Bon Appetit — A few Days in Cannes
Although the Sales Training in Cannes was off the hook, this piece is about the personal side of visiting Cannes. Since 90% of this journey was work related, it became of paramount importance to make good judgement of the time left… in steps Johnny Scheff of Motorworks Chicago. This guy (in my best Chicagoese). Whenever you are at an event and you see 8-10 guys get up and follow someone, this is the guy you want travel advice from. As Johnny and I talked after class, he told me about this restaurant he found. He went on about the service, the food, the limited yet awesome menu… he even emailed me the Map to find it. This is how my trip would end I said to myself.
As Monday made itself aware after a full weekend of Sales Training, I was greeted out my french windows by the crashing of the sea. Ahh… the Mediterranean. The blue sky, crystal clear waters and folks already outside taking in the elements as they stroll the beach walkway. Flinging open the french windows and taking that deep refreshing breath… nothing heals like the edge of the sea. It looks like a movie set or classic painting. I ventured downstairs to take in the breakfast at the Carlton. An array of salmon, bacon, lunchmeats, cheeses, fruit, tomatoes, eggs, and pastries made their greeting. The sharp taste of the French Coffee punched me in the senses. This meal was great as I was able to touch base with my Italian counterparts, then my team from the UK as they came down later. Any time with the International Team has its value.
Now it’s “me time”. While others depart on a moto-journey, I elect to take the pedestrian route. I walk the whole city. Starting at the Hotel Intercontinental – Carlton I stroll along the beach, through the event center and around to the yachts. The pier was abuzz with activity as the boat hands cleaned and readied their vessels for the sea. Some of the boats had Help Wanted signs that made me think of that show “Below Deck”. I am not a boat person but I couldn’t help taking in the opulence of these creations. Black lacquer and brass abounds in an early Cadillac Escaladesque detail that escapes me, but apparently pleases the privileged. This led around the hook of the city to the other side of the beach filled with sand-born restaurants and cafes. Most were still closed, but as the businesses readied for operation there was a certain small-town buzz about the energy of the people.
The people? Um Yeah… they’re gorgeous. It seems everywhere you look, someone is jogging or biking. If they aren’t, they are simply making a common piece of linen look amazing. This was evidenced after my tourism hike as I took in lunch with our old CEO and a manager from the USA. Our server (at a beach side restaurant), the male manager and the hostess could have all played roles on TV with their healthy tones and brilliant smiles. While I tried to stay on the lighter side with a simple pasta dish, my partners at the table ordered fish – the whole fish. A couple of beers on the Riviera on what seemed like being in a movie itself followed by a taste of coffee brought the lunch to its 3 hour bell. What an event unto its own. This afforded me an afternoon to rest, catch up on some email and prepare for the Johnny Scheff dinner.
I decided to walk to dinner by myself as my scheduled dinner partner locked into a work-related meal. Taking full advantage of the time and lure of a new city — I took the long way again and soaked in as much as I could. The art in the galleries, the fashions in the windows — the idea that a LEVIs outfit in a store window could put me back $1500.00 American!?!? The tour lead to La Brouette Grand Mere – All included for 42.00 Euro. The menu is predetermined other than a few choices for Entree and Dessert and the service is awesome.
I was lead to a single table, but packed in tight with other tables in a line. This lead to easy conversations and a sense of community with the experience of the cuisine. To my right an older couple was rekindling a romantic relationship and outwardly loving as they wrapped up their meal. To my left, a gentleman named Jeff joined after my Salad course where we shared stories of travel and smirks about the younger couple across the room with the drunk young lady. She had learned English while in school as a young French girl and was very enthusiastic to practice her almost Australian sounding English on Jeff and I. Jeff lived in Cannes about 6 months of the year as his online “blender” business caused him to travel the other 6 months of the year. Imagine – selling blenders online and affording a lifestyle of living in Cannes France and travelling the globe?
I know – you’re dying to know. What did I eat? It started with an array of drinks in a row: Red wine, water, and shot of vodka. With the drinks they laid out some hard salami, cheese, bread and crackers. I thought it unique that they serve the hole salami and allow the guest to hunk off a piece as they see fit. Shortly thereafter my salad arrived. It was a healthy portion of greens and a delectably light vinaigrette dressing… but the kicker was the semi-spicy, loosely formed sausage that was served at room temperature in the salad. It was a big hunk of meat and had the consistency of meatloaf with the flavor of summer sausage with gelled pockets of fat on the edges. Not usually partaking in Vodka as a straight beverage I found the sips from the shot glass to pair with the salad very well. The combination of texture inside and vodka to the side brought the salad to life. By now I was sharing some of my wine with Jeff and getting to know him better.
Next course – Bam! I ordered the petite filet. It was perfect with almost a crust to the outside edge but soft as butter and pink on the inside. The presentation was notable with an artistic arrangement of side veggie and sauce. I was getting that full, thanksgiving belly feeling near the end but kept forging through with the aide of great company in my surrounding gourmets. Another glass of wine to calm it all down and just as perfection was overtaking culinary senses… they asked what I wanted for dessert. My server said the Panna Cotta is his favorite, so I followed his lead. It came out in a thinner serving dish than I have seen before with Panna Cotta, almost Creme Brulee’ish, but the soft, silky smooth cream slid right onto the spoon and complimented my now fresh coffee raising that level of perfection.
One of the things that truly levels me out on these international journeys is the culinary experience. I am no Rick Steves, but I strive to take in the local flavor of the places I visit and get off the beaten path. I feel this trip to Cannes afforded me that chance. The extended walk through the now desolate night-time city was nearly haunting but peaceful as I approached the hotel after dinner. The sea continuing to send its zen-like calm to my heart. Thanks Johnny!!
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