Meanwhile, a but farther north… Apparently there have been rumors for a while, but proof is now up in the form of a window banner announcing that a branch of Santa Barbara’s mini chain of “craft burgers with heart and soul”, Mesa Burger, is landing in the old Tutti’s/Coffee Bean location at 1209 Coast Village Road in Montecito. If you don’t know about Mesa Burger, you should: Celebrity Chef Cat Cora is part owner and force behind the menu of gourmet, handcrafted burgers, farm fresh salads, hand-spun shakes, and other items that are made using conscientiously-sourced and sustainable ingredients. Local beers and wines are also on offer. It looks like they’re shooting for a Spring opening. Well worth the drive.
A favorite staycation getaway for me is the sleepy but incredibly beautiful and demure Montecito, just south of her louder and more narcissistic sister, Santa Barbara. While I can’t say that the food scene here is anything to marvel about, you get to have that food with some of the most impressive views in Southern California. When you need a break from padding Ty Warner’s pockets, the perfect place to arrange an impromptu picnic lunch on sunny (hopefully) butterfly beach is Pierre Lafond Market & Deli. Start upstairs for the charming selection of culinary and serving ware, books, and unique European scented products. All of it is completely unnecessary but I defy you to come away without purchasing something. The shop has a small but interesting supply of hard-to-find cooking supplies: pastas, olive oils, vinegars, cheeses, and spices. Finally, order a sandwich or choose from the impressive selection of ready-made deli items and voila! Instant romantic get-away from LA.
516 San Ysidro Road, Montecito (805) 565-1504
Long gone is the Wolfgang Puck restaurant that inhabited the space where R&D now sits on Montana Ave. in Santa Monica. But I remember if fondly: The servers who knew us by name and remembered our favorite wines, the lovely manager who occasionally showed us racy photos of herself for a laugh, and the pizzas. Always perfectly crispy, masterfully made, divinely delicious. Of course you can still find a close facsimile to those pies at the Wolfgang Puck Express in the 3rd Street Promenade or at Gelson’s, but the lack of human interaction at assembly line-styled restaurants does not re-create the experience. How pleasantly surprised I was to discover, on a recent lay-over, the Wolfgang Puck Express at the Minneapolis Airport and its wise-cracking server, Jackie. Jackie’s deadpan jokes and “You think you got problems” sense of humor was comedy gold and kept us thoroughly entertained in the otherwise unremarkable airport. How nice to be reminded, in this unusual place, how memorable dinner can be when the right combination of good food and good people come together. Hats off to you and the others, Jackie. Oh, and the pizzas were as good as I remember.
Right around the corner from Poilane at 19 rue de Sèvres, sits an outpost of the venerable La Maison Du Chocolat. For those in the know, this is the grand high temple of French chocolate. In Paris, where finding the latest superhip chocolate boutique is a full-time job, La Maison du Chocolat remains refreshingly stalwart in their committment to offering simply the best chocolate. They offer a variety of chocolates, pralines, truffles, and even pastries, but if you want the purest expression of chocolate decadence, I suggest you dive into the ganaches. The quito ganache is an excellent example of what they do best. It is rich, dark, slightly smokey, and intensely chocolatey. And I always bring back bars of their baking chocolate to make the most velvety souffles and desserts. No plans on going to Paris anytime soon? Then check out http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.us/, they’ll ship.
No visit to Paris is complete without stopping by the venerable bakery, Poilâne on rue Cherche-Midi in the Saint- Germain des Prés district. They have been baking their world-renowned bread in wood-fired ovens since 1932 using only four carefully sourced ingredients: stone-ground flour, salt from Guérande, water, and the sourdough starter from previous batches of bread. The results are sheer perfection; moist earthy interior with a delicate crumb and a crunchy, malty crust. They also make a fine array of cookies and pastries. Their petit pain au chocolate is one of the best in Paris. Poilâne’s dedication to perfection and French tradition make it the perfect place to secure a loaf for your picnic by the Seine, or just to pick up supplies. I returned with their amazing flour, knives, bread-making book, and boxes of cookies as gifts. If you’re desperate to sample the famous bread but have no plans on travel to Paris, you can find Poilâne in London, order a loaf sent to you via their website, or locally, stop by the Cafe in Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. They used to use Poilâne for their sandwiches, but it’s been a while since I’ve been in so I’m not certain they have continued the practice.
Tel +33 (0) 1 45 48 42 59 http://www.poilane.fr/
If you are unable or unwilling to make the trek to the steamy and dusty Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen – Porte de Clignancourt in Paris (The best place to poke around for antique kitchen ware) and desperately want to bring home some French culinary antiques, then try Au Petit Bonheur La Chance. They have a small, but carefully chosen selection of antique and mid-century French cookware, bowls, linens, utensils, and kitsch. Maria-Pia Varnier, the owner combs France for such treasures. Additionally the street on which it sits, Rue St. Paul on the Right Bank on the Seine near Notre Dame, has a number of other antique shops featuring housewares. Don’t miss a peak in the window of Thanksgiving, across the street from Au Petit Bonheur La Chance. The boutique features iconic American foods, including a window display featuring Lucky Charms cereal.
