The Gourmet Buzz: Cigalon

By Margaret Kemp

“Oh, don’t take that menu, I’m changing everything tomorrow, I’ll fax you the new one.” “No way, you’ll forget, you’re such a prima donna drowning in your copper pots, and I’ll have no copy for my BUZZ.” This is me bantering with Alain Parodi, chef/owner of Lou Cigalon restaurant, Valbonne.  This is always me with Parodi, he’s doesn’t give information he just creates culinary miracles. Anyway, what’s written on the little cream parchment paper is not necessarily what you get; at Lou Cigalon they’re a team who want to astonish, and they do. 

That’s Alain plus his two chefs, Fabrice and Sebastian, the sommelier, Romauld Germa, with very definite ideas about what you drink, all of which is noted by the elegant Maître d’hôtel, Fabian Angeloux. “Ah, you had that last time,” Angeloux remembers. “Yes, and I want it again.” “No, you must taste the velouté de tomates, with Meaux mustard ice cream, lemon gelée and fresh herbs!” Can you remember what you ate the last time you went to your favourite canteen? What a great maître d’hôtel has these days is a chip (no, not as in fish and chips, or on the shoulder, dear) you know, a microchip, à la Bill Gates. It’s in his head so he’s programmed not to serve the same dish twice. Probably they give them out with the certificates on graduation from L’Ecole Hôtelier!

There was only one thing I didn’t get off on at chez Parodi: Icelandic air-conditioning. I hate it, and always took my “petite laine” to keep me cosy. Now, with permission from the Mairie of Valbonne, Lou Cigalon has an outside terrace and it’s gorgeous. It’s located opposite the restaurant, on the edge of the stony boules pitch, under centuries-old plane trees: very romantic.

At lunch and dinner there are three menus to guide you, although you might as well let El Angeloux do the hard work--you just get busy with the eating irons, enjoy the fresh air, the cric-cric of the crickets. “Retour du Marché” is three courses and dessert (roughly, but he’s always bringing tasters and little side dishes to titillate). That’s 35€. Then there’s the 65€ “L’Arrivée des Beaux Jours” and “A La Carte” stuff, as in, maybe you only want a little dish of courgette flowers stuffed with a cloud of turbot, drizzled with a jus de coquillages and coconut milk. I love his pigeon--I’d cross oceans to eat Parodi’s pigeon. He was last seen cooking it with fruits de saison, but don’t blame me if he’s changed the ingredients by the time you get there. And don’t forget there’s an unofficial boules club–every afternoon after the service, they play fast and furious. Good for inspiration and the appetite.

Lou Cigalon,
4 & 6 Boulevard Carnot,
Valbonne.
T: 04 93 12 27 07
Shut Sunday & Monday

Unless you’ve been on another planet you’ll know that pop rocker Johnny Halliday is celebrating his 60th birthday shlepping his crew/wife/managers all over the hexagon, extravagantly (read over-) dressed by Jean-Paul Gaultier. The Harley Davidson leather-clad one is giving mega stadium concerts, all sold out. For nourishment the ploucs get the usual hamburgers/sandwiches/cokes and beers from the buvettes. But the likes of the VIP’s (everyone, darling, from Bernadette and Jacques, Yannick Noah, Heidi Klum and Flavio B, Naomi, Eddy Mitchell Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp) get gastronomic paradise created by a talented team of chefs from Pavilion Hédiard. “We’re feeding 300 VIP’s tonight,” said a sweating cook during the Nice concert. “It’s hot on stage, but it’s even hotter in our kitchens,” he sighed, offering me a fragrant “crêpe kung-fu.”

Are you signing up for The Clinton Presidential Cookbook? Wish I’d known; I’d have contributed my grandmother’s top-secret recipe for gedempte meatballs.  On second thought, perhaps not. Just log on to www.clintonpresidentialcenter.com to tap into how to make the late lamented Buddy’s home-made dog biscuits, Senator Clinton’s legendary chocolate chip cookies (are they better than Barbara Bush’s?, and Barbara Streisand’s southern lemon icebox pie. And as for Bill, lets hear it for his chicken enchiladas. In Paris the Clintons love L’Orangerie, L’Ami Louis, La Tour d’Argent and on their last visit rumour has it they were spotted at “Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit,” enjoying not only le boeuf but also the fabulous exhibition “Hommage à Jean Cocteau et Raymond Radiguet” (through February 2004).

I never throw anything away, the only time I had a spring-cleaning moment I chucked out a whole bunch of old Michelin Guides! I didn’t even take them to The American Hospital; who needs Michelin Guides when undergoing surgery/implants/having work done?  How was I to know that at Clermont-Ferrand, Alain Morel, a Belgium restaurant owner, known to his friends as “the most important collector of Michelin Guides in the world” (what a handle to carry through life!), lost out on a leather-bound 1968 edition auctioned last week?  Monsieur Michelinophile was hopping mad, even though he has 1,500 in his collection. Morel (which means mushroom) values his collection at 500.000€. In 1998 Morel/Mushroom exhibited his collection to celebrate Michelin’s centenary. “That was the year I lost a fourchette in the guide, which just goes to show they are certainly not open to bribes!” At least he sees the irony – hope old Mushroom gets his fork back.

Bon Appétit.
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