Dear Friends and Family,

Our friend Annie Salt knows Marseille. She was born right outside the city in the house where her mother still lives, and she herself lived in Marseille for a while for school and work.

She took us to Marseille's new museum complex, the MuCEM (Museum of Civilizations from Europe and the Mediterranean) designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti. The company Annie works for was involved in some of the structural support of the museum. This year Marseille is the European capital of culture.

MuCEM, Marseille

The museum complex is reached by long pedestrian bridges.

Annie says there used to be a draw bridge connecting the island to the main city of Marseille. The bridge was destroyed by the Germans during the War, and for many years the island with its former fortresses was inaccessible except by boat. A beautifully designed and well thought out complex has been created on the island with the MuCEM as the crown jewel.

Another blazing hot, but gorgeous day.

Good for crystal-clear photographs.

Leaving the MuCEM and walking thru Marseille, we passed a group of women sitting on the sidewalk. Without a missing a beat, Annie broke out in song, singing a little ditty, and again right on cue, the eldest of the women sang the next verse. 

It turned out she was a vendor of small white snails which she boiled in water with fennel. The ditty was something she would sing as she wheeled her snails around the streets of Marseille. Annie knew her from long ago. Most of the surrounding women were her daughters.

Annie drove us around Marseille in a typical hair-raising Marseillaise style of driving. At one point she yelled out the window to some pedestrians who were not paying attention to where they were walking. The young women responded, "This is not Paris; this is Marseille." In French, of course. In other words, this is Marseille, where we don't follow the rules, where the Revolution began, where you and much of the world might still be living under a monarchy if it weren't for us. And by the way, all commemorated by "La Marseillaise," the best national anthem in the world.

We stopped at a beautiful spot where Annie would often swim when she lived in Marseille. 

Fellow foodies, this may be what you were waiting for:
Dinner at L'Aromat in Marseille (49 Rue Sainte)

The amuse bouche was a scallop presented as a Japanese maki roll, a home-made cheese spread surrounding the scallop, all wrapped in seaweed (nori).

Era's entree: sea bass cut in very thin slices and smoked with pine needles, layered on slivered vegetables. Shrimp and avocado toasts.

Don's entree: a suggestion of the chef, sautéed foie gras, tiny little mushrooms, with an egg. Fabulous. Better than it looks.

Annie's entree: stuffed zucchini flowers; a maki-style sushi with fried mussels.
All these dishes were far more elaborate than I'm describing, but the best I can do now.
The plat or main dishes:

Era and Annie chose beef filet, again smoked a bit in herbs de Provence (fab), a cannellloni of risotto, coppa and vegetables, and frites made from tomatoes and other vegetables. I don't know what the sauce was; they called it Corsican, but it was very good.

Don had veal braised in a soupe au pistou (vegetable soup with pesto), an incredible parmesan toast. He loved his pistou and was less rapturous over his veal, but no complaints.

Les Desserts:

Don's dessert was some outrageous chocolate extravaganza: chocolate mousse, some sort of small chocolate donuts, stuffed with chocolate fudge; a chocolate filled cookie, a glass of whipped cream and chocolate-nutella, and I'm not sure what that packet on the stick is. Uh-oh, looks as if he's drained his wine glass. 

Annie looking pleased. She has a chocolate eclair. She will soon be dipping her chocolate fudge-like square into the hot chocolate sauce and then into the very cold champagne, which will give it a nice hard shell.

My more modest, but very delicious dessert: Iced tea flavored macaroon with peach and melon compote, Muscat sorbet with a candied almond.

Too bad Jonathan, Annie's hubby, couldn't join us for all this fun. He is out of town on business. Hi, Jonathan, we miss you!

Next day:

Aix en Provence.