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A taste of France discovered in Roseville

By: Gopal Kapur Special to The Press-Tribune
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Though it takes a little sleuthing to find Bistro La Petite France, which sits at the back of an island of shops in an asphalt lake on Foothills and Junction boulevards, once you do, you are immediately transported to a cozy, family-friendly country bistro in France. The seasoned owner-chef Christophe Ehrhart manages the kitchen. Born and trained in France, Ehrhart worked in Germany, Switzerland and Canada before moving to Washington, D.C., and then to San Francisco. By then, he was ready for a change from the commercial kitchens, which provided little contact with customers. He wanted to start a friendly neighborhood bistro with a warm atmosphere, authentic French food and an opportunity to visit with his customers. The restaurant menu at Bistro La Petite France is inspired by Ehrhart’s French lineage with international underpinnings and fresh California produce. His message to the customers is “Come to our informal French neighborhood bistro where we will greet you warmly. We take the food seriously, but not ourselves.” I visited the restaurant on a recent Monday evening when it is closed to the public, but Ehrhart offers once-a-month cooking classes. The menu for the session included bistro-style crab cakes, herb veal meatballs with Thai peanut sauce, duo of smoked salmon cannelloni with Chardonnay tarragon cream sauce and pear and almond tarte tatin a la mode. This was a completely hands-on session with Ehrhart leading the class and conducting a lively discussion with the students asking many questions about how to correct their missteps. Like a good teacher, he guided the participants and provided his expert knowledge with patience and good humor. Once all of the dishes were prepped, participants were seated at an elegantly set table and Ehrhart began cooking and serving the various dishes. I enjoyed watching this master at work. His gracious wife Claudine helped serve the dishes and pair wines for each course. For those who would like to learn to cook classic French cuisine from an accomplished chef, the class is offered at $85 and includes hands-on preparations and tasting of the various dishes and well paired wines. Participants also receive a set of recipes, and a bright red apron to take home. Though the restaurant is open for dinner only, Chef Christophe offers private luncheons for parties of 15 or more by special arrangements. Also, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays the restaurant has an early three-course dinner for a fixed price of $19.99 for seatings between 5 and 6 p.m. Herb meatballs with Thai peanut sauce Meatballs 1-pound ground veal (or ground chicken or turkey) 1 small onion, peeled and finely minced 1 shallot, peeled and finely minced 1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 bunch cilantro, chopped ½ bunch parsley, chopped 2 eggs, lightly beaten 4 to 6 ounces Panko bread crumbs 2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil Thai peanut sauce 2 to 3 ounces heavy cream 1 tablespoon soy sauce ½ cup peanut butter 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 pinch cayenne pepper Minced herbs for garnish In a mixing bowl combine onions, shallots, garlic, salt, black pepper, cilantro, parsley, and eggs. Mix well together. Add the ground meat and mix well again. Add about 4 ounces of the Panko crumbs, stir and mix well to form a mixture that still holds shape when rolled into a meatball. If the mixture is too moist, add a tablespoon of Panko crumbs at a time and mix well; if the mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time and mix well. Shape the mixture into golf ball size meatballs using your hands or a small ice cream scoop. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and fry meatballs, turning occasionally, until cooked through. In the meanwhile, in a small pot heat the cream with the soy sauce, add the peanut butter and whisk until the peanut butter dissolves and starts to thicken the cream. When the sauce is of the consistency to coat the back of a spoon, add lemon juice and cayenne pepper, mix well; taste and adjust seasonings, remove from heat. Plate the meatballs, drizzle the sauce evenly and garnish with minced herb of your choice. – Gopal Kapur is trained in various styles of cooking and writes monthly for The Press-Tribune. He can be reached at gkapur@whentaste-matters.com.