Terrine’s Summer Cocktails Worth Sipping

Enjoy their discounted menu during dineLA Summer – photo by Jill Weinlein

Last Wednesday I attended Cocktail Hour at Terrine to sip some of mixologist Ryan Wainwright’s new summer cocktails. His focus is to make spirits the stars. His bar is filled with bowls of fresh fruit and little bottles of colorful bitters. Wainwright is a stickler on quality ingredients and detailed execution. He has taken creativity to a new level that wow’d me.  I tried getting up close to watch this talented bartender, yet never had an opportunity. Instead, Marlene standing near Wainwright enlightened me about the new summer libations. What I noticed at this bar are bottles of spirits you don’t see everyday. I sampled a few of Terrine’s dineLA Summer menu items, while sipping the following cocktails:

Route De Menton - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Route De Menton – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Bright and Bubbly category I ordered the Route de Menton. Terrine is French in decor, French in cuisine and French in their wines and cocktails. This was served in a large wine glass, as Marlene measured St. George Citrus vodka – a zesty vodka made from  California-grown Valencia oranges, Seville oranges, and bergamot. A little lemon juice, orange juice and honey is added. Then a healthy pour of Prosecco and a splash of China-China – an aperitif that is chestnut-brown in color offering a citrus melange of aromas. It’s poured over large square ice cubes and garnished with a slice of orange.

Route De Menton – Photo by Jill Weinlein

In the Crisp and Refreshing Category I opted for The French Cowboy made with Vago Espadin Mezcal from Puerto Escondido on Oaxaca. There are light aromas of sweet potato and citrus with a whisper of anise and banana. Fresh lime juice, honey and Aancho Ryes – based on a 1927 recipe from Puebla, Mexico known for its ancho chiles, which are dried and smoked poblanos. This was dazzled with smoked sea salt.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

A pretty cocktail was the pink Angels Bay made with Diplomatico Blanco Rum aged up to 6 years to achieve balance, body and softness. Marlene added lime juice, strawberry, honey, Amaro Lucano – a spirit produced by a family owned company in Pisticci, Basilicata. It was originally made as a blend of over 30 herbs by a pastry chef in the late 1890s. It’s a base used in cocktails or an after meal digestif. At the end this cocktail has a touch of Pernod Absinthe. A strawberry garnishes this beauty.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Those looking for a strong anise flavor will enjoy Le Vieux Port made with Bombay Dry Gin, lime juice, orgeat, cucumber, housemade creme de menthe and Bicard Pastis (created in 1951 when the ban on anise-based aperitifs was lifted in France). This looks like a mojito, yet tastes like black licorice. Crushed ice is piled high above the glass and its garnished with a sprig of mint. I loved the added touch of serving this cocktail in a deep silver coaster. Well done, especially when the ice starts melting and the cocktail overflows. It’s meant to be sipped on a regular basis, otherwise as the ice melts, it appears as if you have never taken your first sip.

What looks hot, is actually a cold cocktail with a spiked shortbread cookie - photo by Jill Weinlein
What looks hot, is actually a cold cocktail with a spiked shortbread cookie – photo by Jill Weinlein

My favorite surprise cocktail was served in a dainty china tea cup – The Espresso “Martini” made with Jacked Wheatley vodka (pure and crisp on the nose with a fresh and clean taste finishes with hint of soft vanilla). Menotti’s cold coffee that is made in Venice, CA is added with Cafe Moka, Kailua, cream and orange bitters. It looks like a cappuccino, yet is a cold cocktail. An added touch is a square shortbread that has been brushed with rum. It’s crisp on the corners, yet soft in the middle, due to the alcohol absorbing into the cookie. A spiked cookie? I like this a lot!

Enjoy their discounted menu during dineLA Summer - photo by Jill Weinlein
Enjoy their discounted menu during dineLA Summer – photo by Jill Weinlein

Visit Terrine for a cocktail or two before you indulge into one or two of Chef Kris Morningstar’s creative dishes. Stephane Bombet and Francois Renaud are on hand to make sure the restaurant is running smoothly.

From July 17 to July 31 they will be offering a dineLA Summer menu, as well as their regular menu. A multi course lunch is $15 and three-course dinner is $39 per person. Terrine – 8265 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048 – Phone:(323) 746-5130 – Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. –  5:30–11:30 p.m- Reservations – click on OpenTable.

10 Reasons To Get The Cuisine of the French Riviera Cookbook

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Last Tuesday, I finally met restauranteur Laurent Halasz – the founder and owner of FIG & OLIVE. He hosted a dinner for the launch of his first-ever cookbook, FIG & OLIVE – The Cuisine of the French Riviera in collaboration with renowned publishing house, Assouline. I found this impeccably dressed Frenchman to be extremely charming and personable.

(Laurent Halasz with writer)
(Laurent Halasz with writer)

Raised in the idyllic coastal town of Mougins in the South of France, about five miles from Cannes, Halasz developed an epicurean palate from his mother Francine. She would take him with her on her daily shopping adventures to local markets in nearby towns Valbonne and Cannes. Halasz gained an “outside of the classroom” learning experience about fresh and seasonal olive oils, produce and meats. Francine would walk home and prepare exceptional meals that created many “Mmmm, moments,” said Halasz, who wrote the book with his mother. “She cooks simple, fresh, flavorful, and colorful dishes,” said Halasz. “These recipes are easy to prepare for your family and friends.”

Celebrating a 10th anniversary of success, Halasz opened his first FIG & OLIVE in New York in 2005. Now he has four restaurants in New York, and one in Chicago, Los Angeles, Newport Beach and Washington D.C.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The restaurants culinary ethos is signature olive oils, in lieu of butter or cream. Trays of paper-thin zucchini carpaccio were served at the cocktail reception with a squeeze of lemon and dots of fruity picholine olive oil from the South of France. The dish was adorned with sweet toasted pine nuts and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese (The recipe is in the cookbook). We nibbled on this and other bite-size appetizers while sipping Yellow Label Veuve Clicquot champagne.

