Monaco. We’ll Have to Return for the Helicopter Ride.

The “cool” way of getting to Monaco is by helicopter.

We didn’t do that (next time!) We arrived by car since we were in Cannes. But if you take a helicopter from the Nice airport, it’s only 6-minutes to the Moncao heliport. It’s actually affordable considering the cost of gas and parking here. Not to mention the traffic in the summer. Here’s a guy who blogged about his helicopter ride.

Last set of Monaco photos (wanted to gather them all in one place) before we head to Paris. It feels like so long ago…

…though just found out I’m going back to France in September!

Could not be more excited. Will be there for a bit, and then to London. I haven’t been back to London in nearly two decades…would be so grateful for any eating (especially for afternoon tea, sweets, etc) recommendations.

I’ve always been curious about Monaco and when I suggested we add it to our vacation itinerary, Pierre’s first response was, why would you want to visit Monaco? That’s where the tourists go!

I was stunned. I thought everyone wanted to go to Monaco. Right? Wasn’t it like one of those dream, fantasy destinations?

He clarified, that’s where all the American tourists go.

Ahh! Hah. I never thought of Monaco as touristy, but it did turn out to be pack with visitors. Not only Americans though, I saw tons and tons of Asian people ;)

A few interesting things I learned:

  Monaco is dived into two parts: Monte Carlo (the “new section) and Moncao-Ville (“old” Monaco). The two are connected by harbor area called La Condamine.
 – The taxis have no meters….so you’re at the mercy/grace of your driver.
  Monaco is tiny…smaller than Central Park.

 – The people of Monaco are Monegasque. Alain Ducasse included! He gave up French citizenship to become Monegasque. It even sounds glamorous.

 – You know about the tax system right? There are no taxes. No wonder. I should covert.

P.S. It wouldn’t be silly to time your visit with one of Monaco’s quarterly pyrotechnic competition. They’ve been doing this since 1966!

I heard fireworks start just before the cheese course at Louis XV. The manager noticed my curiosity and asked if we wanted to step out onto the hotel’s terrace to watch the show. We did! Fireworks coordinated with such grand music and ahhh it was amazing.

Monte Carlo, Monaco: Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse

A once in a lifetime (though hopefully there will be many return visits ;) sort of meal.

I don’t know which I was most excited about: finally visiting Monaco, the Hôtel de Paris, or dining at Le Louis XV. Perhaps a mix of all three!

First bite: Barbagiuan, a specialty of Monaco (Monégasque cuisine!). Pockets of pastry stuffed with parmesan, leeks, swiss chard, and spinach. Deep fried, of course.

Paper-thin crackers…see the carrots and baby zucchini? What a marvelous sight.

The bread trolley.

Am tempted to put exclamation marks at the end of every sentence because that’s how excited I was…but I’ll refrain for your sake.

Bread trolley was followed by a butter trolley. A true mountain of butter (one salted, one plain) spooned off into smaller portions for the table.

We ordered the summer tasting menu: five savory courses, cheese, and three desserts.

To start: Pan Bagna et fines pâtes imprimées de légumes / Pan Bagna served on sheets of vegetable-printed bread.

Gamberoni de San Remo, délicate gelée de poissons de roche, caviar / Prawns from San Remo, delicate rock fish gelée, and caviar

Cookpot de petit épeautre de Haute-Provence, girolles et primeurs / Cookpot (a Ducasse signature) with spelt from Haute-Provence, chanterelle mushrooms and seasonal vegetables.

Rouget d’ici, aubergines, poivron fondant et courgette trompette, sucs de cuisson / Red mullet, eggplant, sweet peppers, and “trompette” zucchini

This was served Socca, spicy chickpea pancakes which are also a specialty of Monaco.

Agneau des Alpilles a la cheminée, petits farcis au four du boulanger, jus perlé / Lamb cooked in the fireplace with stuffed vegetables.

Cheese cart. The sun went down right after the last savory course. It was about 10pm!

Three goat cheeses. Convinced the waiter to slice me a bit of that extra runny époisses, could not resist.

Petit fours. Almond tuiles, custard tarts with fraises des bois, dark chocolate and raspberries, and apricot mousse. See my Serious Eats posts on the desserts here.

Dark chocolate macarons

…and chocolates customized for Ducasse’s 25th (!) anniversary in Monaco.

The mascarpone sorbet came to the table first.

One clean quenelle. Then came the strawberries in a tiny gold saucepan. The waiter gave it a stir and spooned out a million fraises des bois cooked down in their own juices. He poured it right over the sorbet. I could eat fraises des bois all day, every single day of the summer, and here they were,  intensified, warm and impossible sweet and pure. High on my list of all-time favorite desserts.

Hot hazelnut soufflé with a melting nugget of dark chocolate in the center. On the side, hazelnut ice cream made with hazelnuts from Piedmont.

And then it was time for tea! Tisane to be exact. The waiter rolled over this trolley of fresh herbs. What do you desire? Ahh, lavender from Provence! With mint.

And then it was time to clean your fingers. I need one of these at home ;)

And make room for more dessert. This is the dessert trolley. Notice there are eight glass jars. The four in the back hold four different fruit sorbets. And the four in the front?

