We paid a long-overdue visit to friends in Long Beach, and after a gabfest at their home, we headed downtown for a bite of lunch. French fare always hits the spot, so I was happy to visit Crème de la Crepe, a delightful little restaurant — and perhaps our own little food tribute to the recent tragedy in Paris.
This appears to be a small local chain. The Long Beach one is light, airy and has French literary quotes stenciled on the ceiling. Yellow appears to be the theme color, carried out with yellow cloth napkins and a yellow rose on each table. I am generally not a fan of chains, but I would not be unhappy if someone from Colorado would buy a franchise. One reason: at least at lunch, the fresh mixed salad with an authentically French salad dressing, not the bottled orange glop, that came with each dish four of us ordered.
Price check: None to add. The menu is not on-line, and since I assumed it would be, I didn’t take notes.
The restaurant is at 400 East First Street, Long Beach, CA; 562-437-2222.
We had plenty of OK but forgettable food in Paris, eating wherever we happened to be when our stomachs rumbled. But dinner on September 9, my birthday, was one to remember. Our AirBnB host recommended Maguey (“expensive but very good”), and it was both — and happily is located just down the street from where we stayed.
We had to leave for the airport early, so made a reservation for 7:30 — early by Parisian standards. The small, stylish restaurant was empty half-an-hour before anyone else arrived, but when we left at 9:30 or so, it was packed. The suave, efficient waiter explained the restaurant’s intriguing format. The “menu” consists of two adjectives and three courses. The diners select the adjectives that best suit their tastes (convivial, exuberant, playful, silky) tell the waiter what they might be allergic to — and the chef, whose name I do not know, tweaks the dishes to order. Beverage pairings are suggested for each course, but with an early morning departure for the airport, we each ordered just a glass of celebratory champagne.
At the end of the meal, the waiter brought small menus (in French) of what was selected. Here are some of the gorgeous and delicious items we had with just the most basic labeling of each dish. No time to translate the full roster of components.
Remember when nouvelle cuisine was, in fact, nouvelle? I do. It was in the ’60s when the American mainstream media was reporting more on the counterculture than the culinary culture. But the buzz among chefs and gourmands (“foodie” was not yet a concept) was about the lightened up French fare introduced by a group of daring young French chefs, who steered their country’s heralded haute cuisine in a lighter and more artistic direction. I had visited France as part of a college summer trip to Europe, and while there was nothing haute about the food my friend and I ate, it was a palate-tickler. When I lived in New York soon thereafter, Biarritz and Le Mont St. Michel were on my block, and other moderately priced French restaurants were not far away. My interest never waned.
Chefs like Roger Vergé, Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers and Michel Guérard were on the vanguard of this revolution, whose after-effects linger to this day. The Moulin de Mougins restaurant that Vergé established in a village near Cannes earned two Michelin stars. He was an early celebrity chef, a restaurateur, hotelier and author of several cookbooks. He called his food Cuisine du Soleil, cuisine of the sun. He died on June 5 at the age of 85. The New York Times ran a lengthy obituary.
Philippine de Rothschild, revered as the grande dame of Bordeaux wine and part-owner of the legendary Chateau Mouton Rothschild vineyard, died last week at the of age 80. Baronness de Rothschild was the controlling shareholder in the family-owned Baron Philippe de Rothschild house, which produces the Mouton Cadet claret, the gold standard of Bordeaux wines. She and her three children together owned the wine houses of Chateau d’Armailhac and Chateau Clerc Milon.
She helped modernize and diversify the estate’s wine production, developing partnerships with vineyards in California and Chile. Her artist instincts kicked in and she was also responsible for choosing the artists who illustrated the labels of Chateau Mouton Rothschild collector wines, working with such famous painters such as Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon.
She was the only daughter of grand prix racing driver and banking heir Phillipe de Rothschild, but she made a name for herself as an actress using the stage name, Philippine Pascal, before being called up to take over the family estate after her father died in 1988. She had married twice.
French classic pastry featured in luxury hotel chain promotion.
My eccentric late mother-in-law often asked me, “Is it éclair or declare?” I always replied, “It’s me-Claire.” And she laughed as if we’d never exchanged those lines before. In truth, I’ve always liked good renditions of this classic pastry and not only because it is an anagram of my first name.
Now, the éclair is getting international attention, as Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts are launching their first global éclair program in partnership with award-winning pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. Le Méridien now offers a variety of modern twists on the chic Parisian treat. Each hotel will offer modern takes on three signature éclair flavors – coffee, chocolate and vanilla – plus one locally inspired flavor. Also Chef Iuzzini’s eight seasonal éclair recipes inspired by his travels through various Le Méridien destinations.
A 2006 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef and author of Dessert FourPlay and Sugar Rush (September 2014), Iuzzini served as head judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef Just Desserts.” He boasts more than 20 years of kitchen experience at some of the top restaurants in New York City and currently owns a pastry and culinary arts consulting company, Sugar Fueled, Inc. As the newest member of the LM100, a group of cultural innovators and artists who define and enrich the guest experience at Le Méridien, Chef Iuzzini will guide the éclair programming and initiatives around the globe.
If you want some great oysters, good French food and a pleasing Gallic ambiance, you might want to hurry to Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar right now, tomorrow or Sunday. The nearly three-year-old restaurant is closing after service on Sunday May 25. The sizable restaurant is just down the street from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts was a few blocks from downtown Denver’s concentration of restaurants on Larimer Square, close to but not within the line of sight of the Colorado Convention Center and facing additional competition from the upcoming opening of Union Station with its cluster of restaurants.
Restaurateur Robert Thompson owns Le Grand Bistro, but his other enterprises, the fun-and-games Punch Bowl Social and the reincarnated and the oddly named Argyll Whisky Beer, resonate more with the Denver dining public. Even chef John Broening, who worked with Thompson at the short-lived Brasserie Rouge and built up Le Grand’s and beverage director Ryan Conklin couldn’t elevate Le Grand Bistro to profitability.
Denver International Wine Festival wraps up with special guest
The 9th annual Denver International Wine Festival opened with the Pairsine food/wine pairing chef competition and wrapped up with a Julia Child tribute luncheon. The guest of honor and featured speaker was Madeleine de Jean — nicknamed “Madame Champagne” for her years of representing the champagnes of France.
She was a long-time friend of the late, great “French Chef” (“FOJ” — Friend of Julia’s) who shared wonderful personal reminisces as a lucky group of guests (my husband and I being two) listened in fascination and also enjoyed a recreation of a special meal for friends that Julia herself had requested at the end of the Food & Wine Classic at Aspen. And she also let us in on the secret of sabering a champagne bottle (chill the neck and run a special dull saber up the bottle seam to pop the cork off).
As Madame de Jean related, when Food & Wine’s Lucullian and French-leaning excess would down, Pasadena-bred Julia Child decreed that the meal she was hosting for an ever-larger group of friends would American-inspired — fried chicken, chocolate cake, potato salad and the like. This culinary recreation of an American picnic was served at the Hotel Jerome, where so much of Aspen tradition resides. So many years later, Omni Interlocken Resort chef Mario Clapes and his team recreated the Jerome’s recreation, accompanied by Taittinger, Gosset and G.H. Mumm champagnes.
Salad Nicoise with tuna poached in olive oil, Boston lettuce, poached fingerling potatoes, egg, capers, French green beans and cherry tomatoes elegantly dressed in a red wine-shallot vinaigrette.
Cliff Young remains revered by local foodies, and Julia Child, of course, remains revered by all American foodies.
Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.