(Sommelier Fabrizio Nocilla)

FIG & OLIVE offers an elegant, yet casual dining experience featuring the regional coastal cuisine of France, Italy and Spain. What I like about dining in the West Hollywood restaurant is the service. Sommelier Fabrizio Nocilla is handsome and extremely knowledgeable about wines, especially from Spain, Italy, France and California. Other servers worthy of applause is the lovely Kate who looks just like Scarlett Johansson, and the delightful Jackie.

Here are 10 Culinary Tips I discovered inside this beautiful cookbook:

  1. Learn to pair the right olive oils with each dish. Did you know that from Château Léoube in Provence makes a fruity and delicate varietal? While  from Marqués de Griñon in Spain, the olive oil offers a more green fruit and herbal flavor profile. The Tuscan olive oil from the Mugelli family is slightly peppery. The restaurant offers a retail collection of over 30 different types of extra virgin olive oil ideal to enhance these recipes.
  2. Halasz paid homage to his mother, Francine and the Father of this type of farm-to-table cuisine – Michelin-starred chef Roger Verge, who recently passed away in June 2015. “His first cookbook, Cuisine of the Sun, offers a healthy and natural way of cooking, combining the products of the earth like a bouquet of wild flowers,” said Halasz. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet leads to optimal health. These dishes will inspire you to eat healthier.
  3. For a party, serve many aperitif dishes to guests with a nice bottle of champagne. Start with an eggplant caviar, and some individual size tomato tarts and Fig and Gorgonzola tarts found in the book. Halasz told me these tarts are the French equivalent to pizzas, yet more elegant and lighter with their puff pastry crust.

    Chef Pascal Lorange with Sous Chef and Laurent Halasz
    (Executive Chef Wilfrid Hoquet, Chef de Cuisine, Oscar Ledesma, and Laurent Halasz)
  4.  Our first course was Francine’s Butternut Squash soup with chestnuts. It’s an ideal Fall/Winter dish to serve during the holidays (found on page 80 in the cookbook).
  5. Since the Mediterranean diet traditionally includes antioxidant-rich vegetables, The cookbook offers several vegetable dishes, plus a decadent cold Gazpacho made with minced tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion, garlic. bread, basil, Sherry vinegar and a splash of olive oil. At FIG & OLIVE they make this exact soup and add a small scoop of Ayala goat cheese to enhance the dish.

    Roasted Veal Filet Mignon with Rosemary and Braised Endive
    (Roasted Veal Filet Mignon with Rosemary and Braised Endive)
  6. On a Mediterranean diet, red meat should be consumed no more than a few times a month. The Filet Mignon recipe is an excellent choice. Marinate the red meat with olive oil, garlic and rosemary overnight. Grill it and serve it with vegetables. At FIG & OLIVE, Chef Pascal sautés onions in a Porto sauce with a balsamic reduction and shallots to make the most desirable onions I have ever tasted.
  7. There are 8 Fish recipes that will impress your guests from a whole Branzino to the Salmon and Scallops en Papillote that was served at the dinner. Step by step tips help novice to expert chefs to make these dishes that “wow” the table with its presentation.

    (Photo by Jill Weinlein)
    (Photo by Jill Weinlein)
  8. There are 10 Desserts in the book that range from apple tarts, chocolate pot de creme and lovely lavender Madeleine.
  9. FIG & OLIVE partnered with Air France to celebrate the launch of the book at all restaurant locations. The Los Angeles Launching was the first, since Halasz calls LA his home away from his “true home.” Attend a launch event at one of his other restaurants for chance to win a pair of round trip ticket in Business class to the Nice in the South of France (terms and conditions apply). Air France is investing over a half billion dollars in upgrading the customer experience including a more spacious Business class seat bed that reclines 180° with direct access to the aisle. Passengers in Business class can also savor the French touch while dining on gourmet meals designed by top Michelin-starred chefs and enjoying fine wines especially selected by Air France’s world-renowned sommelier. Air France offers the best of French culture on board each flight. http://www.airfrance.us.
  10. With the holidays approaching, this 160 pages, spiral-bound hardcover cookbook is an ideal gift for yourself or a culinary family member or friend. Inside are 100 award winning photos by Harald Gottschalk of interesting items and picturesque venues from the South of France. The photo of Francine next to a set table in her backyard, near the pool at her home in Mougins is stunning. You will be inspired to plan your next vacation to the French Riviera and enjoy healthier Mediterranean dishes. FIG & OLIVE – Cuisine of The French Riviera is available for purchase at ASSOULINE boutiques worldwide and through http://www.assouline.com. and at each restaurant.

Hours at the FiG & Olive Melrose Place – Open for lunch starting at 12 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday brunch at 11 a.m. Dinner service begins Monday through Thursday at 6 p.m. on Friday through Sunday, dinner service begins at 5:30 p.m. $$$ 8490 Melrose Place (310)360-9100.

Tantalizing Terrine

FullSizeRender-17For my 26th wedding anniversary, I took my husband with me to review the new lunch menu at Stephane Bombet, Executive Chef Kris Morningstar and Francois Renaud’s elegant California brasserie – Terrine.

Chef Morningstar has been tantalizing Los Angelenos with some of his French favorites that include beef tartare, onion soup, steak frites, escargot, tartines, and Croque Madame’s in the evening and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Starting this week, the restaurant is now open for lunch Monday through Friday featuring some signature dishes and some of Morningstar’s new creations.

Since it was daytime and we had the responsibilities of work, school pick-up, and soccer practice later tonight, we started with carafes of refreshers – a lemongrass iced tea and a lavender lemonade that made my mouth pucker in delight. Renaud came to our table to talk about his new specialty housemade teas from the London-based Rare Tea Company, known to source and supply the world’s best tea directly from farmers and their tea gardens. Renaud makes an ice tea with Earl Grey tea infused with mint, and a teaspoon of honey to enhance the beverage naturally. All were quite good.

FullSizeRender-14Those dining around us were sipping a Terrine Gin & Tonic made with Bombay East, Renaud’s lemongrass and a house made yuzu tonic. It was pretty with a long peeled rind of ruby red grapefruit.

