Brittany, on the Atlantic coast of France, is famous for its shellfish. The most prized oysters come from Cancale, and the bouchot mussels, just an inch or so long, are tender and sweet. One bowl of those dainty mussels steamed in white wine and shallots turned me into a lifetime mussel lover. Here, Carlsbad Aquafarm in San Diego County sells bags of mussels grown off the California coast at the Hollywood and Santa Monica farmers markets. You can also find some wonderful mussel dishes at restaurants.
Jason Travi (ex-Fraîche and La Terza) is back with a new project: Little Fork in Hollywood. He's got two mussel dishes on the menu, one Portuguese-style, steamed in beer with linguiça sausages and chickpeas, the other glossy black mussels roasted with bread crumbs. Roasting brings out all their sweetness, and the bread crumbs add a delightful crunch. You don't get much juice to soak up with your bread, but with a wedge of lemon squeezed over them, the pure taste of these simply prepared mussels outshines more embellished versions.
1600 Wilcox Ave., Hollywood; (323) 465-3675, http://www.littleforkla.com. Mussels, $14 to $16.
At Florent Marneau's classic and classy French bistro in South Coast Plaza, the French chef has always had a very traditional moules marinière on his menu. Steamed in white wine with shallots and a little crème fraîche, they come as they always do in French restaurants, with pommes frites. Marché Moderne's are Idaho potatoes fried and showered with parsley, salt and pepper. Right now, Marneau is also offering razor clams steamed in Noilly Prat vermouth with celery and coins of chorizo.
South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 434-7900, http://www.marchemoderne.net. Mussels, $22.
Steamed mussels in green curry with Chinese sausage and coriander rice is one of chef-owner David Lefevre's signature dishes at his vibrant Manhattan Beach bistro. He grinds his own green curry paste with a mortar and pestle. After it's cooked a little, he deglazes the pan with coconut milk. Mussels go into a special pot with a little curry paste and, as soon as they open, he adds fresh lime juice — and a scoop of coriander sticky rice. Dreamy.
1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, (310) 545-5405, http://www.eatmbpost.com. Mussels, $14.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times