We visited Marseille as strangers. Sure, we’re adventurous travelers and eaters who can find good restaurants on our own, but we wanted to interact with locals to get a better feel for France’s second largest city. That’s how we ended up scheduling a VizEat Marseille dinner experience.
What is VizEat?
In their best incarnations, sharing services distinguish themselves by letting travelers live among locals. With Airbnb, we’ve relaxed on sunlit terraces in towns like Albi and Marseille and soaked up residential areas in the heart of cities like Los Angeles and Austin.
VizEat applies the same principles to dining, allowing travelers to eat with locals. Some of the great food traditions of the world are born around the family table, and VizEat allows diners to tap into the experience of a Nonna’s kitchen in Italy or a family dinner in China. In our case, we got to dine with a young couple in their urban Marseille apartment.
Intrigued by the sharing concept, we journeyed 40 minutes on the Marseille Metro for our culinary quest. After ascending the stairway to the Metro exit, we entered an area away from the cathedrals, fishing boats, tour buses, museums and bouillabaisse.
Adjacent to the Velodrome soccer stadium, this was a more modern, nondescript neighborhood filled with large apartment towers that many modern Marseillais call home.
Anthony, a former navy cook and food lover, greeted us with a smile and amuse bouche cups of tomatoes with chêvre. We soon met his pregnant companion Nathalie, a nursery school teacher, who would complete our dinner quartet.
Though their English was only a little better than our French, we were able to communicate easily thanks to the magic of Google Translate and the common language of food.
Our VizEat Marseille Dinner
Along with the hors-d’oeuvres, Anthony introduced us to the Mauresque, a popular drink in Marseille. Translating to “The Moorish” in English, this tasty aperitif has just four ingredients – Pastis (anise-flavored liqueur), Orgeat (almond syrup), water and ice cubes.
The combination of flavors results in a uniquely refreshing anise concoction that we continued drinking throughout our time in Marseille and plan to recreate in the future.
Marseille literally kisses the Mediterranean Sea, and seafood abounds throughout the city. Fishermen pluck the sea’s bounty and sell the fresh seafood at the port and local markets. Fittingly, Anthony served us swordfish that he lovingly barbecued on his balcony.
He served the fish with mounds of rice and vegetables and then finished each plate with saffron. Paired with a bottle of refreshing Provençal Rosé, this was simple food that conveyed the essence of the region.
Similar to seafood, local produce is plentiful in Marseille. The city teems with outdoor markets selling fruits and vegetables grown around and close to France.
Taking advantage of this available local fruit, Anthony finished our meal with a luscious vanilla custard topped with vibrant red raspberries. It was a sweet ending that lingered on our tongues as we headed back to the Metro station and toward the next adventure of our journey.
Food can often be the gateway to understanding a different culture. Between the food and conversation that we shared at Anthony’s apartment, we left the meal with a greater understanding of Marseille, its people and its culinary traditions – along with two full stomachs.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.