While looking over the menu outside on the appealing patio, I wanted to order what I enjoyed last time – The avocado toast with tarragon salsa verde, and Meyer lemon. Instead I ordered the Socca to share with a new broccoli and chicory salad. Both were excellent together. Socca is a street food found in Nice, France. It’s made from chickpeas into a thin pancake, almost like a crepe. It’s dusted with fennel powder, coarse salt and pepper. Served on a wood plank it was cut into triangles.

The salad was divine with rabe broccoli, little Pecorino cubes, toasted farro grains, and sunflower seeds. It was a wonderful mix of textures and flavors enhanced with an anchovy and lemon vinaigrette.

The Quiche Du Jour was made the French way, light and wobbly with an amazing crust. It’s served with a mixed green salad with fine herbs and a champagne vinaigrette.

FullSizeRender-15I wanted to order the exquisite Croque Madame again. It’s sliced smoked ham is grilled with melted Gruyere cheese, Bechamel and topped with a sunny side egg. Instead, I ordered the juicy Terrine burger with truffle butter and cheese, a delightful aioli, flash fried onions and cured tomato jam. WOW! That jam just makes this burger so gourmet tasting, especially with the soft brioche bun.

Morningstar is putting foie gras on a lot of dishes. I could have had it on my burger for an extra $9. He also puts it in a Terrine with sweet and sour prunes, served with a baguette. Morningstar assembles a salad with foie gras, confit duck gizzards, apples and walnut vinaigrette, and his Jambon Buerre is made with ham, foie gras and truffle butter.

FullSizeRender-16We finished with a generous slice of a quintessential French lemon tart. The meringue on top looked like floral grommets torched lightly to give the dish a visually stunning presentation.

BRAVO Morningstar, Renaud and Bombet for making my anniversary meal one that I will always remember.

Hours are from – 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Terrine – 8265 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles – (323)746-5130

Little Next Door Has Soul

DSC_0449A tall gentleman walked into Little Next Door on a Tuesday night with sunglasses and a chic scarf tied around his neck. At first I thought he was the talented actor Liam Neeson with long hair. When he took off his sunglasses, I realized this very handsome French man with an air about him was Nicolas Meschin, one of the owners of The Little Door and Little Next Door.
He sat next to me throughout my dinner with a group of foodies and shared some interesting facts about the rise of The Little Door and what new at Little Next Door.

Growing up in France near Cognac, Meschin fondly remembers his mother cooking in the house Little-Next-door-lemon-tarts-224x300every day. He enjoyed hanging out in the kitchen, talking with his family and tasting from the pots while his mother added ingredients. “The Kitchen was the center and soul of my house,” Meschin said. “Today there isn’t as much communion in many kitchens with both parents working and busy schedules.”

In his 20’s Meschin followed his brother Frederic to Los Angeles and worked along 3rd Street in a Paris/Mexico Cafe. “We made French dishes and rolled them into a tortilla for a burrito,” Meschin said.

He started as a dishwasher and did a little bit of everything in the restaurant. “We used to share a cooler with Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa at the Japanese restaurant Oshou in the late 1970s,” Meschin said. Nobu worked next door to Meschin until Nobu opened his own restaurant Matsuhisa on La Cienega Boulevard in the late 80s.

The Meschin brothers opened their nightclub/restaurant, Flaming Colossus in the late 80s in downtown LA. “It was the Studio 54 of Los Angeles and a very artistic community back them,” Meschin said. He told me how the rock group U2 and Bono used hung out often, as did the new and innovative cast from Cirque de Soleil after they performed in their first So Cal show in Little Tokyo.

The brothers made a strong connection with Cirque de Soleil and soon started catering all of their Opening Night and VIP dinners. Today, they continue to work with the company whenever they are in town.

When the brothers discovered a space became available for The Little Door, they envisioned a new dining experience for Los Angeleos by opening the city’s first wine bar serving authentic French-Mediterranean cuisine.

The restaurant featured a variety of over 70 bottles of wine by the glass. “At the time there were 300 vineyards in California, now there are over 3000,” Meschin said. They took the wine wave at the right time and acquired bottles of wine at more reasonable prices.

Currently they have a spectacular wine collection with one-third from California, one-third from France and the remaining is a diverse collection from all over the world.

IMG_5273In 2006, with their success, they opened Little Next Door (literally next door) offering a true homemade croissant and lighter fare that included salads, sandwiches, salads, freshly baked organic breads, pastries, egg dishes and a variety of our famous house-made jams and preserves.
While chatting with Meschin, I learned he recently opened another The Little Door in Santa Monica.

While biting into a thick crusty crouton lathered with brie and mascarpone cheese layered with slightly sweet glazed apples and sprinkled with microgreens and candied walnuts, he shared he also is working on a The Little Door up in Santa Barbara.

The new chef Kevin Luzande at Little Next Door recently took over the kitchen after leaving Acabar in Los Angeles. He has worked in the kitchens of the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey, and at Rivera and Playa. His specialties on this menu include a tuna tartare with a Japanese/Latin flair that included red pepper paste, avocado, scallions, shoyu and blue corn strips to scoop the soft ingredients and offer a crunchy texture.

The beet salad offered a variety of colored chopped beets with a pistachio granola next to creamy goat cheese and arugula.

Luzande creates spicy large prawns bathed in heat with Harissa and Aleppo peppers then cooled with labneh and pistachios.

IMG_5270The wine stewards of the evening – Francois and Didier poured glasses of French Rose’ and a slightly sweet white Francios Lurton “Les Fumees Blanches. Both paired nicely with the spiciness of the tuna tartare and prawns, offering the smell of citrus fruits with tropical notes and a hint of smoke.

