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French Resistance: The Valley restaurant scene has become a great deal more sophisticated over the past few years. These days, there's lots of offbeat ethnic eating--witness the El Salvadoran fare at Eliana's Restaurant, the Persian food at Tasty Kabob, the Vietnamese cuisine at Pearl of Asia and the Mexican seafood at San Carlos Bay Seafood Restaurant. The traditional ethnic standbys also meet high-quality standards. Check out the live fish swimming at C-Fu Gourmet or the superb Indian vegetable dishes at Shalimar.

Some of the local Spanish and Italian restaurants are so good, they'd even thrive back in the old country. Franco's Trattoria is a masterful Florentine delight. Marquesa, at the Scottsdale Princess resort, serves breathtaking Catalan fare. But when it comes to French food, the Valley is still very much minor league. Sure, creative chefs such as Christopher Gross and Vincent Guerithault display considerable Gallic flair in their cooking, but strictly speaking, neither Christopher's nor Vincent's is a French kitchen. Where can you find a decent bistro in the desert? My advice, believe it or not, is to head to a strip mall in Chandler, where you'll find the Citrus Caf‚. Its French proprietors fashion the daily menu based on what's fresh in the market, not what's sitting in the freezer. The day's offerings are written with marker pen on easels, which the servers lug over to each table.

The baguettes are fresh and crusty, and the down-home dishes are substantial and tasty. It's a pleasure to linger over the wonderful cheese plate and first-rate desserts.

Citrus Caf‚ is located at 2330 North Alma School. Call 899-0502.
A Bucket of Chicken, Large Fries and an Uzi: According to New York's Daily News, a Bronx outlet of Mama's Fried Chicken was involved in some fowl play. Until the law nabbed him, the proprietor, identified by police only as "Muhammad," regularly dispensed handguns and automatic weapons along with chicken from the 24-hour fast-food operation.

Neighbors registered the same level of shock as Captain Renault did when he discovered gambling going on in Rick's Cafe in Casablanca. One local seemed to speak for the community. "It's been that way for years," he said. "You could get any kind of gun from Muhammad. Muhammad was good."

Mouthing Off: A time-honored advertising technique is to create a need where none existed before and then offer a product to fill it. The next advertising frontier? Restaurant breath. According to trade paper Restaurant News, the makers of Listerine are test-marketing gallon-size dispensers of mouthwash in restaurants around the country, hoping to encourage diners to gargle after meals.

I tend to agree with one patron who finds the notion distasteful. "It doesn't fit in with my way of finishing a nice lunch--to fill my mouth full of alcohol and flavoring," he said. "I figure if you're trying to cover up what you're having for lunch, you may want to reexamine what you're having.

 
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