worthy note its that are a few stalls here that sell wonderfully home made jams, marmalades, boiled sweets (bons bons) and candies.