Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 55: New Years in Nice

I've already boasted about Yves' cooking skills; I was psyched when he asked me to help him cook New Years Eve dinner. Yves' cooking mastery manifested as he tailored the recipes to the ingredients he had on hand. His intuitive knowledge of what to add is the mark of a good cook. Cooking for half the day, we made stuffing which we used to fill a chicken, which we boiled in a vegetable stew, and a traditional French pie with swiss chard and apples. One of my favorite parts of cooking is waiting for the food to finish because all you can do is smell it – feast foreplay. We would soon discover that our hours in the kitchen were well spent.

Poule au pot is delicious. We ate it for the next two days.
Swiss chard... in a pie? The apples went on top.

Once Yves' neighbors joined us, after some French style kissy introductions, we sat down to eat. The wine flowed liberally. The first course was foie gras with sweet onions, fig jam, and gingerbread. This was my first experience with foie gras; it was rich and intense – a creamy meaty deliciousness that coated my mouth. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I couldn't eat more than a few slices because it was so rich. The sweet condiments and wine paired with it perfectly. Of the two bottles white wine, one was from Alsace (Northern France) and one was from the Riviera (Southern France). I was already beginning to get tipsy so it was time to eat more!

Lovely people are the perfect complement to delicious food.

The main course was a classic French poule au pot – think Thanksgiving in a pot. In the pot was our stuffed chicken, along with carrots, parsnips, jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, leeks, and a spice bundle. All of these flavors running together was like an orgy for my taste buds. Everything was amazing but stuffing was by far the best. I can't remember everything that Yves added but it was a veal base. I was ready to explode after the main course but my thankfully stomach has the high score in Tetris. Time for pie!

More, please!

Out of the whole meal, I looked forward to dessert most. Yves usually doesn't make his own pie crust but this was a holiday! I helped knead and roll out the dough. Tourta dé blea was unlike anything I'd ever eaten before. Swiss chard and pine nuts are not ingredients I'm used to in pie. The crust was light and flakey and the swiss chard and gave the pie a solid, nutritious quality, while the apples and raisins made it sweet. Amazing! With the midnight hour approaching, I scarfed down my slice and got ready to head into town.

It's baby powder on top.
More, please!

Lit off of wine, I stumbled down through the Cimiez towards the center of Nice. Constantly checking my watch, I was running out of time. I wasn't going to make it to the center in time for the big moment. Explosions from firecrackers echoing from all over the city, I ran towards the center.

At least I wasn't the drunkest person out and about.
At 12:01 I was in front of La Tetê au Carrée.

France must not have the same regulations on fireworks as the US because the explosions from the fireworks sounded like grenades. As I got closer to the center the explosions got more and more frequent. Car horns blaring, people screaming, whistles, fireworks, lights, sirens, broken bottles, it was like a full-scale riot. There were people hanging out of car windows, climbing into strangers' cars. Everyone was drunk. I was expecting tear gas at any second.

It's a mob! They're out of control!
Wipe your eye. It's the new year.

Huge masses of people clogged the streets. I strolled through the center of town with a big smile on my face, enjoying myself as I soaked it in. As I walked along the beach people were going nuts. A man dressed up as Santa was jumping over exploding firecrackers. Others were lighting off bottle rockets on the shore. High pitched whistles, explosions, the bright lights created beautiful reflections in the Mediterranean. I hung out for about an hour and a half, walking around, observing and taking pictures.

Bunny ears, Santa hats, and fireworks. Welcome to France.
I hope they survived...

Another serious year, you codger!

When my buzz wore off I trekked back up the Cimiez, ready for bed. I was still stuffed when I got back to the apartment but I managed to pack down a thin slice of pie before crashing.

My New Years Eve in Nice was a pleasant change from new years celebrations of years past. The past few years I've spent trying to forget my name amidst a group of my closest friends. I missed watching Dick Clark and his big ball but memories of "Gleim, Gleim, Gleim, Gleim, Gleim, Gleeeiiiiiimmm" were fonder. Despite not attending any crazy parties or stripping naked to run screaming down a slip 'n slide full of Jello, I didn't miss my annual hangover.

I am thankful for the many gifts of 2010. I have been extraordinarily fortunate, graduating from Pratt and living in NYC to traveling the US with two of my best friends to living in a tent in Austin and making many more. Traveling in Europe has been the best experience of my life and I look forward to continuing my travels throughout much of the new year. With a warm heart, I wish all of you the best in 2011. I welcome 2011 with one New Years' resolution, "live."

Au revoir!

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