Addicted to Nicole's sandwiches
My sister has been going to Nicole's Gourmet Foods (http://nicolesgourmetfoods.com/) in South Pasadena for ages, but I finally made it there only recently. Well, I've been there twice in three days - is that bad??
The store itself boasts an great variety of French delights, like mustards, breads and chocolates. Her deli offers fantastic baked goods like madelines and pear tarts. On the savory side, she has cheese platters, cured meat plates, pasta salads and...wait for it...amazing French sandwiches.
Is it hard to find a good French sandwich in LA? In my experience, yes. But Nicole's are absolutely perfect. Crusty, slighty chewy French baguette, sliced in two with the "innards" scraped out a bit (so you don't have TOO much bread); a thin layer of country pate, some tangy cornichons, a few lettuce leaves and presto - the perfect Parisian pate sandwich. That was my dinner last night. The other evening it was her smoked chicken sandwich, on the same bread, but this time with dijon, butter, sea salt, lettuce and tomatoes. Fabulous!
I'm sorry I haven't been able to eat in, as Nicole's has a very cute front-side patio with nicely shaded chairs and tables. Yesterday I saw people enjoying bottles of rose and their crustry French loaves with rich butter and cheese and an array of meats - what a perfect scene! The only bummer is that the place closes around 6 p.m. and is not open on Sundays.
I love the smoked duck breast salad too. They also have really ingenious things for parties like mini pastry shells that you can just fill and serve, and good prices on things like beans for cassoulet. Once I bought some beans for cassoulet from Monsieur Marcel (I wasn't even sure what kind to get, so they referred me to a French girl who was working there, who had clearly never made cassoulet in her life) and then I went to Nicole's and found the same beans for half the price! Argh. The plain baguettes, though, are kind of disappointing... not quite crusty enough outside and uniformly cottony (not properly aerated) inside. Still, it's fine for a sandwich, and I love that part of South Pas. A weekday lunch there is just lovely.
I agree, Nicole's has really tasty sandwiches and their French bread is delicious. We ordered a couple of their lunchboxes last year for the Hollywood bowl and it was very well put together and quite reasonably priced. I think they're open a little later on Thursdays b/c of the Farmer's Mkt...possibly til 7pm if I'm not mistaken.
I always stop in to take a look around when I'm at the Thursday farmers market, but I've never actually bought anything there. So far I've just enjoyed looking at all the gourmet products they have. I will make an effort to save some room and not stuff myself on kettle corn and tamales at the farmers market so I can try that nice sandwich you described above.