June 21st, 2012 • Posted by Laura Levy • Permalink
Right Now in France
The beauty of spring in France has been celebrated in poem, song, and film, and rightly so. Lounging in parks and strolling along boulevards lined with blossoming trees—the same lovely ones immortalized by Monet’s Spring (Fruit Trees in Bloom)—are common amusements for the French this time of year. As the scenery flourishes, so do artistic happenings across France. Le Festival International des Jardins (“The Garden Festival”) brings many to Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire who wish to wander amid botanical oddities and fantastical gardens. Famous faces casually appear at terrace cafés, in town for the prestigious Le Festival de Cannes (“The Cannes Film Festival”). Indeed, one can’t help but envy the French this time of year, living in a world vibrantly active and awash in the soft shades of spring.
Here, at home, spring has awakened the landscape, the well- needed rains painting hillsides lustrous greens. Beautiful though spring is to the eyes, our menu of seasonal bounties proves that nothing compares to the possibilities spring presents the palate!
Farmers markets will be brimming with spring edibles this month. Fresh flavors for springtime salads have already arrived in the form of Gilroy chive blossoms, fava beans and a variety of crisp peas. Stalls abound, too, with colorful options for warm weather grilling, such as red, purple, and white spring onions, asparagus, and summer squash.
Ripe blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and local strawberries, cheery Meyer lemons, and field grown rhubarb adorn growers’ booths, beckoning bakers to transform them into flaky galettes and sweet homemade jams.
Artichokes are at their peak, but use them (this goes for asparagus as well) without restraint before heat compromises their quality. Rich in history and equally full in taste, artichokes were cultivated by ancient Romans to eat fresh or preserve. France, however, wouldn’t see the artichoke until 1533, when Florentine Catherine de Medici wed the future French dauphin, Henri II. Catherine, an avid artichoke devotee, brought the delectable flower buds to court with her (along with broccoli, Savoy cabbage, haricot beans, and forks!). Catherine would surely agree that the artichoke’s versatile flavor makes for a multiplicity of cooking options. The best, you’ll find, are heavy for their size and compact, with tightly closed heads.
Once prized by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, leeks are prime pickings this season as well, and it’s no wonder that their popularity has stood the test of time—mild and elegant in flavor, they blend well with a variety of ingredients in soups, tarts, and casseroles. Click below to view the recipe for our creamy Tart Lyonnaise, as prepared by our own Culinary Director, Chef Joel Guillon.
Latelies at Left Bank
Poisson D’Avril~April 1st
Left Bank proudly celebrated Poisson D’Avril this year, France’s comical and entertaining version of April Fool’s Day. All Left Banks featured delicious, sustainably grown dorade, sourced from our local fish partner, Clean Fish. A percentage of proceeds were donated back to Clean Fish and their eco-conscious water to table movement. Be sure to join us in observing this traditional French holiday next year!
Larkspur~Cooks with Books, featuring Frances Mayes~April1st
We partnered with Book Passage in Corte Madera to present a "Cooks with Books" event at Left Bank in Larkspur, featuring Frances Mayes, best-selling author of Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy. It was a truly lovely evening, featuring a special book signing and heavenly four-course dinner prepared from Frances’ first-ever cookbook, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen.
Easter Sunday the Fun and French way! Guests reveled in sunshine seating on the patio as they dined on our spring inspired menu additions.
Larkspur~Cooks with Books, featuring Jacques Pepin~April 16th
We partnered with Book Passage in Corte Madera for another “Cooks with Books” event, this time featuring legendary French chef Jacques Pepin. At this sold out event, Left Bank in Larkspur’s Chef de Cuisine, Fabrice Marcon, prepared a decadent four-course meal from Jacques’ cookbook titled Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food.
Larkspur~Great Chefs and Wineries~April 21st
Left Bank in Larkspur joined 50 Marin and Sonoma’s finest restaurants and wineries in participating in ‘Great Chefs and Wineries,’ an annual gala benefit for Lifehouse, a nonprofit agency serving over 180 individuals with developmental disabilities in Marin, Sonoma, and San Francisco Counties.
Larkspur~Cooks with Books, featuring Elizabeth Gilbert~April 29th
Our third "Cooks with Books" event this past April featured Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love. The event, which took place at Left Bank in Larkspur, included a special book signing and sumptuous meal from Elizabeth’s cookbook, At Home on the Range, an heirloom collection of her great-great-grandmother’s recipes from the 1920’s.
Larkspur~Fava Bean Shelling Party~May 3rd
Guests gathered at Left Bank in Larkspur to learn how to shell fresh fava beans from Peter Martinelli of Fresh Run Farm—a certified organic farm located on Paradise Valley Ranch on the Bolinas Peninsula. Attendees indulged in wine and special fava bean dishes made by Chef de Cuisine Fabrice Marcon.
Menlo Park~A Taste of Palo Alto~May 6th
Left Bank in Menlo Park donated their culinary talents to A Taste of Palo Alto, an annual charity event held at Stanford’s White Plaza to benefit the Ecumenical Hunger Program, an East Palo Alto-based food bank.
Larkspur~Head to Tail Spring Lamb Dinner, featuring Fallon Hills Ranch~May 17th
Supporting local growers and farmers is the French way! So, it’s no wonder that May 17th we’re hosting an extraordinary Head to Tail Spring Lamb Dinner, featuring local Fallon Hills Ranch. Tasty lamb dishes will accompany our regular menu of seasonal offerings, making for a gustatory night to remember. Fallon Hills Ranch owner Kevin Maloney will be in attendance to offer insight into his family ranch’s unique and sustainable practices. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to eat and learn about local ranch-raised meats!
Mother’s Day~May 13th
Bonne Fête des Mères! Think outside the (chocolate) box this year and treat the special mother in your life to a Fun and French meal at Left Bank. We will feature scrumptious brunch, lunch, and dinner menu additions made especially for moms, as well as a limited regular menu, available all day. The Mother’s Day Flower Market at Left Bank in Larkspur and Menlo Park will give kids the opportunity to create a greeting card and build a mini bouquet to take back to the table for mom. Relax and enjoy the beauty of family as we attend to every detail. It’s never too early to start planning for reservations!
Click here to view Larkspur’s Mother’s Day additions!
Click here to view Menlo Park’s Mother’s Day additions!
Click here to view Santana Row’s Mother’s Day additions!
Local French Happenings
May 13 & 14, 2012. NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC AND ALAN GILBERT perform BERLIOZ’ LE CORSAIRE OVERTURE, DEBUSSY’S LA MER and RAVEL’S LA VALSE. www.sfsymphony.org for details.
Through May 20, 2012. MOLIERE’s TARTUFFE. Directed by Beth McBrien. Diablo Valley College Performing Arts Centers, Pleasant Hill. www.dvcdrama.net for details.
May 26, 2012. JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER. Docent lecture by JULIA GEIST. De Young Museum, SF. www.famsf.org for details. 1:00 pm.
May 25-27, 2012. DES VOIX… FOUND IN TRANSLATION, a Festival of Contemporary French Playwrights in Translation. Foundation and the Cultural Services of the Consulate General of France, SF. www.desvoixfestival.com for details.