We just got back from traveling in the South of France, and as you’d expect, the food was fantastic. One of the most enjoyable parts of our trip was visiting the fantastic food markets. Each town has its own market day, and some have a market every day but Sunday. The Saturday market in the town of Arles is one of the best in the area. And there’s a permanent market in Antibes that’s open every day but Sunday.
The restaurants here serve lots of fresh seafood and other ingredients that you find in the market — vegetables, herbs, and olives. Because the South of France is so close to Italy, there’s also lots of pasta, dishes with tomatoes, and pizza.
There’s a pizza restaurant in just about every small town, and many of them having wood-burning ovens. They don’t make traditional Neapolitan pizza here — the crust is thicker and there are more pizza toppings. But they do create a delicious pie.
We were a little surprised by the pizza toppings, which don’t vary a lot. Nowhere did we see pepperoni, Italian sausage, or the usual pizza meats. Here, as in Spain, it’s all about the ham. Jambon cru, which is like prosciutto, is the most popular choice. Some places, you’ll see specific types of ham, such as Serrano or Iberico ham from Spain.
Seafood, especially anchovies, are also popular toppings. But you’ll also see tuna and calamari.
Most places offer both white and red pizzas. White is sauced with crème Fraiche, which is absolutely delicious. The white pizzas are best with vegetables like caramelized onion and mushroom.
The French are known for their fabulous cheeses, and here’s where they make their mark. Unlike in American and Italy, mozzarella isn’t the star of the show when it comes to pizza cheeses. Emmental, which is similar to Swiss cheese, and is made in Switzerland, is very popular. Chevre, or goat cheese, is also used a lot, and it’s frequently combined with arugula.
Gruyere, Fontina, Reblochon, Comte, and Roquefort all makes delicious pizzas.
Many of the pizzas we had has a black olive in the center, and virtually all of them had a drizzle of excellent local olive oil. This really brought all the flavors together and improved the overall taste. A carafe of olive oil with chili peppers is served with your pizza. It’s pretty spicy and adds a nice zing.
We found an artisanal olive oil at our local farmers market and we’ve started drizzling it over our pizzas. It wasn’t inexpensive, but it was well worth the money.
The best pizza we had in the South of France was at La Cantina in Saint-Remy-en-Provence. The town itself is quite charming, one of the cutest in the region. And the restaurant was surprisingly quite modern. But the pizzas there were some of the best we’ve ever has, anywhere.
If you’re around Boyne City or Howards City, be sure to check out BC Pizza for delicious pizza and pastries.