As French author Paul Morand famously put it “L’apéritif, c’est la prière du soir des Français” or “The apéritif is the evening prayer of the French” Though an apéritif refers to the pre-dinner drink that stimulates the appetite, the apéro includes eats as well, celebrating France’s culinary heritage. More than just a happy hour, the apéro often spills into the night.
Eating up Provence
With the seafood and fish-laden Mediterranean, forests stocked with chestnuts and truffles, orchards bursting with fruit and olive trees, and farms that feed off the abundant sun, Provence is geographically desirable for gastronomy seekers. In addition to the holy trinity of Provençal cuisine – garlic, tomatoes, and olive oil – each town and region has their own specialty to tuck into. Nimes is home to brandade de morue, a garlicky salt-cod purée inspired by the nearby salt marshes. Devour itty-bitty bivalves, tellines, at l’Estrambord in the Camargue and vibrant orange oursin along the Côte Bleue. Marseille boasts more pizza parlors per capita than NYC. The wood-fired pies at La Bonne Mère stand out from the crowd, thanks to their organic dough that rises for two days. Chickpea flour is the star in Provençal snack food. Sample chickpea flour pancakes, cade, from the Cade Man in Toulon, and fritters, panisses, at stands along the coast. At farmers markets, find cones of AOC-protected brousse du Rove a fresh, goat cheese that pairs perfectly with local honey for dessert.
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 lemon, juiced
3 tbsp capers, chopped
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
250 g / 9 oz black olives, pitted
Small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For a rustic tapenade, mix all the ingredients except the olive oil in a large bowl. Slowly add olive oil, enough to make a chunky paste.
For a smoother tapenade, mix the garlic, lemon juice, capers and anchovies in a food processor for about 10 seconds. Add the olives, parsley and enough olive oil to make a paste.
Season to taste if necessary.
Fresh off the farm
In the Camargue at La Chasssagnette, most of Michelin-starred chef Armand Arnal’s ingredients are grown a few steps from your table. At Cuisine Centr’Halles in Avignon’s famous food market, Les Halles, American chef Jon Chiri offers meals and cooking classes made with his neighbors’ bounty.
Satisfy your sweet tooth
Saint-Tropez’ tarte tropèzienne, a sugar-speckled brioche stuffed with cream, owes its fame to Brigitte Bardot. Toulon is the only spot to score a chanteclair, a meringue, cream, and coffee ice cream cake covered in crushed almonds. Enjoy intriguingly flavored scoops at Scaramouche, an artisan glacier owned by a Franco-American couple, in Céreste and Marseille.