January 8, 2004
Place des Cardeurs, near Cathédrale St.-Sauveur, is lined with shady plane trees and packed with outdoor cafés in summer. Chez Laurette is one of these, a very friendly family-run place which makes a great stop for lunch. I was drawn as much by the warm smile of the waitress as the appealing list of salads. While I ate in the shade of a large green market umbrella, my waitress was assisted by a woman who was clearly either her mother or an older sister. A large family arrived, was greeted with kisses and cries of delight by the restaurant staff, and the baby was handed around for oohs and aahs. On my other side, a young couple dined with their utterly charming and cheerful three-year-old girl. I felt as though I had wandered into a large family party.
The salads of Provence make ideal lunches, especially in the heat of summer. Chez Laurette offers a half dozen appealing options. I considered a chicken and parmesan salad but finally decided on the Salade César. Crisp, freshly torn greens were topped with lardons (thick chunks of bacon), crunchy oversized croutons made from slices of baguette, and delicious wedges of perfectly ripe red tomatoes, all tossed with a light and tasty vinaigrette. The effect was rather like the BLT a gourmet chef might prepare.
As I worked my way through my salad, a trio began to play in the square: accordion, string bass and tambourine, striking a very Parisian note. Indeed, when they were playing "My Way," Frank Sinatra’s macho manifesto, it sounded entirely French, putting me instantly in mind of wide boulevards, poodles, and the Eiffel tower. When the band passed the hat, I was happy to toss in a euro or two for the pleasure of their music. I was so enjoying myself, I ordered a medley of sorbets for dessert, and it was likewise fresh and wonderful.
From journal Aixploring Aixquisite Aix-en-Provence