Sunday, September 17, 2006

Chocolate from Canet & La Bastide Saint Antoine

Though almost every patisserie in France has its own chocolate range which you can be fairly confident will be of high quality, there are not as many devoted chocolateries. Unfortunately whilst I discovered three in Nice, only one was open at the time of passing. Canet has two stores in Nice and offers a range of filled chocolates, macarons and patisseries.

We chose a selection of chocolates, ignoring the pralines and the “sugar-free” (I don’t believe eating artificial sweetners can be good for you). Canet molds their chocolates into flat square tablets, which is better for experiencing the taste fully (hitting all the taste buds at the same time). They were all pretty incredible but the stand out of the group was the buttered salted caramel, which is a combination I am always a sucker for. Other pretty incredible tastes in their repertoire were earl grey tea and vanilla.

On the day the Daily Mail identifies me as a chocolate expert, it seems only appropriate that I choose the intense chocolate dessert from the Michelin Star restaurant near Grasse that we had pre-booked before we even learned of the article. La Bastide St Antoine is set in gorgeous grounds with olive trees over 100 years old, and a stunning pool and hot tub. The kitchen of 2 starred restaurant is overseen by chef, Jacques Chibois. With my love of food, one of my favourite things is to look at menus. If you don’t share my appreciation I can be a rather frustrating person to walk down a restaurant street with, it’s a slow amble at best. Even in quality restaurants in English speaking countries chefs often appear to thrive on finding ingredients or cooking methods that don’t give away what the dish actually is. In a gourmet restaurant in a foreign country this dilemma was magnified further. Not eating meat narrowed down the necessary explanations but I still felt so helpless relying entirely on the maitre’d’s translations. So although I couldn’t totally remember what I’d ordered, it all tasted pretty spectacular. Langouistine to start and sea bream as a main. Both delicate and delicious. Though I preferred the overall experience that we had at Summer Lodge in July, the main courses were definitely superior in their quality and combination of ingredients.

We lingered at La Bastide this morning, having a quick dip in the, uh, “refreshing” pool before heading up into the hills. Given the indulgence of the night before it seemed only appropriate that we start Sunday with more chocolate. I admit, this is almost true. By the time we stopped at a patisserie for our first meal of the day it was already 2pm (hotel snacks don't count, right?). Another cabinet of chocolates greeted us as we entered. Though we also bought a savoury sample from l’boulangerie, I chose several chocolates to take away. Tired, by now, of asking what they were flavoured by I randomly pointed at four chocolates. Amongst the group was an incredible cassis. It is so frustrating when you are already miles from the store before you taste the chocolate. Cest la vie.

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