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Saturday, April 17, 2010

La Colombe d'Or

There are only three of us staying in the villa: myself and a couple from Portsmouth, NH by the names of Joan and Walter. We arrived here on the same day and immediately became great friends. Joan and Walter have a rental car and have invited me to join them on some excursions to the surrounding towns. On Saturday we went to St. Paul de Vence, a lovely hillside town made famous by artists such Matisse, Modigliani, Chagall, etc. There is a very well known hotel/restaurant there called "La Colombe d'Or". You usually have to book months in advance to get into the place, so we were astonished when we arrived at lunchtime and were immediately shown to a table on the terrasse with a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.

La Colombe d'Or has been open since the 1920s and is frequented by French movie stars, millionaires, and honeymooning tourists. The food is excellent, even though the menu has stayed virtually the same for decades. Even more famous than the food is the incredible art collection in the restaurant. In every room there are paintings, sculptures, drawings and notes from Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Modigliani, Braque, Fernand Léger, Chagall etc. This is just one corner of the inside of the restaurant:

There is a Calder sculpture by the pool:

I had the turbot with a creamy, delicate, delicious sauce:

With fresh wild strawberries (fraises des bois) and Chantilly (whipped cream) for dessert:

But the thing we'll remember most from lunch at La Colombe d'Or was the basket of crudités (fresh vegetables). Normally, when you order crudités in France, you expect them to be ready to eat; sliced, with dressings, etc. So you can imagine our surprise when the basket arrived with a whole UNCOOKED artichoke, a whole fennel bulb, a whole green pepper, a whole red onion, endive, a bunch of celery, half a cucumber, a couple of unpeeled hard boiled eggs, lots of radishes, a whole tomato and more. How are you supposed to eat this? I asked, pointing to the artichoke. The server just shrugged his shoulders and said that was the tradition of the restaurant - it's been served that way since the 1920s and they aren't going to change it now! The three of us had a good laugh, and enjoyed our lunch anyway - at least the tomato was delicious!

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