La Gadoue – Jane Birkin

"La Gadoue” is one of my favorites from the album Birkin/Gainsbourg: Le Symphonique, which features orchestral versions of songs from Serge Gainsbourg's early career. Here, they're composed by Nobuyuki Nakajima, performed by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and sung by the iconic Jane Birkin, who–if you're unaware–was at one time Serge's collaborator and former partner. 

I looked up the English translation to this song's lyrics and discovered that it's about two lovers splashing about in the mud. The arrangement sounds magical! You can just imagine all the fun they're having in their rubber boots with the rain pouring down on them. Jane's girlish voice captures the delightful feeling of this moment beautifully. It’s one of those songs that makes you smile and feel nostalgic for a bygone time.

The Little Next Door

THE LITTLE NEXT DOOR
8142 West 3rd Street
323.951.1010


As a creature of comfort, I rarely delineate from my trusted stand-bys–one of which is having breakfast at Joan's On Third. In my humble opinion, Joan's consistently makes the best eggs in town. There, they've mastered three basic egg-cooking techniques to perfection: Their soft-boiled eggs always have a warm, yolky center; their scrambled eggs are always scrambled into creamy-soft, fluffy folds; and their omelettes would make Chef André Soltner proud. Despite the number of breakfasts I've cooked over the years, I still feel iffy about how my eggs turn out. I don't know how their kitchen manages to churn out perfection day after day.

This past Sunday, when my boyfriend and I arrived at Joan's for breakfast, we saw that it was closed for the Easter holiday. Quel dommage! Our attention then turned to a small, ivy-covered patio with café tables and rattan bistro chairs next door, which is literally called The Little Next Door. (I've passed this French restaurant numerous times on the way to Joan's and paid no attention to it previously. In fact, I believe it was my friend Bill who once told me this place was nothing to write home about. When it comes to restaurants, I always ask Bill for his two cents.)

We started off with a warm pain au chocolat as we decided what to order. (If you don't already know this, it must be said that you should always judge a café/restaurant/bakery by its pain au chocolat or croissant–especially if it's "French".) Thankfully, theirs was a promising sign. 

My boyfriend ordered his usual omelette; I went with "Two Eggs Your Style, served with bacon and potatoes". Whence dining at an unfamiliar establishment, I tend to order my eggs over-easy because, in my opinion, it's a foolproof method of cooking eggs. (Sunny-side up can be tricky if the whites aren't cooked through on top.) Given the interesting variety of eggs Benedict on offer, it might sound like I ordered the most boring thing on the menu, but the aforementioned "potatoes" weren't your run-of-the-mill hash browns... Imagine my delight when I was surprised with a serving of pommes dauphinoise, the Queen of Side Dishes: thinly sliced potatoes cooked in milk, butter and cream underneath a bubbling blanket of grated Gruyère!

My eggs were good–because, like I said, it's pretty hard to screw up eggs cooked over-easy–but the pommes dauphinoise is truly what took this breakfast to the brink of divine. 

Lucques

LUCQUES
8474 Melrose Avenue near La Cienega Boulevard
323.655.6277


About seven years ago, I was working as a studio research assistant for Urs Fischer. At the time, my friend Mina Stone, who was then just "a fashion designer who liked to cook", came in a few days a week to cook lunch for the entire studio. I once asked her what her favorite cookbook was and she told me about Sunday Suppers at Lucques. She even kept a copy of it in the kitchen as reference for whenever she needed a burst of inspiration. We were blessed with Mina's dazzling lunches of seasonally-sourced vegetable dishes, braised meats, and soothing soups. This side gig of cooking studio lunches subsequently launched her private chef career and produced a cookbook: Cooking for Artists. I figured that if a restaurant's cookbook could effectively play a role in shaping someone's trajectory, well, that restaurant must be a very special place.

I've passed Lucques numerous times, but have been too shy to dine there solo. It's a very charming ivy-covered restaurant on Melrose Avenue that melds French tradition with laid-back California vibes. The high, vaulted ceilings gives the space an airiness while the crackling fireplace and convivial atmosphere adds warmth. It's been around since 1998 and has been long-considered an L.A. institution for its approachable sophistication. Thanks to an invitation, I finally had the pleasure of dining there last week and can see why it remains a solid favorite amongst the locals.

Our meal began, as you'd imagine in a French farmhouse, with rustic country bread, a slab of good butter accompanied by a little pile of sel gris, and a dish of roasted almonds and olives. For our first course, we chose a beautiful salad of shaved root vegetables and both ordered Chef Suzanne Goin's signature dish of braised shortribs with horseradish cream as our entrée, which was expertly paired with a bottle of Syrah by sommelier and co-owner Caroline Styne herself. The shortribs were fall-off-the-bone tender while the horseradish cream provided a sharp contrast to the unctuousness of the dish. To end, we had a panna cotta to share. It was the sort of dinner that hit all the right notes. 

Had I not been treated to this dinner, I think Lucques would have remained in my mind as one of those restaurants you reserve only for special occasions because, on the way out, I noticed that they offer a #singlegirldinner-friendly bar menu, which includes spaghetti carbonara and steak frites with béarnaise sauce. Now, that's more my speed. I'd definitely return and happily perch myself at the bar for either of those dishes any day of the week!

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Liver Toast

TERRINE
8265 Beverly Blvd. bet. N. Harper and N. Sweetzer Avenues
323.746.5130


Liver has an unfortunate yet understandable reputation as "mystery meat", however, with the right touch, its rustic quality can be taken to the heights of refinement, as seen in the chicken liver toast on the happy hour menu at Terrine.* Chef Kris Morningstar's spin on this dish coaxes out the best of liver pâté. He creates such a luscious and delectable mousse that you wonder how he magically whipped out everything off-putting about liver. 

"This chicken liver toast is so addictive," I said to my friend, "Is it me or does it taste a little like Doritos?"

She took a bite and chewed on it thoughtfully.

"Oh my god, it does!"

A mystery, indeed.


*Try it with a glass of light and fruity Beaujolais.

Marvin

 

MARVIN
8114 Beverly Blvd. near N. Crescent Heights Blvd.
323.655.5553


When the urge for solo bar dining hits, I know exactly where to go: Marvin. Although I'm just starting to get a feel for my new city, the chill and lively vibe at this eclectic French bistro has already become my go-to SGD spot. I've been here twice and became friendly with Jesse the bartender and Emilie, their sommelier–not to mention their regular bar diner Lizz who I've run into both times having her #singlegirldinner too!

 The happy hour menu at Marvin is spot-on. It has oysters, two different types of toasts (ratatouille & goat cheese and jamon tomato), steak tartare, mussels, mac n' cheese, a cheeseburger and pommes frites–pretty much everything I'd love to order on any given day! They also have an incredible wine list with over 200 to choose from. 

If you're catching up with a friend for dinner, I highly recommend their rigatoni bolognaise. (It's spelled the French way here.) I've noticed that their pasta is consistently cooked perfectly al dente. This has to be noted because such a simple thing can be such a rarity. Trust me, it's not as heavy or overwhelming as it sounds–their bolognaise sauce is very refined. In fact, if you're super hungry, you may even find that ordering the rigatoni alone isn't enough! I love that they have a a variety of add-on options to boost up your meal with sections on their menu like: Cheese, Charcuterie, Snacks, Salads, Small Plates and Sides. 

Unlike spaghetti, which needs the aid of a spoon to twirl around your fork, you can just poke at the rigatoni and have a free hand to sip your wine in between bits of gossip.