By Jo Stougaard
From my Travel Journal: 11 September, 1989 – Paris, France.
“I’m staying at a youth hostel near the Faidherbe Chaligny metro station. It’s clean and filled with budget travelers, but very much like sixth grade camp! Co-ed bathrooms (with no walls separating the toilets) are quite a laugh. There are four bunkbeds in my assigned room and since we are all complete strangers, each of us (nonchalantly) carry our precious belongs with us at all times, even to the toilet. Such a change from my London accommodations.
Earlier today I made my way to the American Express office near the Arc de Triomphe. Perry was supposed to wire me $500 but it hasn’t arrived yet. I can’t believe I am in Paris and running out of money. Even worse, I can’t believe I stole a piece of cheese today at the hostel cafeteria. It was an oozy Brie… and it tasted SO GOOD.”
12 September, 1989 – Paris, France.
“I met up with Leslie last night and I’m staying with her at the ‘Hotel des Grands Boulevards’ on Rue Gustave Goublier. Not much better than the hostel actually. Our room is at the end of the hall and built on a slanted floor. We have to get a running start just to jump on the high bed! The Moroccan owners (brothers) are nice but just a little bit creepy. They insisted we have dinner with them in exchange for keeping the hotel front door unlocked after midnight. Ahh… someday I will return to Paris when I’m not on such a tight budget!”
The next day I picked up my precious $500 at AmEx and took the night train to Nice. The South of France was a totally different experience of course because I had a lovely little hotel room and money for real food! In the evenings I met up with friends for dinner, and lazily slept on the pebble beaches during the day.
I’m sad to say I’ve never been back to Paris. Even sadder… I never had a decent meal in Paris! In the South of France, yes. Paris no. Tokyo, New York, London, Edinburgh, Florence, Frankfurt, Turkey, The Greek Islands, East Africa and the Arctic yes. Paris no.
So thank goodness for the recent French Brasserie/Bistro craze in Los Angeles! Someday I’ll visit France again but I want to make sure I can afford to eat at all the bistros, brasseries and boulangeries! With the U.S. dollar so weak, it may be awhile before I make the trip. For now, I’m grateful I get to experience some of the tastes and ambience of the Paris I never knew… right here at home.
Let’s start with…
I love the cheese program at Comme Ça! Walk in and look to the right. They have an amazing cheese station. My husband, Peter, and I love to go for drinks and just gorge ourselves on stinky cheeses. Époisse, Livarot, Tete de Moine and Cabrales are favorites.
The first night we ate a full dinner at Comme Ça was on 12/19/07. The brasserie was still pretty new and Chef David Myers was on hand to watch over everything. I like his energy. His relaxed surfer vibe instantly makes you feel at home. Oh and he’s super cute too.
We ordered “El Diablo” Cocktails (tequila, ginger, lime, soda), Roasted Beef Marrow with Oxtail Jam, Glazed Sweetbreads, Steak Frites & the Cheese plate for dessert. Everything was wonderful but our favorite was definitely the Marrow. After a couple of cocktails, it felt like we were in Paris and I loved the noisy, bustling atmosphere.
Peter and I ordered the Beef Marrow and Oxtail Jam of course. It is just so CREAMY and salty. My mouth is watering right now. We pretty much shared everything else that was ordered: Duck Confit, Beef Bourguignon, Veal Shank, Steak Frites, and for dessert an amazing Brioche Pudding and a Cheese Plate.
Being “Top Chef” fans (on BravoTV), in March we just had to check out Foxtail and taste the food or our local girl, Chef Antonia Lofaso, before the final episode aired. She didn’t win the competition, but was a favorite to watch and ended up in the “final three”. The restaurant decor is sort of “out there”. Kind of “Studio 54” with bright art deco lights. I half expected to see Andy Warhol in a corner seat. The food was opposite of the atmosphere. Classic simple, tasty bistro fare.
Our Dinner At Foxtail:
Oysters on the Half Shell
Chocolate Bread Pudding
9077 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, ca 90069 310-859-8369
The Foundry on Melrose
The L.A. Times Restaurant Guide describes The Foundry as a “modern bistro”. The food seemed pretty classic, so I wasn’t sure what they meant by that. It’s a little loud inside with cool, crazy jazz playing throughout the space. A great place to meet up with friends and enjoy cocktails and dinner… in the patio area if you want to talk! We ate there with Diane & Ron back in May. Chef Eric Greenspan had recently won the “Grilled Cheese Invitational”. His Short Rib and Tallegio Grilled Cheese w/Apricot Caper Puree won first place in the “Kama Sutra Sammich” category (any kind of bread, any kind of butter, and any kind of cheese, plus additional ingredients). The large tacky trophy was on display above the bar. It was totally out of place and felt just right! My favorite was the Grilled Cheese and of course, the Pork Belly.
