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Home Away From Home : Late-Night Reverie

December 14, 1989|ELIZABETH VENANT

For Parisian-born costume and fabric designer Rolande Guizart, the holiday season calls up memories of bustling streets, crowded cafes and fairy-like window displays offering the delectable ingredients of the traditional French midnight dinner, the reveillon, served on Christmas and New Year's Eve.

To capture that ambience in Los Angeles, Guizart drops in at Santa Monica's Boulangerie, a big French Basque cafe, restaurant and deli.

Tucked away from freeways and palm trees, the cafe is planted with greenery, offers a tempting mix of wine and food and buzzes with morning conversations. "It's a little piece of France," says Guizart, who likes to watch the comings and goings of families, the nods and smiles of couples and the frowns of intellectuals behind their newspapers.

"Nobody hurries you on your way," says Guizart, who lingers over a morning's cappuccino and croissant, prolonging a relaxing moment between business appointments.

The deli combines a number of French food shops and their specialties--the boulangerie for bread, the patisserie for sweets, the charcuterie for pates and catered hors d'oeuvres. Through an archway Guizart eyes the delicacies of a typical French reveillon.

"In France, the holidays mean the reveillon," says Guizart, who points out that whether rich or poor, her compatriots will spend their money on that feast. Oysters, foie gras and turkey stuffed with chestnut dressing are served in successive courses, accompanied by champagne and topped with the traditional cake, the buche de Noel. Made in the form of a Yule log, the buche is decorated with tiny figures of a woodsman, forest elves and mushroom sprouts.

For Guizart, buying a buche in Los Angeles is rediscovering a symbol of the season's magic. "When I was in Paris, I could stand in front of the food shop windows for hours at Christmas. They were so fabulous, they made you want to eat even when you weren't hungry."

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