By Jill Weinlein, 9/13/2012
You’ll taste why Alain’s croissants are the talk of the town
My friend John was raving about a newer French restaurant, Maison Giraud, in the Pacific Palisades. “You must try their croissants. They’re the talk of the town,” he said.
Walking inside to meet him and two friends, I was hypnotized by the glass pastry counter filled with trays of croissant au beurre, pain au chocolate, raisin rolls, apricot Danish and brioches. I made a mental note to ask for one of each to be placed in a bag to take home.
John has known the owner and Executive Chef, Alain Giraud’s for years. He pointed to a large photograph of the chef on one of the walls inside the restaurant. “That’s Alain when he was about 8-years-old working at his father’s French restaurant in Coccreze,” he said. In the photo, Giraud is holding a savory puffed pastry dish.
In the late 80s, Giraud left Europe and arrived in Los Angeles to work with the esteemed Michel Ricard at Citrus on Melrose. He went on to teach others to cook and held classes at Citrus, Let’s Get Cooking and Sur La Table. Giraud was invited to be a member of Academia Culinaire de France, The James Beard Foundation and Club Culinaire Francais of California.
In 2002, many remember this esteemed chef cooking at Bastide. A few years later, he created Four Stars Private Cuisine, where he cooked exquisite meals in private residences and dining venues. Giraud is a culinary consultant and continues to offer private cooking classes in homes.
When the beloved Dante’s Italian restaurant closed last year, Giraud saw an opportunity to open a new French restaurant at that location. The Pacific Palisades Farmers’ Market is located right in front of his restaurant every Sunday.
Our server brought small glasses of asparagus soup with a touch of cream and a refreshing glass of melon gazpacho with diced mint, watermelon and cantaloupe balls to our table. A dash of Tabasco gave the soup oomph.
The Nicoise salad is a classic with its sliced hardboiled egg, quartered potatoes, cherry tomatoes and tuna dressed lightly with virgin olive oil.
My friend wanted to try the homemade duck and pistachio terrine served with baby gherkins and slices of country bread with whole seed mustard. I’m not sure about the fat content in this dish, yet it was rich and satisfying.
Seeking comfort food, I ordered a Croque Monsieur with sliced ham, and melted cheese grilled on country bread. Homemade ketchup is served with the frites.
We all split the fish of the day, a pan-seared steel trout with market vegetables and topped with a light tomato vinaigrette.
We finished our lunch with a café gourmet, a plate comprised of espresso and an assortment of satisfying sweets.
After our meal, we visited Lavender Blue, a delightful French-style store attached to the restaurant, owned by Alain’s wife, Catherine Giraud. Beautiful tablecloths, napkins, clothing, lavender-filled pillows, candles, kitchenware and fun gifts for friends and family fill the shop. The majority of the linens, clothing and hostess gifts are from Provence, France. Francophiles will be delighted with both the store and restaurant. $$ Open Mon. through Sun. from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. A children’s menu is available for lunch, brunch and dinner. The bakery is open until 5 p.m. However, the buttery pastries are usually gone after the local schools are finished for the day. Neighborhood children crave the wonderful flaky croissants as an afternoon snack. 1032 Swarthmore Ave. Pacific Palisades (310)459-7562.