Monday, June 16, 2014

Dining Out in the South of France

The best part of being in France is the food. Whether you go grocery shopping for food or you dine out, pretty much everything is expensive compared to North America. A few things are cheaper, like wine, cheese, and yogurt. So at least the important things are cheaper! :) But the food is delicious. Expensive and small in size, but delicious.

Dining out is not just about getting fed. Dining out is an event. Visitors who really want to taste French food need to dine out for the full French culinary experience. Personally, I like to dress up a bit for the occasion and I like to spend the extra time to enjoy my food. I not only drink wine with my meal but I also usually order an aperitif to drink while I wait for my first course. Drinking at a restaurant in France is actually more affordable than in North America. And an alcoholic drink like a Kir is even cheaper than a soda like Coke. That's just another reason to drink up, right? :) I pretty much never order drinks at restaurants back home.

Expect to pay extra for your food in France. You may even leave a bit hungry too because they serve in French sizes, not North American sizes. What you pay for is not only great food, but also beautiful presentations, and exceptional service. Heck, even the chef comes out to mingle with you while you eat. At one of the small restaurants we visited, I noticed there were maybe five servers on duty. That's impressive for a restaurant with only six or seven tables. If it were in North America, there would have been one or two servers. Seriously.

A few years ago, I started to somewhat obsess about reviews and ratings. Before I would go anywhere or buy anything important, I would do research first. Now, we went to France a lot but I refused to believe that there were no good restaurants in the areas that we frequently visited. There were plenty of course but no one bothered to find them. This past trip, I did some quick research and we actually got to enjoy some really good food. One, my Parents-in-law took us to, which totally surprised me. It was Tables et Comptoir in Toulon. It was very expensive but it was good. We usually do go to expensive places but at least this time it was good.

Tables et Comptoir.


We went to Café du Midi in Verdon on one of our day trips and that was a pleasant surprise too. It was my Parents-in-law's choice again. What the heck was going on?! It wasn't as upscale as Tables et Comptoir but for casual dining, it was great. We had a view of the lake and the Chef was out mingling with everyone. That, I absolutely loved. He spoke English to me and my 5 year old and when we left, he gave my 5 year old extra nougat and cookies. Spoiled.




5 year old's meal.


I particularly liked our restaurant in Nice. This one I found online. We went to Café de Sejour and it was everything I expected it to be. The owner spoke to us a lot and the staff was great. The restaurant appeared very modern and clean but then the owner pointed out a framed picture of her little boy on the shelf, next to where we were sitting. Cute. Everything we ordered was delicious. When we declined on dessert for my 5 year old, the owner insisted on bringing him a small ice cream free of charge. When we left, we were given fresh macarons. My mother-in-law even asked for their business card. The Parents-in-law are happy. Yes!

Artichoke salad.





Pistachio crème brûlée. Top with raspberry sorbet. So good!

5 year old's free ice cream.

For causal dining in Toulon, we went to L’aparte with some friends. It was inexpensive and quite good for lunch. It was in a good location inside the town by a lot of other restaurants and shops. They served healthy meals, but their bread wasn't great. It's easy to get good bread so that was a bit disappointing.





Quiche on a biscuit.

I would recommend all the restaurants above. The food was great but what really stood out to me was the service. Good service is something we definitely lack in North America. The French take pride is serving great food. Asian restaurants in particularly are known for bad service. It's just something we tolerate here. With the right restaurant, dining out in France can be extremely satisfying and quite the memorable event. Bon appétit!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Easy Painted Eiffel Tower Cookies


A couple of weeks ago, we came back from France. We spent most of our time in the south but we were able to enjoy three days in Paris before coming home. A couple of months ago, I bought an Eiffel Tower cookie cutter from Sur La Table. At the time, I figured it was the perfect cookie to make for when I would blog about our return from France. So here I am to do just that.

My 5 year old ran up to the tower's 2nd floor in 10 minutes! Wow.

There are so many versions of Eiffel Tower cookies out there but I wanted something painted with a vintage appearance. Cookies like this totally scream retro and old Europe to me. Plus, I was feeling extremely lazy and I just couldn't be bothered with piping any kind of delicate detailed design. Right?! In the end, I think they turned out alright. Painting is so much faster than piping. And you always end up using less food coloring, which is nice.


To make the cookies more interesting, I decided to create different backgrounds for them. Instead of a single color, I created an ombre effect out of colors like blue for some and green for others. Then I painted Eiffel Towers over top in sketch fashion so they didn't look so clean. I think you get the idea :) If you're looking for a quick and easy way to decorate your Eiffel Tower cookies, this would be it. Now remember, a little paint goes a long way. Have some fun and good luck!




Close up of the night time Eiffel Tower with it's glittering lights.
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