The Day Nice Burned (Almost)

Psst, make yourself some guacamole to eat as you read. Caution this tale may cause laughter which could lead to chocking, chew safely. Recipe below.

The Great Nice Fire, Restaurant, Nice, Spicie Foodie

The Tale Begins:
We arrived in Nice, France on a magnificent sunny spring day. Nice is nice. It hardly ever rains, the sun always shines, the water is a radiant turquoise blue, there are palm trees all around and the food is excellent. Well, the majority of the food to be found and eaten in Nice is great, except one place.

This story begins about 1 week into our  Côte d’Azur holiday. I am Mexican and like the stereotype of a Mexican I need my frijoles (beans), tortillas, chiles and spicy food. Shocking, I know. Don’t get me wrong we were beyond enjoying the local Mediterranean French and Italian cuisine, but this Mexican girl needs her dose of spicy food to be fully content. The craving for something spicy was starting to become critical. Thankfully things started looking up.

The Great Nice Fire, Restaurant, Nice, Spicie Foodie

The Magical Moment:
We were strolling hand in hand through the narrow streets of Nice, sun shinning down on us, taking in all of the beautiful scenery. Then suddenly out of the corner of his eye, down a small quiet side street my husband spots THE sign. It was straight out of those cheesy movies where a light shines on an object with a heavenly glow. You could also imagine the “aaaaahhhhh” music that makes the obligatory appearance in those movies. We turned to look at each other with huge smiles on our faces, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas! We hurried across the street to make our way to the restaurant. Wow! Everything on the menu sounds like real Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, sweet! Of course we knew what we were having for dinner that night.

The Great Nice Fire, Restaurant, Nice, Spicie Foodie

The Arrival:
The anticipation was almost unbearable, but we managed to make it the rest of the day. We arrived at the restaurant and were impressed with the colorful decor. There were bright decorations on the tables and along the walls, so far things were starting off well. We were seated in what at first sight looked like one large table, but in fact as we got closer we could clearly see that it was many small tables inches away from each other. The waiter pointed to our designated table a few inches away from an Italian couple and right next to the wall. Hmm. One is not used to being in such close proximity to their fellow diners. (And one may or may not be a bit claustrophobic.) Hey if this is what it takes to finally eat some spicy Mexican food, I’ll deal with it.

The Great Nice Fire, Restaurant, Nice, Spicie Foodie

Fire Hazard:
The restaurant’s lights were low and there were candles on all of the tables, very romantic. All of the glasses on the tables had vibrant paper napkins poking out of them, along the wall where we sat were more colorful paper streamers, and hanging from the ceiling were those bright paper decorations, papel picado, common to many Mexican restaurants. Lots and lots of paper and candle lights, you do the math. Just as we received our menus and placed our drink orders, the restaurant started filling up fast.

The Great Nice Fire, Restaurant, Nice, Spicie Foodie

Le Feu (The Fire) :
Our cold carafe d’eu arrived in necessary time to cool us down. Anticipating the arrival of our wine I took it up myself to rearrange my side of the table to make ample room for the wine. I pushed the candle off to the side near the wall. POOF! Before I could even react the paper napkins in the glass caught on fire. Our dinning neighbors, the Italian couple, quickly take notice and let out a laugh. I grabbed my menu and start swatting the fire, stupid mistake that was. My husband looks up and sees that by now the streamer coming off the wall have also caught on fire. Okay this is when I started to panic. We were going to be engulfed in flames from those stupid paper streamer and decorations all over this place. I mean who the hell uses so much fire hazard material in a small restaurant were the tables are almost on top of each other and then puts candles on every table? Getting out before burning alive would not be an easy thing, heart is racing pretty fast now. My husband quickly reacts by telling me to stop and pours the water into the glass to extinguish the fire. By this time all eyes in the restaurant are on yours trully. You can hear screeches of “Oh mon dieu!!” with laughter and giggles. The waiter who of course can’t get to us because of the overcrowding tables blocking his way, let’s out a “Madame!!” If the fire doesn’t kill me the embarrassment surely will. Thankfully by this time my husband had quickly begun patting the streamers along the wall to extinguish the fire. Phew, we were not going to die in a fire caused by my stupidity. I love my husband! He saved our lives and those of everyone in the restaurant that night, my hero.
By the time the waiter reached us the fire was extinguished and there were small pieces of burned paper all around us and our table. The smell of burnt paper was not a pleasant one. He kept talking and laughing and all I wanted to do was hide under our table and sneak out by crawling on the floor unnoticed. As we waited for our dinner to arrive our friendly Italian neighbors were pointing, using hand signals and joking about the events that had transpired. How do you say in Italian, I prefer not to talk about it?

