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This is more about food than clothes — a few more top tips about Cannes.

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in any of the shops mentioned below, only that I have found them to be reliable establishments. Also, please note that your nation’s customs laws might prohibit bringing home certain items (e.g. dairy products).

Before you leave home, pack a couple of large sheets of thick bubble wrap. Chances are you’ll want to bring some culinary items home and a few of these are likely to be in glass containers.

Also, if you have one, pack a flat chill bag, which is great for bringing home cheese and other items which require refrigeration. If you do not have one of these, Monoprix’s food hall and Casino supermarket sell them.

Breakfast and lunch

We normally buy something small for breakfast and/or lunch and eat it on our terrace.

We bought the best pains au chocolat (0.90€) ever at a small pâtisserie-salon de thé on the Boulevard de Strasbourg (which intersects with Boulevard d’Alsace). The pastry was light yet buttery. The chocolate was partially melted and still warm. As a lot of local people stop here for coffee and a spot of breakfast before work, it is worth getting there between 7 and 8 a.m. This is true of pâtisseries in general — rise early to avoid disappointment if you want optimum pastries.

My only complaint about this particular shop was that, although the lady gladly prepared coffee to takeaway, she had no lids for the cups, which made walking half a mile with two cafés au lait and a bag of pains au chocolat too challenging to do more than once. Amazingly, I dribbled only a bit of coffee on the pavement.

It was easier to sacrifice optimum taste by buying something the day before at Monoprix‘s pastry counter. (Monoprix is located at 9 Rue du Maréchal Foch, practically across from the train station — see map.) Highly recommended are their triangles aux amandes — almond triangles (0.80). These are made from flaky croissant pastry with an incredibly generous and unctuous buttery almond filling and topped with an equally plentiful amount of sliced almonds, dusted with a hint of icing sugar.

Because I went there every day, I also bought our bread there — pain de campagne and a baguette. Monoprix’s breadmaking is overseen nationally by a MOF (meilleur ouvrier de France) who has an expert knowledge of all types of flour and yeast. You can pick up a small booklet at the bakery counter in which Frédéric Lalos — the MOF — describes each type of bread.

Monoprix’s own brand of unsalted butter (beurre doux) is superb — every bit as good as Président, which is considerably more expensive. Président is to me as madeleines were for Proust.

SpouseMouse bought two bottles of regional rosé at Casino (54 Boulevard d’Alsace). Rosé is the wine of summer on the Cote d’Azur and Casino has an incredible selection. Most of the bottles have corks, but ours were screwtops. A dégustation of bread and rosé made a delightful lunch. We saved our appetites for dinner. More on that in a separate post.

Monoprix or Casino? Both!

Selection varies at both from trip to trip; some years Monoprix is better, other years it’s Casino. I visit each more than once every time we go to Cannes.

Please note that you will have to bring your own bags — unless you want to pay a few cents for each one — or buy a bag for life (sac à vie) at the shop.

I purchased serviettes (napkins), disposable plates and cutlery at Monoprix on the ground floor in the cook’s shop.

As our room had a Nespresso machine and a selection of their weakest coffee capsules, I purchased two of the strongest equivalents at Casino — own brand Ristretto and Corsé. They were lifesavers at breakfast and after dinner.

Both stores have a wide selection of coffee, but I have noticed over the past 15 or so years that there are increasingly more mild varieties than the stronger ones. Malongo is a consistently reliable brand, and it is local — based in nearby Carros. I bought some of their Express (green and white tin) to bring home. Unfortunately, neither shop has as wide a selection of Malongo varieties as I would have liked.

Monoprix has a comprehensive selection of teas, especially infusions. My favourite is Lipton thé blanc rose violette. I brought four packs of 20 back home. Another great tea is Twinings thé à la vanille. No other vanilla tea tastes this good and full of vanilla flavour.

As for baking, this year, Casino had a better specialist chocolate bar selection. I purchased Nestle’s Corsé (200g bars). I also bought French yeast there and am eager to experiment with it.

I normally buy rainbow peppercorns and harissa in Cannes, too. Either store will do. Ducros’s maxi-pack of rainbow peppercorns — Cinq Baies — is economical and tastes better than many similar combinations because it has dried coriander in it. For harissa that won’t go off after three weeks, get the tube of Tunisian harissa — Phare du Cap Bon — stocked with the dry spices in the condiments aisle. It lasts forever and maintains its integrity.

You might wish to bring some local specialities back for yourself or for friends. Both shops have a local foods aisle which features everything from honey to olives. Much of what is on offer there is from the Côte d’Azur-Alpes Maritimes. However, there are also offerings from elsewhere in France. We bought honey and olives.

