Here's how I feel about The Grove.
(and to my all-time favourite painting, RIP)
No, I'm not talking about the traffic, the always-packed parking, the parents who feel the need to take their whiny kids out shopping, or even the look-at-me-I'm-so-trendy Apple store (aren't 98% of us PC users?). The Grove, to me, symbolizes the highbrow version of the mini-mall-ization of America. We think we're too good for the Best Buy/Target/Bevmo/Baja Fresh/Jamba Juice/Starbucks/Borders mini mall (oh wait, we have that too), so instead we build ourselves a grand, sweeping outdoor extravanganza that eschews the less elegant retailers. Instead of Target, Crate and Barrel. Not Ross, but Nordstroms. We'd never eat at Claim Jumper, just Cheesecake Factory. Etcetera.
Woe to he who tries to visit the Original Farmers Market in peace. Once a place to spend a leisurely Saturday afternoon, it's now a place to dodge strollers, squeeze by pudgy, slow-moving Midwestern tourists, and stand in line to BUY, BUY, BUY.
The Original Farmers Market vendors surely appreciate the increased foot traffic they get from being right next to The Grove. But sometimes I wonder if they too wish for one Saturday afternoon in peace, where those who visit visit only to meander, enjoy some great food, and relax. I'll guess we'll never know.
Fortunately, there remains one stall that offers a bit of leisurely escape: Monsieur Marcel. It's a sit-down restaurant in the far corner of the market, and while you do get the occasional traffic through the tables, it's mostly a quiet respite from The Grove mania.
Monsieur Marcel offers a wide menu, with traditional French bistro fare, cheese, wine, and many other dishes perfect for a weekend afternoon.
Our lunch started with a generous bread basket:
For an appetizer, we felt like having a salad. Among the many delicious-sounding salads, we chose a caprese, which had fluffy fresh mozzarella, sweet, perfectly-ripe tomatoes, and garden fresh basil:
Choosing lunch was a bit more difficult. There are some really great-sounding menu items, and I'm anxious to go back soon to try a few more. I settled on the Croque Marcel, which is kind of like a Croque Monsieur, but with turkey instead of ham:
MMMM. Delish. The top of the bread is crispy with cheese, the turkey warm, thick and melty. It's incredibly rich - I could only finish about a quarter of it, but man is it good. It comes with crispy shoestring fries which were quickly outshined by the other potato dish on the menu... potatoes au gratin (see below).
It's rare to find a great steak at a decent price. Like blue jeans, the price of steak in Los Angeles has crept up and up over time - $40 now seems de rigeur for a good piece of meat. The Steak au Poivre at Monsieur Marcel is only $22 (I think... somewhere around there), and it's OUTSTANDING.
A juicy cut of sirloin, it's tender like a filet but with a great beefy flavour. You can choose from a variety of sauces on the side - the gorgonzola sauce is great with the steak. As I mentioned above, the potatoes au gratin are delicious... a great crispy crust on top and flavourful, rich potatoes underneath.
After all that, we were pretty stuffed. The desserts looked especially delicious - I've gotta go back and try the tart tartin! We were also running late for a movie, so we got an espresso and closed up the check.
I'm not a big espresso-file, but I do know that a major component of the properly brewed cup is a good head of crema, that rich, reddish-brown foam you see floating on the surface here.
After the espresso, we saddled up to once again to face the madness in the walk back to movie theater.
Inside The Original Farmer's Market
Third & Fairfax
Friday, June 16, 2006
Here's how I feel about The Grove.