The Great Nice Fire, Restaurant, Nice, Spicie Foodie

Maybe We Should Have Let The Place Burned Down:
Finally our dinner arrived and I was shocked by what was placed in front of us. Black beans that were undercooked, rice that tasted of tomato paste, flavorless meats all topped off with an ungodly amount of crème fraîche. Since I nearly burned down the restaurant I felt obliged to eat at least 90% percent of what was on my plate. Le dessert? Non, non monsieur, I couldn’t eat another bite. How was it? Okay remember be nice and you did almost burn down their restaurant. Magnifique! Blah! Try not to throw up as you speak and smile.

Did I mentioned that as we walked back to our hotel I stepped in dog merde? Well, at least I provided entertainment and a good laugh for the diners that night. Not to mention I’ll always have the story of the night I nearly burned down a “Mexican” restaurant in Nice. We’ll always have Nice Baby!

(Disclosure: Due to a hard drive loss the photos from this trip were all lost. The photos you see here were provided by the following source. Can Stock Photo Inc., Nice photos provided courtesy of Wikipedia.)

guacamole; mexican; dip; sauce; avocado; chiles; tomato; lemon; chips; corn chips; snack; healthy; low calories; low-fat; Spicie Foodie
Guacamole recipe is from my archives, but makes the perfect accompaniment to this tale. Buen Provecho!
3 ripe Haas avocados
1 large Roma tomato
1 small white onion (can substitute with yellow onion)
1 small lime or lemon
1 fresh green Serrano or Jalapeno pepper (add more for spicier version, I am using green cayenne)
big handful of fresh cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Large bowl and fork

1. Prepare the tomatoes, onion, chili pepper and cilantro by chopping all of them into small even bits, set aside. Peel and core the avocado then scoop out into a large bowl, next evenly pour the lime/lemon juice over the avocado and begin to mash the avocado with a fork. Continue mashing until it has broken down into a smooth consistency.
2. Mix in the tomato, onion, chili pepper and cilantro until all the ingredients have combined well. Lastly sprinkle in some salt and a little black pepper, again mix the guacamole to combine all of the ingredients. Done!
guacamole; mexican; dip; sauce; avocado; chiles; tomato; lemon; chips; corn chips; snack; healthy; low calories; low-fat; Spicie Foodie, vegan, vegetarian

Comments

  1. says

    Aww, you must have felt horrible but it was pretty funny, especially the last part when you had to say the food was great, lol! The guacamole looks delicious :-)

  2. says

    You poor thing! I don’t know what’s worse – the fire or the bad food, lol!!! Your guacamole more than makes up for it. : )
    (Mexico City this Friday, btw, I am so excited I can hardly stand it!!!)

  3. says

    You made me laugh! What an evening. It was your unlucky day.

    Your guacamole looks fabulous! Far better than any of the food you ate at that restaurant.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. says

    I know this was a traumatic event but you didn’t burn down the restaurant, it’s very easy to step in dog doo in Nice, Mexican food is horrible in France and you have a funny story to tell! I have a Mexican restaurant story from San Francisco, I locked my self in the bathroom, which was right next to the kitchen and couldn’t get out! They had to take the door off the hinges to free me, talk about embarrassing in a small restaurant where everybody is stating at you..I’ll take a strong Margarita please, lol!

    • says

      Yes, it is Patty. Paris used to be too but they’ve done a great job on prevent it. The Mexican food I had in France was just horrible. Though I haven’t been back in a few years, so I don’t know if that has changed any.

      Haha, oh my god your story is hilarious! You would need at least two Margaritas :)

  5. says

    Lol….too funny and scary towards the end, but all’s well that ends well!So at the end the meal was nothing great but the events were :)Love your Guacamole recipe and agree with you spice makes things nice :)

  6. says

    Chortle, chortle, snort, har har! Poor thing! I have a saying from my husband that I’d like to share: “an adventure is someone far away having a bad time” otherwise its a vacation! Nice is so lovely, I wish we could have spent more time when we went through the Cotes d Azure. And so sad about your photos!

  7. says

    Haha!! We all have our share of embarrassing stories, this sure is funny!! That’s the reason I don’t get too romantic and light candles everywhere. I am way to clumsy for classy things like that! I LOVE guacamole and can eat bowl after bowl in one go!

  8. kathy cromwell says

    I have never had anything French food that is spicy. Do they not like anything hot?
    Love the story, described to perfection! Beautiful !

