The owners of Littleton's Jaja Bistro add flavors of Provence to their home cooking.
When Denver native Janelle Sullivan opened Hot Pots in downtown Littleton, she met her fiancé and now business partner, Stephan Poullier. Poullier hails from the south of France, and he grew up working in his family's restaurant in Provence. After a circuitous route that included studying civil engineering and, later, opening a French import store called Ambiance de Provence in Littleton, he realized an authentic French bistro would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The pair opened their joint venture, Jaja Bistro, just a few blocks from their other shops one year ago.
The couple found their large, square dining table and chairs from Mexico at the now-defunct Disant Furniture store on Broadway. Poullier gives the set a French accent by layering colorful blue-and-yellow tablecloths; this cheerful damask jacquard sunflower-print tablecloth was imported from Nice. "Where I was raised, color is very important," he says. "From dishes and tablecloths to your food and flavors, it's all colorful."
Herbs & Spices
"We're excited about our backyard herb garden this year," says Poullier. "We'll have chives, mint, basil, parsley, tarragon, sage, and oregano." He also imports dried herbes de Provence for his shop's Jaja Blend (five-pepper blend, herbes de Provence, lavender). Jaja Blend, $4.95/4 ounces
Sullivan and Poullier peruse A Paris Street Market (held at Aspen Grove shopping center on the first Saturday of the month) for vintage glassware and quirky antiques. Last year they picked up this set of vintage cherry blossom juice glasses.
Sullivan and Poullier buy Mexican coffee beans from Kaladi Brothers Coffee Co. (1730 E. Evans Ave.) for both home use and to serve at the restaurant. Mexico Chiapas Café Femenina, $11.50/pound at www.kaladicoffee.com
Bowl of Goodness
"I love this salad bowl," Poullier says, holding up a large ceramic bowl from Provence. "It has a built-in garlic grater, so you can grate it fresh and rub the bowl with garlic. I'll grate the garlic and add salt and pepper and vinegar first, then add olive oil. It's great for Caesar or Provence salad, or for pasta."
RECIPE: Smoked Mussels on the Grill
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 shallots
- 1 tablespoon of parsley
- 1 tablespoon of tarragon
- 1 cup full-bodied, dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
- 2 pounds of mussels, debearded and unopened ones discarded
- bundle of pine needles
Heat sauté pan on the grill. Melt butter in pan and add minced garlic and sliced shallots. Add freshly chopped parsley and tarragon, then pour white wine into the pan. Add mussels and cover the grill.
After three minutes (or when mussels are open and nearly all cooked), lay the pine needles on top of your grill next to the pan and add a little water if they start catching on fire. Transfer the mussels (discard any that aren't open) to a barbecue roasting pan. Remove sauté pan with broth and reserve for serving. Set the roasting pan on top of the pine needles, letting the smoke go through for two or three minutes, shaking the mussels every now and then.
Transfer the mussels to a serving platter and pour the sauce over the top. Serve immediately.