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 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 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 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 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.
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?
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 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!