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Welcome to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Cannes Food Face-Off, which will be updated with the latest taste testings throughout the festival, including Bouillabaisse and Pissaladiere.
The Dish: Profiteroles – The hollowed-out cream puffs, said to have been invented by French Queen Catherine de Medici’s royal cook (although some food historians dispute the claim) appear on dessert menus across Cannes. This pair of restaurants fill their profiteroles in the American (ice cream) and the European style (pastry cream).
LE VESUVIO – A castle-like profiterole presentation is all sugardusted almond slivers resting atop flowing chocolate sauce and bouffant swirls of whipped cream at this feisty Italian stalwart along the Croisette just west of the Hotel Martinez. The trouble is, the choux pastry here is deadening in its density, absorbing both the sauce around it and the vanilla bean ice cream inside it, rather than retaining its own textural character.
SAN TELMO – Situated at a particularly charming pedestrian only intersection in Cannes, San Telmo turns out a more polished take on profiteroles. A pair of cream-filled pastries layered in a coating of silky chocolate mousse is off set by whipped cream distinctly airier than Le Vesuvio’s. In fact, the whole experience is lighter — the profiteroles, despite the challenges, remain inexorably flaky, even delicate: a mark of triomphe.
The Dish: Bouillabaisse – The traditionally homey Provencal fish stew is fancified to the extreme at two of the Cote d’Azur’s most expensive seaside spots that specialize in the dish, in which heaps of langoustine play a starring role. Be forewarned: Carry your trusty Tide to Go stain-removal pen because, as at Splash Mountain, no matter how careful, you may get splattered.
TETOU – This archetypal open-air French Riviera dining room is all crisp dark-blue and white stripes immediately abutting the sand. It’s a sensory-activation chamber, catalyzing redolent ocean breezes that couldn’t be more appropriate for the deeply flavorful, elaborately presented dish, around which the cash-only restaurant is built. But wait — What’s zis?! A fishbone?! And another? A big non non at these stratospheric prices.
LE BACON – The spectacular view of Antibes from this dotty dining terrace (no, they didn’t steal those cartoonish glass-blowfish centerpieces from your grandmother) somehow takes a backseat to a precise rendition of bouillabaisse. The restaurant offers all of the requisite fixings, from garlic cloves to cayenne-laced aioli, but you don’t need them. Just focus on the exquisitely cooked and deboned fish and shellfish in the full-bodied yet light saffron-hued broth. Magnifique.
The Dish: Pissaladiere – This traditional Nice specialty is an acquired-taste pie consisting of draped layers of sauteed onions, which are then sprinkled with anchovies and, occasionally, olives. It plays a pride-of-place role on the menus at two competing high-profile pizzerias, just steps from each other near Cannes’ city hall. Pro tip: Guzzle water (lots of it) and bring mints.
LA PIZZA CRESCI – A haunt of Quentin Tarantino‘s during the festival, this sprawling space facing the port has been pumping irregularly half-moon-shaped uncut pies out of its wood-fired oven since 1960. Its pissaladiere is piled thick with onions, in places soddenly so — you’ll need to carefully fold a forked-and-knifed slice into your mouth. The mission is made next to impossible by all of the unmoored whole black olives on a roll.
LA PIAZZA – The wood-fired oven at this similarly expansive restaurant is more rewardingly put to use on its version of pissaladiere. Adept charring of the crust provides a needed contrast to the sog factor of the onions (here notably juicier than at La Pizza Cresci), while a manual dousing of olive oil enlivens the anchovies. This is a Provencal pie — simultaneously of the fields and of the sea — worthy of the heritage.
The Dish: Burgers – France is experiencing hamburger amour fou: One out of every two sandwiches sold in the country is the quintessentially Yankee invention (up from just one out of seven in 2007). So THR visited a pair of Cannes burger haunts — one an iconic U.S. import, another a new-wave Gallic homage to America — mere steps from each other and around the corner from the Palais.
STEAK ‘N SHAKE – The late Roger Ebert was a lifelong fan of this Midwestern chain, which debuted this location — the first in Europe — last year during the festival. “If I were on death row, my last meal would be from Steak ’n Shake,” he wrote in 2009. Alas, its Steakburger is a rather wan domestic competitor to the signature offerings of counter-service coastal rivals In-N-Out and Shake Shack. Spongy, shiny buns encase a pair of thin gray patties, a slice of cheddar cheese, limp lettuce and forgettable sliced pickles. It’s uninspired nostalgia.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – The earnest French expression of Americanophilism on display at this grand sit-down, U.S.-style bistro can at times veer toward the questionable in the burger department. (The “Mexicain” features an unidentifiable “spicy sauce,” and the “Jewish” is a tuna steak.) Yet the namesake iteration is a decidedly on-point presentation. The double-height patty is enticingly charred, the Bibb lettuce and tomato each boast a smart snap, and the pungent Thousand Island dressing is Carl’s Jr.-commercial messy.
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