For our next course, we all raved about the creaminess of the cauliflower dish. The roasted and caramelized cauliflower sat on a bed of luscious cauliflower puree. It was a satisfying vegetarian dish, as was the corn pudding summer ravioli served with chanterelle mushrooms and chive blossoms. Luzande takes fresh sweet corn and reduces it to a thick liquid slowly for one hour before it caramelizes the sugars. His pillowy ravioli pasta is stuffed with the corn and lightly drizzled with butter nage. It just melted in my mouth.
Another dish that sent a pleasing shiver throughout my senses was the salmon risotto made with a Little-Next-Door.Salmon-300x300-2 zucchini and basil puree. This healthy dish had a generous piece of salmon cooked perfectly with baby squash, oven dried tomatoes and fresh parmesan. Francois recommended a white Chateau Goudichaud, Graves De Vayres from Bordeaux to accompany this dish.

Even though I had enjoyed more food than I normally would eat in one sitting, I had to pierce my fork into two strips of Sterling Silver top sirloin served with a green peppercorn reduction. It was paired with a glass of Ramon Bilbao Tempranillo from Crianza. The cherry-red color wine offered an intense aroma of ripe red berries, bay leaf and mineral touches and some cocoa.

Known for their abundance of French pastries, macarons, cakes, tarts and pies, I was very pleased DSC_0448when a beautiful whole cherry chafoutis arrived to our table. Next, a plate of lovely lemon tarts was sent to our table topped with pristine white meringue and brown highlights.

Cake plates were delivered with warm chocolate, coconut and pistachio macarons. Most restaurants and pastry shops serve macarons cold that are hard to the bite, these macarons were warm and heavenly.
The pièce de résistance was small chocolate and caramel pot de creme with a sprinkling of sea salt and fig slices on top. The desserts covered all bases to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.
Come find the soul of French cuisine at Little Next Door.
Lunch is served at 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner is nightly from 6 to 11 p.m. They also have Happy Nights Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. On weekends brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $$ 8142 W. 3rd St. (323)951-1010.

A portion of this article was featured in the July 2, 2015 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers. This article is also in GPSmyCity –  https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html

FIG & OLIVE – Mediterranean Diet Friendly

DSC_0988Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The key components of the Mediterranean diet include a splash of olive oil, instead of butter, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, legumes and nuts. A glass of red wine is acceptable too.

Fig & Olive’s menu offers dishes that are ideal for the diet, as Executive Chef Pascal Lorange’s prepares his Mediterranean dishes with herbs, spices and some of the finest olive oils from the Mediterranean region to enhance his dishes.

I recently dined with a group of friends at Fig & Olive on Melrose Place to enjoy chef Lorange’s new Spring menu Mediterranean dishes. We sat in the back dining room with elegant limestone stucco walls. The restaurant has live green rosemary and olive trees offering the essence of the Mediterranean. Visually, the open kitchen is illuminated by shelves of colorful olive oil bottles.
Guests receive a plate of rosemary olive oil bread with small dishes of three distinctive extra virgin olive oils from Spain, Greece and Italy.

We each chose a glass of wine or champagne from over 30 varietals from the South of France, Italy, and Spain. I sipped a nice French Rose’ made with Grenache/Syrah from the Château La Coste “Cuvée Bellugue” Côtes de Provence. It was floral, with hints of white fruits.

DSC_0985The wine paired well with a variety of crostinis. My favorite was the savory caramelized onion with goat cheese and chive. I also liked the Manchego with sliced fig and a Marcona almond.

Since the Mediterranean diet traditionally includes antioxidant-rich vegetables, Chef Lorange’s includes on his new menu, a cold gazpacho Andalucia with minced tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion, basil, Sherry vinegar and a splash of basil olive oil. There is a small scoop of Ayala goat cheese to enhance the dish.

Another winning dish is his rainbow heirloom tomato Caprese with luscious burrata and sliced figs to add a delightful sweetness. It’s lightly dressed with 18-year balsamic vinegar and basil green olive oil.

The crab and heirloom tomato appetizer is made with jumbo lump crab. It looked and had the texture of an elegant tuna salad.DSC_0991
To help promote health and prevent disease, fish is approved on the diet. Fig & Olive offers six different pescatarian dishes that include Mediterranean branzino; Chilean sea bass and yellowfin tuna a la Provencale. The Riviera salmon is also an excellent choice with seared salmon served with grilled asparagus and a flavorful braised fennel. The dish is decorated with a pea puree, Koroneiki olive oil emulsion and a spritz of lemon zest.

The most visually spectacular dish of the evening was the rosemary lamb chops served on a plate with a glass dome cover. Once the cover was released, a smokey vapor of Herbs de Provence was released into the air. The chops were accompanied with grilled polenta, braised eggplant, roasted bell peppers and a drizzle of rosemary garlic olive oil.

I’m not sure if the creamy fig and gorgonzola risotto made with Arborio rice qualifies as a Mediterranean dish, because it is so rich, yet it’s so satisfying and worth the splurge. It’s pure comfort food in a bowl.

Grains are important in a Mediterranean diet, so Chef Lorange offers a red quinoa salad with a variety of vegetables and dresses it up with a Arbequina olive oil.

DSC_0999All of the pasta and risotto dishes are vegetarian, however guests may add a grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp for some protein.
On the diet, poultry can be consumed twice a week. A good choice is the Provence roasted free range chicken from Mary’s farm marinated with Herbs de Provence and garlic. It arrives with a side of ratatouille and roasted potatoes.

My favorite is the colorful Fig & Olive Tajine with Moroccan spiced chicken cooked with figs, carrots, olives, apricots, zucchini, cipolini onions, tomatoes, toasted almonds and a couscous blended with cilantro and harissa. The olive oil enhancing this dish is Arbequina, an aromatic, buttery oil from Melgarejo in Andalucía, Spain.

Since red meat should be consumed no more than a few times a month, the filet mignon is an excellent choice. The 8 oz. Creekstone farm filet is marinated with thyme, garlic and rosemary before its grilled and served with farro risotto accented with black trumpet mushrooms, and two cheeses – manchego and mascarpone. The Béarnaise sauce for the steak is made with Arbequina olive oil.

For those seeking a romantic dinner, Fig & Olive offers a few tableside-for-two entrees that include a whole two-pound Branzino; 16 oz. Creekstone farm Black Angus Chateaubriand; and a 36 oz. Cote de Boeuf Creekstone farm bone-in Ribeye.

