Sunday, July 31, 2016

The French Had "Hep Cats"?!

Shocking news indeed... we wanted to celebrate Bastille Day and dine at a French restaurant.  Here there are only three and because Dominque's Kitchen was offering their guests a glass of free champagne, we knew it would be jammed since they often are on a non-holiday anyhow. 
We do like Crème de la Crepe, but ... crepes for a celebration?  So I made reservations at:

Zazou, 1810 S. Catalina Avenue, Redondo Beach   310-540-4884

I needn't have bothered - seating was wide open.  No free champagne, no customers? 

A pleasant space with the bar running down the room on your right as you enter and dining on your left.  The décor is done in desert colors, sage green, adobe, sand, all the better to focus on your food served in dazzling white china on a sparkling white tablecloth with starched and ironed napkins.  Very low key sophis. 

We ordered drinks - a glass of Rose Bueyes ($12) for me and a G and T ($8) for him.  Unusually, we both had individual hors d'oeuvres - escargot ($15) and since Richie loves mussels, a serving of them for him. ($17)  My escargot were large, plump with their earthy goodness and served with a slice of buttered and grilled baguette.  I really went to Grease City with both.

I rarely order an entre, content to pick and snibble at the apps, but tonight the sky was the limit so I ordered the filet with black pepper sauce ($37) whereas Richie restrained himself and ordered the baked chicken with the same black pepper sauce. ($29)  Both were very enjoyable and both went home with us for dinner the next night.  They came with garlic mashed potatoes for him and French fries for me.  I loved dipping them in leftover spatters of sauce and eating them.  Dessert enough.

Richie had a glass of cabernet sauvignon Waterstone and I a glass of prosecco ($10) with our mains.

Our server, Robert del Rieg (name on the ticket) and the co-owner, a very nice lady whose name I can't remember, both visited with us because it (still) wasn't that busy.  In conversation, we mentioned in passing that it was an anniversary of sorts for us as we'd met on Bastille Day 35 years ago and married on July 2 33 years ago.  Nothing was said, but after I asked for the tab, here they came with their signature bread pudding with two candles glittering away on top!

I was horrified!  Snagging a free dessert was as far away from my mind as it could be!  The four of us had discussed the tragedy in Nice that very day, bemoaned the fact that it certainly sullied any Bastille Day celebrations.  In fact, tears came to my eyes when I asked for the sparkling rose to honor the south of France.    We hadn't gone on and on about us.  This was completely out of the blue.    

But very good.  We couldn't eat it all - generous portions there - so they packed it into a container and it, too, went home.  The tab was $154.78, I tipped $30 and the final total was $164.59.  Expensive, yes.  Delicious, yes.  Once in a great while for a "great occasion"?  Of course!

I could justify halving the bill because via leftovers, we had two dinners at Zazou.

Forget the free dessert, the food is good and we will definitely be going back. 

No I didn't forget the hep cats.   "Zazou" intrigued me - owner's nickname?  Particular region in France?  So I looked it up and was then more confused. 

During WW2, jazz became popular and led to the formation of what were hep cats or zoot suit-ers here in America.  This event in France was laid at the door of one Hector Zazou, a jazz musician who made it popular.   But:  just one problem - Hector,  Baby Cool Cat wasn't born until 1948 and it is unlikely that he was leading a band in his diapers on shaky toddler legs.  He died in 2008, aged 60, so we can't write in and ask.  Believe what you will ... we'll have to go back because what if it turns out that Zazou IS a nickname for one of the owners?  No way to find out but to dine there, no?    

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