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Does food, and especially seafood, taste better on holiday?

villef-portMany say that food does taste better when you’re overlooking somewhere nice and in a relaxed holiday mood.  They are borne out by food science, which points out how large a proportion of our enjoyment goes beyond the actual taste.  Colour, presentation and smell play their part, as does expectation, as does its setting.  This is why those Mediterranean scallops eaten with a glass of Provence rosé are never as good when you try to replicate the dish at home. Part of the reason could also be that the seafood you eat at coastal resorts is usually fresher.  I once ordered fish and chips at a harbour-side café at Crail, in Fife.  When it came 20 minutes later, the proprietor apologized that she had been delayed by the queue at the boat where she’d gone to buy the fish.  It was indeed fresh.  Bee Wilson in the Telegraph makes a similar point.

Elizabeth David writes about the difference between ‘town fish’, which needs embellishments such as melted butter and sauces, and fish that ‘has such a marvellous flavour of the sea that it is absurd to serve any sauce with it’.  Near the sea, the salt in the air seems to work its way on to your palate, making you crave seafood. Years ago on honeymoon in Piran in Slovenia, my husband and I found ourselves eating seafood risotto twice a day. All the waterfront restaurants did a version, and it never disappointed: soupy with sweet rings of squid and mussels. With a carafe of white wine and a view of the Adriatic, we didn’t want anything else.

scallobsterWhen I visit Nice in the South of France I often eat overlooking the sunlit bright blue waters of the Mediterranean.  This is especially true in Villefranche, just along the coast.  I often eat outside at Les Corsaires (at the very left of my top photo).  The scallops are presented in a cream sauce and arranged on a black slate to look like the segments of a lobster.  With rosé wine from the regions vineyards, they do taste far better than any I can obtain in the UK.  And yes, the setting is part of that…

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