I hope to get to Paris some day because I like many things about the French. Their “joie de vivre”, their art, music, clothing and especially their food. I often picture myself strolling up and down Parisian boulevards dining in one French bistro after another. Oh, and not getting fat. That would be very un-French. Since I was not getting out of the country today, I settled for getting out of the San Fernando Valley. I went with my friend Gail to The Original Farmers Market at Third & Fairfax, a Los Angeles institution since 1934. That’s where we stumbled upon Monsieur Marcel.
Monsieur Marcel is both a bistro and a marketplace, and very, very French. Before we could shop, we had to eat. There’s no indoor dining, it’s all outside. But as luck would have it, it was an eighty-degree February day…perfect for eating al fresco. To start with, what would be more French than French Onion Soup ($7.50). This one is perfectly done, with a rich, flavorful broth, tons of caramelized onions, and a gooey layer of Gruyère cheese. I’m not just saying it, but this is my new favorite onion soup. It was perfect.
Quiche was very popular back in the eighties (for those of us who remember the eighties). It was served a lot at wedding showers and women’s luncheons. So, when I saw Quiche on the menu I was feeling a little nostalgic and thought I would give it a try. This Quiche of sautéed leeks and artichoke hearts ($10.99) was the definition of French comfort food. It’s rich and decadent with chunky vegetables and goat cheese atop a lovely, crispy crust. This dish is definitely for splitting.
To counter-balance the richness of the previous two dishes, we ordered their endive salad ($13.99) with apples, walnuts and Roquefort cheese with a walnut vinaigrette. The ingredients in the salad were crisp and fresh and the resulting salad was very flavorful. Three different dishes, with three different cheeses.
And speaking of cheese…After a most enjoyable lunch, it was time to wander into the marketplace. If you’re a lover of artisanal ingredients like I am, this place will give you goosebumps. They offer an extensive selection of high end wines, cheeses, charcuterie, chocolate and any other delicacy your heart could imagine.
Monsieur Marcel, Los Angeles Farmers Market, Third & Fairfax, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (323) 939-7792
“Foodie” is kind of a silly word and an overused word, but I don’t know how else to describe myself. I am someone who definitely enjoys and appreciates good food, and loves to talk about it. Or in my case photograph it and write about it. Having gone to culinary and pastry school, and having a son who is a chef; food is to my family what the Green Bay Packers are to a family in Wisconsin. It’s a passion and an obsession. So, when I find a restaurant that pays homage to good food, I feel compelled to share the experience with anyone reading this, hoping that they can share in my experience as well.
Fig & Olive is every foodie’s dream. They have three locations in New York and this West Hollywood location has been opened about 10 months. I’ll start off by telling you I liked everything about it. Naturally the first thing I noticed was the space itself. It’s extremely open and airy with soaring ceilings and warm Mediterranean colors. There are olive trees and rosemary plants throughout the space, and the decor is simple, contemporary and casual. It’s very tasteful.
As soon as my friend Gail and I were seated, we were brought a dish of fresh rustic bread and a trio of olive oils. The olive oils were from Spain, Australia and Tunisia and each one had it’s own distinct and unique flavor. When I opened the menu, quite honestly I found it hard to contain myself. Sometimes I’ll go to a restaurant and have trouble finding something I like on the menu. My problem was that I wanted everything on the menu. Check out the menu here, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
We started off with their Fig Gorgonzola Tartlet ($15) with prosciutto, walnut and arugula over a perfectly crispy puff pastry. Visually it was like art, with beautifully layered flavors of salty, sweet and cheesy. We also ordered the Branzino Ceviche ($8). Personally I’ve never been to a restaurant that served a ceviche with Branzino, (a member of the sea bass family found in northern Italy). The flavors were fresh and simple and let the Branzino shine through.
Gail and I split the Romaine and Endive Baby Beet Salad ($16) with apple, maple pecans and topped with a dollop of warm goat cheese and pistachios. The salad is dressed with raspberry sherry and Manzanillo olive oil. The beets were so sweet and the perfect compliment to the warm cheese and nut topping.
You guys know me now, so you know that I love dessert. All their desserts are made in-house and we had a tough time choosing which to pick. So I will say this to you. If you ever go in there, start with dessert. We ordered the Marzipan Cake with Olive Oil Gelato, Candied Olive Oil and Toasted Almonds ($9). Each component by itself was incredibly delicious, but as a composed dish, it should be illegal. The Caramelized Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream ($9) was also well worth the extra calories.
I love when a restaurant nails it. It doesn’t happen very often, and that’s probably why restaurants come and go. But Fig & Olive scored high on food, ambiance and service. That’s what the customer is paying for, and that’s what I got.
Fig & Olive, 8490 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, CA 90069 (310) 360-9100
It’s been 31 years since I moved to Los Angeles, but I still get excited about living here. A half-hour away from my house and it’s as if I’m in another world. A ninety minute lunch can feel like a mini-vacation, and that’s what this afternoon’s excursion felt like. Today’s partner-in-crime was my friend Kim who I met at my very first job when I moved to LA. We met at a Century City accounting firm where she was the office manager and I was the receptionist. The job lasted 2 months, but the friendship endured over 30 years.
We arrived at the entry to the London West Hollywood, a 3-year old hotel just off the legendary Sunset Strip, and were immediately wowed by it’s sleek and sophisticated lobby. We took the elevator to the Rooftop by Gordon Ramsay and when we exited we were definitely transported to another world. We were greeted by the staff that looked more like a casting call for HBO’s Entourage. This place was more like a movie set than a restaurant. Where were Vinnie and Turtle I wondered. We were on top of the world. The rooftop is surrounded by nothing but plexiglass, and the City of Angels surrounds you on all four sides. In one direction was Century City, in another downtown Los Angeles, and of course the remarkable view of the Hollywood Hills and the Sunset Strip below us. We were not even thinking about food as the view was just overwhelming.
I looked at Kim and said, “this calls for a drink”! I’m not much of a drinker, but they had an amazing choice of signature cocktails. We both ordered the Cucumber Viper; a combination of Tequila, Orange Liquer, cucumber, fresh lime juice and agave nectar. At this point, we truly felt like we were on vacation. As I always like to do, we decided to split several dishes, so we started with the Spinach Salad with Shrimp, Scallops and Avocado. It was not a very big portion, but since we had other dishes coming we overlooked that.
Next we ordered the Short Rib Tacos with Pico de Gallo and Guacamole. It was very good and again a smallish portion, but great if you’ve got that audition for Entourage coming up and you need to keep that trim figure.
The restaurant offers several fresh sushi items so we chose the King Crab Roll. Another very good dish.
But hey, if you’re on vacation you’ve got to order dessert, right? So we did. They brought us the Lemon Tart with Burnt Meringue. As a pastry school graduate, I appreciate a well conceived and executed dessert. This tasted as good as it looked.
So all in all The Rooftop by Gordon Ramsay did not disappoint. The menu, though not large, is very well thought out and has something that will appeal to all diners. Everything is fresh and flavorful and beautifully plated. But it’s the view of the city that is the real winner here. For that brief ninety minutes I felt like I experienced what it is that makes LA that hip, cool place that the rest of America thinks it is.