Sunday, July 5, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Yesterday, I went to this newly opened Bottega Louie Restaurant and Gourmet Market in downtown Los Angeles, with a suspicious mind. I want to go there because, first, the interior of the restaurant looks awesome, second, they sell the famous colorful little French cookies called macarons, other than that I have no idea. I decided to persuade my husband to give it a try or at least figure out why a seemingly very European gourmet restaurant doing in downtown Los Angeles. Little do we know, we were both very surprised in a good way !
The restaurant is more than just beautiful ! It could easily pass as a trendy cafe in Paris or fashionable restaurant in Milan. The decor is pure white with tufted black leather seats, Carrera marbles everywhere, antique wood tables and shining brass hardware. The ceiling is about three-story high, with beautiful moldings and motifs. The windows are huge, all the way from floor to ceiling. They cast cheerful morning lights into the dinning hall, truly a wonderful place for Sunday Brunch ! Due to the sheer volume of the space, and the placement of the tables, we feel totally comfortable even when the whole restaurant is fully occupied. Therefore, our first impression is "Good", at least the place looks fantastic ! A masterpiece combined both classic and modern architectural design.
Of course, I can't wait to check out the bakery counter, admiring the colorful rolls of bite size macarons and all other goodies. I was satisfied with the findings and happily followed the waiter to our table. We ordered some classic Italian dishes of Penne Pomodoro ( $8 ), Caprese Salad ($12), Tomato Bruschetta side order ( $7 ) and the Semi Freddo for dessert ( $7 ). Simply say, we are very very satisfied with all dishes ! The Pasta and Brushetta are especially good. The salad has really good Mozzarella cheese, but instead of using sliced tomato, they skinned and halved a large tomato then put on top of each slice of Mozzarella cheese, which seems very odd to me. But the dessert, recommended by our waitress is a total surprise. She told us Semi Freddo is like Tiramisu, but in fact it tastes like ice cream or some kind of frozen dessert which I can not explain, and it is much better than Tiramisu ! My husband is always skeptical about any new restaurant, but this time he agrees the restaurant is worth revisiting, despite the unfavorable location. He is already planning to bring friends to our new found favorite ! The service is impeccable, very warm, friendly and efficient. The General Manager is a handsome young guy who looks like James Bond, who stopped by our table to check on how we are doing. We can honestly say, this is one of the best dining experience we ever had. And we thought the prices are very reasonable with the high quality of the food. They even provide complementary premium sparking water !
At the end, I did purchase a full box of macarons to take home. It is a disappointment ! The macarons are too dry and crispy not rich and chewy enough, not much flavor either except sugary. But, still, I love the colors, the pink box and the ribbons, what can I say, I am addicted to all things girly ! It is great that Los Angeles finally have something resemble to Fauchon in Paris. What a wonderful way to celebrate 4th of July ! Can't wait to go back soon !
In the autumn of 2004, my husband and I had a wonderful trip to Europe. One of the places we visited is the town called Bellagio, Italy on Lake Como. Bellagio is a magical place ! The view of the lake is incredible, the winding small roads across the little town are charming, full of lovely stores and cafes. But most surprisingly, it has lots of beautiful gardens dotted through out the hillside town. I remember it was a cool October day, small drop of rain drizzling from the gray sky. We were taking a ferry from Como; when the boat arrived at the shore of Bellagio and we stepped onto the pier, instantly both me and my husband smelled the most incredible fragrance that can only be described divine ! The whole town were infused with this pungent sweet peachy fragrance that we recognized it right away. It was the familiar smell of osmanthus flower ! The flowers are very popular among Chinese, since many people grow this plant in their garden or on the patio and used it in making tea and cooking. My mom used to have several on our tiny balcony, every year during September and October, I anxiously waiting for the white dainty flowers to bloom, so I can carry some in my pockets to school, hoping I will smell just like that ! We were very surprised to find osmanthus bushes and trees in this Italy lakeside town. The damp cool air seems to intensified the fragrance. We inhaled luxuriously everywhere we went ! For me, the smell of osmanthus will forever link to Bellagio !
Three days later, we left Italy to Paris to enjoy the city of lights. We were wondering around the gift shop of Pompidou Museum, and saw this beautiful modern clean line heavy bottle by a strangly named perfume house, The Different Company. I sprayed the tester of Osmanthus, and the rest is history ! Even my husband ( who is always indifferent to perfume, his only comment is this is good, that is bad !) admitted Osmanthus TDC smells wonderfully, totally captures the essence of osmanthus flower in real life. Actually, in real life if you get too close to the flowers, and purposefully smell them, you will not be able to smell much ! To me it is the mystery of osmanthus, that the fragrance is only spread by winds or air and reaching you unconsciously. The feelings of "it is there and it is not there" strike me as both sweet and innocent, like children playing hide and seak. Needless to say, we carried the heavy bottle back to US with lot's of happy memories !
After this triumphant discovery, I am starting to feel interested in modern perfumes again. Later I found out that Osmanthus TDC was created by the famous perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. And his modern approach to the creation of perfume is well documented in the book "The Perfect Scent" by Chandler Burr ( an interesting book ! ). Ellena prefer his perfumes to be genderless and simple. He believes "A good fragrance becomes part of the wearer", which melted into your skin and mixed with your bloodstream; instead of commenting "That's a wonderful perfume", people might said "you smell great" ( from The Perfect Scent, Chandler Burr). For me Osmanthus TDC gives me that feeling. It creates the illusion of osmanthus flower without over powering, which capture the flower's characteristics of "it is there and it is not there" perfectly. When I compare the classic perfumes with TDC, I gradually grasp the meaning of a perfume that is very closed to the skin. The more I think about it, the more I feel classic type of perfumes are like an opulent piece of jewelry or a red satin evening gown of Valentino, they are certainly pieces of fine art but probably will not look right on me. This new philosophy has broaden my views on how I perceive myself wearing perfume, and the effect on people surrounding me.
Classic perfumes are still part of me, the girl tore off photos of Chanel from Vogue magazine, and hoping one day she can look just like those models ! However, I have learned to appreciate the more approachable and casual modern perfumes, they may be more suitable for my everyday jeans and summer dresses. Sometimes, less is more !
If you like to know more about Jean-Claude Ellena, here is a great interview by Perfume Shrine. http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2009/03/interview-with-master-perfumer-jean.html
Osmanthus TDC is available on-line at http://www.thedifferentcompany.com/. TDC has very innovative packaging !
I have bought a large Osmanthus TDC Estagnon Aluminum (250 ML) from http://www.lusciouscargo.com/ for $150. What a luxurious feeling when you can spray abundantly ! Be sure to call them and verify if they have the item in stock before placing order.
Photo Credits by order: Bellagio by Martin Hapl, TDC Perfume bottle by anne makaske , Valentino red dress by Karen Lee