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gidon

Corsica

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I'm planning to go to Corsica for a few weeks this summer, but so far I have found little information on the local restaurant scene. Since Corsica is French and is even closer to Italy than France, the food can't possibly bad. However, a quick scan of the Michelin guide yielded only one * and one bib gourmand restaurant. Now could this be a good sign?

If anyone has any recommendations for restaurants and local produce I'd be ever so grateful.

Thanks

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I'm planning to go to Corsica for a few weeks this summer, but so far I have found little information on the local restaurant scene. Since Corsica is French and is even closer to Italy than France, the food can't possibly bad. However, a quick scan of the Michelin guide yielded only  one * and one bib gourmand restaurant. Now could this be a good sign?

If anyone has any recommendations for restaurants and local produce I'd be ever so grateful.

Thanks

I have a creepy feeling I'm about to get into big trouble but so be it. My wife, Colette and I did a week in Corsica 14 months ago. The food was so bad we bailed out, threw ourselves on the mercy of Air France and flew back two days early. There was one seafood place in Calvi that was OK and another a few klicks from the Ajaccio airport to the East. I've forgotten both names but may be able to retrieve them. At all costs avoid the sanglier in red wine, in Paris it can be great, but they do something strange to it to dry it out. Better still, go anywhere else in France, throw a dart at a map. Sorry. I do hear that Sardinia is better. Hate-mailers, lay off, it's been a tough week.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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It may have been a tough week, but this month doesn't seem all that bad with meals at Drouant, Le Bistral, Le 144 Petrossian, Le Baratin, La Ferrandaise, Au Pied de Sacre Coeur, Fogon, and Le Vieux Bistro. :smile:

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I have a creepy feeling I'm about to get into big trouble but so be it.  My wife, Colette and I did a week in Corsica 14 months ago.  The food was so bad we bailed out, threw ourselves on the mercy of Air France and flew back two days early.  There was one seafood place in Calvi that was OK and another a few klicks from the Ajaccio airport to the East.  I've forgotten both names but may be able to retrieve them.  At all costs avoid the sanglier in red wine, in Paris it can be great, but they do something strange to it to dry it out.  Better still, go anywhere else in France, throw a dart at a map.  Sorry.  I do hear that Sardinia is better.  Hate-mailers, lay off, it's been a tough week.

Someone please wake me up: I think I'm having a nightmare! After posting my query about Corsica, I immediately booked the ferry from Livorno to Bastia and went to bed. This morning I read John's reply... John, is it really true? Please tell me you only enjoy the elaborate creature comforts of Michelin rated restaurants. Are the days of good and simple Corsican food that Waverley Root wrote about long gone? Please tell me it ain't so.

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There are some really good products to be had in corsica. Their cheeses, for instance. They do wonderful things with sheeps cheeses. Then there are the smoked meats. Doing what you can to find out about these would be really interesting. The Lonzo, the coppa, etc. is really special. I can't give you any ideas about restaurants there, sorry. But I can say I simply adore the cheeses and smoked pork products that make their way up here. There are ferries to Marseilles, Toulon, and Nice, if you need to branch out.

Here's a link that will give you some perspective on the food history there.

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Someone please wake me up: I think I'm having a nightmare! After posting my query about Corsica, I immediately booked the ferry from Livorno to Bastia and went to bed. This morning I read John's reply... John, is it really true? Please tell me you only enjoy the elaborate creature comforts of Michelin rated restaurants. Are the days of good and simple Corsican food that Waverley Root wrote about long gone? Please tell me it ain't so.

Actually, it's rare to find me eating in a starred place; I like real dark and dirty places serving good old reliable grub (La Cerisaie) or edgy but not too edgy stuff (Ze Kitchen Galerie.) Sure when we're outside Paris we cross-ref Michelin, G/M and Pudlo but I'm overjoyed to find a great Bib Gourmand rather than a fancy star. I've eaten in many of the Corsican places in Paris and never been really disappointed, but on the Ile of Beauty, except for the products about which Lucy is quite correct, we found the cooking lacking. I hope someone will chime in now and tell me how wrong I/we were and they had splendid food in Corsica. And the drives are quite nice, sometimes, on the coastal roads on the West and North, spectacular.