  9. says

    Haha, what a story! But that burning photograph looks awesome – I wonder what the Italians thought when you photographed it instead of to extinguish the fire! ;)
    Nice is a gorgeous town, but I never have tried Mexican food in France…

  10. says

    I feel your pain on both levels….almost burning the place down AND the horrible Mexican food you had to tolerate and digest. Having moved to Germany a sheer 5 months ago I’m dying for some semblance of good Mexican food too. I have gone to 3 quite reputable restaurants and have been sadly disappointed at all three. My favorite was when my son ordered a bean and cheese burrito, and I thought, how badly can they screw up a bean and cheese burrito, well they did. Out came out this gorgeous burrito, but inside were canned GREEN BEANS…and the poor thing hates green beans…he almost threw up right on the spot…thanks for sharing…I feel your pain but did laugh throughout your post…not at you but with you…we should meet have way sometime and make some real mexican food…I’ll bring the tequila…adios amiga…

    • says

      Hi Veronica,

      Your story made me laugh because it sounds just like what we experienced when we first came to Europe. Sadly if you want authentic, or anything resembling, Mexican food you’ll have to make it at home. That is what we do because the so-called “Mexican” food just doesn’t cut it for us. Your poor son :( Once my hubby ordered tacos al pastor and he got a bland chunk of pork with some tortillas, funny but so disappointing.

      Maybe you should open an authentic restaurant in Germany, hehe :)

  11. says

    You poor thing but what a riot! Glad to know you didn’t burn down the restaurant. Just think though, if you ever decide to open a Mexican restaurant you know where to go. You’ll get rave reviews from all those that dine there.

    Too bad I read the guacamole recipe at the end of your story otherwise, I may have made it prior to reading. Your recipe sounds yummy!

  12. says

    How funny! Well we can say it is funny now but I can imagine you were in panic swatting the fire in that situation. I tend to forget all the negative things so I can’t remember but this kind of things tend to happen around me often…according to my husband. Ahhh Nice… I dream to go to there one day… so pretty! And thank you for the guacamole recipe. Must keep this recipe for sure!

    • says

      Hi Nami,

      For a while after it happened I didn’t even want to talk about it because I was just so embarrassed. Now I just look back and laugh. Lol, so we are a like then :) Thank you sweetie!

  13. says

    Guac recipe looks simple and delicious…just the way I like it and hilarious story! I tried Mexican abroad before and I was less then pleased but at least you have a great story to go along with the experience :)

  14. says

    Oh, my gosh, Nancy! That’s the kind of thing that would happen to me! So glad the fire didn’t hurt you or burn the place down, though I can understand why you would have wished differently after your poor dining experience. :) I begin to crave certain things after a while on long trips so I understand. It’s a good thing you can satisfy your cravings at home! :)

  15. says

    That is a crazy experience and why keep so many papers and candles when the place is so small!! Well, like you said you at least have a fun story to tell every one ;)

  16. says

    Nice souvenir! Sounds like you should have let the place burn. I actually have never had good Mexican food outside of Mexico and the US. Sometimes it’s passable but usually it’s horrible. I have resorted to making my own, which is admittedly not authentic but at least I can tweak it to how I like it. I’ve found the French do great French food, decent African and Vietnamese, but not much else. I think countries like the US, which have better melting pots, do a much better job with non-native cuisines. Maybe because there’s more demand? The focus in France is too much on conformity, and diversity is generally frowned upon. Unlike (sadly) dog poo on the pavement. What is up with that anyway?!

    • says

      Hey Ruby! I agree that is why I make everything from scratch. Though now we are starting to see many authentic Mexican ingredients here, so that is a good sign for the future. You lived in France longer than I did so I can’t comment on the conformity thing, but I do agree that French, African, and Vietnamese food is great. I love diversity and am an non-conformist so that is not a good thing in my book. Lat time I was in Paris they had begun a strong campaign to end the poopie problem. It’s funny because I would have people applaud me when they saw I picked up after my dog, lol :) I still love France though.

  17. says

    Funny story–and you make it so vivid. I laughed about you being Mexican and missing your comfort food. When my Mexican born and raised son returned to Mexico after doing his last year of high school in France, I foolishly asked him what he missed, what he wanted to eat. Thinking he would be missing MY food from MY kitchen…He instantly replied, “Ay, Mama, tacos de cabeza y milanesas con Tajín.” Comfort food for him…

  18. says

    Sorry the food was so bad…but what a memory this must be. When we get together, I will make sure there are no flammable objects near by ;)
    Your guacamole looks fantastic!

  19. Granny Dee says

    I LOL’d and remembered a time when, living in Africa there was only one restaurant to go
    to where we lived. If you had a fly in your soup, the waiter would come over, dip it out, toss it (vigorously) onto the floor and stomp the life out of it in front of you and the other
    patrons. On this particular evening, the people behind us ordered something flambeed.
    (In the 70’s, my hair was long done in an up-sweep that night and backcombed and hair
    sprayed into submission. ) We were going to have a nice night out, no matter what. The
    waiter lit the flambeed item he made for the people behind us, having used too much liquor, he stepped aside when it flared up and so did MY HAIR. My quick thinking mate
    grabbed a napkin & ‘put me out’…Had we have not laughed so hard we MIGHT have gotten
    our meal for free…… but we just collapsed in giggles, as did our fellow diners –we had, in
    fact, ALL seen this before. That’s where my husband learned about the ‘napkin trick’.
    I am sooooo thankful that the napkins and decor were NOT made of paper !

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