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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

tomatoes on the riviera

Here on the French Riviera the growing season is much farther along than it is at home. In Nice, where we spent our first of six nights, a flower market is in Old Town just a few blocks from our hotel.

I didn't know it also had vendors with fresh produce so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that on our morning walk. The first tomatoes of the season were on the stands and I was surprised to find they were from just up the road in Provence, where we go in a few days. I'd never seen the Coeur de Boeuf (Heart of Beef) variety so snapped their picture so I could find out more once I got home.

But I didn't have to wait that long. They were on the menu at Oliviera, a wonderful 8-table eatery where the focus is on olive oils and every dish served is napped with a different French olive oil. Proprietor Nadin Berouti told us he wore his red white and blue suspenders in honor of our visit from the U.S. I peeked into the small prep area as a young woman sliced the very same tomatoes I'd seen at the market and layered them with freshly made buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.

It was our appetizer, and Berouti poured an olive oil from the Valle des Baux, where we'll be going later this week, over it. Fabulous! It was very possibly the best tomato preparation I've ever had... simple and wonderful. Just around the corner on the Mediterranean coast of Italy, they call this a Caprese Salad, after the Isle of Capri. Now I need to find some seeds of the Couer de Bouef tomato so I can grow them at home.

My main course was possibly even better and so colorful it could be a painting. Stuffed zucchini blossom with meclun greens and roasted red peppers were napped with another olive oil. Berouti is a negotiant for olive oils, traveling all over France to make the acquaintance of growers and processors during the November to February season when the olives are picked and processed into oil.

"Our olives in Nice aren't picked until January," he said. "They are riper and more abundant then." Riper olives are the ones that have turned black, not necessarily a differen variety than the green ones, he told us.

After leaving the restaurant I came upon a vendor's booth of different salts from all over the country and beyond. If you click on the picture with this blog you will see there are salts with rose blossoms and tiny little peppers as well as salts of the purest white, to shades of gray and brown.

What a wonderful country France is! If I can find wi-fi connections I'll be sharing it with you in blogs as I travel this week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow those tomatoes look wonderful!!! If you can find seeds for growing , I would love to know how to get some myself!

June 11, 2009 at 8:39 AM 

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