As for Carlsbad's crack, I confess February so far has been pretty OK foodwise, just the end of the week was taxing.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I think if you're looking for Michelin star restaurants or haute cuisine you will be sorely disappointed in Corsica. But if you're a true foodie this shouldn't matter a great deal.

The charcuterie is truely a highlight. You should order charcuterie/cheese plates at every opportunity. There is also a great deal of Italian-influenced cuisine that is quite nice.

Calvi and Ajaccio were two of my least favorite parts of my two-week trip. The best food is to be found in smaller villages in taverns. Though in places like Sartenes and Ajaccio I found some really nice rustic restaurants and artisinal food purveyors that were extraordinary. My trip was a while ago so I must apologize for my vagueness.

Leave your Michelin guide at home and go with an open mind.

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We have immense respect for John’s opinions and regularly follow his advice, especially in Paris, but I don’t think you should completely give up on Corsica just yet.

We spent about a week in the area around Calvi and in the Balagne villages in the hinterland in September 2004 and ate some quite good meals. We also bought some good cheese, especially sheep milk cheeses (brebis) and charcuterie so you should be able to produce some good picnics.

Here are some suggestions, some we tried and a few that were on our list but closed because we were there just as the tourist season was shutting down.

Casa Musicale in the tiny and beautiful village of Pigna. We ate dishes such as carpaccio of beef with an excellent aigre douce sauce, and pasta with shaved boutargue (the variously named salted, pressed fish roe that you find around the Mediterranean that’s a must eat experience). It’s not in the least bit sophisticated but the flavours are good and there can be few better locations. The menu for a Casarella, also in Pigna, looked worth a try as well, but we didn’t make it there.

We had a memorable night in Feliceto, also in the hills behind Calvi, partly because the very affordable hotel Mare et Monti, was so delightful. The table d’hote menu was basic but quite satisfying and we loved being in the village – sitting on the terrace at the highly downmarket Rigo Bar where everything seemed to cost 1 euro (well the local pastis, and coffee anyway) listening to duelling church bells echoing through the hills as Feliceto and nearby Nessa competed to win the battle to toll the hour first.

We had a good meal at Le Tire Bouchon, in Calvi, which has a great selection of local wines. We spent some time at a wine bar called A Cantina, where we started to get a sense of the revitalisation of the local wine industry – often by the younger generation. A group of serious young men, some connected with the establishment and some with local vineyards, were doing serious wine tasting and generally were immersed in a wine culture. We also had really good charcuterie and other good snacks here, which from memory included grilled peppers, anchoide, and figatellu (a local sausage). We also had recommendations for U Minellu, but it had already closed for the winter.

There are also lots of ferme auberge, which are another option. We had robust soup and a mutton ragout, which was definitely not too dry, at a place called Pietra Monetta, which was about 17 kms north of d'Ile-Rousse.

The wine scene is really interesting – and local wines are very affordable. We especially enjoyed wines from Clos Culombu and were looked after well on a visit to the vineyard – not by the owner, who was working and nowhere in sight (it was autumn after all) but by a family friend who arrived about the same time and decided to look after us. Also look out for Domaine Gentile muscats, and whites from Domaine Antoine Arena

One thing we would counsel you on is not thinking you can see all of Corsica in a short period. When we started with a week in mind we thought we could see much of the island but gradually commonsense prevailed – possibly because we live in Tasmania, which is a comparable sized island, but with much easier roads, and we are always amused at overseas and interstate visitors who turn up in our state thinking they can see the lot in a few days. So we decided to limit ourselves to the area behind Calvi and weren’t disappointed.

This meant that we didn’t get to Ferme Campo di Monte, in the hils above Bastia, which sounds especially good. You might like to read this article from Saveur - here - to see if it temps you. It also has lots of good general advice about what to eat.

Having said all that there were plenty of places that looked fairly dire and not all our meals were a great success so good luck!

