Ah, springtime (or summertime) in Paris. Flowers in bloom. A romantic river… and loads of tourists.
On second thought.
Why go through the expense of getting over to France when you can have a taste of the City of Light right here in the City of Angels? Whether you want to find an enchanted garden in the middle of the city, moule frites and macarons at a delightful sidewalk cafe, pretty little things at a Parisian boutique, sexy French music on stage, or a musée brimming with art from Paris, there are plenty of ways to get a French connection in Los Angeles.
OOH LA LA
Paris Loves LA – Greater LA area
Glamour, sex, passion, love. Yep, sounds about right. The French pop culture of 1960s Paris swings back to life with Paris Loves LA, a revival of the songs of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot performed by French singer and actress Adele Jacques. (She also plays a mean accordion.) Together with pianist Russell Rinker and a live jazz ensemble of some of LA ’s best session players, the roaming performance group plays at various venues around the city. Visit www.cargocollective.com/parislovesla for info on upcoming shows.
Getty Museum – Brentwood
Go back in time and get an eyeful of the opulent life in 18th century Paris with the Getty Museum’s new “Paris: Life & Luxury” exhibition now through August 7, 2011. Beyond the larger-than-life paintings like La Toilette by Francois Boucher (pictured), there are beautifully detailed artifacts–candlesticks and clocks, dressing gowns and jewelry, furniture and musical instruments. After perusing the art, you can “Dine Like a Parisian” with the prix-fixe tasting menus offered during lunch and dinner onsite at the Restaurant.
Paley Center for Media – Beverly Hills
At 3pm each day until the Getty Center’s closing date of “Paris: Life & Luxury” on August 7, this open-to-the-public media center is featuring programming themed around its French collections. Stop by to catch shows featuring French entertainers like Maurice Chevalier, Edith Piaf and Yves Montand; classic sitcoms with storylines set in Paris like “I Love Lucy,” “The Honeymooners,” and “Jack Benny”; and famous literature made into TV movies and films like “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” and “Camille.”
Alliance Française de Los Angeles — West LA
Parlez-vous francais? If you don’t, head over to this non-profit cultural and language center where you can immerse yourself in French culture. Take a class, stop by for a book signing or journey through the streets of Paris as seen through the various rotating art exhibits that highlight French artists based in the City of Angels. Visit www.afdela.org for more info.
Kiki de Montparnasse – West Hollywood
Oh, those French. Such a liberated bunch without any hangups about sex … and all the accoutrements of the deed. And knowing how seriously Parisians take their lingerie, it only makes sense that you’d want to check out this upscale, naughty boutique–named after Alice Prin, the French model/actress/nightclub singer/paramour of photographer Man Ray–that looks like a boudoir filled with all the luxe intimate things you could ever dream up. (Blindfolds, lingerie, adult chess sets …) There’s even a lush little aphrodisiac garden outside. Ooh la la.
Le Labo – West Third Street
Meaning “The Lab,” this French parfumerie is not unlike something you’d find on a tiny cobblestone street in Paris. Looking like a modern day apothecary, this is where to get high-end, hand-made, preservative-free fragrances. With names like Rose 31, Santal 33, and Musc 25 (a scent available only in LA … see, there are some benefits to not actually being in Paris), the scents are created with essential oil concentrations that remain separate from the alcohol right up to the moment of purchase. Only then is the fragrance bottled and labeled with your name and date of creation. C’est magnifique!
Maison 140 – Beverly Hills
Consider it your own Parisian pied-de-terre. To celebrate the “Paris: Life & Luxury” exhibition, this cozy 44-room boutique, which was just revamped by Kelly Wearstler, is offering a Getty Package. With rates starting at $185 per night, the overnight special includes complimentary European-style continental breakfast for two, overnight parking, and two glasses of Champagne. To book the package, visit www.maison140beverlyhills.com and use the promo code GETTY.
Beverly Hilton – Beverly Hills
The home to the Golden Globe Awards hopes to entertain even the little people with “Dive In & Dine In” featuring French movies played poolside on select weeknights through August 3 to coincide with the Getty’s “Paris: Life & Luxury” exhibit. Visitors can order French-inspired wines, cocktails and food from CIRCA 55 Restaurant, and if you really want to extend the experience, ask for the “Joie de Vivre” overnight package with rates starting at $299.
Theatre Raymond Kabbaz — Le Lycee Français
The only theater in LA to dedicate a huge part of its programming to French language and culture, this 220-seat space offers everything from live theatrical, musical and dance performances to lectures and screenings, often en Français. Because it’s located at the Lycee campus, there is a lot of children’s programming as well. Parisian puppet show, anyone?
Little Door – West Third Street
Ah, Little Door. LA’s favorite enchanted hideaway. The owners are French, the food is farmers’-market-French-Med, and the ambiance is unequivocally European: The outdoor patio, covered by a canopy of bougainvillea, trees wrapped in twinkling lights, candelabras casting shadows, and burbling fountains, is magical. Thursdays offer the best improvised parties–hang at the patio bar for some live music, late-night mezze and a glass of wine (try the Hibiscus Champagne if you don’t mind spending $18 for a glass of bubbly.) Or stop by for the French Moroccan Sunday Special, a $40 three-course menu.
Little Next Door – West Third Street
As the little sister of the Little Door, this bustling Parisian patio cafe and gourmet market is a somewhat more affordable extension of its fancier sibling. Sandwiches, salads, organic breads, pastries, coffees, and plenty of vino make for a great brunch, lunch, dinner or picnic (they’ll make a basket for you, just call in advance). Don’t forget the house-made jams, herb-infused oils and other take-home goodies.
