Friday, April 27, 2012

Salade Niçoise in Nice France

Flavors of the Southern Sun
 In Nice’s Bay of Angels, the limpid blue water laps the shore, but when the summer sun is pulsing like a furnace, it’s the old town that beckons. Shade is offered by the pedestrian-friendly alleys with their pale facades and myriad galleries, while bars and bistros provide refreshment. A freshly made salade niçoise, a taste of sea and land, perfectly captures the essence of the city.

Nice has long lured artists and the idly affluent escaping a wintry north, attracted by the pastel-colored old town, the glitzy marina lifestyle, the palm-trimmed seafront, and the gloriously fresh food dished up in bistros, seaside cafés, and deluxe hotels. The city is a delicious culinary and cultural combination, proudly flaunting the influence of successive waves of outsiders. The Greeks were here, the Romans, too, and the northern Italians via the powerful Counts of Savoy. Nice finally passed into French hands in 1860 but the strong Italian influence, especially tableside, remains. This is, after all, the birthplace of ravioli and of Garibaldi.
The British, who have been visiting since the 1730s, also left their mark. Nice became the sundrenched sandbox of choice for aristocrats in the 19th century, even entertaining Queen Victoria. Luxury hotels sprang up to accommodate them while they built villas and raised a subscription to erect a walkway by the sea, the aptly named Promenade des Anglais.
In the old town, traditionally color-washedwalls glow in the southern sunshine

When it comes to living and cooking, the Niçois keep it simple. You won’t find rich sauces blanketing food; instead, it’s subtle seasoning with an emphasis on newly picked, freshly caught, just made, and preferably enjoyed alfresco. There’s no mistaking, then, that salade niçoise is a dish born of Nice. Each ingredient evokes the sun-soaked Mediterranean city, from the fragrant summer tomatoes to the salty, sea-kissed anchovies.
Some argue that a true niçoise contains only tomatoes, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, tiny, black niçoise olives, and anchovy fillets, dressed with rich local olive oil and fresh herbs: no vinegar – and certainly no tuna or lettuce. Others insist on tuna – canned, not fresh – but counsel against hard-boiled eggs. An infamous ex-city mayor turned cookbook author was adamant that potatoes, or any kind of cooked vegetables (those pesky green beans, for example), had no place in his niçoise salad bowl; and it’s either tuna or anchovies, never the two together.
Today’s innovative chefs insist, however, that the humble niçoise is at its best when it takes its lead from the seasons. Thus arugula, radishes, ruby-ringed onions, fava beans, and even thinly sliced cucumber may stake their claim among the flavor-infused tomatoes, olives, tuna, anchovies, and just-cooked eggs. And therein lies the key. The supremely generous Côte d’Azur climate enriches both the cuisine and the city so that, whatever its makeup, the signature dish of this southern city tastes like summer on a plate.
A Day in Nice
This historic seaside resort, nicknamed Nice la Belle (Nice the Beautiful), has buzz and beauty in spades, and there’s plenty to see when the beach doesn’t beckon.
Opt for a lazy café breakfast in cours Saleya and watch market vendors spin their spiel. Take to the cobbled alleyways, stopping at Palais Lascaris to glimpse how the very well-heeled once lived. Catch the elevator to Castle Hill for a Nice panorama, via Tour Bellanda, where Berlioz composed his King Lear overture.
Hike up to Cimiez to pore over Henri Matisse’s paintings, drawings, and sculptures in the Musée Matisse, the 17th-century villa in which the artist spent his last 34 years. Wander the nearby Franciscan monastery and its gardens, and on to the cemetery where Matisse and his fellow artist Raoul Dufy are buried.
Come sunset, walk or cycle the Promenade des Anglais along the cherubic Bay of Angels, past the swaying palms, pausing for a sundowner in the Relais bar of the flamboyant Hotel Negresco.

Above : Today’s chefs embellish the core niçoise ingredients with fresh herbs and blanched young vegetables such as green beans and baby leeks .


Buses run from Nice airport to the central train station, with trains to Monaco, Cannes, Marseille, and Paris. Get around the city on foot, by bus, taxi, or free vélo bleu bicycles.


Villa la Tour (inexpensive) is a family-run gem in the heart of the old town.
The Hotel Windsor (moderate) is full of contemporary art.
La Perouse (expensive) is a chic oasis looking over the Bay.
5 Prom des Anglais;
Best Places to Eat Salade Niçoise
Bistro d’Antoine moderate
The outside terrace sheltering beneath a cheery red awning and the snug upstairs dining room of Bistro d’Antoine are unfailingly loaded with patrons, so chef Armand Crespo is definitely doing something right. Since he and his wife took over the bistro a few years ago, it has rapidly gained a loyal following, with locals and Nice blow-ins seduced by its breezy ambience and uncompromisingly seasonal, and suave, menu. It’s the kind of place you wish was in every French town. Scallop carpaccio with slivers of turnip, lightly fried calamari with mixed wild leaves, lentils with plump sausages, and gravadlax with shaved fennel fresh from the morning market showcase the chef’s technique and imagination. The salade niçoise is another winner. Naturally, there are the tiny black niçoise olives, tuna, anchovies, and, at the height of summer, tomatoes that taste of the Mediterranean sun. Depending on the market, fine slices of sweet red onion or tiny violet artichoke might make a guest appearance on the plate. The wine list also draws applause.
27 rue de la Prefecture, Nice; open noon–2 PM & 7:15–10 PM Mon–Sat; +33 4 93 85 29 57
Also in Nice
Acchiardo (+33 44 93 85 51 16; moderate) on rue Droite is one of those homey family-run concerns that seem so perfectly in tune with old-town surrounds. From its elbow-to-elbow tables to the blackboard menu touting “cuisine nissarde” (that’s “niçoise” in the local dialect), it’s honest and unassuming. The Acchiardo salade niçoise has the obligatory tuna, tiny black olives, eggs, tomatoes, and anchovies, often with a surprise from the morning’s market – maybe small red radishes or artichoke hearts.
Also in France
From April to October, Plage 45 in the impeccably slick Grand Hotel at Cannes (; expensive) serves up salade niçoise with the works, all raw – not counting the hard-boiled eggs, tuna, and anchovies. That means cucumber, tomatoes, celery, red peppers, radishes, fava beans, black niçoise olives, and cébette (similar to leek but eaten raw), tossed with fresh basil.
Around the World
While French pastry great François Payard parades his favorite sweet treats at François Payard Bakery in New York’s Soho (www.; inexpensive), he also finds room for savories, including a snap-fresh salade niçoise. It’s tweaked according to the season and dressed with a mustard vinaigrette, not olive oil, but tuna, hard-boiled eggs, plum tomatoes, and anchovies feature.
Cooking Schools in Nice France
Food writer and Cordon Bleu-trained cook Rosa Jackson runs Les Petits Farcis (www. from her restored 17th-century apartment in Nice’s old town.
Passionate about locally grown, organic food, Rosa dishes out cooking hints, recipes, and city tips during a class. Join her for a market tour, then learn to cook, then enjoy, a four-course niçoise lunch. Alternatively, stay in a farmhouse looking over the Côte d’Azur and learn to make tarts, tapenades, fragrant roast lamb, and other authentic Provençal goodies, or take a Nice food tour, with Tricia Robinson from A Taste of Provence (
Programs run Apr–Jun, Sep, and Oct.

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