Of course, as soon as you think of France, you think of cheese. However, as much as we love Nice and other spots in the South of France, cheese has often taken a backseat to whatever else we were eating (same for oysters, but that’s another story). When I daydream about what I’m going to eat there, it’s a pizza with a glass of rosé at le Safari, steak tartare in Antibes, daube de boeuf in Vence, or anything Virginie at le Victor Hugo wants to serve me, but unfortunately, not cheese. The only brilliant exception: an incredible cheese service at the end of dinner at the la Chèvre d’Or in Eze years ago.
This trip to Nice, in search of picnic fare for a trip to the Foundation Maeght, we made up for lost time. Forgoing the marché in the Cours Saleya, where the vegetables dazzle, but the cheese disappoints, we wandered over towards Rue Massena, to a tiny fromagerie around the corner from our favorite place for croissants and baguettes – Chez Maître Pierre. I picked out an interesting looking chèvre with a cross on it and a St Marcellin.
Later in the week, we really struck a jackpot when my husband, Frank wandered into the old town and chanced into Lou Fromaï. He proudly came home with a very special chèvre: le rouleau Méditerranéen that he was told was something you could only get locally. He said there was even a picture of the goat whose milk was used in the cheese. Let me tell you, this cheese was amazing!
Because we essentially inhaled the cheese for supper that night, the next day we needed to re-stock. Never, ever go into a fromagerie on an empty stomach (ok, even on a full one it’s always dangerous territory!) We bought another log of the rouleau and a wedge of brie that they stuffed with black truffles – also spectacular!
Then it was on to their charcuterie, to augment what we had picked up from the local butcher and the marché. This is where we discovered the smoked pork tenderloin (which, if you have a smoker you owe it to yourself to try). They also had one of the best salamis I’ve ever had, probably because it came from the famed Spanish black-footed pigs. Ditto the chorizo.
Armed with that, another good baguette, some mustard (I had forgotten how wonderful and strong the most average French mustard is) and some cornichons, we had the makings of a great picnic and took it all to one of the most beautiful places in the area, the Foundation Maeght, where, after touring the exhibitions and the gardens, we happily devoured it. Nothing like great food and a spectacular setting to make a memorable lunch!
Anne Maxfield is a New York based food influencer and blogger who dreams of making the South of France her home. When she’s not tracking down cheese or making her own charcuterie, she writes the Accidental Locavore blog and contributes to the Huffington Post. This article is adapted from a post on her blog.