Vive la South Pasadena!

For one day last week, Nicole’s Gourmet Market & Cafe made a slice of Meridian Avenue resemble one of those quaint Paris streets lined with cafes. It was to mark Bastille Day, July 14, and included a live accordion player, some tri-colored pastries — and a road sign, in case you were wondering exactly how far Paris is from So Pas.Photos by Kamala Kirk

From wine and baguettes to French flags and an accordion player, the Bastille Day celebration at Nicole’s Gourmet Market & Cafe in South Pasadena was in full swing on July 14. Owner Nicole Grandjean, who is from the Loire Valley in France, has hosted the popular annual event at her restaurant for the past 16 years.

“Bastille Day celebrates the start of the French Revolution in 1789, when the storming of the Bastille occurred and the monarchy ended,” Grandjean said. “A lot of the locals and my customers come here to celebrate French culture with us. They enjoy the food and music. We’ve been fortunate to have a world-renowned accordion player perform here for the fifth year in a row.”

The event featured a special Bastille Day menu that offered an array of classic French dishes, such as cheese and charcuterie plates, as well as the Croque Monsieur — an open-faced sandwich served with French ham, Gruyere cheese, French béchamel sauce and nutmeg.

Grandjean’s son Steven spent the afternoon barbecuing spicy lamb sausages, which were served on French baguettes with Dijon mustard. Customers also enjoyed an assortment of pastries and baked goods, including a special French moka cake decorated in red, white and blue colors in honor of the French flag.

“This is my very first Bastille Day celebration,” said Roki Torres, an employee at Nicole’s. “We’ve spent the past month planning for today’s event. We have an amazing menu and some great beer and wine specials. We also have a cotton candy machine and Nancy’s Fancy will be serving samples of their ice cream. It’s very exciting and I’m so happy to be here.”

Betty Vick, who has attended the restaurant’s Bastille Day celebrations over the years, brought a cotton candy machine and served complimentary treats to all of this year’s participants.

“I originally got the cotton candy machine for my students at 118th Street School, where I teach,” Vick said. “I love this restaurant and thought it would be fun to make cotton candy for everyone. We have lots of fun and unique flavors such as cookie dough, jasmine and cilantro.”

For longtime employee Theresa Treuenfels, the event marked her 14th Bastille Day celebration at Nicole’s. A professional bassoon player, she is longtime friends with the accordion player.

Nick Ariondo

“Nick is a friend and fellow musician,” she said. “We’ve played together in the past. A few years ago, I suggested that he come out and play the accordion for Bastille Day, and he’s performed here annually ever since. It’s truly a wonderful event that we all look forward to.”

Nick Ariondo has been playing the accordion for 40 years and is a professional composer and arranger. He has performed for audiences around the world and contributed to numerous movie scores, including the soundtracks for Toy Story 4 and Life of Pi.

“I love playing a variety of music for people of all backgrounds and cultures,” Ariondo said. “To me, that’s what makes a better musician and a better person out of you. I have friends from around the world that come here, so I’m playing a little bit of everything — French, Greek, even gypsy music. I love it here — they serve first-rate food and it’s like being in France.”


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Kamala Kirk is a contributing writer for the South Pasadena Review, San Marino Tribune and The Quarterly Magazine. Kamala formerly served as Managing Editor of Beauty Launchpad Magazine, West Coast Editor of American Salon Magazine, and Digital Editor for E! Online. A native of Hermosa Beach, California, she is a proud USC Trojan and pug mom to Wrigley the Pug (@pugofpasadena).