Friday, August 12, 2005 | Just off the I-15, nestled among the Scripps Ranch homes, is a discreet shopping center that houses a variety of small ethnic restaurants, a bank and a Vons. Next to the supermarket is La Bastide Bistro – perfectly French in a non-intimidating way.

Owner Gilles Fougeres and chef Patrick Ponsaty create very good food with service to match. Bastide (French for small country-house) is a square room with a classic and soothing décor of creamy caramel-colored walls, white cloths and accents of black with napkins and a concrete floor. A few paintings hang in the uncluttered room. You can sit at the small bar or the high-top bar tables (with very comfortable chairs) and have a glass of wine and a bowl of fat East Coast black mussels steamed with chardonnay or have dinner there as I did for a friend’s birthday. There is also a patio for outdoor dining.

Fourgeres realized his dream of having his own restaurant and with Ponsaty found a good match. Gilles manages the front of the house while Patrick works the kitchen. Before he came to San Diego, Patrick, who hails from the Toulouse area, wore his toque in a few of France’s Michelin-starred restaurants. He came to San Diego to help open Tapenade in La Jolla. Later, while at El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, he was invited to cook at New York’s prestigious James Beard House.

House-made desserts are terrific – none achingly sweet – and include a warm chocolate fondant cake on top of a delicate caramelized pineapple and coconut sauce, profiteroles and an apricot-rhubarb tart. The only miss was a strawberry soup that, while flavorful, had fruit that could have been riper. There is a full bar and though the wine list represents France and California, I only wish for a good champagne by the glass rather than the split of Mumm Cordon Rouge. Prices are so reasonable (from $9 to $25 with desserts at $6) you could practically eat there daily. La Bastide Bistro, 10006 Scripps Ranch Blvd., Scripps Ranch, (858) 577-0033, Open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., except Sunday.

Last week while in Santa Monica, I dined with friends at Rocca, for rustic Italian food. An antipasto of grilled French sardines with pepperonata along with pasta course of sweet corn cappellacci with black truffle pesto, each $14, made a great dinner. Chef Don Dickman shops the well-known Santa Monica Farmer’s Market for the freshest, local, seasonal produce. Rocca, 1432-A Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 395-6765,

Here’s a clever gift idea – food oriented – but not to be eaten. Designed and made by local San Diego chef Ron Oliver, Food Chains are hand-strung necklaces that use Japanese seed beads, glass pendants, Czech fire polished beads and Swarovski crystals. The necklaces are reasonably priced and available online at Oliver’s Web site:

Tidbits: A reader told me about another coffee shop to add to those mentioned in my July 29 column. Earthblend is a two-store chain that I found has terrific homemade pastries in Tierrasanta and La Jolla, but needs a better handle on pulling a good espresso. And its colors remind one of Starbucks. Earthblend, 6020 Santo Road, #A in Tierrasanta, (858) 571-6000; 7825 Fay St., #180 in La Jolla, (858) 729-1801,

Pet Peeves from our readers: Waiters who say “enjoy,” often without a shred of sincerity. And pepper mills that come with the server yet don’t remain on the table long enough for the diner to taste the food and then decide how much pepper is needed.

Marcie Rothman loves good food – no matter where it’s cooked – at home, a hole in the wall or a white tablecloth restaurant. Known as The $5 Chef on radio, television and in her two cookbooks, Marcie travels far and near with an eye on what’s current in food. You can find her at

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