How To Celebrate Bastille Day

Every July 14, Bastille Day commemorates a turning point in the French Revolution of 1789. Stephen Bouillez and Susannah Dempsey, proprietors of San Rafael’s Le Comptoir, observe it at the restaurant as people do in France. “Think about July 4th and how it was celebrated where you grew up,” says Bouillez, who was raised in a small town near Marseilles. “Fireworks, food, parades, get-togethers — it’s the same in France.” Bouillez recalls families and small businesses coming together in the town square. “Everyone comes to the square to share what we have in common,” he says. “You put everything aside and become a community together.” At Le Comptoir and at Bouillez and Dempsey’s San Francisco restaurant Gamine, they’ll mark the occasion with mussels in the style of Marseilles, coq au vin, and a tarte tatin with whatever fruit is available at the market that day (apple is traditional). Expats are sure to be on hand and the Tour de France might be on in the background. “It’s the perfect day to relax, have a good time and celebrate,” Bouillez says. He makes it easy to do that à la française at home: with his recipes and a few tips (such as where to get sustainably raised capons in Marin), the same menu he’ll prepare at the restaurant is available here for your own Bastille Day party. Fête accompli.

Le Comptoir’s Bastille Day Recipes

Recipes courtesy of Stephen Bouillez and Susannah Dempsey, Le Comptoir


Moules Provençales

Harissa is a thick chile-garlic paste with roots in North Africa. It adds a warm, garlicky heat to the dish. Look for Prince Edward Island (P.E.I) mussels as they tend to be meatier than other farmed options.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon shallot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb. ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 twigs of fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon harissa
  • 3 merguez (lamb sausage), preferably from Marin Sun Farms, sliced into 1/8” pieces
  • 3 lbs. mussels, cleaned
  • 5 cups dry white wine
  • salt and pepper


  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan, add the shallots, garlic, tomatoes, tarragon, harissa and lamb sausage and cook over low heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the mussels with the wine, raise heat to high, add salt and pepper. Cover and cook for a few minutes (3-4 minutes), until the wine begins to boil and the mussels have opened, stirring frequently to ensure they are evenly cooked. Remove mussels from heat.
  3. Discard any mussels that have not opened, place mussels in serving bowl and pour the rest of cooked ingredients over it. Serve.

Coq au Vin

Locating a whole rooster is easier than you think. Capons, or male chickens that have been neutered at a young age, are fed a diet of milk and porridge until they reach between 5 and 12 lbs. Look for capons at Mill Valley Market and at Belcampo, then ask the butcher to cut into the 8 pieces needed for this recipe. The recipe requires two days of resting time so plan ahead for July 4 weekend.


  • 5 whole rooster (cut in 8 pieces) or chicken legs & thighs (4 each)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups pinot noir and 1 cup syrah wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 ounces lardons, diced into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-ounce dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces peeled pearl onions (about 12), poached through
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, halved if large, poached through


  1. Season rooster/chicken with 2 1/4 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a large bowl, combine rooster/chicken, wine, bay leaf and thyme, carrot, onion, garlic. Cover and refrigerate for at least 48 hours. Bring rooster to room temperature to prepare for cooking.
  2. In a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid, cook lardons over medium-low heat until fat has rendered, and lardons are golden and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lardons to a paper-towel-lined plate, leaving rendered fat in pot.
  3. Remove rooster/chicken from wine, reserving the marinade. Pat rooster/chicken pieces with paper towels until very dry. Heat lardon fat over medium heat until it’s just about to smoke. Working in batches if necessary, add rooster/chicken in a single layer and cook until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. (Add oil if the pot looks a little dry.) Transfer rooster/chicken to a plate as it browns.
  4. Remove the vegetables and herbs from the marinade, reserving the wine for step 5, and add to the pot along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until vegetables are lightly browned, about 4 minutes, stirring up any brown bits from the pot, and adjusting heat if necessary to prevent burning.
  5. Remove from heat, push vegetables to one side of pot, pour brandy into empty side, and ignite with a match. (If you’re too nervous to ignite it, just cook brandy down for 1 minute.) Once the flame dies down, add reserved marinade, bring to a boil.
  6. Add rooster/chicken, any accumulated juices, chocolate, and cooked lardons to the pot. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1.15 hours, turning halfway through. Uncover pot and simmer for 15 minutes to thicken. Taste, then add salt and pepper, if necessary.
  7. When cooked through and tender, separate the meat from the liquid. Strain the sauce, discard the vegetables, add the meat back with the butter/pearl onions and mushrooms and reduce until the sauce thickens. (5 to 8 min). Serve over fresh fettucine.

Tarte Tatin

This apple tart is perfectly timed for Sonoma’s Gravenstein apples, which are typically harvested in July and August. Look for them at Marin’s farmers markets and at independent grocery stores.


  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced 


  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease the inside of two mini tarte pans.
  2. Place the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and use a round mold or cookie cutter to cut out circles the size of the pan molds. Place the circles on a tray and prick pastry all over with a fork. Chill.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup water into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar. Swirling the pan occasionally, cook until the sugar is dark amber. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the butter one piece at a time until completely emulsified. Divide the sauce among the tarte molds. Divide the apple slices among the tarte molds, breaking them in half when necessary to pack all the slices in.
  4. Cap each tarte with a circle of puff pastry dough. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350F and continue baking until the pastry is golden-brown and the apples are tender when pricked with a fork, another 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Transfer the tarte pans to a wire rack to partially cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Use a spoon to help scoop out the tartes, invert them (so that the apple side is up) onto a platter. Or, let tartes cool and reheat in a 350F oven for 5 to 10 minutes before inverting onto serving dish. Top the tarte with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


Chrisitina Mueller

Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her childrens’ schools, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.