This week, I'm back on the West Coast to celebrate our nation's birthday as well as my own. For the first vacation breakfast we headed downtown to a French restaurant in a section of Los Angeles that is well into a much-needed revival: Bottega Louie. The first thing you notice about Bottega Louie is that it's enormous. The interior has soaring ceilings, kitchens that open onto the dining floor, and multiple seating arrangements, including a full bar, a section of café-style tables, and a formal dining room. The second thing you notice about Bottega Louie is that it feels a lot like like a certain Paris-based Macaron Mecca called Ladurée.
Like Ladurée, Bottega Louie makes and sells a range of colorful macarons that are packaged in pastel colored boxes created to induce delighted oohs and aahs when revealed to the lucky participants of whatever dinner party, work gathering, or birthday celebration they attend. If macarons aren't your thing (guilty as charged), Bottega Louie also offers a full range of French-inspired tarts, éclairs, breads, beignets, and croissants. I picked up a $6.00 fruit tart with a Tahitian vanilla filling. In my opinion, it's the cream filling that can make or break a tart, and this particular rendition did not disappoint. Bottega Louie's breads and breakfast (we had lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry syrup and an egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich) all hit the mark.
The main difference between Bottega Louie and Ladurée, other than geography and celebrity, is atmosphere. Bottega Louie is French-inspired in its menu, but American in its atmosphere - it's lively, friendly, and decidedly West Coast-relaxed. In contrast, dining at Ladurée is an exercise in proper Parisian behavior. The dining rooms are quiet, the servers aloof, and the portions minuscule. But they do make a mean pâtisserie.