Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rejected at La Zucca Magica

Now for a bitter post...

Never have I been turned away from a restaurant before unless I have been inappropriately dressed. And yet, at La Zucca Magica, where it was only half full, the host claimed a policy of "Reservations Only" and turned me away. Now, may haps they had reservations for the evening and the restaurant would be full in half an hour. But somehow, given the underwhelming amount of people in Nice this week (we're at the tail end of the high season, and the beaches are not nearly as crowded as I would have expected - they're just as crowded as they were in June 2008 when I visited, and June is early to mid season), I doubt that.

Dare I say they are either arrogant or inflexible?

Either way, a restaurant like that does not deserve my custom, no matter how good. I can understand a reservations only policy if you're absolutely booked every day of the season. But otherwise I think flexibility is the order of the day, unless you're not interested in making money. In a business with a 60% failure rate (Kitchen Confidential) I would expect that making money is a priority. Perhaps not for La Zucca Magica.
I ended up going to Chez Pipo and gorging on their amazing, crisp strips of socca (more on that in another post, including some pictures). Suffice to say that my trip to Nice has been worth it thus far purely for the amazing weather and the local cuisine, mainly the socca.

Walking through the Musee Massena, thinking random thoughts

[Written Aug 25, 2010]

Maybe I should learn Italian...

Over the past three days, I've been asked twice if I am Italian, both of those situations where I was confused and the other person sought a language they thought I would understand based on how I look. The first was in Monoprix, the second in the Musee Massena.

Do I look Italian? Apparently enough so to some people in Nice. Though in fairness probably some people thought I was Indian or a Moslem, but since I didn't need to talk to them didn't express that view.

I view the notion that I could look Italian as a positive though. I don't really think of myself as Indian except to talk about culinary heritage; just like I don't truly consider myself religious unless someone will only give me vegetarian food because I cite that I am a Hindu and vegetarianism is part of my sect's beliefs. (Another post for another time.) So the benefits of being somewhat a chameleon when it comes to supposed origin? If I'm ever in France again and speak Italian, there may be practically no chance that I'm viewed as a Moslem. Given the xenophobia towards Moslems in France, I view that outcome as desirable.

Of course, I probably should also learn French (but may be have it as the 'weaker' language compared to Italian!).

Anyway, as I write this I am touring the Musee Massena. I find it much harder to go through a museum when I do not understand the language, since I can not understand the explanations. I get to see the primary source with out the curator's story to inform me. But that's alight since even just viewing the primary source is a pleasure to me.

I love all the paintings and photographs of Nice through the ages in the museum, showing how it has grown.

On a random note, it's the 150th anniversary of the year Nice voted to join France. I saw a bulletin in the Musee Massena in French and probably Piedmontese Italian enjoining the citizens over the age of 21 to vote on the issue.

Another random note - for those people not familiar with Ticket, it's a prepaid voucher scheme run by Edenred, formerly a division of Accor, that was created for French companies to reward employees with free meals if those companies did not have their own commissaries for their employees (larger companies did, putting smaller companies at a disadvantage until Ticket was introduced for them). The beauty of Ticket, besides being tax-free compensation (and in a nation as heavily taxed as France, something tax-free does alleviate the pain a little) is that you can use it at any restaurant or grocery which accepts it as a form of payment. For instance, if I was taking my family out to dinner in Nice and happened to have a Ticket voucher, I could pay for part of our meal with the subsidy from the company. Or if I was buying from the Monoprix, I could do so with my Ticket voucher.

Of course, I would prefer much lower taxes over Ticket vouchers and French income tax any day. But if you notice all the places where a person can use Ticket, you realize what a cash cow running the Ticket network can be (all the float from the prepaid money earning interest for you while you wait for the customer to use the voucher; the interchange cut you get when the voucher is used; and how little capital you need tied up to run the business and grow it). Southeastern Asset Management has a good review of Edenred and Accor in their latest letter to investors. Personally, I think they're too aggressive regarding the value of Accor and maybe Edenred (but perhaps I am just being very cheap and choosy whereas they with their billions probably can't find investments that are cheap from the viewpoint of not only the growth but the current business being available for a song). Incidentally, Edenred did quite well in it's spinoff debut, with a rise of around 30% in the first day of trading. I might give more of an update on Edenred at another point.
Anyway, I thought the Musee Massena was a great way to spend an hour of my afternoon, especially since it was free. I'll have some pictures posted below later of the museum's exterior.


It sounded better after the third glass of champagne. As far as I am concerned, most things do.

"Boring but smart," Tom said. "That would be a brilliant blog title. It says it all about you, doesn't it?" Methinks that may have been a bit of an exaggeration.

Tom, Claire and I were lounging on their balcony, taking in the night view of the Baie des Anges while celebrating life and good friends. We were enjoying champagne from one of Tom's friends, from who he rents his flat in Nice. I had brought up the idea of me finally starting a blog, for the heck of it, and decided to bring it up again. After all, Tom is one of the three people I know who runs an excellent blog.

Tom's blog, English Cut, is rather focussed on his job and passion - bespoke clothing. It's an excellent blog, and a good place for someone wanting to know more about bespoke clothing to go and read about what goes on in Savile Row today. What I was proposing was something quite different though - a general blog about whatever the hell I wanted to write about.

You would think that such a blog would not be difficult to start. Something like Tom's, where you need to be an expert and are crafting most of your entries with the explicit purpose of informing the potential customer and the implicit purpose of converting the potential customer to an actual customer of the business (either Tom's or another tailor's), seems to be difficult. Something that an average person is writing in the wee hours of the morning, on the other hand, shouldn't be.

Talking about what I would write about, over that glass of champagne, I mentioned how I wanted to write about finance, though not exclusively about it. Writing exclusively about it would be boring, and there are plenty of people out there writing about it better than I (i.e. Greenbackd and Old School Value, for example). Instead, I would also write about other subjects of interest to me. If I read an excellent book, for example, that broadened my horizons. If I was utterly bored in a French modern art museum that cost 14 euros to enter. If I tried a new recipe and utterly loved it. Any of these things and more, I would write about, hopefully offering something more to whoever happens to read this.

I'd like to say you're an brilliant audience, but more likely you're just an exclusive, tiny audience that happened to visit because you know me somehow.

Back to that glass of champagne, and the consumption of it. This vacation that I am currently taking in Nice, and what the next post will be about, is what finally convinced me to start writing. Tom, however, over dinner and later champagne on his balcony, convinced me that the direction I aimed to write would be of value.

So savor whatever you're drinking at the moment, because so we commence on whatever I encounter in my odd pursuit of joie de vivre.