Au Petit Bonheur La Chance
Village St. Paul – 13, Rue St. Paul – 75004 Paris
Phone 01 42 74 36 38 www.aupetitbonheurlachance.fr
Open Thurs – Mon from 11:00 to 1:00 and from 2:30 to 6:30
My favorite hotel bar on earth has got to be Bar 228 at hotel Le Meurice in Paris. Named for the address of the famous hotel on rue de Rivoli, Bar 228 is Paris as it should be: elegant, well-heeled, familiar, and comfortable. The decor is classic yet playful (redone by Philippe Stark) with dark wood walls, trompe l’oeil ceiling, and soft leather furniture. The staff are uncharacteristically friendly for France. And as you sink into your cozy chair after an exhausting day of shopping and site-seeing, listen to the lilting jazz from the piano, and sip your minerally white wine, I’ll bet you can’t help but mutter to yourself, “La vie Parisenne est tres belle.”
Bar 228 at Le Meurice
228 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
The Puck empire continues to grow! On Saturday night, Toddrickallen caught up with a ridiculously busy Wolfgang Puck at Cut in Beverly Hills. The last time I spoke with him, he told me he was opening a Cut in London (See previous post http://wp.me/pIwAN-1k), so naturally I asked him how it was coming along. Well, turns out it’s still a year away before opening. More interestingly though, he was excited about his newest Cut opening late June/early July at the Sands hotel in Singapore! Does the man never sleep?
Cool Pacific breezes, blossom-scented patios, glorious tropical gardens; the Biltmore in Montecito is one of the loveliest places on earth for champagne brunch. The food is fairly standard brunch but about as well executed as you could hope. And the dressy crowd (think old school NOT fashion forward) are great for people watching as they go apoplectic over the current state of affairs as reported in their Heritage Foundation newsletters. It all makes for wonderful theatre while taking in the gorgeous coastline views.
For foodies the world over, the grand high temple for culinary utensils is the storied E. Dehillerin. Julia shopped there (there’s a yellowing photo of her in plastic behind the counter), as does Ina, Eric Ripert, Chocolate & Zucchini, and a host of other famous chefs and writers. It’s not because it’s glamorous (it has the feel of a drugstore that time forgot somewhere in Iowa). Simply, it’s because they have everything. The famously indifferent staff will warm up once they understand that you know what you want. Don’t believe what you’ve read; they actually can be quite charming. But they are NOT going to hold your hand while you try to figure out which financier mold is right for you. While browsing will be irresistable, come with a list. Mine included brioche molds, black steel omelette pans, Opinel knives, and a Chateau Laguiole wine opener. When I asked Jean, who was assisting us, to show me where the charlotte molds were, he lead me down a dark faded aisle to a shelf whereupon sat about 15 choices, then calmly walked away. Who could have guessed that there were 15 different charlotte molds in the world? Jean was extremely knowledgable and explained in great detail how to season my black steel pan, as well as the difference in knives, molds, and other items. And while the prices are not cheap, and I had to endure a backache after schlepping loads of metal through two airports, it was well worth it. My omelette came out perfect.Jean hamming it up for a photo
E. Dehillerin, 18 et 20 rue Coquillere/51, rue J.J.Rousseau 75001 Paris
Looking for a one-stop picnic supply? Look no further than fashionable Le Bon Marché, on the Rive Gauche, which houses the spectacular La Grande Epicerie, where you can easily find the most amazing breads, sandwiches, desserts, and products from all corners of the globe. After an impromptu al fresco lunch of the most delicious cheese and roast vegetable pressed sandwich in the charming park in front of the store, I did some serious food shopping. Bewildered by the cheese counter, perfect strangers generously offered their suggestions, as so often happens in France. I settled on a cheese I was unfamiliar with, Maroilles, an AOC cows milk cheese from the Maroilles region near Lille. The smell was extremely pungent, even wrapped in 3 layers of plastic. But the taste was divine; creamy, rich, buttery, with a balancing earthiness. It went deliciously with wine later that afternoon.
Selection of Butters at Le Bon MarchéCheese counter
24, rue de Sèvres
75007 Paris – France
A fantastic place to pick up trendy sandwiches and salads for the flight before heading off to the airport is BE, owned by fave chef Alain Ducasse. BE (from Boulangerie-Epicerie) is a gourmet breakfast place and deli with minimalist décor and amazing pastries, breads, sandwiches, salads, and coffee. It is very popular with the beautiful crowd for good reason; it is fresh, delicious, and organic.
BE: 73 Boulevard de Courcelles, 8th, M°Monceau, ☎ 01 46 22 20 20
Open Monday through Saturday, 8am to 8pm, closed August.
And finally, does anyone else see anything suggestive in this add for BE?
