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October 6, 2006
From journal Mistraou
January 8, 2004
It was a warm June evening, my last in France, and I wanted my final meal to be characteristic Provençal cuisine. I found myself back in Place des Cardeurs, a square crammed with outdoor bistros and brasseries, and began scouting the menus for the meal of my dreams. I finally chose Mistraou. A candle was already flickering on the gold-draped table when I took my seat. Some two hours later, I rose from the table well satisfied. The service was discreet, gracious, and leisurely in the best French tradition – no snooty servers here.
My appetizer was warm foie gras with thin slices of lightly toasted baguette. Foie gras ("fwah grah"), which is goose liver, is not every one’s cup of tea, and it isn’t low calorie either. But if you’ve never tried it, don't pass up the chance to sample something you might quickly come to love. It's much cheaper in France than at home – and you're more likely to get the really good stuff, too. Some people have issues with how it is produced, since it involves force-feeding the geese. I don't have foie gras at home, where it isn't popular, because I don't want to encourage the industry. But when in France, I eat as the French do, and foie gras is very French.
My entrée was duck breast served with lavender honey on the side. This unusual but delicious combination was a marriage made in heaven. Lavender honey provided sweetness with a strong floral aftertaste which gave an exotic tinge to the tender, juicy duck. But, as so often happens in France, the best thing on my plate was one of the side dishes accompanying the duck, a swooningly sumptuous ratatouille served in puff pastry. Ratatouille, a traditional dish of Provence, is a vegetable stew of tomatoes, zucchini, onions, eggplant, sweet pepper, and garlic. If properly prepared, the vegetables should be just barely tender, never mushy, and the flavors should meld. This version was absolutely perfect. I'd have ordered a plateful of the stuff if it was on offer.
For dessert I unimaginatively chose chocolate mousse. I have no excuses for my lack of adventure. Sometimes the chocolate urge conquers all!
From journal Aixploring Aixquisite Aix-en-Provence