Romance in Los Angeles?
To paint the picture: It’s early Wednesday evening. We’re in downtown Los Angeles, and we need to eventually get home. Instead of sitting in two hours + of stop-and-go rush-hour traffic on the I-5 freeway, we opt to wait it out by having a nice dinner in the Industrial District of L.A.
Dinner is inside the 1925 National Biscuit Company building (Nabisco). Specifically, we’re seated at a two-top along one of the four loading docks. We’re under piazza lights. Every table is seated. The kitchen is open to the floor (and open to the street). The dining room has three solid walls; the fourth is a series of panel windows. Outside the windows: a film crew. There’s a film crew filming a scene where some cute young couple have to flirt and make out on the stoops. Lights everywhere. Movement everywhere. Energy everywhere. And we watch the scene around us over two cocktails, a glass of wine, a bottle of wine, moules marinière, tarte flambée, salade de mesclun, et d’agneau. Then, because it’s “date nite,” we go all out with a cheese platter and two more drinks.
Then we went back to suburbia.
Sometimes, when the atmosphere, food and ambiance are just-so, magic happens. On Wednesday, on our little two-top, we were inspired. We spent much of the evening fantasizing about our own future Bistro: what it might look like, what it might feel like and what it might be like.
Stay tuned for future announcements about the Bistro.
In the meantime, please take a look at the below links to get a better sense of where we were. Unfortunately, we don’t have any more pictures from this evening because I’m not gutsy enough to take pictures of my food when I’m dining out.
Dear Church and State Bistro,
We lost our socks sampling your moules marinière, so we had to ask you what the key to your version was. You said: French vermouth. You winked, then also said: believe it or not, there’s no cream in here; it’s just butter.
So this weekend, when we found a fresh supply of mussels from our farmers’ market, we bought a pound an entire pound. We also picked up a dozen cage-free eggs and a russet potato. Supplementing with parsley from the backyard, vegetable oil from the pantry and vermouth from the fridge, we set ourselves up to make an entire batch to accompany our viewing of the World Cup.
It was delicious.
Thanks for the inspiration,
Sincerely, Kim and Barry
P.S. The fine folks at Serious Eats wrote an article on the added value of French vermouth to steamed mussels. We can’t explain it any better, so please go there to see what they have to say.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, yes?
- ¼ cup house mayonnaise
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 lemon
- Handful fresh parsley (yield ½ teaspoon minced)
- 1 russet potato
- 1 pound mussels
- 1 shallot
- 1 medium garlic clove
- ¼ cup dry French vermouth
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 quart vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Grind of kosher salt
- Optional: Follow recipe for house mayonnaise and place in refrigerator to chill. If not making mayonnaise, skip ahead to step two (congratulations, you just saved 30 minutes).
- Chop a small garlic clove. Using the flat side of a knife, scrape the garlic pieces together and place in small prep bowl. Cut a lemon and squeeze in about a ½ teaspoon of juice in with the garlic; set bowl aside. Rinse the parsley, snip leaves away from stem with a pair of scissors, then finely chop or mince enough leaves to have ½ teaspoon. Save stems for another use. Scrub russet potato clean. Set mandolin to small julienne setting and slice potato lengthwise to create thin strips.. Rinse potato strips in colander under running water, then let sit immersed in bowl of water. Rinse and scrub mussels under cold, running water. Slice a shallot in half lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise. Using your thumb and first two fingers, grab as much of the pile of shallot slices as you can; set that amount aside. Save Instead of a mandolin, you may also cut the potato the old-fashioned way; with a chefs knife the rest of your shallot for another use. Thinly slice a medium clove of garlic crosswise. Add the garlic slices to the pile of shallots. Measure out ¼ cup of dry French vermouth. Set out a shallow bowl with about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.
- Make aioli: Add ¼ cup mayonnaise to bowl with minced garlic and lemon juice. Set in small ramekin or other serving vessel.
- Prepare French fries: Preheat oven to 200˚F. Lay out baking sheet with parchment paper. Take potato slices out of water and set on towel to dry. Pour vegetable oil in large, deep pot. Using candy thermometer, bring oil up to 325˚F. In small batches, fry potatoes for about 3 minutes per batch. Let fries dry on plates lined with paper towel. Using thumb and two fingers, sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt onto the fries. Don’t plan to use all of the kosher salt. Test a fry, and salt to taste. Then sprinkle on some parsley. Transfer to baking sheet to keep warm in oven.
- Prepare mussels: In another sauté pan, melt butter over low heat. Add shallots and garlic, cook for about 5 minutes until soft, but not browned. Add vermouth and bring up to medium heat. Add mussels, cover and let cook for 5 more minutes. Once mussels are open, remove with slotted spoon and place in serving dish. Taste liquid and salt to taste. Then pour liquid mixture over mussels.
- Serve mussels immediately with bowl of French fries and aioli.
Cost per serving: $4.30 - $5.25