By Elizaveta Shashenkova
It is a Tuesday but the Port Hercule of Monaco is bustling with activity. Over the space of a week, the port had transformed into a charming Santa’s village where families and friends from all over the Riviera gather to indulge in the holiday spirit. There are multiple attractions including family friendly rides, miniature stores offering artisanal decorations and even a band of Santas which play those universal Christmas tunes that so many of us have come to know and love. However, residing here for some years now, there is one thing about this Fair that I look forward to the most – The Food.
One will certainly be spoilt for choice with stands offering traditional treats from different parts of Europe as well as the local favorites. For those of you with hefty season schedules, this Top 5 selection will help you make the most out of your lunch hour at the Fair.
Number 5 “LA SOCCA”
No matter the time of the day or the day of the week, this stand seems to constantly have a queue. My Monegasque friend was certainly surprised I had never tried Socca, a Nicoise specialty that is rarely found outside of Nice. On picking up a portion of what appeared to be fragments of an extremely large crepe, I was pleasantly surprised. It is composed of the simplest ingredients (mainly chick pea flour) yet it makes the perfect savory snack, ideal for those of you looking for a quick bite on the go.
Number 4 “L’OSTREGA DE MUNEGU”
For those of you in the mood for seafood or are looking for an aphrodisiac to spice up a date, this is the stand for you. Be prepared to find a variety of freshly caught oysters ranging from the local Perle de Monaco to the world famous Fines du Claire, served with a slice of lemon, shallot vinaigrette, rye bread and butter. Freshly caught sea urchins are also available on the menu for those looking for a slightly more intriguing option or for a tasty appetizer. Whatever your choice, there is a generous selection of wines and champagnes to accompany your dish and various degustation menus are available should you wish to leave room for other options at the Fair.
Number 3 “MONA KONO PIZZA”
This stand is pretty hard to miss! It is possibly the largest, the most energetic and is partly lined with the most appetizing looking pizzas I have seen in a while. Their freshly baked pizza is the ideal choice if you are looking for a more filling option or looking to grab a generous takeaway to the office or home. Upon ordering, the dough is rolled and your ingredients of choice are added and you can watch your pizza being warmed in their giant oven. If you are as lucky as I was, the staff will even perform a show – making watching them shape dough more exciting!
Number 2 “FONDUE SAVOYARDE”
It could never be your typical European Christmas market without the presence of at least one traditional dish from the Alps. Heart-warming fondue is perfect for this holiday season and a great additional treat to share with your friends. Dip bread or their wonderfully tender jambon into a steaming hot pot of melted Swiss cheese and enjoy with a glass of white wine. Otherwise, if there is only enough time for a takeaway, the stand offers hot artisanal sandwiches with equally delicious melted cheese and ham.
Number 1 “SIKLOSI – SPECIALITIES HONGROISES”
Following this stand’s success in the previous years; they now occupy two stands at this year’s Fair. It is with full confidence that I can say that absolutely everything these stands have to offer will certainly not disappoint. One is dedicated to savory Hungarian style dishes including burgers, wraps and pizzas and the other is dedicated to delicious desserts and hot Hungarian wine (a sweeter version of the typical mulled wine composed of fruits of the forest). Should you have that extra time to stay and take in the wonderful energy at the Fair, your order will be freshly prepared in front of you and beautifully presented. I am constantly touched by the manager, Lazlo Siklosi’s, warm welcome and excellent service and I would never leave the Fair without a brioche Hongroise. This is possibly what this stand has become so famous for; a hot roll garnished with either sugar, chocolate, vanilla or coconut and loved by members of the Royal Family of Monaco.
THE PLACE TO DRINK “AU PECHE MIGNON”
There is truly nothing like a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate to keep you warm during this month. Likewise, if you are hopelessly addicted to that irresistible taste of Christmas spices and wish to toast to the coming holiday, look no further then this stand. The friendly staff offers a selection of hot wine infused with the classic holiday ingredients such as pear, rum, almonds or the public’s favorite, apple and cinnamon. The menu of these specials changes daily and we all look forward to the manager’s special edition flavor, which is made especially for New Year’s Eve. During last year’s New Year celebration, his Pina Colada mulled wine sold out rapidly and is currently a new and popular addition to the weekly menu.