Even if these trucks were parked and shot below 23rd street, many others are all over the city. They all have distinct schedule week day versus week-end. You'll find them in various locations, that can change during the day, they are all moving around and coming back. As a pop-up breakfast or pop-up lunch, they are now part of the street scene. A business that has free rent can make lunch more affordable for the customer. The in-and-out factor is attractive when your time is limited. but affordable, convientent and good sometimes means long lines, and not necssarily faster. Students, workers, visitors and even well groomed business men are in the mix. Are trucks competing with restaurants? No I don't think so, but they are competing with fast food. The trucks give the city a good view of what consumer like in a very colorful way, that stands out in front of the bland buildings. I have not yet seen the pitt-master pork truck, but I'm sure one is on is way soon.
"Bûche de Nöel" is the classic cake for Christmas in France. Traditionally it is made of sponge cake, covered with a chocolate butter cream, rolled into a log, and then frosted again. It is decorated with meringue mushroom, and small objects like Santa Claus, Christmas trees and chocolates. It looks like a fancy log ready for the fire. At Christmas, all the patisseries have their windows filled bûches, from very classic (like in the bottom picture) to a more elaborate and fancy presentation (like on the top picture). In the modern versions the butter cream has been replaced with a lighter mousse, macaroon shells are added to the decor, and they offer exotic flavors like passion fruit for adventurous consumers.
When I was a kid I was going to the market every Wednesday with my mom, while my dad was going every Saturday. It is always very crowded. The locals go early morning, the tourist later on with a camera and smaller shopping bags. Going with the plan to buy whatever looks appealing can sometimes mean you go back home with a week's worth of food.
The market has not changed much. The open building has been painted, but the layout of the stands is the same. The cheese place has a different owner but it is the same location and the cheese mature in the same cave. I still enjoy going there now. I like to go everyday and buy a little bit of everything, and cook these products in a very simple way to enjoy their taste.
All the different salads have their own distinct flavors: arugula is very bitter, mache very sweet and soft and the mesclun that mixes a dozen of different components. The olives are Piccholine or Nicoise. The fish is Sar, Pageot or Loup de Mer.
When I was younger I ate a lot of vegetables, cooked or raw depending on the season, and less protein than I eat today. But the quality of the produce was just so nutritive that it easily fulfilled the appetite. During this trip the "artichaud violet" (small artichoke) and the "courgette violon" (zucchini from Nice) were impeccable.
My friend Denis, from Antibes, is a professional fisherman. He learned to fish from his father and today is one of the last professional fisherman in Antibes. After being in this business for 25 years, he knows every inch of the Mediterranean coast around Antibes, especially the Cap d'Antibes. He knows which places to go and where to put the net during every season for each kind of fish. For him, everything usually starts during the night and finishes early in the morning. He sells his catch himself at stand at the daily market.
He also practices line fishing from his boat for certain fish. Loup de Mer is one of them. Loup de Mer is a unique fish, that the stripped bass cannot replace even if they are part of the same family. We both agreed that the Loup de Mer is the king of the water. The delicacy of the meat offers a soft but firm texture, sweetness and richness.
I like to bake the fish whole, over slices of lemon, garlic cloves, and dry fennel sticks, seasoned with olive oil and salt. I start it off in the oven on high heat oven to brown the skin, then lower the temperature and cook it until the meat is pink next to the bone. When it is done, it goes from the oven directly to the middle of the table to be filleted and shared by the family. It was our main course on Christmas eve.
You might not think about it, but Provence also knows winter, which usually starts around Christmas. In the upper part of the Provence region we have a house that's been in the family for several generations. It is a “Mas” meaning in Provencal language a house that has been extended in size over the generations. When I was a kid it was already as it is today. We were usually there in the summer, and very rarely came during wintertime. But this year it is Christmas and snow is part of the scenery. The only way to get to the house during this time of year is to walk up this small unpaved road.
The property uses water from a natural source, still located on the outside of the house. There is no electricity so it is candles in the evening. We can’t sleep there now as the walls of the house are so cold it takes several days for the wood fire to heat the space before you can feel comfortable inside. But on a sunny winter day, after a long walk in the forest, having a picnic lunch on the side of the house at the warmest hour is really enjoyable. And that's exactly what we did.
In summer there is more activity. Sheep are eating the grass on the upper fields. In the lower fields of the property, the grass is cut, dried naturally and stored for the animals to eat during winter. Condors are flying in the air and plunge down like a missile when they identify an animal they can capture in bring back to the nest. Wild strawberries and huckleberries grow in specific areas that we know and they come back every year with a variable crop. There is fresh milk just a few hours old from a farm below. Even if the coffee doesn’t come from the espresso machine the “café au lait” is very enjoyable.
Riding with a professional cyclist (even if it is not a race, but nice tempo riding) it is more exiting than watching them on TV. I had a chance this fall to be part of an event that combined food and cycling to raise money for cancer research.
The main cycling event was a 100K ride on Sunday with about 250 cyclists participating. Everybody knows Charleston, SC is a dead flat place so nobody was afraid of getting dropped on the first climb. But the group still split few times over the course of the three hours it took to cover 100K.
George Hincapie, an American pro road champion, stayed in the front to let people ride and chat with him from time to time. He is really a nice person, very approachable and very enthusiastic about food. When you burn over 6000 calorie a day, it makes sense that you're interested in food. He's really at ease on the bike, removing or adding clothes, tweeting on his cell phone, and eating, all like he was comfortably sitting on a chair. His pedaling cadence was high, probably over 90 RPM, and he was shifting gears much more often than any other rider to keep his pedaling very fluid.
The night after the ride we all went to Trattoria Lucca where chef Ken Vedrinkski and his staff cooked a wonderful dinner. Even if I was in charge of serving two dishes, I had a chance to sit down in the dining room and enjoy the food with guests. Ken and Charleston have a great sense of hospitality.