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In Nice there are three local street foods you should sample:
- Légumes farcis
- Beignet de Cébettes
Socca is a niçoise classic, outdoing the salade niçoise or bouillabaisse which actually comes from Marseille. Made of chickpea flour mixed with water and olive oil and cooked in a wood burning oven like pizza dough, then portioned out on small paper plates to waiting customers. It’s total street food. Salty, a little greasy, fabulous. If you’re in the Var it’s called cade.
Légumes farci is something you’ve seen: simply stuffed vegetables. Usually they are stuffed with beef and bread crumbs and broiled in an oven. You can use onion, zucchini, pepper – all featured in this photo – or eggplant and tomatoes.
Fried scallion lumps. Honestly, I don’t know what else to call them. In French they are called beignet des cébettes. They are scallions chopped and mixed with a thick bread batter then deep fried. I guess some people would called them tempura scallions. Beignet are very common for all vegetables, but the onion are a classic. Onion rings, anyone?
But if you want something a bit sweet, a bit more upscale. Go to Amorino near Place Massena for chocolat chaud or better yet, ice cream.
All natural, all simple, all subtle, creamy and wonderful with a chantilly that is more cream than sugar and so worth it.
Visit the Modern Art Museum. Even if you don’t like modern art there are some cool exhibits. One of a dress made entirely of bottles. I will wear it at my first book signing.
If you’re like the husband and can’t stand the art, race through it to get to the top floor, where you’re rewarded with an excellent view:
Then there’s Carnival. Which takes place every year at the end of February going into March. Parade with devil floats included.
There is always more. There is shopping – of which I did in abundance – I can’t help it, they have a Fossil store. There are plenty of museums, archaeological sites, and landmarks. Nice is one of the oldest cities in Europe and the oldest in France and has a rich history which I will not repeat here so as not to bore you to death.
So in this short overview, I say, “Visit Nice.”
I spent a long long time trying to decide where we should eat on our last night in Nice. At first, I wanted Italian, then I wanted traditional French, then I wanted Indian, then I wanted Italian again. There was a brief moment of looking at Japanese restaurants, then back to Italian. Everyone else was of no help. No one wanted to make a decision.
Originally, I had planned for an Italian place that the husband had told me he had liked when he lived in Nice. Except that was 10 years ago and the current reviews – the most current being in 2011 – were very, very mixed. I got nervous and started looking for other places to eat.
At first, I was going to ask them to choose between Italian and whatever else I could find but in the end I just decided for them. Everyone met in the lobby at 7:30 and I asked my mom and sister “Have you ever eaten Lebanese?”
“Not really,” they said.
“Well, that’s what we’re having.”
And off we went to Ya Habibi.
Though the restaurant was only 500 meters from our hotel, I forgot to bring the address and consequently it took us more than 500 meters to find. No matter, we got there. Dinner was decided in moments – a Grand Mezze for four. The perfect treat for two who don’t know Lebanese and for the other two who just love a good mezze.
5 cold entrées and 6 warm entrées with fresh pita bread. It’s as simple as that.
Mezze is pretty standard. Hummus is par for the course along with taboule, babaganoush and grilled caviar d’aubergine. But our favorite of the night was the mehamara – a roasted red pepper spread with garlic, onion and grenadine. Sweet and spicy perfectly blended. We could have eaten that all night.
The six warm entrées were also pretty standard. Samboussi, falafel, roukak, moussaka, arayess lahme, and kebbé with grilled mushrooms.
The samboussi and roukak are fried dumplings the first of meat, the second of cheese. Crunchy and soft, no need for any dipping sauce – they were well seasoned.
I really loved the arayess lahme. A pita stuffed with meat and spices. It must have had some mild cream or cheese in it, because it had a creamy texture and was so delightful.
The moussaka was missing the meat. This was stated in the menu. But it was not missing flavor. We sat around the table trying to figure out how they cooked the eggplant. The flavor was perfect with soft flesh and a crunchy skin. I thought they steamed it. The husband is convinced roasting went on. Who knows?
We drank a wonderful Lebanese red wine, that was mostly syrah and cabernet grapes. It had a fruity aroma but a bitter, acidic taste and the two combined to create a complex enjoyable flavor that made me want to buy a bottle to take home.
Though dinner was simple, it was perfect. Good portion sizes, we were not left wanting. Every dish with a wonderful blend of spices. I have nothing but good things to say about my choice of Ya Hababi for our last dinner in Nice. A lovely treat for the pallet when you’re craving something a little different.
By now, my mom and sister have returned to Boston. We’re all going on a diet, but with happy memories full of good food and time spent together. It’s never enough but it will have to do until the husband and I can get ourselves to the States.