Our Dinner At The Foundry:
Beet & Goat Cheese Salad
The Award Winning Grilled Cheese!
Halibut with Ramps
Hanger Steak & Braised Shortribs
BLT – Bistro Laurent Tourondel
In June we had dinner at BLT with good friends Marty and Kathy. I had read about the “amazing” popovers, but thought “seriously… how good can they be”. UM.. pretty damn good! They were crispy on top, pulled apart easily, steamy and airy inside and came with a small recipe card.
It turned out that Marty was a regular at BLT, so the sommelier spent extra time with us making sure we (especially Marty) were well cared for throughout the evening. Before dinner, Peter and I had a drink in the bar and nibbled on the nondescript looking popcorn on the counter. It was fantastic…. tart, salty and spicy.
My two favorite dishes were the appetizer of Artisanal Slab Bacon (of course) and the Onion Rings. The steak was fantastic, perfectly fine… but I’ve had plenty of fantastic steak in Los Angeles (my favorite steak is at Mastro’s served up with lobster mashed potatoes). But still, I did enjoy the steak here and totally recommend the slab bacon, onion rings, and the addictive popcorn at the bar!
Popover recipe (included)
Amazing slab bacon!
Crispy and light onion rings
Cinnamon Doughnuts, Blueberry Compote & Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
8720 W Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069 (310) 360-1950
This brasserie is so lovely. The high ceilings and white glazed tiles make the room look so “clean”. The bar wall is massive, and I’d hate to be sitting there during a quake since the bottles are displayed all the way to the ceiling, secured only with a thin strip of metal. It looks impressive though, and that’s the point. Peter and I went with friends two weekends in a row. First with Jeffrey and Rina. Then again the next weekend with Paddy and Clara. Chef Alain Giraud came to our table a few times on our first visit. He was very gracious and made sure we were enjoying our meal. On our two visits, there were two repeat orders that we had to have both times. The Foie Gras and the Beef Cheeks. We’ll be back again soon.
What we ate at Anisette Brasserie:
Foie Gras with Figs on Brioche
Provencal Beef Daube (aka Beef Cheeks),
with Glazed Root Vegetables & Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Steak Frites with Bearnaise Sauce
Vacherin Glace (Lavender Ice Cream and Perfect Summer Strawberries)
225 Santa Monica Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90407, (310) 395-3200
Pork…. the other white meat. If you enjoy tubed meats as much as I do, then you’ll surely love the Boudin Blanc at Cafe Wa s. Chef Alex Reznik’s plump pork sausage was for me the perfect comfort food. Each bite topped with a dollop of velvety potato purée, with kale and tart red grapes on the side. My husband Peter had the Daube de Bœuf (red wine braised pot-roast) and it was delicious, but this morning I woke up craving a full English breakfast… banger sausages, fried eggs, grilled mushrooms, tomatoes and beans on toast. That’s what Peter and I have every year on Christmas morning. It’s our yearly special celebration breakfast feast. The Boudin Blanc last night tasted like Christmas morning!
Our evening at Cafe Wa s definitely felt special… like Baz Luhrmann and his production designer wife Catherine actually created the whimsical “ooh lala” Moulin Rouge decor. The revolving piano… the staircase to nowhere… and of course the Absinthe bar… bring on the green fairies!
We went with our good friends Tomy, Lacy, Dean & Steph. Our table was directly next to the wonderful (and slowly spinning) piano player. It really made us feel like we were part of something special. Owner Ivan Kane dropped by several times to check on us (he is a friend of Tomy & Lacy), and I noticed that he really made an effort to greet EVERYONE… not just his friends. A very gracious host indeed.
What we all shared: Blinis aux Saumon Fumé (scottish salmon / crème fraiche) $5. Médaillon de Crabe Napoleon (lump crab / heirloom tomatoes / avocado) $15. Pâté de Campagne (country-style paté / cornishons / radishes) $13. Escargots (garlic confit / european butter / pernod) $14. Betterave (roasted beets / goat cheese / arugula / lemon oil) $11. Boudin Blanc (pork sausage / potato purée / red grapes / white kale) $18. Daube de Bœuf (red wine braised pot-roast / potato / red wine jus) $24. Gratin de Macaroni (mac ‘n cheese) $6. Pot de Crème (langues de chat / cardamom banana brulé) $8.
Cafe Wa s Address: 1521 N. Vine St. in Hollywood (just north of sunset)
Hollywood, CA 90028 (323) 466-5400 http://CafeWas.com/
Note: Boudin is the French term for the blood sausage, or ‘pudding’, made with the blood of the pig. Boudin blanc is a white sausage made with pork but no blood. Boudin Noir A dark-hued French blood sausage.
For what I think is the BEST Classic French Fine Dining Establishment
(not a bistro or brasserie) in Los Angeles, click here
I hope this post helps you find your own little bit of Paris, right here in Los Angeles.