Phew! We’ve been hosting/traveling/hosting/traveling for the last six weeks, and I can hardly believe that we’re now firmly in holiday territory. I’m excited to share what we’ve been up to, starting with a trip to Antibes, France last month.
My cousin and his husband live in Antibes, where they own and rent out several gorgeous holiday homes (you can check them out here). We last visited Antibes in 2012 and loved it so much that we just had to go back.
Antibes is a small old town in the French Riviera, nestled in between Nice and Cannes on the southern coast (the Cote d’Azur) of France. The town is largely pedestrian, with a Marche Provencal (Provencal market) anchoring town life. Every day the market bursts with gorgeous fresh seasonal vegetables, vibrant red meats and, most importantly, homemade tapenade made out of everything from bright green Nocerella olives to real sun-dried tomatoes. We love the tapenade from this market so much that the first morning we were there, the hubby and I plunked down 90 euros for them. That’s a Benjamin on olive oil-based spreads, people. (We may have a problem.)
Ge Ge really wanted to fish in Antibes. He’d been obsessed with the idea ever since my dad (his “Gong Gong”) told him that on Gong Gong’s last visit to Antibes, he’d seen fishermen lining up and down the coast. My cousin Paul wrung his hands for months over whether he could actually make this fishing trip happen, warning us about weather conditions, suitable fisherman guides, availability of tackle, and the like. Of course, in the end, Paul came through with an acquaintance who agreed to take our ragtag group out to try their luck.
A few sea bream made it back to the shore and into the kitchen, and, as an added bonus, the French fisherman stayed to help us make authentic bouillabaisse.
True bouillabaisse, which originated in Marseille, is an all-day affair. Our French guide insisted that seven types of fish end up inside our bouillabaisse, and Paul spent days perfecting the soup. Prior to serving, the fish is deboned and served either alongside or right in the soup. I’ve had bouillabaisse before, but never like this. The soup was earthy, rich and full of depth, and the many varieties of fish ranged from light and flaky to full-bodied and hearty. This bouillabaisse made me think that every version I’ve eaten up until this point in my life is decent fish soup at best and a terrible imitation of bouillabaisse at worst.
The best part of real bouillabaisse is the accompaniment — crunchy crostini rubbed with fresh garlic and topped with homemade saffron aioli and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The idea is to prep your crostini — rubbing it down with garlic, spreading aioli and sprinkling Parmesan — and then plunking each one into the soup to absorb the aromatic broth into the pores of the crostini. The resulting bite is a mix of crunchy, soft, creamy and savory — basically all flavors in one bite. It’s heavenly.
Meanwhile, our children sunned themselves on the gorgeous patio with heaping bowls of soup. Ge Ge was surprisingly suspicious of the bouillabaisse, declaring it “not my favorite” after a few bites.
“Oh, buddy, you are so missing out,” I insisted, trying to convince him to buy in for a few more bites.
“MOM. I TRIED IT. IT’S NOT MY FAVORITE,” he insisted.
“Look around you at this beautiful life you’re living. Do you know how many kids get to eat real bouillabaisse? This is AMAZING.”
“Mom. I know it’s amazing. But isn’t it even more amazing that I got to try it and decide for myself that it’s not for me? How many kids have to wait until they’re adults to figure that out?”
Sigh. I hate being out-lawyered.