Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The French Series: Taverne du Safranier


To start off: a disclaimer and an acknowledgement.

Disclaimer: The one thing, ONE thing we forgot to pack for this trip was camera battery chargers. S&%!!!! Zia has graciously offered up her phone which has allowed me to post photos from last night's dinner. However, the quality is not quite what it would have been with an actual camera.

Acknowledgement: Le Saf, as the locals call it, was our friend Cathryn's recommendation. Cathryn, who is familiar with Antibes and with good food, did not let us down. THANK YOU CATHRYN!

La Taverne du Safranier is a modest little establishment, about 50 meters from the bord de la mer in old town Antibes. While reviews complain about the views, "overlooking the parking lot" - on the contrary, we found the tables set up in a courtyard overlooking a small square full of children of patrons playing tag and antagonizing each other. The inside of the restaurant consisted of a small bar, a few refrigerators and a window into the kitchen. Everything was covered in seafaring kitch - elaborate mermaids on the bathroom door, nets and captains hats and fish hanging from walks and the ceiling. It was cozy and unpretentious. Our very patient waitress was casual in jeans and a tight revealing black tank top that had, "NO SILICONE 100% Human" written across what she was presumably letting everyone know was not silicone. It only took us 40 minutes to order as we deciphered the menu while saving the babies from kamikaze kids on scooters, an overzealous pair of relaying racing brothers and pigeons.

No I had not yet had my fill of les moules and am so glad I am such a glutton - moules gratininée - delicious muscles on the shell carpeted in a mixture of parsley, garlic and butter.

Ingo and Wiz had le formule, the set menu, which started with carpaccio du thon, a very thinly sliced raw tuna that had the look and feel of a prosciutto baloney. The taste was sweet and salty and melted on the tongue.

Z's sardines were bite-sized salty goodness.

The pegre grilleé was the main course in the formule - a cousin of the dorade, grilled and stuffed with a mixture of herbs - fennel seeds, parsley, and other greens that we could quite make out. A squirt of lemon and mmm the fish was so fresh it really didn't need anything but the herbs were the perfect compliment. Z had the grilled tuna, which also tasted like it jumped out of the sea onto her plate. The only dish that I wasn't crazy about was mine - which I ordered at the insistence and due to the curiosity of the boys, a dorade au foie gras. The fish was excellent but the foie gras was too much. Here I must confess that while I appreciate foie gras, it wouldn't be my last meal. It was so heavy and rather than contrasting the light freshness of the fish, I found it overpowering. Ingo scarfed down the remains on my plate.

Remember how I told you that I've lost my sweet tooth? And how I licked salt cubes as a kid? Well, this dessert, the tarte au citron, was the breakout hit of the night. The lemon curd (thought of you Smash) was creamy and tart and the crust was buttery but light but what stood out about this tarte was the meringue - the whipped egg whites were not sweet, but SALTY. It was like drinking lemonade out of a margarita glass, like eating lemon pudding in the ocean, like licking the salt of your hand, holding the tequila and then sucking on the lemon. It was airy and tart, refreshing and the perfect taste of summer by the sea. I LOVED it.

This profitterol filled with vanilla ice cream and smoothered in warm chocolate sauce was something I would have simply faceplanted into when I was breastfeeding. Even now, the chocolate sauce was fiiiiiiine. And this dish got the most ooohs and ahhs out of the table (as opposed to ummms? that followed the tarte au citron) but the salty lemon tarte still takes the proverbial cake in my book.

I must admit, we were a bit cocky, booking a table for 8pm, naively confident after the kids cooperated a few nights ago while we sat and sucked on moules. Tonight however they showed us who was boss - demanding to push the stroller around the little square in front of the restaurant for 20 minutes, terrorizing a sweet little Italian girl by pulling her hair and attempting to stick fingers into her eye sockets, and eating handfuls of dirt out of the potted plants. One finally succumbed to her fate around 10 after we wheeled her along the boardwalk - fishing cooling on the table. The other slowed down after a few fried potatoes only to have a total meltdown when we ran out of creme brulé. Ingo had to drive him around town for 15 minutes before he finally passed out. In their defense, we did keep them up 3 hours past their bed time. Le Saf was worth it - thanks again, Cathryn!

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