Save room for the light panna cotta a l’ orange with a cookie crumble. There is also a lavender creme brûlée with lovely lavender ice cream and a crunchy thyme shortbread cookie.

While at Fig & Olive, you can bring Mediterranean ingredients home with you to maintain the diet. The restaurant offers a retail collection of over 30 different types of extra virgin olive oil ranging from a fruity and delicate varietal from Provence to a peppery Tuscan olive oil from Villa Lucia. The restaurant also sells infused olive oils with truffle; basil, and lemon.

Open for lunch starting at 12 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday brunch at 11 a.m. Dinner service begins Monday through Thursday at 6 p.m. on Friday through Sunday, dinner service begins at 5:30 p.m. $$$ 8490 Melrose Place (310)360-9100.

PERCH – French Cuisine with Rooftop Views of LA

IMG_0328My friends dining with us asked, “Is the restaurant Perch named after a fish or branch for a bird?” As the door opened and we walked up to the reception table, it became obvious Perch is a lovely elevated spot with spectacular views of Los Angeles.

Sitting at a table on the outside patio with glass walls or near a blazing fireplace puts one in a romantic or festive mood. String lights enhance the ambiance, while outdoor heaters keep the patios warm, even on the cold LA winter nights.

Even though the temperature was in the 40s, we sat outside near the back corner on whicker couches with a wood coffee table for dining. Nearby, the Ben Ross three-piece jazz band entertained guests. Below was Pershing Square with palm trees aglow in red, green and blue lights and an outdoor ice-skating rink framed by skyscrapers. Beyond were sparkling lights all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The menu by Chef Gerardo Benitez features hors-d’oeuvres, small plates and entrees with a French flair. The bar makes specialty cocktails named Penicillin, My Fair Lady and Hemingway on the Beach. There is quite a bar scene here, especially after 9 p.m. All guests must be 21 years old when the restaurant transforms into a social night time destination.

We started with a French tradition, a bubbly Kir Royal. After a toast, we ordered two appetizers, the Ahi Tuna Tartar and grilled IMG_0330octopus. The tartar was served with crispy wonton triangles and seasoned with a ginger soy vinaigrette. The octopus was heightened with Vaudovan, a blend of spices that is a French derivative of an Indian curry masala with shallots and garlic. It arrives with a small fennel citrus salad, juicy Campari tomatoes and dollop of crème fraiche.

For entrees, my husband ordered the tender flat iron steak with a mellow bordelaise sauce. It was served with gooey truffle cheese fries. My order of pan roasted salmon was a generous piece of moist and pink fish resting on a bed on flavorful smoked eggplant puree and vegetables Provencal with tomatoes and onions. Artichoke chips gave this dish texture and crunch.

Others at our table ordered the sliced pan roasted chicken supreme with a savory chicken gravy. It’s served with Chef Gerardo’s signature mushroom risotto that is enriched with parmesan and mascarpone cheese.

Also delivered to our table was a bowl of gnocchi with thick, soft dough dumplings covered in a basil pesto, crème fraiche and finished with tender market squash.

IMG_0336Perch offers Les Petits Plus side dishes, and we ordered a few. The Brussels Sprouts with bacon, parmesan, and sherry vinaigrette paired nicely with our entrees, as did the cauliflower dish with a sprinkling of almonds, Vaudovan spices, citrus aioli, and brown butter. Both were large portions that could be shared with others.

True to a fine French restaurant, Perch does serve a delicious chocolate pot de creme made with Valrhona chocolate custard, strawberries and blueberries and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

I asked our server for their brunch menu. What a great spot for a birthday brunch or bridal shower. The menu listed an assortment of scones, muffins and croissants served with honey butter and jam.

Entrees include French toast, smoked salmon Benedict, crab Benedict, shrimp Scampi, and the Perch burger served on a brioche bun.

Champagnes start at $34 up to $200 a bottle. You may build your own mimosa or Bellini with an additional $5 carafe of orange juice or peach puree.

For night owls, Perch offers a late-night limited menu on Sunday through Wednesday from 11p.m. to 12 a.m. and Thursday throughIMG_0337 Saturday from 11p.m. to 1a.m. Perch offers a variety of live entertainment nightly and during the Champagne brunch.
The restaurant appeals to all types for people from couples out for a romantic dinner, to friends gathered together for drinks and a meal. Bring out of town guests here at sunset to show off our magnificent city. It’s a destination spot that won’t leave you disappointed.

Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and at 5 p.m. dinner is served. On weekends, Perch opens at 11 a.m. for brunch and later dinner service. Live music and lively bar scene keeps this place open until 2 a.m. during the weekend. $$ 448 S. Hill St. (213)802-1770.

This article was published in the January 15, 2015 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Church and State – Country French Cuisine

IMG_6015Being a fan of the talented Chef Tony Esnault, I was excited to visit Church and State, located near the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles in the Arts District.

I first met the gifted French chef four years ago when he was the Executive Chef at Patina next to the Walt Disney Hall. Each dish he prepared was a work of art. Some were almost too beautiful to slice a knife through or pierce with a fork. I was saddened to hear that he left Patina, yet eager to find out what kitchen he would be improving with his French artistry.

Fortunately, owner Yassmin Sarmadi of Church and State snatched him up. She hired Esnault to help her open a new restaurant, Spring, scheduled to open in October. The menu will feature lighter-style French Mediterranean cuisine.

While developing Spring, Esnault turned his attention to preparing rustic, country style French fare at Church and State.

The noise level is loud and tables are very close together with just enough room for a server to walk between them, making for a lively, bustling atmosphere.

The restaurant offers a New York vibe with brick flooring and outdoor lighting strung from one corner to another. The wall of white tile and glass in the back are remnants of the National Biscuit Company’s loading dock. Built in 1925, this gorgeous space once had trains pull up in the back with raw goods to make Nabisco products.IMG_8231

The building was designed to look like a castle with mini turrets on each end. Above the restaurant are luxury lofts with hardwood floors and spiral stairways. Across the street is the old Toy Factory with retail on the ground floor and more basic lofts above.

