Circling the Wagons

When I left my mini mountain to head to Kirkland for a swapping-notes-on-Christmas brunch with the Milligans, there was not one single flake of snow to be seen. When I got to Kirkland 30 minutes later, I discovered that they were having their very own private snowstorm. The upside to that was we pretty much had the whole of Le Grand Bistro Americain all to ourselves, as well as a great view of a rarely seen snow-covered Lake Washington.

Neil had invited along a pal from across the water.  Simon was here from England on business.  So 3 Brits & a Czech (who had lived in England for years), all settled down to share news & circle the wagons.

The staff were incredibly perky considering that they had dragged their butts out of toasty-warm beds & into a snowstorm to wait on 4 people with funny accents who were content to just sit there noshing & nattering all day long.  Le Grand Bistro is a lovely expanse – cozy, dark & spacious – with a wall of windows overlooking Lake Washington.  The view didn’t extend very far today, but in the summer this would be a perfect place to idle away a few hours over a glass of wine & a plate of grub, eyeing up the water in the sunshine.

As is usual with Milligan Brunches, we were so busy chattering it took us 3 rounds, or maybe even 4, of our server swinging by before he could actually get us to tell him what we wanted to eat.  In the meantime, he did manage to persuade us to order a hot drink for this very chilly day.  Now here’s where I am going to get exceedingly excited.  If you’ve followed along for anything length of time, you’ll know I am brutal about {bad} Hot Chocolate.  I am also brutal about what most people consider good Hot Chocolate.  I am the Hot Chocolate FBI.

Knowing, from a previous visit, that Le Grand have Valrhona stashed away in their cooking closet, I took a chance & did not interogate our server on the virtues of their Hot Chocolate.  I just ordered it & hoped that my suspicions turned out to be correct.  One small sip brought the entire investigation to a screeching halt.  Lovely people: this is *fantastic* Hot Chocolate!!!!  Not Chocolat Chaud worthy, but for simple Hot Chocolate…simply outstanding.  I had two.  I would happily have drunk a gallon.  Hot Chocolate goodness right on the water in Kirkland.  Who knew?

One of the things I very quickly loved about Le Grand Bistro is that they are exactly what the say they are:  American Bistro serving French food.  It is a brilliantly executed idea.

Neil had a frothy coffee which I took a pretty poor shot of.  Here it is, anyway.

My brunch buddies all went the traditional route with plates of eggs, sausage, bacon, toast & large steel cylinders of fries on the side – Breakfast Americain $13.  I am still not sure about those cylinders as a serving vessel.  While we were munching, the Milligans & I were able to help Simon with such thorny issues as, “Why is there half a strawberry on my breakfast plate?” and “Just what is the deal with Egg Nog in this country?”

Further food conversations ensued, which inevitably lead to the subject of the greatest British confusion about American cuisine:  The Green Bean Casserole.  Martina’s description of “green beans covered in a can of Campbell’s mushroom soup” was met with the anticipated blank stare from Simon.  While we Brits understand all about the turkey & stuffing, the mash & gravy – the rest of the American Thanksgiving meal is a complete mystery to us.  Just like our love for offal & beans on toast is a mystery to most Americans.

Since the Milligans & I are intrepid road-trippers, we initiated Simon into the potential problems of driving for any distance in the good ol’ US of A.  Always fill up with gas, even if you still have 3/4 of a tank left.  You just never know.   The subject of Emergency Kits also came up.  Looking out at the weather it seemed feasible that I might even get to use mine in Kirkland.

I scoured the menu for anything out of the ordinary & settled on the Eggs & Asparagus - on grilled toast, with mushroom-mornay sauce ($14).

A very fine dish, as it turns out.  The asparagus was spectacular.  The sauce a tad on the thick side, but tasty.  The eggs were slightly overcooked, but then I do like runny yolks.  The toast was thick like Texas Toast & had a texture like brioche.  Went down a treat.

Meanwhile, this is what was going down outside the window.

Once the platefuls of eggs had been gobbled up, it was time for dessert.  As we pointed out to Simon, who thought eating dessert at breakfast was a little over-the-top – this is America.  So he ordered dessert.  Sticky Toffee Pudding no less.  Nothing French about that at all, but at least it hails from the other side of the pond.

After the chocolate-fest that was yesterday – 2 cups of Chocolat Chaud & a big old scoop of Chocolate Mousse at Cafe Presse – and 2 cups of Hot Chocolate today already, I felt strangely compelled to just keep on going with the whole chocolate theme.  Le Grand’s Chocolate Pot de Creme, made with Valrhona couverture and topped with deep, dark, syrupy cherries, is dense & rich.  Very dense & very rich.  You’ll likely be glad it comes in a little pot.

The staff shut up shop & headed home as soon as we were finished.  I think they were secretly very pleased to see us leave.  Given the weather they all wanted to be home with their families.  I don’t blame them.  Neil & Martina headed downtown to deliver Simon back to his hotel & I had a Cordon Bleu Pastry Chef Graduation Party to attend on Mercer Island.  I wondered if there’d be anything made with chocolate.

Le Grand Bistro Americain is a great addition to the Kirkland brunch scene.  Great food, sparkling service, wonderful location, lovely ambiance.  Now I am writing this I just want to pack up & head down there right now for a plateful of grub & a Hot Chocolate.  And, just in case you missed the part about how fabulous their Hot Chocolate is, here’s another shot.

If you live in Seattle, you may still be digging out from under all the snow.  Once you’ve dug out & the roads are no longer perilous, I heartily recommend a trip down to Le Grand Bistro Americain.  I”ll be going back, for sure.

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*SANE™, inSANE, SANEity – terms used in Jonathan Bailor’s books, The Smarter Science of Slim (out of print) and The Calorie Myth.

What does SANE mean? Click here.Want more scrumptious recipes? Click here to check out my SANE Cookbooks!

Le Grand Bistro Americain | Speckle of Dirt - […] the pleasure of shopping and dining with a good friend. Another friend of mine took some amazing photos of her lunch at Le Grande Bistro Americain, and because of those mouth-watering photos, I was […]

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