Thursday, November 27, 2008

Los Angeles: Patisserie Chantilly

Ah Choux! - a selection of cream puffs for your gustatory pleasures.

After feasting for Thanksgiving, we're back on the streets again today to eat more. This time, Polly has taken us to a little Japanese pastry place called Patisserie Chantilly.

Over the years, I've come to love French Pastries. But, truth be told, there's always a sweet spot in my heart for Japanese-style French Pastries. Typically, they're good. Quite delicious. And while the French know how to indulge in the finer things in life, leave it to the Japanese to refine it slightly, add their own twist and present it in beautiful packaging.

While a simple sheet of wax paper might me enough for the Frenchman, the Japanese will have it giftwrapped - and that's just for lunch.

Parisian style Macarons a la Pierre Herme.

Patisserie Chantilly is a small, boutique kind of bakery. It's located in a strip shopping center in Lomita, a somewhat sleepy-looking part of Southern California. From the outside, it looks rather plain and innocuous. Inside, however, and you see what most people miss.

The decor is simple yet modern. Clean lines, bright finish and a cheery Japanese staff that makes you think that perhaps you've landed in Kanazawa instead of Lomita.

Caramel Macchiato - not Starbucks.

Hiding in the lighted bakery case is the reason we've trekked this far: Black Sesame Cream Puffs. A little baked Pate Choux, sliced and filled with creamy, buttery black sesame goodness. My Goodness, it looks quite nice!

Some of you might have heard of that imported Japanese phenomena called Beard Papa (not "Bearded Papa"), let me tell you now that these two are not one and the same, nor are they remotely similar - other than the fact they're both "cream puffs."

No, no, these are light, airy... "puffy." The black sesame cream is rich, buttery and well, kinda odd. I'm not used to the black sesame thing, but I can certainly see it going places. For me, it's relatively new and I'm liking it. Liking it enough that I'm tempted to order more en masse.

Mont Blanc a la Angelina.

The rest of Chantilly's offerings are just as good. There's Parisian Style Macarons, like you'd find at Pierre Herme except without the shiny satin finish Herme has mastered (along with the bazillion flavors they offer). I also spied the Mont Blanc - a pastry that I've only seen in one place (and the same place that made it famous): Angelina on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris. I should have tried one here but didn't. Mainly because I didn't find the Mont Blanc at Angelina to be that earth-shattering.

There's also a selection of other fine pastries and baked goods, along with a selection of wrapped cookies and other delights.

Our cream puffs are offered for Final Inspection before being packaged.

Patisserie Chantilly offers some truly delicious stuff but it caters mainly to its' local, Japanese clientele. The staff all speak Japanese and most of the patrons were Japanese. If this were a white owned bakery in a hip part of L.A. it would be as famous as places like Magnolia or La Brea. But these guys crank it out for their loyal following, and the "in the know" gaijin who, reportedly, drive all across SoCal just to have their cream puffs.

Patisserie Chantilly
2383 Lomita Boulevard, Suite 10
Lomita, CA 90717

Los Angeles: Thanksgiving

Pie shells cool while Dad does sudoku.

It's Thanksgiving in America. Our holiday to celebrate the bounty of the fall and the decimation of the native population. With that in mind, I have to wonder how Native Americans have come to view this national holiday. Is it seen as the joy of bounty that everyone else does? A day to kick back with family, friends and an overcooked turkey, or is it a reminder of a stolen nation that once was theirs?

Ingredients for Cranberry Sauce.

Yukon Gold Potatoes ready for mashing.

For this holiday, I'm at my brother's house in Hermosa Beach. The weather has been mild with a little bit of rain and we've spent the day shopping at places like Marukai, Von's, Sur La Table and Whole Foods for our supplies. Our Thanksgiving feasts are a mix of friends and their dishes. For our part here's what we're planning:

- Fried Turkey
- Homemade gravy
- Fried Duck
- Spiral Ham
- Stuffing
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Pumpkin Pie
- Leche Flan
- Roasted Bone Marrow
- Cranberry Sauce
- Banana Bread

Frying Turkey

Last year, Al and Polly lured me out to L.A. with my bullying them and our friends that "we must source everything local." Admittedly, I was almost tyrannical in my demands about the provenance of our food last year. Happily, our friends stood up to the challenge admirably. This year, I was a bit more relaxed about things.

After a big shopping excursion yesterday, a blizzard of cookery started today. So many items to prepare for dinner and such a small kitchen to prepare it in. I took up my post at "The Pass" and barked kitchen orders in German to my brother, sister-in-law and poor mother. Never let it be said that I'm easy to work with!

Fried Duck

Boneless Ham

While there was a lot to prepare, we methodically chopped our way through the list and kicked out what I'd like to think was some kick ass food for Thanksgiving. Al made his usual garlic mashed potatoes - a sinister blend of butter, cream and a mountain of garlic mashed with yukon gold potatoes. Aunt Josie had sent out her award-winning Banana Bread and Mom tried her hand making her leche flan in a new kitchen.

Things rolled smoothly and as dinner time approached, we kicked it into high gear. Three gallons of peanut oil to fry a five pound duck. The oil boiled angrily but promised delicious goodness from within.

Anna's Caesar Salad

A Tray of Stuffing

The beautiful thing about frying a duck is that you always get more than you bargained for. After the duck emerged from the oil fried crisp to golden goodness, the oil in the fryer had increased by about an inch. The fat in the duck had rendered out into the peanut oil and now our turkey would be fried with the delicious essence of duck fat. It was enough to make any food lover giddy with excitement.

At 350F, poultry will cook in three minutes (per pound). It would be a half hour before our turkey was ready. Time to raise the alert level upstairs.

Soon, our friends and family would gather around the table for another delicious meal.

Pumpkin Pies fresh out of the oven.

Mom's Leche Flan

Roasting Bone Marrow.

Al carves the Fried Turkey.

The Full Spread.