A trip through the hills forty minutes northwest of Nice transports you to a medieval town that was once home to the famous painter Henri Matisse. Within its ancient walls lies charming maze-like passages, beautiful chapels and numerous spring-fed fountains. Now boutiques and restaurants accommodate the demand of tourists, but the calm quiet charm of the village remains.
Edouard’s friends Nicolas and Heloise live in Vence and invited us for lunch. We enjoyed a delicious meal outside in their garden and went for a walk through the medieval village afterwards.
Dating back to the 1st century A.D. the Romans were the first to build aqueducts that surround the city and supplied water to its residents and thermal baths. The springwater, which is low in sodium, became known for its health benefits when the sick wife of Roman emperor Nero drank from the spring and miraculously left the town in great health.
The ancient aqueducts still supply all of the town’s fountains with springwater today. You can take a walking tour to learn the history behind the town’s fountains, some of which were used as baptismal fonts in ancient times.
While we only spent a brief time visiting the town, the highlight of the day was the meal prepared by our friend Nicolas. What I failed to mention above is that Nicolas was a private chef in his past life. And who would I be to forego a meal prepared by a French chef?! All ingredients for the lunch were locally sourced from Vence.
We had two cold starters (perfect for a warm day), a cantaloupe gazpacho topped with mint and salmon tartare tossed with tomatoes and homemade mayo topped with tarragon. The main dish was grilled steak with herbs and vegetables with a creamy homemade bearnaise sauce which was absolutely delectable.
Le Dessert. Oh. Boy.
This nameless casual concoction makes the list of one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. So seemingly simple and delicate yet packed with so much flavor. The tartness of white peach, tiny white plums and blackberries combined with a decadent vanilla bean mousseline cream and intoxicating sugary-ness of the lemon meringues was on another level. And can we talk about the presentation?
As the French would say, c’est sublime.