Looking over the menu, it flows from lighter to heartier dishes. Many guests sitting at tables near us ordered the beautiful puff pastry escargot with garlic butter, so we did too. It looks and tastes like a luscious soufflé in a classic egg cup. Others enjoyed the roasted marrow bone served with marinated radish salad or a charcuterie plate that is cut and cured in house. We all raved about the rabbit ballotine with young greens, herbs and mustard.

On the menu it states that all of the products used in the dishes come from organic farms and have been without antibiotics or hormones.

Near the kitchen are white ceramic vases stuffed with fresh French baguettes. Every table receives bread and on the evening we dined, a plate of fresh out-of-the-oven baked cheese puffs were served.

Esnault makes colorful tartes for appetizers that are actually flat breads, savory onion soup and an array of salads.

IMG_5989For my entree, I opted for the healthy three-beet salad and Coq au Vin that is braised for three days in red wine, herbs, salt and pepper.
The beet salad arrived with deep magenta roasted beets and sunshine yellow soft beets. To add texture and a crunch, Esnault includes some candy cane raw beets to the salad with baby lettuce, hazelnuts, goat cheese and a leek vinaigrette.

I ordered a glass of 2012 Moulinde Gassac Guilhem Rose to accompany my meal. It had pleasant pink hue and intense red fruit nose.

While enjoying the wine and salad, I noticed Esnault is usually in the dining room next to the kitchen’s serving counter. He stands with his back to his diners, looking at the multitude of chefs preparing various dishes. Since the noise level is high, he often cups his hands to shout out orders.

The coq au vin arrived with pearl onions, carrots and mushrooms in the lovely Burgundy colored sauce. On the plate were two drumsticks and a meaty thigh that was so tender, the meat just fell off the bone.

Since my husband was in the mood for seafood, he had a choice of scallops, a filet of Scottish salmon or a Provençal fish Bouillabaisse stew with fresh prawns, Manila clams, mussels, fennel, potato, leeks and garnished with a rouille, made with olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and chili peppers.

He opted for the salmon, which was served on a bed of lentils with pickled red onions and textured with bits of crispy bacon.

Meat dishes offered on the menu are a clean cut of venison saddle that is not too marbled or a 100 percent grass-fed flap steak with frites and a béarnaise sauce. A duck IMG_8226breast with confit leg adorned with orange is another option.

The dessert tray arrives on a plank of wood with several delights to choose. All are made in house. They are small in size, yet big in flavor. The chocolate tart was dense, rich and satisfying with a salted caramel drizzle.

Church and State offers a prix-fixe Sunday Supper. Last Sunday, Esnault served an amuse with a choice of two appetizers, choice of three entrées and one dessert. It was $44 per person with an optional $22 wine pairing for three courses.

$$-$$$ Open for lunch Monday through Thursday starting at 11:30 a.m. Open for dinner on Monday through Friday at 6 p.m. Dinner on Saturday and Sunday begins at 5:30 p.m. 1850 Industrial St. Go to Church and State at OpenTable or call (213)405-1434.

Crepes + Kitchen French Sweet Delights

DSC_0791The first thing I noticed when I entered Crepes + Kitchen on Wilshire Blvd. near La Brea Ave. was the friendly greeting from the owners Yafit Barades and Jacqueline Soletzky. These ladies are genuinely nice to every person who walks in their door. They are also passionate about dogs and have a jar of treats for their furry friends who walk up to the glass door. These ladies work with No Kill LA and are always happy to help a customer looking to adopt a dog.

Another passion for the two women is coffee. “Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee,” reads a sign on the wall. They sell great coffee by Longshot, an Australian roast based in Los Angeles. It’s a lighter roast than most American coffee chains and offers a subtle mocha flavor with a natural sweetness. Coffee comes in 8 oz. and 12 oz. sizes with a hot drip, espresso, Americano, traditional Macchiato and lattes. I started with a Chai Latte as I looked over the menu.

These charming ladies have been friends for years and share a common passion for food. They took over a crepe stand at the Brentwood Farmer’s Market five years ago. Soon they opened stands in three other farmer’s markets, including the Gene Autry’s parking lot and South Pasadena.

They made crepes to order, sold coffee and French bakery items. They also did an “old-school” trade with the farmers. If the farmers gave them fresh produce, they would prepare delicious crepes for them to eat.

Barades is an expert crepe maker, and I tasted her Italiano with turkey, melted mozzarella and cheddar, fresh spinach and basil, tomatoes, roasted peppers and pesto. The
DSC_0794thin crepe is served folded at the bottom and open face at the top revealing a colorful array of ingredients.

Barades grew up in Israel and has fond memories of going to a crepe shop located next to the town’s movie theatre. They sold sweet crepes made with Nutella and a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with whipped cream. “It was an ideal treat after seeing a movie,” she said.

Soletzky is a master in salads and dressings. Her tuna salad is made without mayonnaise and instead mixes three different mustards with olive oil, lemon juice, artichoke, salt and pepper and lets it marinate overnight. I tried the tuna on a crispy French baguette and grilled in Panini machine brining all of the delightful flavors together.

All of the bread and pastries are from France Bakery on Fletcher near Silverlake. They deliver fresh almond and regular croissants, muffins, whole wheat and French baguettes along with a savory rosemary bread at 4 a.m. every weekday morning. “Whatever we have left at the end of the day, we give to our neighbors. We don’t like to waste food,” Barades said.

I sampled four of Soletzky and Barades salads and enjoyed each immensely. The organic Asian salad with chicken offers a dressing with a touch of peanut butter for sweetness. It also has paprika and cayenne to give it a hint of heat. The sesame oil soothes the flavors.
The couscous salad with housemade balsamic vinegar dressing offers a nice crunch of the cucumbers, orange bell peppers and ripe tomatoes. Kalamata olives give this salad a zing.

The Mediterranean salad is filled with chopped farmer’s market vegetables with Feta cheese. The Tahini dressing is made with soy sauce, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.

