From the archives

I bumped into this email I sent in 2010 when I was last in my now-gone apartment in Hyéres, France and made a trip to Italy.

My toilet is the shower or else my shower’s in the toilet. I’m not sure which. It is very messy. One needs to put one’s towels somewhere where they can’t get wet or one will be drying off with wet towels, I’ve discovered. And what’s with these towels in Italy? They are like table clothes. And so is my blanket. Do you think this is something I can blame on the pope?


I drove to Italy yesterday from my apartment in France, the 2 hours in France was a leisurely trip along the Mediterranean and then the second you get into Italy everyone is driving 180 miles an hour and zooming around you like hornets. I was driving a mind-numbingly fast (to me) 150 Km and I had Smartcars, which are literally just half of a real car with teeny wheels, buzzing around me like I was standing still. Four hours of death-grip-on-my-steering-wheel later I arrived in Lucca and painfully slowly progressed through what would seem to be completely impassible alleys in a warren of tiny passages to get to my hotel. The good news is that the Italians are not like the French. They are all perfectly friendly, broken Italian? No problem we can talk half French, half English, half Yiddish . . . we’ll get through it!! Sooooooo not French.


So far the best thing is I’ve seen is the uncorrupted remains of St Zita. Except that they look pretty corrupted to me. I mean, if she were walking around like that people would be REALLY concerned. She’s a saint because she’s a virgin is all I could find out. This leaves pretty much everyone I know out of the running, in this category anyway. And why, do you suppose, are there no men who are just saints because they are virgins?

One of those moments

I cannot think of many of them, two for sure were in Hyéres. Tasting the scallops in pastry at Marius, I dropped my fork and covered my mouth in shear pleasure. Another time at Le Jardin de Salazar, when I first tasted mechouia. Once in St Martin in the Caribbean, lobster in parsley butter sauce. There were Dan Necci’s meatballs, and Tony Caccamise’s bragiole.

And now, in Karen’s dining room…pineapple upside down cake. Pure unadulterated heaven. I covered my mouth this time too, hoping to not let any of the exquisiteness escape me.

Au coin la rue

I love this little street in Hyéres, rue Masillon. Unfortunately, like all things charming and old fashioned. It is shrinking. The old arab vendors are being squeezed out by high end perfume shops and clothing stores. I could write a disquisition on how things like perfume and clothing will all be purchased on the internet pretty soon and the old charming food vendors will be long gone and the street will look just as charmless as downtown Milwaukee. But I won’t.

Gazpacho

This was the beginning of my next to last meal in Hyeres before I left without knowing I would never be back.  I was at La Taverne Royale a restaurant that locals think is ridiculous. All suits of armor and crests. It may look foolish to them and they do not go there but it’s their loss, the food is great, if not the service.

This gazpacho was absolutely incredible. I have no idea how they accomplished it or what made it so good or even why I thought it was the best I’d ever had. But it was. And the slightly charred cheesy toasts they served along side were also amazing. 

I wanted to go back again the next night with Loralyn for my last meal but they wouldn’t let us sit at our own table. The place was virtually empty but they wanted us to sit at a four top with other people (WHO WERE SMOKING!!!) and although there were at least 10 empty tables, they said no. Loralyn said (in French) “So you’d rather have us walk away than sit at a table for four?” The maitre d’ said “Oui!” 

All the people there laughed out loud (at him, in case it wasn’t obvious). And we walked away. 

When we walked by later after a lovely meal elsewhere, the place was closed. Tant pis.

Chevaline

On Saturdays in Hyeres the entire town is a market. Farmers come from all over and bring their produce. There are many cheese purveyors, wagons with open bins of hard candies (I have no idea how this can work since it is fairly humid and they must stick together. It’s pretty but disgusting.) There is honey, olive wood, fabrics, olives, sausage and then there is the horse meat vendor. As you can see. There is a line. 

I actually bought, cooked and ate horse meat once. In Guadeloupe. A long time ago. I didn’t tell my sister and brother in law or my boyfriend at the time what it was they had no idea what chevaline meant. It looked like beef. We ate it. We were less squeamish then I imagine. 

When I was a kid our neighbor fed her cat horse meat. It came in blue and white wax paper boxes.

Bolognese in France, best meal series

Bolognese in France. I cannot resist bolognese sauce. I have it any time I see it on a menu. I generally don’t even care it’s not all that good. This pasta, however, at the small corner restaurant in Hyeres, Le Bon Coing (Provençal for the good corner) had great bolognese and I had it often. This particular picture is my desktop photo and I never look at it without being able to taste it and dreaming about a big bowl of it.

La Cambuse, best meal series

Last year I was in Paris on my birthday and although I love the food in France, I had my birthday meal with my friends and family at an Italian restaurant. It was awesome. My favorite restaurant in France is in Nice, supposedly the oldest restaurant in Nice, La Cambuse on the Cours Salaya. The food in Nice, while French is Italian at its heart. In September of 2010 I stopped in Nice on my way from Lucca, Italy back to my apartment in Hyeres, France and ate lunch there. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Mushroom stuffed, very home-made ravioli and some sort of beef falling apart in in its own gravy.