Chef Matteo Girelli serves dishes from Provencal, the Southern region of France, at Pondicherry Cafe's French Festival
The Provençal region falls in the south of France, which has a rustic and homely style of cooking. Hundred and fifty years ago, this region also included the northern part of Italy before Napoleon Bonaparte laid siege to it and decided to split it, explains Chef Matteo Girelli. He is in town as the visiting chef at Sofitel’s 10-day French festival, which ends on May 13.
The French festival also has a wine and cheese pairing counter
Potatoes, tomatoes, basil, thyme, along with dollops of butter and cream are the core ingredients of French cuisine. “Sometimes, butter and cream is replaced with olive oil,” adds the chef, who spends six months running Goa-based restaurant Sabai Sabai and rest of the year back home.
Galettes De Rois, an almond pie
The southern province boasts of a rich produce as it has many hills with plantations and an average temperature of 15°C. With this bit of information in mind, we settled down to sample the food.
Farcis Nicoise, grilled vegetables stuffed with beef, a specialty of Nice region. Pics/Phorum Dalal
Our first stop was the wine and cheese section where cheeses such as Brie, Camembert and the pungent Blue cheese were served with wines. As we took a piece of Brie and Camembert on our plate, the server suggested a Little James Basket Press red wine, which was woody and spicy.
After a few sips, we relished the Soup Au Pistou, a traditional vegetable soup with pesto, croutons and noodles. Chunks of potatoes and carrots made this almost a filling meal. We couldn’t have enough of this flavoursome basil-laden soup.
Then, we sampled the Salad du Printemp A l’orange, a salad with orange vinegrata which was tangy and refreshing in the sweltering summer heat. For the mains, we tried Farcis Nicoise, a specialty of Nice region. Assorted veggies such as bell peppers, zucchini and onions were stuffed with ground meat and herbs.
While it tasted delicious, the meat was a tad too dry. The Croustillant de Chevre, a crispy warm goat cheese roll, had the right crunch coupled with the melt-in-the-mouth filling. Later, we tucked into the Ravioli in Walnut Sauce, which boasted of an Italian influence. It was stuffed with spinach and was not overtly cheesy.
The nutty and cheesy essence of the walnut sauce was delectable. After all, a good ravioli can set a bad day right. We settled for the Apple Pie and Galettes De Rois, an almond pastry pie for dessert. The dishes were so scrumptious that we devoured both the pies.
While the Apple Pie had a flaky biscuit crust topped with caramelised apples, the Galettes de Rois had crushed almond covering and a sweet and fruity filling. We couldn’t decide a winner. Our trip to the south of France through its cuisine was worth it. When are you planning yours?
We cannot rate the experience as it was a preview
Price: Rs 2,000 per person with alcohol
At: Sofitel, BKC, Bandra East