Food writer and longtime French resident - Rosa Jackson trained cook at Cordon Bleu) invites you to join her for a market tour and a cooking class in her beautifully renovated 17th century apartment which steps from the vibrant food market and the Quai des Etats-Unis. The fresh, lively scent of a Menton lemon, the melting texture of long-cooked onions, the bracing chill of that first sip of rosé. Our course isn’t just about flavors — it’s about all the pleasures of a day spent shopping at the Cours Saleya market and preparing an authentic Niçois meal in France’s most Italian city.
Nice is one of the sunniest spots in France. But the summer vegetables that go into its famous ratatouille — tomato, eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini — tell only part of the story. Just behind Nice are the arrière-pays, a rugged, dry, mountainous region whose inhabitants survived for hundreds of years on mountain plants, dried beans or chick peas, and vegetables such as squash and Swiss chard alongside small amounts of meat and fish. Every season brings its own fruit and vegetables, each with a concentrated taste unique to this climate, and traditional dishes often linked to religious festivals.
Market Tour and Cooking Class:
Our day begins at 9.30 am at the Cours Saleya market, while there is still a fresh morning breeze. The narrow maze of centuries old streets that is the Vieux Nice opens up onto this splendid space lined with bars, cafés and fish restaurants on either side and market stalls down the center. “Le tout Nice” converges on the terraces at lunch, but early in the day it’s time for that famous Niçois street food, la socca (a chickpea-flour pancake), as you stroll through the market and admire the vivid displays of flowers, candied fruit and seasonal produce.
Though the main aisle is the most dazzling, thanks to its array of colors, what really interests us is the collection of small producers’ stalls near the rue de la Préfecture. The fruit and vegetables are not as uniformly shaped and the variety not as great, but every ingredient we’ll find here is firmly rooted in the region and much of it is organic. Depending on the season you might see untreated oranges, including bitter oranges for jam, real wild asparagus, strawberries from Carpentras, tomatoes ripened on the vine, figs bursting with juice, and of course the mix of salad leaves known as mesclun (no Niçois meal would be complete without it).
Depending on your menu choice, we will visit the best butcher in Nice on the Cours Saleya or the small fish market in place St-François, where fishermen sell the day’s catch. Because traditional Niçois cooking relies more on vegetables than meat or fish, we can also plan an entirely vegetarian menu. No matter what the main ingredient of our meal, we will not forget the wine. Then we will make our way past the fresh pasta shop to my 400 years old building in rue du Jésus, where if pissaladière is on the menu we can get started on the yeast dough. A couple of hours later we will sit down to an authentic Niçois meal and toast our efforts with a glass of rosé (or, if you prefer, an intriguing local red or white wine).
After lunch, if you wish, I will lead you on a gourmet tour through the zig-zaggy streets of the Vieux Nice, where you will taste Niçois olive oils (the region has 2,000 producers), see fresh pasta being made, learn more about Provençal wines and discover local sweets. You’ll find out how the Italian influence has shaped Niçois cooking and marvel at the local obsession with eating: this is the only city in France where street food is an institution. Our day will finish with a well-deserved gelato on the terrace of the ice-cream parlor Fenocchio.
I also offer an alternative program for those who don't wish to cook: we start with a market tour and gourmet food walk, followed by an olive oil tasting and delicious seasonal lunch in the Old Town.