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Covered Dish

New book features popular custard dessert served in local French cafe.

March 05, 1998|BY LEO SMITH and TIMES STAFF WRITER

Regulars at Cafe Provencal in Thousand Oaks may recognize the photo on the back cover of "Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee & Other Custard Desserts."

It's not a picture of one of the owners of the French restaurant, or a chef, a waiter or any other staff. Rather, it's the restaurant's own Lavender Flower Creme Brulee, one of the dishes featured among the 70 recipes in the book, written by Thousand Oaks author Debbie Puente and published by Renaissance Books.

The recipe calls for four cups of heavy cream, eight egg yolks, 1/2 cup granulated white sugar (and another 1/4 cup for the caramelized top) and 1/2 ounce of dried lavender flowers.

Florence Bonnet, who owns Cafe Provencal with her husband Serge, said lavender seemed appropriate given that it is a flower with a big reputation in Provence.

"Lavender and sunflowers give the color of Provence; they set the mood," she said. "We had a regular creme brulee and a chocolate creme bru^lee. One day Serge said how about using the flower. The chefs put it together and now we have it on a permanent basis."

Bonnet said the dried lavender flower may be obtained through most food distributors.

"It is a very, very tasty flower," she said. "It is used for the smell, the taste, and it's a very, very good, healthy flower."

Among other creme brulee recipes in Puente's cookbook are those for the classic version; and variations with fruit (including Dutch apple, papayas and bananas); white chocolate with peppermint; pumpkin and spice; goat cheese and papaya; and roasted sweet garlic. There also are nonfat and eggless recipes.

Puente will sign the cookbook at a pre-fixe dinner April 7 at Cafe Provencal, 2310 Thousand Oaks Blvd.

*

The waiting is over.

Since New Year's Day 1997, the Pierpont Inn has tempted drivers along U.S. 101 with a sign advertising Mattie's Restaurant, a reworking of its current establishment. Last week, Chef Louis Ludwig unveiled the long-awaited new menu.

"The concept is early turn-of-the-century city grill, where you went in at 11 and stayed open until 11 and you could get anything all day long," Ludwig said. "It's kind of a fashionable thing."

The menu has a selection of soups including gazpacho, French onion and New England clam chowder (all for $3.25 a bowl, $2.25 a cup). The salad list includes a Caesar ($5.50 half, $8.95 full), curried chicken and papaya ($11.95), warm Yukon potatoes and seared salmon ($11.95), bay shrimp ($8.95 and $11.95) and shrimp Louie ($10.95).

For the a la carte main courses, Ludwig is offering tuna noodle casserole ($9.95), Spanish beef stew with potato and cheese tacos ($9.95), a penne pasta ($8.95), hazelnut chicken ($9.95), traditional bouillabaisse ($14.95) and German schnitzel ($9.95).

Among the full dinner entrees, with vegetables and potato or rice are a calamari steak Provencal ($10.95), rack of lamb ($21.95), filet mignon ($14.95) and shrimp scampi ($14.95).

There is also a selection of desserts and sandwiches.

"We're going through the silent soft opening now," Ludwig said. The grand opening is scheduled for the third week of March. "This is what I've been working a year here for," he said. "I put a lot into this."

Mattie's is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Pierpont is at 550 Sanjon Road, Ventura.

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