“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” — Luciano Pavarotti
Ahhh, so true. And how very convenient that I “forgot” to bring lunch on this absolutely magnificent November day, as it had been too long since we last visited one of the mainstays of Main Street – C’est la Vie! If you live here, you’ll know the place. . . typically the first sidewalk café with all their seats filled by mid-morning. So with temperatures in the low 80’s, we couldn’t resist the lure of al fresco dining as well as the hankering for something a little out of the ordinary. The tag-line to the name (“Authentic French Bakery & Café”) is not hyperbole. This is the real deal, with it’s cozy European interior spaces and counters filled with fresh-baked bread and picturesque pastries that are so perfect, they look like props!
We settle in at an outside table, and were promptly greeted by our server, Jerome, who uncannily remembered serving us at Maison Blanche this past Valentine’s Day. Would he remember that we have this little foodie website and be a blog-buster? We like dining incognito, which enables us to write about what our readers can expect when they visit a recommended restaurant. We don’t want any special treatment, so seeing every one of Jerome’s tables fill up, we’re “so far, so good”. . . I think.
On this occasion, Jill can’t decide, and implores me to make her lunch selection for her. This is at once easy, and difficult. Easy, because her tastes and mine run to pretty much towards trying anything and everything. Difficult, because the menu offerings are wide and deep. I place our order and soon find ourselves absolutely gushing over the lovely, fresh, warm, ‘just-out-of-the- oven bread basket and unspeakably beautiful (and softened) butter. “Slow down on the bread,” we tell ourselves. . . over and over. It’s so perfectly baked and delightful we can’t stop ourselves. “Save room for your meal,” Jill says, as she tears bite after bite off of my bread plate. “Not to worry,” I say – grabbing the last slice before she has a chance.
I order the Crêpes Landaise for her. In this case, I chose a buckwheat crêpe over the standard white crepe, filled with spinach, goat cheese, tomato and walnut in a cream sauce, complemented by a fresh side salad and house-made vinaigrette. While the picture below is of the plate presentation, the true beauty can’t be photographed. It’s the marriage of the fillings in this freshly turned out crêpe that are cause to celebrate. It is simply perfection, or maybe I should spell that purrfection, because Jill is in heaven over the flavor profile, especially the hint of walnut pared against the goat cheese. Fortunately I manage to a taste or two early on, because the plate only looked like this for a very short while – it was soon an empty plate, to be sure.
For myself, I had pre-determined that I would once again have the Croq’ Monsieur, the classic French sandwich offering toasted ham and Gruyere cheese on French bread with a perfect béchamel sauce. The Croq’ Monsieur debuted over 100 years ago in Paris bistros, and is, in my opinion, simply de rigueur dining when coming to C’est La Vie! I have as my accompaniment, the diced, fried potatoes. No sense calorie counting when in France, uhh, you know what I mean. . .
This is such a simple, yet decadent recipe, that we decide the cheese is “the star” of the plate, with the perfect degree of melted, toasty goodness. It had to be the “oohs and ahhs” expressed over my meal that enticed the lady at the next table to order one herself. I felt good recommending it, and detected a satisfied “eye-roll” as she got her dish and tucked in! And — get this — the two gentlemen seated next to her also ordered the Croq’ Monsieur after seeing how much she enjoyed hers! Talk about the power of persuasion! They could keep this ball rolling all day!
As I’m sure is his sworn duty, Jerome asked if we would be ordering dessert after seeing we’d polished off everything that had arrived on our table. Not so fast, my friend! Not this time, but we’ll say there’s a 100% chance we will see through to dessert next time around!
C’est la vie à Sarasota. Vraiment merveilleux!