The best kind of experiences are the ones that follow you through life, that can be re-lived in another place, at another time.
Two of our favorite places in the south of France are the Colombe d’Or and the Club 55. Places that are well known for their history and extravagance, therefore very busy during high season. We prefer to visit those places off-season.
We warmly recommend that you visit these places in May-June just before the public holidays, or, even better, in the fall when the south of France and especially the Cote d’Azur changes in colours and crowd. Nothing is more inspiring than walking on the white beach of Ramatuelle and to see the mistral merge the sea and the horizon, then later stroll up to the bar at Club 55 and order a good bottle of red wine.
During this part of the season you can actually talk to the personnel and learn the insider view of this mythical place and its people. If the climate is too fresh for an outdoor lunch, just step into the restaurant and try to get a table next to the fireplace. The same goes for the Colombe d’Or in Saint Paul de Vence. Here you should come when all tourists are gone and when the locals have a chance to tell you their story.
The terrace at Colombe d’Or is a classic; you can almost be sure to get the same table as Picasso, Miro, Chaplin or Scott Fitzgerald once had, because nothing has changed, not a single table, chair or painting has ever been sold or exchanged for something more modern or more functional. The simple but generous culinary experience offered here has also become a tradition at the Club 55.
“Everything you can imagine is real.”
Lunch at the Colombe d’Or
Here we always order the same: the Panier de Crudités (basket of raw vegetables) together with the even more popular hors d’oeuvres, starters that are so simple, but still so special. Indulged with a local wine and the stunning view of valleys filled with olive trees that take your eye all the way down to the sea, you are left with a feeling of intense satisfaction, you don’t need more from the menu nor from life itself.
“The kitchen, it is made of sun. On the menu, signed Paul Roux, there is the basket of vegetables and the famous appetizers: roasted peppers in olive oil, onion confit, stuffed vegetables, tomatoes Provençal, beans, anchovies, eggplant and other delights of the South. The tableware and unpretentious sensuality recalls at any time that one is received by a family here.” From the book ‘La Colombe d’Or’.
Panier de Crudités and the French Vinaigrette
One of those mystical ingredients that helps create these magical moments, is the sauce served with the basket of vegetables. The owners and the cooks of the Club 55 and the Colombe d’Or are by far as generous as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey when it comes to exploiting their skills and recipes, so when we try to re-experience our lunches in the South of France we prefer to make a simple but very French dip/dressing, a vinaigrette.
First of all we would like to underline that there is no “original” recipe for French vinaigrette as far as we know. However, we have a recipe that we would like to share with you, a Dijon vinaigrette that is truly French.
One secret is to find good Dijon mustard, the most common ones like Maille and Amora are ok, but there are better choices. We like the mustard from the Fallot family, which is made from French-grown spices and exactly the right balance of spices for our taste. The other secret is the use of shallot onions, which, when marinated in a sherry vinegar and salt, soften and give a distinct flavour. We recommend not using balsamic vinegar. Why? The word vinegar is actually a liaison between two words, vin (wine) and aigre (sour). So, that sweet balsamic doesn’t cut it in the sour department at all.
2/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 small shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-1,2 dl olive oil
fresh herbs and ground pepper
After you have marinated the finely shopped shallots in salt and vinegar for a few minutes or more, it’s time to add the Dijon mustard and when you have a smooth paste you start adding the olive oil little by little. Mix slowly until you have your preferred consistency, the more you work this mixture the more of a mayonnaise consistency you get. Now it’s time to taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper, if necessary. To finish of this little gem for your summer lunch (wherever you are), add some chopped fine fresh herbs; chives, chervil or parsley are all good.
Place the vinaigrette next to your Panier de Crudités, which should include: hard-boiled eggs, carrots, yellow peppers, red peppers, celery, cucumber, tomato, champignons, fennel bulb, radishes, cauliflower, lemon and if possible an artichoke boiled until tender. Last but not least, don’t forget to serve heavy slices of rustic dark bread directly from the grill or oven and a plate with shaved curls of extra salted butter.
1 Place du Général de Gaulle, 06570 Saint-Paul-de-Vence
00 33 4 93 32 80 02
43 Boulevard Patch, 83350 Ramatuelle
00 33 4 94 55 55 55