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Oui Love L.A.

Metropolis / So SoCal

March 16, 2003|DAVID WOLLOCK

Americans may not be topping popularity lists in France these days, but French panache has yet to go out of style in the States, particularly in Los Angeles. Below, where to go for some authentic joie de vivre courtesy of transplanted ambassadors for the other red, white and blue.

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CAPRICE PASTRIES

Jean-Louis Kippelen's Westside patisserie has no retail counter, just a big kitchen, where chefs in tall, poofy hats--including Jean-Louis himself--prepare everything from truffles and bite-sized pastries (as inexpensive as $1.25) to giant croquembouche wedding cakes. Call ahead for large orders, but it's more fun to walk in and see what the animated, attitude-free Alsace native has on his tray. The discarded pastry wrappings in front of the entryway are testament that many items don't make it home.

3213 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica.

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DU VIN WINE & SPIRITS

This unpretentious, dimly lit, cellar-like shop caters to both connoisseurs on the lookout for "futures" and novices seeking to complement Sunday dinner. Debonair owner Rene Averseng estimates that 75% of his stock is French, including hard-to-get stuff from Madiran, and other regions most of us have never heard of. Bottles range from an excellent $5 table wine to a $1,625 "first-growth" Bordeaux. But Du Vin's signature wines are its Provence roses, which are best consumed at sunset, when the sky matches the wine's lovely pink-orange hue. 540 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood.

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MOULIN ROUGE LINGERIE

Luxembourg transplant Vesna Roberson, who travels to Lyon and Paris for negligees, corsets, garters, silk gloves, boas and marabou slippers, wanted women to feel comfortable as they tried on her unique, lacy wares. Hence the burgundy carpet, velvet-covered furniture and rose-studded walls, which give this funky, affordable boutique the warm, intimate feel of a French boudoir. Roberson also hosts private lingerie parties--Tupperware-style fetes where girlfriends bond over silky undergarments.

1326 Abbot Kinney, Venice.

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MR. MARCEL PAIN, VIN ET FROMAGE

Nine years ago, Stephane Strouk turned a little deli in Farmers Market into a fromagerie, naming it after his dad, Marcel, who hates cheese. Last year, the jovial Strouk expanded the operation into a French-style supermarket and open-air wine and cheese bar, a la those found in Nice. The market is rife with French delicacies, but it's the cheese that sets it apart: more than 200 in the case, all cut from wheels, including chunky, pungent Roquefort; gooey, buttery Brie; rare raw milk Morbier; and "caviar cheese." Educate your palate with a fromage and charcuterie plate at the outdoor bar with a glass of Mr. Marcel's own reserve of champagne. Farmers Market, Fairfax Avenue and 3rd Street, Los Angeles.

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FRENCH MARKET CAFE

While vacationing in L.A. four years ago, Nice restaurateur Lionel Arnoult was looking for an espresso when he stumbled upon this decade-old Venice cafe and market. He never left, taking it over with partner Agnes Jaudeau. The clientele comes for the simple breakfasts, crusty baguettes, secluded patio and that hint of snooty disaffection from the staff that makes for an authentic French air. That doesn't mean Arnoult is unfriendly; he's often happy to share his French perspective on world events. The cafe closes at 5 p.m., but gourmands on the go can stock up on homemade frozen dinners such as duck confit, coq au vin and escargot. 2321 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice.

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