I miss France and whenever I am not there I look for places that remind me of France, especially the food. Since I brought back some macarons from Paul (a French Bakery) for a friend here in Los Angeles, he suggested I try the macarons at La Provence in Brentwood to contrast and compare the authentic ones from the Brentwood version. The motto of the cafe is "local, fresh, and organic" so if you care about where your food is sourced, this place will put you at ease.
This cute bakery/cafe has a beautiful display showcasing their macarons and pastries as you enter, and it is a very casual place where you order at the counter and they deliver the food to you, so it's perfect for a quick lunch (they also serve dinner).
We decided to make a lunch of it with two other friends on a warm day when sitting out on the patio in March was not only pleasant, but preferable to sitting indoors. Shelly chose the Turkey Club Sandwich, served with a side of fries or salad for $10.95, and she enjoyed the oven roasted turkey, baked bacon, avocado, tomato, muenster cheese and mayo on fresh french bread.
Both Wendy & Jessie ordered panninis, made with avocado, mozzarella, tomato, arugula, and aioli pesto for $10.50; they both were cafe habitués and this was one of their favorites.
I chose the Nicoise Salad with Ahi, made with green beans, tomatoes, hard boiled egg, and kalamata olives served on a bed of greens in a mustard vinaigrette for $14.95; it was a decent version, with medium rare ahi and a nice balance of classic ingredients. I would probably order one of the sandwiches or specials next time, but I wanted to try my standard for lunch and see how they fared (passing).
We came for dessert, and particularly the macarons, so I got their chocolate ganache cupcake and a chocolate macaron to go. The macaron was a good version of the classic French ones, but I found them a bit too big and sweet for my taste, however most Americans would probably love them. I also found the flavors a bit artificial and the coloring a bit bright, so although they are fresh and delicate, they fell short of my requirements for excellent macarons. My friends all loved them, so I must note that I am simply pickier than most when it comes to a product I know from its place of origin.
On the other hand, the chocolate cupcake was THE BEST I have EVER had! I would come back to eat the cupcake alone! It had the perfect balance of frosting to cake, a wonderful texture with just enough moisture and crumb, and just enough sweetness to make you want to eat the entire thing (and not get a toothache). I can not rave about this cupcake enough, so you will just have to go and taste one for yourself. If you don't like deep chocolate nirvana, there are other choices, like a red velvet and a salted caramel.
La Provence is a full fledged bakery, making full sized cakes (think a party version of the chocolate ganache cupcake), so if you fancy a white chocolate strawberry shortcake, or a hazelnut mousse cake, or a lemon caramel meringue brulee cake for a party (or dinner), order one and delight your senses.
With decent food, a varied menu, reasonable prices, and a nice atmosphere, La Provence may not be the South of France, but it is a nice place to stop by for lunch or dessert in Brentwood (or Beverly Hills) until you can get to Provence, France.