An American Masters Paris

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Bouchon Beverly Hills

www.bouchonbistro.com

The French must tire of their tropes (see berets, baguettes). A trip to Paris reveals their cuisine has evolved beyond the bistro, with molecular gastronomy and multiculturalism shaking the house that Escoffier built. Perhaps it's nostalgia for summers and studies in Paris, but I still cling to the classics of French cuisine. I've got a bad case of Francophilia (she writes, sporting a marinière stripe romper).

While diversity abounds in L.A.'s dining scene, I yearn for more French-run bistros, like in my former stomping ground, NYC. We've got glimmers of it, with Cafe Stella and Maison Giraud, but on this Bastille Day, I'm craving Gallic goodness. Ironically, the Frenchiest fare in town comes from an American legend: Thomas Keller.

Like Julia Child, his Bouchon outpost in Beverly Hills has Mastered the Art of French Cooking  Sure, the interior feels more Paris, Las Vegas, than the City of Lights, but the menu--a who's who of bistro classics--is quintessentially French. Stunning seafood towers, steak frites, pâté de campagne and tarte au citron will whisk you across the Atlantic.

With exquisite food and impeccable service (GM Stephen Cook made it his mission to find us shade during a sunny, al fresco brunch), Bouchon is a lovely place to linger. Or, if you're in the mood for an afternoon nibble or a pain au chocolat, head downstairs to Bar Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery. Good things come in threes on Canon Ave.

pain d'epi

pain d'epi

Bouchon's bread is worth the trip alone. Here, they serve a wheat-stalked shaped pain d'epi, the crustier cousin to a baguette. Though in a fancy setting, the bread is set directly on the table familiarly,  encouraging you to tear off hunks for butter slathering. Make like a Français, and "saucer": mop up the last morsels on your plate with bits of bread. 

pâté de campagne

pâté de campagne

This thick slab of country-style pâté smacks of Paris. With traditional accompaniments--cornichons, Dijon, watercress--savor this porky pleasure. 

laitue

laitue

J'adore the simplicity of a French salad. Bibb lettuce, fresh tarragon, parsley, chive and an uncomplicated dressing (Dijon, canola oil & red wine vinegar) create a palate cleanser perfect for our decadent meal.

boudin noir

boudin noir

Lyon's legendary blood sausage, boudin noir, comes with silken, whipped potatoes and apples, bruléed to bring out their caramelized goodness. This wintry dish evokes après-ski in the Alps. 

croque madame

croque madame

As comforting as grilled cheese with a wallop of French finery, this grilled brioche, ham, and cheese is topped with a hens egg and creamy Mornay sauce.  Breakfast for dinner? The croque is offered day-to-night, though this may be my new hangover cure. 

quiche du jour

quiche du jour

A masterful version of the 70's classic. This thick, deep-dish spinach and Gruyère quiche is miraculously dense and fluffy at the same time, thanks to the transcendent custard filling.

chicken and waffles

chicken and waffles

A sophisticated spin on Southern comfort. Instead of fried, the chicken is roasted with herbs and lemon and the waffles are bacon & chive. 'Tis the "gravy", a sauce Chausseur made from veal stock, bacon, and mushrooms, that drenches this dish in gourmet.

tarte au citron

tarte au citron

Grab a slice of this luscious lemon tart, which features a buttery, pine-nut crust and crunchy, bruléed top.

bouchons

bouchons

These eponymous chocolate minis (bouchon=cork) are a cross between a brownie and dense cake. Dunked in decadent, chocolate sauce alongside vanilla ice cream, they embody Keller's signature blend of the culinary and comfort. For all the bakers in the house, check out the recipe here

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Bar Bouchon

www.bouchonbistro.com/bh-barbouchon

The casual cousin to the upstairs restaurant, Bar Bouchon offers a more intimate setting. Choose from the convivial, circular bar or the verdant terrace. With chalkboard menus, wicker chairs, and zinc tables spilling out onto the patio, the ambiance is très Parisien. 

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Hobnob with the wealthy without dropping mad cash at Happy Hour, which features $4 beers and $5 glasses of wine, This summer, grab a seat outside to watch al fresco movies and concerts at Canon Gardens from the patio. 

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The happy hour menu offers inexpensive, fancy-schmancy snacks like $5 deviled eggs and truffled popcorn. 

foie de volaille

foie de volaille

 If I wasn't in public, I'd dip a spoon straight into this velvety, chicken liver mousse. With the toast soldiers, arranged Jenga-style, I can eat like a lady.  

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Bouchon Bakery

www.bouchonbakery.com

I've contemplated moving to Beverly Hills...that's how good Bouchon Bakery is. Evoking a French boulangerie and patisserie, this jewel box of a shop showcases an exquisite array of baked goodness. Though open all day & night for your pastry pleasure, early birds will be sure to catch their choice of confections. 

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On the left, don't miss the kouign-amann (aka Brittany butter cake) an orgasmic mix of caramelized sugar and buttery dough. Center, the classic croissant is equally flaky and fluffy. Move over Nabisco. The Better Nutter, a peanut butter sandwich cookie, elevates the childhood fave to epicurean heights.