Le Saint Amour – Culver City
If you’re looking for a literal taste of Paris, this charming brasserie in downtown Culver City is just the place to get it. Owner Florence Herve Commereuc will make you feel en famille with her friendly manner (French accent included) and French fare that spans everything from moules frites and loup de mer to her husband/chef Bruno’s homemade pates and terrines. With its low lights and glass windows looking out to the street action, dinner is cozy and romantic while weekend brunch on the sidewalk patio just might convince you you’re not far from the Seine. Try the Breakfast in Paris for $10.
Bouchon – Beverly Hills
This gorgeous gastro destination is where you can enjoy la bonne vie. Relax on the terrace overlooking the gardens or lounge at the U-shaped pewter bar while sipping on wine. When you’re not busy admiring the Magritte-inspired murals by French artist Paulin Paris, you’ll want to check out the tasty bistro fare. (Two words: Thomas Keller.) There’s also a special $50 set menu inspired by the Getty Center’s exhibition, which includes classic dishes such as escargots à la Bourguignonne and Boudin Blanc, and ends with creme caramel, profiteroles or ile flottante. Add French wine pairings for an additional $25.
‘Lette – Beverly Hills
Formerly known as Paulette (the owners recently had to drop the “Pau” due to a lawsuit), this sweet-smelling shop still turns out some of the best macarons in LA. (Drop the extra ‘o’ you silly American.) Owned by Parisian transplant Paulette Koumetz and overseen by award-winning French pastry chef Christophe Michalak, ‘Lette’s bite-sized, made-from-scratch treats in flavors like violet, rose and sweet wedding almond are délicieux!
Alchemist & Co – Home Delivery
Parisian breakfast in bed? Oui oui! Alchemy & Co is a site that offers products and services, and now until summer, you can get a taste of France right to your door. Delivered between 7am-10:30am, the $125 package includes: Grilled portobello mushroom with warm brioche or French baguette served with sundried tomato spread, basil, radicchio and brie; Parisian finger pastries (mini croissants, assorted mini muffins); cup of chilled orange juice; farmers’ market potatoes; coffee; sparkling wine; a posy of colorful flowers; and a personalized notecard for the lucky recipient. Just make sure to order at least three days in advance. Visit www.alchemistcompany.com or call 310.202.8772.
Comme Ca – West Hollywood
Think upscale French bistro cuisine in LA and you think Comme Ca. This place opened in 2007 and it’s still among the hottest spots in the city. Chef David Myers aimed to recreate a bustling French eatery with a casual-glam vibe and menu rooted in French tradition. People swear by the (pricey) handcrafted cocktails and Comme Ca Burger while the crispy beef marrow and oxtail jam is for those with a Gallic sense of adventure.
Angelique Cafe – Downtown LA
There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about Angelique Cafe. It’ll whisk you away to Paris without ever leaving Downtown LA. It’s oddly situated between Spring and Main, forming a triangular tip that looks like a little leafy island jutting out into the streets. Then there’s the weather-worn brick facade, umbrella-lined sidewalk, upstairs patio with balcony and guests conversing en Français. Oh, and don’t forget the French toast, Croque Monsieur, duck confit and homemade pates. Are you there yet?
Cafe Stella – Silver Lake
Tucked behind the coffee behemoth known as Intelligentsia and jutted next to the Cheese Store of Silver Lake is where you’ll find this French institution that’s probably the closest thing to a real Parisian cafe. Is it the best French food in LA? Hells to the no. Is it the cleanest? Absolument pas! But like so many cafes in Paris, it’s more about the experience: Cute servers en dishabille, maybe a little Gainsbourg in the background, eclectic decor, dusty windows and tons of people buzzing about the cozy outdoor patio as though this were the only place in town. It’s Sunset Junction but you’ll swear you’re on Saint Germain.
La Cachette Bistro – Santa Monica
If you really want a taste of the Parisian life, then you need to go out. Even on a Wednesday night. And as fate would have it, La Cachette in Santa Monica recently launched Crepe Night on select Wednesday nights from 6pm to close. Crepe Master Pierre-Lo (he’s from Brittany, France, the birthplace of crepes), prepares all manner of the delicacy in front of you–savory, sweet, even gluten-free. The delicate little pancakes are $6-$8 each, and even better, the nightly happy hour goes on from 5pm to close.
Vanessa Bruno – West Hollywood
When this Parisian designer opened her first US boutique on Melrose Avenue back in August 2010, LA’s coterie of Francophile fashionistas squealed with joie. And it’s no wonder. The airy, subdued space is filled with Bruno’s signature collection of gorgeous silky things and buttery leather jackets, her Athé diffusion line and plenty of drool-worthy accessories.
Catherine Malandrino – West Hollywood
Avoid a fashion faux pas at this eye-catching atelier that houses Malandrino’s beloved (and pricey) clothes. In addition to a gorgeous shopping space (notice the fireplace, vaulted ceiling and enormous chandelier), expect lots of draped ensembles and all the time you need to shop … the outdoor cafe is a perfect spot for your beau to relax and enjoy a croissant and latte.
APC – West Hollywood
The Francophile fashion fiend’s answer to Abercrombie & Fitch, APC is where to get casual cotton threads like pastel-hued T-shirts and khaki parkas. Located off the beaten Melrose path, this LA outpost of the hipster-preferred French label is stocked with stuff for women and men, including their popular raw denim, madras and shoe collections.
Larchmont Beauty Center – Los Angeles
Never mind those faux French drugstore brands like L’Oreal, TRESemme and Garnier Fructis. This no-frills shop in charming Larchmont Village is where to get real-deal French beauty products ranging from delicious Compagnie de Provence soaps and lotions direct from Marseille to uber-pricey Diptyque candles and countless other items you never knew you needed.