Road Test S.A.L.T. Experiences: Foraging Flavors in the French Riviera

This S.A.L.T. Experience, “Beauty of the French Riviera with market and lunch at Mirazur,” is offered on calls at Monte Carlo and Menton on Silver Dawn, Silver Moon and Silver Nova. Among the highlights include a visit to the artisanal Mitron Bakery of Chef Mauro Colagreco, a walk through his biodynamic gardens (there are five, from the sea to up to the mountains of the Alps Maritime). Then you’ll experience a meal at Mirazur, in Menton, with wine pairings, in the chef’s private tasting kitchen.

What images first leap to mind when you hear the word Monaco? I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of sun and swank. Of Formula One racers speeding ‘round hairpin turns beside glittering yacht-filled marinas; gilded salons where the well-heeled international set cavort with Monégasque royalty.

Well, sure, that’s all there and all very nice indeed. But for me the image I conjure is of a great gigantic knob of snow-white beet that’s been rested in fragrant hay, then slow roasted in salt and finished at the table in a sauce of cream and caviar. It’s a visually striking black-and-white dish, a high-low balancing act that’s hard to pull off but easy to like.  

In the case of that craggy white beet that I was served on my first visit to Mirazur a few years ago, love means finding the potential in an ingredient not normally associated with fine dining. It means coaxing beauty out of something that on first glance looks a little weird, a bit gnarly.

I find myself thinking about that beet a lot. Because for those of us who are more than a little into food, one major allure of this storied principality is that it’s just down the beach from another even smaller but no less dazzling fiefdom, that of Mauro Colagreco, the Argentine-born culinary king of the Cote d’Azur. Menton, France, is home to Mirazur, Colagreco’s serene and lovely restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean. It holds three Michelin stars and recently snagged the top spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list.

The gardens of Mirazur/Photo by Adam Sachs

Leaving aside the question of what it means to be the “best restaurant in the world,” the accolades and spotlight have afforded Colagreco a platform to spread his gospel of highly personal cuisine informed by location and season as well as memory and personal journey. His is a focus on growing as much as he can from his own circuit of nearby biodynamic gardens, and thoughtfully and sustainably sourcing the rest.

With his merry band of chef-gardeners, farmers, fishermen and bakers, Colagreco has built a small constellation of family run businesses, here and abroad, including a seafood-focused restaurant at the top of the Maybourne Riviera with a state-of-the-art fish aging chamber, as well as a bakery where the bread is baked in an historic oven from wheat grown from its own strains of ancient wheat.

“At Mirazur we don’t have four seasons,” Colagreco has said of his approach. “We have 365.” The work of the kitchen, he added, is “to make its ingredients powerful and respectable. And of course, it’s a Mediterranean cuisine, fresh, made with a lot of passion and especially a lot of love.”

In the case of that craggy white beet that I was served on my first visit to Mirazur a few years ago, love means finding the potential in an ingredient not normally associated with fine dining. It means coaxing beauty out of something that on first glance looks a little weird, a bit gnarly. It’s the kind of trick that isn’t a trick at all, but the result of thoughtful looking and thinking about food, about what grows in a place and how it can be turned into something delicious and memorable. I’ve had the chance to return a couple times now to Mirazur, to walk the gardens above the restaurant with Colagreco and his colleagues, and to dine at Ceto, his seafood restaurant, where I nibbled madeleines flavored with phytoplankton tasting of the sea below, ate aged cured tuna belly with house fermented XO sauce and drank French whiskies aged underwater.

S.A.L.T.’s Adam Sachs and Chef Colagreco

I first met Mauro a dozen years ago in Japan, where we were both attending a small, slightly unhinged culinary gathering called Cook It Raw. We foraged for wild wasabi in a wet forest and joined an early morning duck hunt that involved nets thrown into the air, according to an ancient (and not very effective) tradition. The late Anthony Bourdain and his TV crew were there filming while a dozen or so international chefs explored and bonded over cooking and a lot of sake. Colagreco struck me as thoughtful, self-composed and soft-spoken, a little calmer than some of the chefs we were traveling with. Clearly he was well regarded and liked by his peers, though he hadn’t yet captured the attention of the broader world. After coming up through classic kitchens in Paris, training with Alan Passard at L’Arpège, and Alain Ducasse at the Plaza-Athenee, Colagreco had struck out on his own in a sleepy beachside village. Within a year of opening he had a Michelin star. Before long, he’d become the first chef born outside of France to receive three stars in that country.

Inside Mirazur. Photo by Matteo Carassale

For me, it’s not the Grand Prix that brings me back to Monaco, rather it’s work—as Silversea is happily headquartered in that pretty place. So when we launched S.A.L.T, I really hoped we could find a way to work with our charming and inspiring neighbor down the coast. Selfishly, of course, I look forward to returning for great meals and conversations. But more than that, I knew that if we are going to deliver on our mission to connect our guests to the culture and soul of a place through the lens of what’s grown and eaten there, there is no better or more soulful guide to the tastes and identity of this region than Mauro and his talented coterie of curious cooks and collaborators.

So I’m very excited and proud to launch the first of our S.A.L.T shore excursion programs in the French Riviera with Colagreco and team. It’s the first of its kind and an ideal way for a select few to really dive into the food and natural landscape of the French Riviera. I learn and taste new things every time I’m in the orbit of chef Colagreco and know that everyone who joins us will come away with a new appreciation and feel for this beautiful part of the world.

This S.A.L.T. Experience, “Beauty of the French Riviera with market and lunch at Mirazur,” is offered on calls at Monte Carlo and in Menton on Silver Dawn, Silver Moon and Silver Nova. Among the highlights include a visit to the artisanal Mitron Bakery of Chef Mauro Colagreco, a walk through his biodynamic gardens (there are five, from the sea to up to the mountains of the Alps Maritime). Then you’ll experience a meal at Mirazur, in Menton, with wine pairings, in the chef’s private tasting kitchen.