Blu Aubergine Blog

QUICK BITE: Provencal Treats

In the Old Town section of Nice, on the Cote d'Azur, there is a wonderful jewel box of a confectionery shop called L'Art Gourmand. The place features beautiful French confections like an assortment of chocolates au lait, noir, and blanc (milk, dark, and white), marzipan fruits and animals that are well known in southern France, and various cookies and baked goods. 

Perhaps one of the most special of the spécialité are the fruit gelées. Made from intense, natural fruit flavors like raspberry, grapefruit, and apricot, these fruits are pureed and mixed with some fruit pectin (a plant-derived gelling agent) and sometimes a bit of sweetener and citric acid to maintain the flavor balance and brightness of color. These jellied strips are rolled in some sugar for crunch, and...voilà! You have a delicious candy that contains all the ripe juiciness of the fruit, in concentrated, delicious, portable form.

Another of the local specialties is torrone, a culinary remnant from the days when Nice was better known as Nizza, part of the Italian kingdom of Savoy and thereby ruled by the Italians, on and off until 1860. The nougat-with-nuts, of which there are various famous versions from northern Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia (all territories ruled by the Duke of Savoy at some point), comes with various combinations of nuts and is sometimes covered in chocolate. Alongside the torrone you can find candied fruit, another specialty dating back to the 14th century, with its origin muddled between Spain, Italy, and France, when borders were more fluid. Probably a gift from the Arabs who dominated areas of Southern Europe at the time, candied fruit became an important part of many of the region's most famous desserts, including the Piemontese panettone and Sicilian cassata

Of course for real chocolate lovers (and I count myself firmly among the true chocoholics of the world), chocolate is always in season and always the thing to get. And L'Art Gourmand has a great selection of chocolates and truffles from which to choose. From chocolate-covered nuts and praline-filled chocolate squares to chocolate-dipped candied fruits and peels and cocoa-dusted truffles, there's an almost embarrassing variety of chocolate treats. It's easy to fill up your bag quickly from the offerings on hand.

During the spring, summer, and early fall in this temperate part of the Mediterranean, the crème glacés and sorbets are particularly delicious here. Artisanally-made flavors like a deep, dark chocolate, a delectably tart passion fruit, a toasted nutty pistachio, and an aromatic raspberry-violet are so satisfying that a small cup will do...though you may not be able to resist a larger portion. And when the weather is pleasant and the Nice sky is a cloudless celestial blue, there's nothing more enjoyable than a stroll through the old town with a cup of that glace in hand, taking in the scenery.

21 Rue du Marche'
Vielle Ville de Nice
Nice, France 06300
+33 493 62 5179