Madelines! Fresh cherries! Vanilla marshmallows cut to order! Nougat!

And the sorbet. I went with mango.

P.S. Hazelnut financiers for the morning after :)

Snapshots from Cannes and St. Paul de Vence

Let’s go back soon, ok?

Yes. Let’s

I mean, only when we’re not drinking rosé. 

And so that we can walk to Jean-Luc Pelé every afternoon…

…for this crème brûlée, intoxicating and rich, each spoonful speckled with vanilla beans. I swear there was a layer of smoky caramel tucked between the sugar shell and custard.

I miss breakfast at Lenôtre. Eating at the outside café was nice, but I liked sneaking their pastries into that Italian café next to La Maison du Chocolat….

….or taking it home to the terrace where we could fix our own café

Brioche a Menton, s’il vous plaît. Swirled with frangipane and candied oranges.

Chausson aux Pommes! 

And this Kugelhopf that was definitely more of a dessert than breakfast. You’d think someone would have invented a way for humans to teleport by now right? We could go to Cannes every other weekend! 

You can come too :)

Because we have to return Il Viaggio on Rue d’Oran for the fresh pastas…

…and hunks of parmesan. Just beware of the crazy pigeons.

At night, Park 45 is fun but a little too noisy for me. I prefer L’Affable. For many reasons. We can start with this foie gras…

…or we can skip past this lamb and sea bream and go right to dessert with the famous Grand Marnier soufflé. So high, so high! And yet so light. We couldn’t stop talking about this one, even when we were back in Paris.

Come to think of it, we couldn’t stop talking about the tiramisu layered with strawberries either. Madelines with the check.

And imagine all the day trips we could do if we stayed a week or two.

St. Paul de Vence was so much fun.

Watching Pétanque players from our café seats. Can you spot all three generation?

Late afternoon in the village.

Cap d’Antibes: Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc

Dr. Oetker invented baking soda in 1891.

And in was from the growth and sales of that first invention that, generations later, his family founded the Oetker Collection, a collection of six hotels around the world.

There’s one in Baden-Baden which we visited in Germany last year. There’s Le Bristol in Paris and Château Saint-Martin in Vence. There’s Palais Namaskar in Marrakech (they have a helicopter service that picks you up from the airport and flies you straight to the hotel – how awesome is that?). Le Bristol Abu Dhabi opens next year.

And then there is Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc.

This is not a painting, but a window inside the hotel.

It’s perched at the tip of Antibes (aka Cap d’Antibes) and it’s straight out of a dream.

That applies to the food as well.

Lunch at Eden-Roc Restaurant.

Three choices: buffet-style, a la carte, or both. Do the mix – buffet as an appetizer and a la carte for mains and desserts.

Because then you can start with this housemade burrata (the entire ball), still warm, oozing a supple, milky cream. And then you can devour it with raw oysters and langoustines, summer tomatoes, asparagus, and artichokes, picture-perfect potatoes stuffed with sour cream.

Save room for the whole fish, their signature sea bass roasted “Eden Roc” style with basil. We split this and it was more than plenty. Ridiculously perfect. It was plated tableside with fennel mousseline and tomatoes simply cooked in their own juices.

And then, dessert! All red berries, frais de bois included. Open…

…and voilà!

I wish I could take this dessert back with me to NYC. Simple, and yet so memorable. Okay, this is how it works. Two parts. Jasmine tea-infused cream and fresh mangoes. The mangoes are sliced in thin, even rounds. A dab of the Jasmine whipped cream in the middle. Fold the mango slice over to form a cone, plate and repeat.

A pot of tea (they serve Dammann Frères) and petit fours to finish.

Post-lunch. Head to the downstairs for iced tea and lounge around the saltwater pool?

It’s very warm today.

We could take a dip into the ocean and float around without a care in the world. And did I mention? There’s even a trapeze if you’d rather swing off into the sparkling sea…

[photos 3, 5, and 12 via]

Welcome to Arles and Aix-en-Provence

Arles made our travel destination list for two reasons…

Rencontres d’Arles – the 2012 photo exhibition and dinner at Á Coté.

We also did other things, like spend hours at sidewalk cafés with rosé and books, make a stop at every ice cream stand around town, and visit Van Gogh’s garden.

We ate bags and bags of guimavues…

…my favorite of which came from Puyricard.

While sitting in the main square between exhibits I couldn’t help but notice a young man taking photos. He was intense. One camera in his hand, another slung over his right shoulder, and yet two more cameras hanging around his neck.

We saw him again, just before sunset. This time we were sitting near the water and he was at “home” in the van. I wish you could see his set-up! Door open, shirt off (looking good, it was a hot day), cooking dinner (pasta). And as we left, he waved hello like he knew I was spying on him the whole time.

Then it was time for dinner at Á Coté where we shared a number of dishes including this foie gras…

…easily the best roasted vegetable salad I’ve had to date.

Seared swordfish with ratatouille over garlic polenta…

…and quail, complete with crisp skin and quick sauteed cabbage.

There was cheese plate with fresh ginger marmalade…

…and slices of hot apricot clafouti for dessert.

Little did we know just how many apricots we’d find in Aix-en-Provence the next day…

…we lugged kilos and kilos of these ripe treasures to Cannes!