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
My husband and I have this weird obsession with French onion soup. We order it in every restaurant we go to that has it on the menu. Although it’s a fairly simple soup, you would be surprised how differently, different restaurants prepare it. He and I took a vote, and we decided the best we’ve had so far is at a place called Cafe Cigale in Oak Park (the Agoura/Thousand Oaks area, if you’re a local).
During the winter I like to make this soup at home, it’s really a no-fail recipe. This rich and hearty soup is perfect for dinner parties, or just cold, blustery nights when you need your insides warmed-up. (It was in fact 80 degrees here today, but I made it anyway!) You might want to use a variety of onions such as yellow, red and sweet for a little more complex flavor. Either way, I just love the melt-y, crust-y, bubbly cheese on top when you first take it out of the oven. It’s so good!
French Onion Soup
Adapted From Williams Sonoma
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 1/2 lbs. yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 8 cups beef stock
- 1 bay leaf
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 French baguette
- 3 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
- In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until the onions are tender and a deep golden brown.
- Sprinkle the flour over the onions until combined. Stir in the wine, then the stock and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaf.
- Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. You can use eight, 1 1/2-cup broilerproof soup crocks, (or I used smaller ramekins because I was making more servings and wanted a smaller appetizer portion). Cut the baguette into 1/2″ slices and place on a baking sheet. Place under broiler (12″ from heat) turning once so that they’re toasted on both sides.
- Ladle hot soup into the crocks (or ramekins). Place ramekins on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place 2 slices of toasted bread on top of soup, overlapping if necessary. Don’t let the bread sink down into soup. Sprinkle about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cheese on top. Place under broiler until the cheese is bubbling. Serve at once. This will make 8, 1 1/2 cup crocks or even more if you’re using smaller ramekins.