Church and State LA

Who would have thought that a snack foods factory would one day get upgraded to a gourmet French bistro? In the newly re-commercialized Arts District of Downtown LA, you can find Church & State, housed in the old NABISCO factory, built in 1925. For the past five and a half years, Church & State has been offering “seasonal produce of the highest quality, and products from 100% humanely raised, treated, and naturally fed animals: 100% grass-fed, pasture raised beef and lamb, cage-free poultry, sustainable seafood.”

 

Their menu of seasonals and classics is complemented by a full bar of French wines and craft cocktails.

The décor of Church and State is charming. A rainbow of Edison lights are strung from corner to corner. Tea lights give a warm glow to each bistro table. Chalk boards line the walls. The bustling, brightly lit kitchen is visible from the rows of tables in the dining area.

No matter your alcohol of choice, Church & State has a cocktail for you. There's the Vesper Martini, for those inspired by James Bond's signature drink in Casino Royale. Or the intriguing Stumble & Fall, a bourbon cocktail containing the unique flavor combinations of walnut liqueur, pear, lemon, and rosemary. The Tap Out features El Jimador tequila and Tapatio-infused honey. These craft cocktails are nicely paired with a diverse hors d'ouevres menu which includes, as any French Bistro worth its salt should, escargot.

I had only eaten snails once in my life before this. At Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia, in 2001. I am of the opinion that escagot are basically a rubbery vehicle for garlic butter. But done right, they are a garlicy, buttery, briney treat. Church & State's Escargot get an A+ for presentation. The appetizer arrives on a plate of 6 white ceramic egg cups, each topped with a ballooning puff pastry crust. Pierce the golden-brown pastry crust with your fork and it steams, they are that fresh out of the oven. Inside is a single snail marinating in hot garlic butter. Get it all in one bite – flaky pastry, escargot, and garlic and spices. A perfect little appetizer.

Another hors d'ouevers that must be tried is the crostinis served with lavender honey goat cheese. The latter is served in a 4 oz ball jar that seemed to be bottomless. The waitstaff kept bringing us more crostinis and bread and still there was more sweet fragrant cheese to be scooped up.

My cocktails of choice to pair with these appetizers were two whiskey drinks, shared between me and my dining companion. The aptly named Fireside Chat is a warm spicy cocktail with chocolate bitters, orange oil, and firelit coffee liqueur. It tasted like Christmas. The earthier, darker Charro Negro is a Scotch cocktail that features nocino walnut liqueur and orange zest.

 

 

For entree, I chose the Coq Au Vin, paired with a garrigue red wine whose dry, earthy finish complemented the rich and fruity sauce, fragrant pearl onions, and dark, very meaty chicken. My companion ordered the Saint Jacques et Choux Fleurs seared scallops, which were so light and tender they tasted like they had been scooped out of the ocean an hour earlier and placed immediately in the frying pan.

 

There was so much more to try, but alas, our stomachs or livers do not have infinite capacity. Had we not been too full for dessert, I would have tried the crème brulee, the chocolate coffee custard with crème chantilly, or the chocolate tart with salted caramel.