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Provencal cuisine is a remarkable phenomenon, which won the entire Cote d'Azur in France due to its specificity. It is very distinctive from the rest of French cuisine. Fish and seafood, vegetables and spices, olive oil and garlic, almost no meat – this is how one can describe Provencal cuisine in a few words. However, it is much more interesting, richer and more useful than it might seem at first glance.

Provencal cooking, as any other cuisine, is influenced by geography, climate, and proximity to neighboring cultural effects.  Therefore, the influence of Mediterranean countries brings recipes with seafood and hot spices. The Greek impact is also obvious. Nevertheless, the gastronomic traditions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur are more akin to neighboring Italy than the rest of France.

The southeastern region of France is mountainous. The farm area is not rich, and it is hard to find the herds of dairy cows. As a result, Provencal cooking uses very little milk, and goat cheeses are predominant. For example, olive oil is more common to this region than cream or butter. Furthermore, there is greater reliance on seafood, herbs and fresh vegetables than in most other parts of France. 

Provencal cuisine is famous for a number of dishes. Probably, the most known traditional dish of the area is called bouillabaisse. This is the classic seafood stew that is made with an assortment of fish and shellfish, garlic, tomatoes, herbs, saffron, olive oil and wine. What is more, a cook needs at least ten kinds of fresh fish. One can use the tub gurnard, spotted weever, red scorpionfish or European conger. Except for the local fish, one should add noble fish, as well. As usual, it is served with a toasted baguette slathered with garlic mayonnaise (aioli). The restaurants of Marseille serve the fish broth with bread or croutons slathered with a special spicy sauce (rouille). Fish is sautéed in olive oil with more rouille on a separate plate (Provence’s Food Culture).

Aioli is served with fish, vegetables, meat and can be simply spread on a toast.
Provencal sauce is very popular; therefore, it is often appear in a mixture and used as a snack. For example, there are such variations: the sauce called anchoiade - a mixture of garlic and anchovy paste, or tapenade - a mixture of olives, anchovies and capers in olive oil.

One more popular soup is bourride. However, except for bouillabaisse, it does not include tomatoes. Bourride is thickened with garlic mayonnaise and other traditional mixtures.

Provencal cuisine is also famous for shellfish. Oyster is a symbol of Grande cuisine of France. It is consumed in the best restaurants of the Riviera. Oysters are served on ice with lemon halves.

In Provence, every town is associated with a specific dish or ingredient. For instance, the city of Nice gives its name to Salad Niçoise, which can be translated as a “salad of Nice”.

One more world-famous dish that appeared in the southeastern region of France is ratatouille. Primarily, this vegetable stew was a dish of Provencal peasants, consisting of zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic. Later, one started to add an eggplant. The dish spread throughout France, and then it became popular in other countries.

There are a lot of excellent restaurants in Provence: Le Moulin de Vernègues, Le Chantecler, La Vague d’Or, La Maison Blanche, etc. Arnaud Donckele, Michel Guérard, Serge Penzin, Nicolas Juste and other gifted chefs offer the unforgettable gastronomic dining experience there.    

The unrivaled location and mild climate contribute to fruits, vegetables and fresh fish throughout the year. What is more, the influence of other Mediterranean countries makes Provencal culinary possibilities endless.

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