[John, were these any of the places you tried??]


Roger McShane

Foodtourist.com

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[John, were these any of the places you tried??]

No, next time, if there is one, I'll consult you first, I'm delighted you had a good experience and hope others will add positive experiences as well - mind you, we liked the product, the wines, the people and the scenery.

I've just gotten into my archives and the place I mentioned in Calvi that we liked was the U Calellu, on the Quai Landry, 04 95 65 22 18, one fork/knife but nice and differently named fish. Only 106.75 E too for two. The other place we thought was special was spanking new at the time - Le Bon Coin in PISCIATELLO 20129 BASTELICACCIA; 04 95 10 06 13; this is near the Ajaccio airport and serves up classic food with an edgy twist. Our bill was 77 E.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Corsica, owing to its geography, still retains much of its traditional lifestyle. Therefore it doesn't really have a restaurant culture, but small village auberges are often very nice, and young people are opening more and more of them. One of my Corsican friends still owns the family house in her village, in the heart of Castagniccia, and she's considering converting part of it into a guesthouse, for two small restaurants have opened recently and it's easier to acommodate visitors.

It is also a culture of home and family cooking, and traditional products are very much alive: outstanding charcuterie, cheeses — from sweet white brocciu to real stinkers that walk by themselves —, anything based on chestnuts (even beer), orange concoctions, candied citron, wild mushrooms and wild herb-based preparations. It is by no means fancy but very high quality.

I'd say do go to Corsica by all means, it is astoundingly beautiful. Try to avoid restaurants at seaside resorts but make sure you see and explore places like Bastia and L'Ile-Rousse, which has plenty of charm. Big café terraces shaded by plane trees are an absolute must. Never do order a pastis, or worse, a Pernod or a Ricard: ask for a Casa and everything will go fine. You can generally trust the small cafés and restaurants you'll find in mountain villages. But I should stress that the products you can buy at local food shops are more interesting than the restaurant scene, and bread can be good, and fruit are just like Italy, so Corsica is the perfect place for picnics (as long as you keep the maquis clean and never even think of lighting a match).

When in Bastia, go to the large plane-shaded square in the old town where they have the flea market (a great flea market, btw). The Mattei factory (where they made and bottled local apéritifs like Cap-Corse) is still there, with beautiful art-deco mouldings and murals. Not far from that square, there is (or used to be) a wonderful pâtissier who is famous for his sour cherry millefeuille. Old-fashioned pâtisserie, i.e. the best kind (this was a hint to the Japanese-French pastry thread). Millefeuille is made in the morning and is all gone by 11 AM. I suppose you can ask anyone on the square: "Millefeuille?", and someone is sure to know.

As for the wines, I second Roger's opinion on domaine-gentile muscats and Antoine Arena's whites. Arena also makes a wonderful muscat and his red patrimonios are among my favorite wines ever.

I have a great memory of the tip end of the cap Corse. If you like the Mediterranean sea and peace and quiet, I suggest you go there. I remember a nice little taverna in Barcaggio where I was served a wonderful baked chapon fish (rascasse) with a lovely banana taboulé. It was a very peaceful place; that was a long time ago but I doubt it has changed much.

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We spent a week in Corsica recently - a truly beautiful island.

Food-wise, we thought A Pasturella in the Balagne village of Monticello was very good. Hearty portions of straightforward but delicious food very nicely cooked.

Best find was U Fanale in Calvi - bit off the beaten track, but well worth it as the food was beautifully prepared, great flavours and some ambition shown (too much in one case when the jus was served in a test tube - but it wasn't proto-molecular at all apart from that). Good prices as well - ate extremely well there for 110 euros for 2.

Visited a couple of vineyards, some really good wine being made there, best was CLos Culombu.

Looking forward to going back.


Edited by Siharris28 (log)

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Any new reccomendations for the island?

We will be in the region between Bastia, L'Ile Rousse, Lumio and Calvi in june.

There are some michelin-*-places (or hopefuls für a *) in that area.

Anyone been there?

Thanks!

Greetings

kai

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