The Cesars are France’s equivalent of the Oscars. Toddrickallen was invited to the luxurious Hotel George V to honor a dear friend’s 70th birthday which ended up doubling as a private viewing party for the Cesars because the host of the party was the producer for the nominated film, La Premiere Etoile (The First Star). Unfortunately the film didn’t win, but that was the only disappointment in an otherwise flawless evening. The lavish hotel, one of Paris’ loveliest, was fantastically decorated with mountains of purple flowers everywhere one looked. The lobby and dining room were populated by the most beautiful people, all dressed to the nines. The soiree was held in the Salon Anglaise. The Georges V’s Michelin three-starred chef, Eric Briffard is a holder of an MOF, (Meilleur Ouvrier de France). He had created a vegetarian menu exclusively for us. The first course was a tarte fine aux champignons de saison marines, chutney d’aubergine legerement fume (seasonal marinated mushroom tart with smoked eggplant chutney). It was divine and full of flavor. The main course, risotto carnaroli cremeux, artichauts cuits et crus, tuile craquante au vieux parmesan (Artichoke risotto with parmesan tuile) was expertly executed. Rich and creamy, it had just the right bit of tooth to the rice. The satisfying umami kick of the parmesan tuile finished the dish perfectly. Fabrice Lecleir, the pastry chef, ended the meal with a wonderfully decadent chocolate mousse cake. The wines that were served were a Macon-Bussieres Domaine Saumaize 2008 and a Cote de Castillon Chateau Manoir du Gravoux 2006. After dinner, we danced to music spun by a DJ, and ended up in our friend’s suite with its jaw-dropping view of the Eiffel Tower. It was a perfect evening.
For me, no trip to Paris is complete without a visit to Laduree in Place de la Madeleine. It’s just sooo French. I love the tiny boite of a dining room with its antique paneled walls and tiny tables squeezed in so tightly that you’re in everyone’s conversation. Sitting at the tables are patrons right out of central casting; grand ladies dripping with pearls sizing everyone up over barely touched salads. The food is always wonderfully consistent. Readers may remember an earlier post on Laduree London, when I drool over the veggie sandwich. This time, I started with an amazingly creamy and rich butternut squash soup. For my main, I chose the black truffle souffle. which was thoroughly delicious. After dining, I headed straight into the crowded patisserie to stock up on cocoa powder, marron glacee, and the most spectacular pastries to nibble on later. There are a number of Laduree shops and tea rooms around Paris as well as in a few select countries, but this one, in the shadow of the magnificent Madeleine church, is always my romantic favorite. www.laduree.fr
Anyway, back to Paris… I love strolling along the Rue Saint-Honore: gaping at the amazing window shopping, peeking inside the grand high palace of snottiness that is the Hotel Costes, or dreaming of my future steamer trunk at Goyard. A fantastic place to refresh oneself is Jean-Paul Hevin Chololatier, at 231 rue Saint-Honore (www.jphevin.com), a tea room and pastry shop. The pastries and chocolates are to die for, and I stock up on bars of chocolates from places in the world that you never even suspected grew cacao. This time I settled on chocolate from Cuba. These bars of chocolate will, upon returning home, be turned into chocolate souffles and gateaux for guests at my dinner parties.
First stop is always for coffee and pastry at Fauchon, Place de la Madeleine. Founded in 1886, the grand epicerie, patisserie, restaurant, and delicatessen, is a culinary masterpiece and foodie’s heaven. I return many times over my visit to Paris to refresh myself, shop for exotic products such as vadouvan, and purchase tantalizing gifts for friends back home. Fauchon’s blueberry confiture (jam) is a favorite petit cadeau for my stateside friends. Always wonderfully elegant, even the plastic spoons used to stir your coffee are Philippe Stark. In my whirlwind gastronimic tour of Paris, Place de la Madeleine, home to not only Fauchon, but also Hediard, Laduree, Maison de Truffe, and now Mariage Freres, is always ground zero.
Flying into Paris always fills me with that anticipatory internal tickle I experience when something truly exciting looms on the horizon. My head swims with the million or so things I hope to accomplish when there. To divert my racing mind, I watch the movie “Funny Face” on my IPhone. And while the improbable relationship between the aging Fred Astair and the pixie-like Audrey Hepburn has all the chemistry of a visit to a convalescent hospital, the glorious sight-seeing scene set to the song, “Bonjour Paris”, always thrills me and sets my mouth to watering over one of the most wonderfully vibrant cities on earth, Paris, France!
Without question, the best ‘OMG-I’m-so-glad-to-be-off-the-plane’ meal I have had in a long time was at Le Cafe de Joel Robuchon in the wonderfully impressive department store Takashimaya, Nihonbashi, Tokyo. It was a simple egg salad sandwich, but the execution and tastes were perfect. In addition to the herbed egg salad, the bread was spread with a tomato confit and the sandwich was served with crispy french fries, house-made ketchup, Japanese pickles, and gazpacho. After a long flight of indigestible slop masquerading as plane food, I nearly wept with joy at the sight of this meal. (I asked for ‘Asian Veg” on JAL. They brought me some mysterious substance that looked and tasted like a loofa sponge in flavorless cornstarch sauce. I asked the attendant what it was. She told me the name in Japanese. When I looked confused, she disappeared briefly. She must have consulted a Japanese/English dictionary because she returned and proudly stated that it was a “sub-aquatic fungus”. A SUB-AQUATIC FUNGUS!!!)