BY PETE TITTL Contributing columnist
Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar will be celebrating the start of the French Revolution with Bastille Week, July 9-13. The festive plans call for French food, French movies, French wine, live accordion music from Richard Noel , costumed waiters and other surprises. At press time, there were no reports of guillotines or Reigns of Terror as part of the festivities.
A special dinner menu will be available every night. Co-owner Jennifer Sanderson said in an email that "nothing will be too esoteric. Classic comfort food such as slow-cooked chicken in red wine, vegetable ratatouille, and filet mignon, will all make appearances. English translations are listed on the menu for all items, and guests should feel comfortable ordering by the English terms. This is not meant to be an intimidating experience, but rather a fun night out."
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On Wednesday, July 10, there's a special French dessert tasting menu. Noel will perform Thursday through Saturday night, and there will be French movies shown on the patio on Saturday. In previous years, Marie Antoinette has made an appearance to, of course, pass out cake. On Friday and Saturday nights, local performers Erica Ueberroth , Samantha Palmer , and Kari Williams will entertain guests with short and energetic dances. Noel, described by Sanderson as a "man of many talents," is a retired CSUB professor and tennis coach who "devotes much of his time to the accordion. We are pleased he will once again join us, as he is always a huge hit with our diners. When Richard is playing, you really can start to imagine you're dining on the Champs-Ãlysees (instead of on Truxtun Avenue)."
By the way, they've also brought back one of their most popular items from previous summers, the watermelon salad (made with arugula, raspberry dressing and red onion).
New and different
Coco's Bakery Restaurant is offering any of its nine specialty burgers (including the amazing prime rib mushroom and Swiss) with a piece of pie for only $8.99. Limited time only .... Famous Dave's has a new summer St. Louis spare rib menu, including "pineapple rage" (with habanero) and a Memphis dry rub. Choose three of the five varieties with beans, fries and a muffin for $24.99. They also have a new lunch menu with prices beginning at $6.99, and a line of summer "moonshine" drinks ... Outback has new "steak flights" as well as a barbecue mixed grill ... Hooters has introduced a new late-night half-price appetizer menu after 10 p.m. that includes "Lotsa Tots" (cheese and bacon covered Tater Tots) and its signature snack item, fried pickle chips ... Flatbread pizzas are still hot. Pizza Hut is rolling out a line of six in a box for $11.99. They quietly rolled out the "fire baked" product in mid-June and will start advertising it today ... Applebee's is using a "Take Two" promotion to entice customers to taste items on its new summer menu. You can choose two dishes for one price, starting at $10.99. The menu includes garlic rosemary chicken pasta, a popular item from last year ... Denny's is celebrating the Fourth of July holiday with a "Red White and Blue Plate Specials" menu that includes the bourbon bacon burger and a red white & blue pancakes breakfast (blueberries, strawberries and cream cheese icing). New coffee drinks were also added ... Poor Boy's BBQ and Catering has opened at 3401 Pacheco Road near the Bakersfield Auto Mall. They're open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and have a special take-out menu every Friday and Saturday. Going in nearby is a new Mexican restaurant, Serenata Mexican Grill ... Del Taco has added three $4 meals as a summer promotion, and carnitas returned to the menu last Wednesday ... Taco Bell is testing a new high-protein, low-calorie menu in July in Dayton, Ohio. It will use elements of the Cantina Bell menu, which was tested here before its nationwide rollout. It's a shift in philosophies for a chain that used to promote a "Fourth Meal" in its advertising ... All wine bottles are half price all summer long at Romano's Macaroni Grill ... Panera Bread is staying open longer in the summer, until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sundays. They've also added a new beverage for the summer, frozen cherry limeade ... Wendy's has brought back the berry almond chicken salad with 11 types of field greens, blueberries, strawberries, roasted almonds and Asiago cheese. The chain also has begun its national roll-out of the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, a $4.69 premium burger served on a toasted pretzel bun. The burger is made with warm cheddar cheese sauce, thick-sliced bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, smoky honey mustard -- all stuffed between a pretzel bun. ... For a limited time, Tahoe Joe's is offering a six-ounce bacon-wrapped top sirloin with three jumbo railroad camp shrimp, starch choice, green beans and soup or salad for $16.99 ... Auntie Anne's has added mini pretzel dogs, using Nathan's All Beef wieners ... Cinnabon has added a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Chillatta and Orange Mango Frozen Lemonade for a limited time ... Starbucks Coffee Company has launched a new line-up of summer beverages: Orange Spice Iced Coffee and Shaken Iced Peach Green Tea Lemonade.
Chipotle is trying to transfer its success with Mexican fare to Chinese food with a new restaurant, called ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen and will be opening two of those new concept restaurants in Los Angeles, specifically the Hollywood area. More will be rolled out in the coming months, though company officials have been vague.
ShopHouse opened its original restaurant in Washington, D.C., in late 2011 and the company has been tweaking the operation. The goal is to re-create the open kitchen/cafeteria style ordering system the chain pioneered for Mexican food. Locations in Georgetown and Santa Monica will be opening next month, with an additional restaurant to open in Westwood later this year.
Chipotle founder Steve Ells has long argued that the success of the restaurant isn't due to the cuisine but the unique, interactive service format that allows customers to precisely design their meal. Customers begin the ordering process by selecting a rice (brown or jasmine), chilled rice noodles or salad, then can add steak lamb, grilled chicken satay, pork and chicken meatballs or organic tofu, followed by various sauces and fresh vegetables, which may change seasonally. The menu is entirely dairy- and gluten-free.
By the way, Chipotle also added a new protein option to its menu this month, something called sofritas: "shredded organic tofu braised with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos and a blend of aromatic spices." It's available in burritos, bowls, tacos or salads, and is vegan-friendly if you don't combine it with the pinto beans.