C’est La Vie!, as most Sarasota residents know, operates one of the most popular breakfast and lunch destinations in downtown Sarasota. Famous for their authentic French restaurant, bakery, and café, C’est La Vie owners Christophe and Geraldine Coutelle were thrilled when Parisians Myriam and Jean Dandonneau approached them about licensing their popular restaurant, opening a second C’est La Vie in the bustling Lakewood Ranch area.
“Myriam and Jean just love it here and it shows in their care and attention to detail. The customer’s reaction to the new location has superseded anything we ever imagined,” Geraldine said. Their second location, C’est La Vie Shoppes University Park/Lakewood Ranch opened in September 2016 and is their first such venture.
Praised by Condé Nast Traveler in 2016, C’est La Vie received national attention for its crêpes and fresh croissants. “We get all our bakery items fresh from the C’est La Vie Bakery every morning,” Myriam explains. “But what we do different from the downtown location is offer dinner, where the menu and recipes are all our own.”
After looking far and wide for true French culinary expertise, the Dandonneau’s secured Chef Michael Deshayes and Chef Arnaud Wallet to head the kitchen at the new C’est La Vie University Park. With 36 years kitchen experience between them, guests are in for a true taste of Paris, which couldn’t be more evident than the dinner we enjoyed, tremendously, just last week.
We decided to order two appetizers, two entrees and share a dessert. Kind of our “m.o.” We share bites of each other’s dish and share our opinions with each other. In the case of the Homemade Terrine of Semi-Cooked Foie Gras, we ever shared it with a neighboring diner, feeling a little guilty after him watching us go all crazy over it. It just seemed like a nice thing to do.
One word for the Terrine . . . Sensational. Absolutely off the charts! Mart said is falls into the category of what you would order for your last meal on earth. (He actually went :”Mon Dieu!”) The Foie Gras was creamy and delicate in flavor, spreading like soft butter on a baguette, and served with a delightful kiwi and pineapple chutney and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. As mentioned before, I couldn’t be happier with how it melted in my mouth, and neither could the gentleman at the next table! He’s sure to order it next time he visits, as will I!
C’est La Vie University Park presents fresh bread every day, and this day they were serving cereal bread, a.k.a multi-grain. Sometimes it’s French bread, sometimes a different baked bread, but count on it to be fresh and delicious. This is an important component in Mart’s appetizer, “Rillettes de Saumon” (Salmon Rillettes.) Large enough that we could have shared, rillettes are often served in a small Mason jars or ramekins with clarified butter poured over the top to seal it. At C’est La Vie University Park, the salmon was served in quenelle, an elliptical shape created by shaping the salmon back and forth between two spoons, creating an almost dessert like presentation. Lovely!
For his entrée, Mart enjoyed the Duck Breast with Peaches, and a sweet mashed potato to die for! While the duck delivered on all points and the fresh peaches were dressed with a peach sauce of orange caramel cream reduction, the sweet potatoes are still talked about today. They were the “cotton candy” of potatoes, so light and airy that they almost dissolved on your tongue the moment they landed in your mouth. The gentleman at the table next to us had ordered the same dish, and said this was his third time doing so . . . he loved it that much. And that simple bread stick on top reminded me a magic wand, left by the wizards in the kitchen!
I was dialed in for some seafood and ordered the Red Snapper Fillet with “Sauce Vierge”, served with garden vegetables. Isn’t this a beautiful dish?
Trust me, those veggies tasted like they were picked only an hour before, and the snapper must have jumped out of the sea into the Chef’s Skillet! The Sauce Vierge is actually an olive oil and balsamic base with red onion, red and green peppers, shallots and Kalamata olives finely diced. I only know this because I asked our server to find out from the kitchen, and they were happy to share their secret. Other vierge sauces I’ve had included lemon, which C’est La Vie University Park/Lakewood Ranch chose to serve on the side. Yum!
Dessert was next, and we shared a lovely homemade “Tatin” Apple Pie with Chantilly Crème. Tatin is an upside-down pastry in which the fruit is caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked. It isn’t as American as apple pie, but it’s every bit as tasty! Cooking the apples in this fashion leaves a lovely, flakey crust, being that the fruit doesn’t sit on it until the tatin is flipped over and served.
C’est La Vie University Park/Lakewood Ranch offers breakfast, Sunday Brunch, lunch, and dinner served Wednesday to Saturday, starting at 5 pm. They are open 7 days a week, starting at 8:30 am. And, it’s right next door to Total Wine, so they have that going for them as well!
And to our new friends at C’est La Vie . . . Je vous remercie!