DSC_0800While eating, I admired the artwork hanging on the walls. I learned that the pieces were made by friends they met while working at the Gene Autry Farmers Market. One large piece in red and white has the words “Make Life Delish” with little white forks and knives in the background. Another says, “Cest La Vie.”

The cold display case offers patrons a peek of the salads made for the day. There are wraps available in sundried tomato, spinach or regular tortillas depending on the day.

While Barades was preparing two different sweet crepes to try, an attractive woman and her black French bulldog, Brasky, walked up to the glass door. Brasky looked in to see if his favorite human friends were inside. “There is our mascot,” Soletzky said. “Every French café needs a French bulldog.”

Barades made a simple cinnamon sugar and butter crepe with powder sugar that was a light and sweet treat. Barades also made a Nutella crepe with sliced strawberries and bananas topped with whipped cream. It was presented beautifully and tasted even better than it looked.

As I left, this darling duo gave me the same warm goodbye that they give their customers and a well wish to have a great day. Not only is the food worth coming for, but these gals make everyone who visits feel special and at home.

Open right now Monday through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Soon they may extend their hours and open for the weekends. Come in and meet some of the friendliest IMG_7278neighbors along the Miracle Mile, while enjoying their delicious French fare. $ 5223 Wilshire Blvd. (323)933-3403.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on April 3, 204

Le Petit Bistro – Authentic French

DSC_1028Welcoming us into his restaurant, the charming Albert Emkies of Le Petit Bistro, made a great impression as he seated us in a comfortable red booth for a delightful traditional French dinner. Delivering the menus to our tables, he pointed out the specials on the back page of the menu. At least four appetizers and four entrees change daily.

The original menu offers guests the opportunity to eat what they desire at a reasonable price. “We have guests who come in at 5 p.m. and sit down to our roasted chicken with frites dinner for $13.50. Our frites are cooked in peanut oil to make them so delicious,” shared Albert.

Le Petit Bistro underwent a “facelift” prior to Valentine’s Day and looks better than ever, both inside and out. Large mirrors and wonderful French posters adorn the walls. One wall is a lovely sage green, while the other is a bold red.  Booths line the walls with white tablecloths and a layer of white butcher paper.

Guests receive a basket of crunchy crust French bread served with a dish of roasted eggplant tapenade and hummus to be spread on top.

Our knowledgeable server, Regis, recommended some of the restaurant’s specialties that include lamb chops, grilled entrecote steak and the Moroccan Merguez a la Harissa. Raised in the South of France near St. Tropez, Regis has been in the U.S for 11 years. He is an expert on French food and wine.

Looking over the two page wine list, we recognized some good California and International wines that were reasonably priced. A number of French wines are from 1990 to 2009. Guests may also enjoy a nice bottle from Italy or Chile. There are five options for champagne and sparkling.

We started with a generous glass of 2011 Reserva Chardonnay Valle de Casablanca from Chile. It was fruity with notes of apricot, yet not too sweet. My husband ordered a full body Chateau D’arthus red Bordeaux. On the palate it bursts with notes of juicy black berry fruit, minerals and chocolate. Both were excellent wines to accompany our appetizers of spicy shrimp and eggplant tart. The Shrimp is known around town for its secret spices with a touch of rosemary. The eggplant was tender on a bed of spinach, onion, basil and tomatoes.

At one time, Albert Emkies, Georges and Ronaire Lachkar had three Le Petit Bistro restaurants. First the original on La Cienega, then the partners opened a bistro in Sherman Oaks and one on the Westside. They sold the latter two and give all of their attention to this one in West Hollywood. Some of their servers have worked here for twenty years.IMG_1172

I liked the Sole a la Provencale with tomato, kalamata olive, and a white wine sauce very much. My husband’s duck confit was cooked perfectly. Two generous legs were well browned and crisp. The accompanying vegetables were cooked al dente style and not too soft.

Be sure to allow 15 minutes for the chocolate soufflé with crème anglase, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. It tastes just like the one I enjoyed in Cannes.

Other desserts include the traditional crepe Suzette with orange Grand Marnier, a hazelnut gelato with hot chocolate and almonds, an apple tart “a la mode” with caramel sauce and a pot de chocolate with creamy chocolate mousse.

On certain holidays such as Bastille Day, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, the partners and chef pare down the menu to a selected number of appetizers and entrees. All are served a la carte. Albert shared with us, “I don’t like prix fixe menus. Someone always doesn’t want one of the items on the menu. I want to make sure my guests order exactly what they want.”

Le Petit Bistro is located at 631 North La Cienega Blvd. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Mon. through Sat., and until 10 p.m. on Sun. The restaurant does have a parking lot with valet service. Reservations are recommended, by calling (310)289-9797.

This article was published in the Beverly Press on March 14, 2013.

Maison Giraud – You’ll taste why Alain’s croissants are the talk of the town

My friend John was raving about a newer French restaurant, Maison Giraud, in the Pacific Palisades. “You must try their croissants. They’re the talk of the town,” he said.

Walking inside to meet him and two friends, I was hypnotized by the glass pastry counter filled with trays of croissant au beurre, pain au chocolate, raisin rolls, apricot Danish and brioches. I made a mental note to ask for one of each to be placed in a bag to take home.

John has known the owner and Executive Chef, Alain Giraud’s for years. He pointed to a large photograph of the chef on one of the walls inside the restaurant. “That’s Alain when he was about 8-years-old working at his father’s French restaurant in Coccreze,” he said. In the photo, Giraud is holding a savory puffed pastry dish.

In the late 80s, Giraud left Europe and arrived in Los Angeles to work with the esteemed Michel Ricard at Citrus on Melrose. He went on to teach others to cook and held classes at Citrus, Let’s Get Cooking and Sur La Table. Giraud was invited to be a member of Academia Culinaire de France, The James Beard Foundation and Club Culinaire Francais of California.

In 2002, many remember this esteemed chef cooking at Bastide. A few years later, he created Four Stars Private Cuisine, where he cooked exquisite meals in private residences and dining venues. Giraud is a culinary consultant and continues to offer private cooking classes in homes.

