Fruits de Mer: Violets
At the risk of sounding all Gwynethy/Goop about this, I do want to share an exquisite delicacy that's extremely rare — and yet so spectacularly delicous it should get its own PR firm. I'll do my best.
You know those fabulous brasseries in Paris with all the shellfish displayed outside? And the wonderful towers of fruits de mer laden with oysters and all other manner of shellfish? Next time you find yourself in such a place, see if they have Violets ("vee-o-lay" — but you already knew that). If you love oysters and savor the lusciousness of Uni (sea urchin roe), you'll find the Mediterranean shellfish Violet heavenly. But if you haven't yet worked your way up to Uni in the sushi spectrum, proceed with caution, they're a bit of an acquired taste. Lonely Planet describes them as "rubber dipped in ammonia". Cretins.
Roughly the size and shape of a smallish potato, the Violet's exterior is dark and leathery. Cut in half, the strong, briny, orange innards are scooped out with a special little spoon. Whether consumed in concert with the other treasures of a grand plateau or just on their own, Violets are truly sublime.
I've never seen or heard of them outside of France, and even there, not many restaurants or markets I visited had them. Many people had never even heard of them. I did a little digging and found that Violets have many aliases depending on the region, including Viourlet, Biju, Patate de mer, Figue de mer, and in Italy, limone di mare and uova di mare. They are also prized in Korea, Japan, Australia and Chile.
So if you find yourself in Paris, make sure to hit L'Atlas Brasserie:
11 rue de Buci at the corner of rue de Seine
(6th Arr., off Blvd Saint-Germain, Odeon Metro Stop)
01 40 51 26 30 P.S. These were the only pics of Violets I could find. If you have a better one, please share it.