Paris Journal 2005

Monday, August 22, 2005

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Street in the Latin Quarter


One-man band near the Seine.

Today’s Le Parisien has several articles about “la salade Niçoise.”  Mostly, the articles expound upon the high prices charged by the restaurants and brasseries for what is supposed to be a very affordable salad.  Under attack are especially the restaurants in the south of France, along the Mediterranean coast, where many of Le Parisien’s readers are now vacationing. 


I wasn’t all that interested in the articles about the cost, because I know that these restaurants, like those in Sanibel, must make their money during the relatively short vacation season.


What really got my attention was the article about what should and should not be in a Niçoise salad.  For this piece, Le Parisien’s reporter in Nice interviewed Jo Issautier, the proprietor of Lou Balico (the basil), the restaurant in Nice that is supposed to have the essential, correct Niçoise salads.


Jo says the Parisian restaurants do it all wrong!  Above all, he says, never add potatoes, rice, or green beans to a Niçoise salad!  The next most important thing to remember is that you should either have anchovies OR tuna in the salad, but NEVER both.  To use both in the same salad is a sacrilege universally denounced in Nice, according to Le Parisien’s reporter.


Otherwise, the salads can vary somewhat according to what is in season and according to the chefs who “can add their own grain of salt.”


In Jo’s Niçoise  salad (which costs 10 euros) he puts, on a bed of mesclun, country tomatoes (these are the normal-size round ones), white onions, garlic, hearts of celery, red radishes, green or red peppers, violet spring artichokes, hard-boiled eggs, and little black olives from Nice.  All is “bathed” in a country olive oil with a little vinegar, and salt and pepper.  Cucumber is served on the side.


Jo also offers a vegetarian Niçoise with no egg, no tuna, and no anchovies.


In the beginning, Jo says, the Niçoise salad was a dish for the poor.  The recipe consisted of raw vegetables based on country tomatoes, local olive oil, and little black olives from Nice.  Anchovies were typically used because they were less expensive than tuna.


It eventually became festival fare, and now has become an “hors-d’oeuvre authentique et recherché,” according to Jo.


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