When the beloved Dante’s Italian restaurant closed last year, Giraud saw an opportunity to open a new French restaurant at that location. The Pacific Palisades Farmers’ Market is located right in front of his restaurant every Sunday.

Our server brought small glasses of asparagus soup with a touch of cream and a refreshing glass of melon gazpacho with diced mint, watermelon and cantaloupe balls to our table. A dash of Tabasco gave the soup oomph.

The Nicoise salad is a classic with its sliced hardboiled egg, quartered potatoes, cherry tomatoes and tuna dressed lightly with virgin olive oil.

To continue reading my review, click on http://parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com/news/2012/09/maison-giraud/. Courtesy of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News. Published on 9/13/12.

Papilles Bistro – Tantalize Your Tastebuds

If you blink, you may not see the sign for Papilles Bistro. Driving on Franklin near the 101 freeway, we spotted this newer restaurant tucked away in a small strip mall between the historic Castle Argyle and Hollywood Tower building. The restaurant is tiny, yet serves delicious California cuisine with a French flair.

The owners are two, young, local guys who met while attending Loyola High School. Oenophile Santos Uy is the owner and wine director at Papilles. He grew up in La Cañada and graduated from USC. He worked in various restaurants around Los Angeles including Silverlake Wines, and the hip AOC restaurant.

The amiable Executive Chef, Tim Carey, is from Pasadena. After a few years of college, he realized he wanted to be a chef and attended culinary school. His first restaurant job was working in San Diego at the Point Loma Fish Market. Later, he moved to Los Angeles and acquired his French culinary skills at Joachim Splichal’s Patina under the direction of Executive Chef Tony Esnault.

Carey and Uy met up when Uy considered becoming a chef. After shadowing Carey for a few days, Uy changed course and propositioned Carey to be the Executive chef at his restaurant. The two opened Papilles in Hollywood in Dec. 2011.It’s a quaint and comfortable restaurant with a small chalkboard menu hanging on a wall. Local hipsters living around Beachwood Cyn. frequent the bistro often. On the night we dined, they had a sell-out rehearsal dinner until 8:30 p.m. We waited a few minutes for all of the guests to leave and the tables be reset for a second wave of dinners.

Once inside we took a table near the open kitchen and looked at the limited, prix-fixe menu. Diners may choose from two of the listed appetizers, three entrée choices and two desserts. That’s it! The three-course meal changes weekly and is between $30 to $40. The evening we dined, it was $36.

Carey, wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers hat, shared that he frequents the Pasadena Farmers’ Market at Victory Park on Sat., the Hollywood Farmers’ Market on Sunday and the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on Wed. His menu is market-driven and changes weekly. The food tantalizes your tastebuds with all of the fresh ingredients.

I started with the velvety smooth tomato with basil velouté soup. A small red colander with slices of delicious French bread was delivered to our table. The thin slices were soft in the middle with a crunchy crust. It was ideal to dip into the slightly sweet soup.

My husband’s salad arrived with slices of bright orange cantaloupe melon decorated with curly frissée and thinly sliced chorizo. The chorizo was a savory choice to liven the salad up. Our appetizers paired nicely with a glass of sparkling Le Canon a Bulles wine. Uy explained that the wine didn’t finish its fermentation, so it had a nice bubbly fizz to it. It’s made from 100 percent Eastern French grapes.

Papilles offers a small selection of natural French wines along the back wall. They can be ordered by the glass or bottle. With Uy’s background, he confidently brings out the best wines to enhance each dish.

He poured a Rose from Domaine du Pas de L’Escalette and a 2010 Le Rocher des Violettes 2010 La Negrette from the Loire Valley. Both went nicely with our entrées. My Bouride (Provençale fish soup) was loaded with black cod, clams, market squid, baby octopus bathed in a clear fennel broth.

My husband chose the sliced duck breast with tomatoes, potatoes and brussel spouts resting on top of a ruby-red cactus flower sauce. It was beautifully presented.

Click here http://parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com/news/2012/08/papilles-bistro-tantalize-your-tastebuds/ to continue reading my review of Papilles. Published on 8/23/2012, courtesy of the Beverly Press.

Cafe Pinot’s Newest Executive Chef

I was so excited to experience a dinner prepared by Executive Chef Sydney Hunter III at Café Pinot. The seasoned chef began his career at L’Orangerie in 2002. Some may remember him at Bastide on Melrose. Chef Joachim Splichal, founder of the Patina Restaurant Group, recently gave Hunter the coveted white Executive Chef jacket at Café Pinot.

We were seated on the front patio where a modern fountain provided bubbling brook sounds as the cars on Fifth Street bustled by. The main patio, which  has been voted as one of the loveliest dining patios in Los Angeles, was occupied with a large bar mitzvah party. It’s reserved often for private parties.

Chef Hunter wowed me immediately when a bowl of English pea soup arrived with a generous circle of almond flan on top. The luscious, warm, green liquid was not burdened with cream, but surrounded with dainty pea shoots and a sprinkling of green chive oiland almond flan. Very clever and delicious.

Hunter’s Japanese Hokkaido scallops rested on cauliflower purée with a sprinkling of toasted sliced almonds. The tender scallops were adorned with a thin shaving of cauliflower topped with a melding of radish, caviar and daikon sprouts. Ruby-red currants in port wine dazzle this dish.

For entrées, the leek and button mushroom ragout serves as a tender base for the perfectly cooked turbot fish. It’s topped with thinly sliced cauliflower, toasted almonds and an amaretto cherry jus. Hunter sprinkles the dish with cherry spice on top.

Another favorite was the beef tenderloin with al dente asparagus and a decadent potato and celery root gratin with emmental cheese. It tasted similar to a delicate potato and Swiss cheese gratin, yet with a zing of celery root. The succulent maitake mushrooms were a nice touch with the red wine Bordelaise sauce.

Click on this link to read the rest of my review http://parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com/news/2012/06/cafe-pinot-new-executive-chef-sydney-hunter-iii-creates-surprises-in-every-dish/. Courtesy of the Beverly Press. Published on June 7, 2012.