Tuesday, June 30, 2009


One of the things I love about the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France is that each stage passes through small towns where they make their own unique artisanal cheeses and wines and foods. Biking, as a rule, is a passtime that lends itself to countryside rather than city. Except for Paris, or Milano, or Firenze. In Europe there are very few places that in any way, in my mind, resemble Vegas.

I am not a huge fan of Vegas. I don't like the prefab stuff built (badly) yesterday, the focus on gambling, which in itself, seems to be powered by a kind of magical thinking gone terribly wrong. And it just seems boring. "Pocket aces, blah-blah-blah, and blah blah, so I went all in, and blah blah blah..." Sorry, gambling fans, I just don't get it, and I've tried.

I also think Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is an incredibly boring place to shop. Aside from the ridiculous pricetags, you might as well be in the Short Hills Mall in Jersey, where I'm from. What are Fendi, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent but global chains with no local character not unlike McDonalds? I love the artistry of the runway, but when it comes to shopping, since I can't afford even to get it dry cleaned let alone to buy it, what is the point?

Which brings me back to Monaco, and why I'm having trouble getting excited about the prologue of the Tour de France, in terms of food and wine pairings.

A little more than a hundred years ago, the Grimaldi family, which ruled Monaco, which is a principality still today, were very much in the poorhouse, and came upon a brilliant idea. They would turn what must have been, at the time, a charming old seaside town, into a gambler's paradise and a resort. It took time, but they did it. The famous casino has a lovely Belle Epoque elegance, and the streets around it are squeaky clean and full of the same shops you'd find on the Champs Elysees. Except I'd rather be there because I could find myself a lovely cheap and cheerful meal there with flavors I probably have never experienced, accompanied by a reasonable but sublime bottle of wine. In Monaco, I think I might be S.O.L. when looking for cheap and cheerful. Someone prove me wrong. I'm happy to find out I'm wrong. But studded with exclusive slips full of massive yachts, why do I think Monaco isn't such a place?

The best thing I can tell you about Monaco is that when I took the Sea Dream II in 2003, beginning my cruise around the Tyrrhenian sea along the west coast of Italy, this is where the cruise began. So I can tell you that the Casino looks particularly gorgeous, when you are sailing away from it toward Portofino, Italy.

So in terms of pairings, we might be stuck with Dom Perignon and filet mignon. Yawn, is all I can say.

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