On this point, you can buy the regional chocolate covered almonds at Casino in the chocolate aisle. Amandinas are reasonably priced and, as they are individually wrapped, maintain their integrity for a long time.

If you are interested in olive oil, one of the foremost brands from the Cote d’Azur is Nicolas Alziari, which has been in existence since the mid-19th century and is still located in Nice. In England, Waitrose and Fortnum and Mason sell Alziari. For those who do not have this advantage, Alziari will ship worldwide. L’Olivier is another reputable brand of French olive oil, also available in England at the aforementioned shops.

Where luxury cakes are concerned, both shops are very good, although Casino had a more extensive selection. One of their customers highly recommended ‘anything from the counter’ to me. Hot this year in France is the crispy (croustillant) chocolate cake which is similar to an Opéra — thin varied layers — but with two crunchy layers. It is to die for — or, as the younger generation say, à craquer!

If you’re staying for a while, it is well worth purchasing soft drinks and/or water at one of the two shops. Put them in your hotel room refrigerator. A pack (boîte) of six or eight will be much cheaper than purchasing them as you go. A can of Coke or a bottle of water costs €2 from most stands along the Croisette.

Speaking of drinks, the past two years, SpouseMouse and I have developed a taste for a digestif after dinner — brandy or Armagnac. Casino sells a three-star Armagnac — Duc de Mallincourt — which slips down like a dream and only costs €13. (We bought an extra bottle which SpouseMouse decanted into a plastic Gordon’s gin bottle to bring home.) It’s on the bottom shelf of the drinks aisle, next to the more expensive brandies. Purchasing your own bottle of brandy or Armagnac will be much cheaper than ordering one at a restaurant. A restaurant charges €8 per brandy, so, even if you go upmarket at the supermarket, you’ll still be money ahead.

Cannolive — the ‘go to’ place for gourmets

Another shop I have started frequenting over the past few years is Cannolive (16-20 Rue Venizelos), just a couple of steps west of Monoprix as you walk towards Rue Meynadier. (N.B.: They are closed on Sundays and Mondays.)

It has been in business since 1880 and is still run by the Raynaud family. It is in two parts — a souvenir shop and the gourmet shop. Those who still send postcards will find them reasonably priced at €0.40 per card.

This is the place for gourmets. When I was there a few weeks ago, a personal chef was there to purchase speciality olive oils. They have a complete line of 100% regional Nicolas Alziari olive oils and more.

Cannolive also sells regional honey, tapenade and other items. Even better, they stock hard-to-find flavourings. I normally buy a few bottles of pistachio flavouring (€1.50 apiece).

They stock another hard-to-find item which used to be available at Marché Gambetta — powdered saffron. Cannolive has a selection of sizes of this spice, which works out well economically as you only need a tiny bit (fraction of a teaspoon) in your bouillabaisse, rice — or paella.

Cheese

Monoprix’s cheese selection was disappointing this year as were those at both markets — Gambetta and Forville. Unfortunately, Marché Gambetta lost one of its cheesemongers from whom I bought a superb brie with a layer of truffle in the middle in 2011. It was a bargain at €3.

That said, I did buy a good Maroilles (by Fauquet) at Monoprix this year. Please note that if the Maroilles is soft and yielding when you buy it, it will become more solid over the following days. Therefore, it is better to eat it sooner rather than later.

Casino has a great selection from all over France. Its speciality cheeses are in the chill island just behind the luxury cakes. (Around the other side are artisanally cured meats.) The best was Le Petit Tentation (yes, that is how it is spelled), which is 91% raw milk and 9% pasteurised milk. It is a soft, gooey and flavoursome white cheese.

However, you must plan your sightseeing so that you can get to the very best cheesemonger — Ceneri (22 rue Meynadier). They are closed Sunday and Monday — and we were out of luck this time. With 250 varieties of cheese, how can you go wrong? Last time, we bought a delicious Corsican cheese rolled in dried, highly aromatic herbs. This father and son provide not only an excellent selection but also knowledgeable advice. Plan on spending 20 – 30 minutes there, then go away and have a think before buying. This is cheese to take home with you — customs law permitting! I see that they have brie aux truffes — so I must get there on my next trip.

I have just seen that Ceneri also have a gourmet food shop at 44 Boulevard Alexandre III, which is in the Palm Beach district (to the east of La Croisette). Looks like I’ll be adding this to my list in future. Can hardly wait!

This is probably enough shopping info for today. I’ll return to this topic in the next post.

Tomorrow: Cannes’s markets

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