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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quel pain! and sandwiches, pastries, etc, at La Boulangerie

Posted By on 10.30.12 at 07:52 AM

The Parisian
True thing: a guy exclaiming loudly into his cell phone, in French, at La Boulangerie Bakery and Cafe the other night. "He must be a company plant," I said to my companion, who told me a minute later that the French guy had proceeded to the counter and asked, of the fairly obviously non-French customer-service agents, "Parlez-vous Francais?" No, they didn't, but the guy's determination that he was someplace more essentially Gallic than Belmont Avenue was forgivable. He may have gotten the idea looking at the gorgeous tarts, cream puffs, and macarons in the display case, or the long loaves of baguettes and batards and ciabattas, rising like cornstalks behind the counter. He may have dipped into the little basket of baguette left out for samples and encountered a perfectly astringent, chewy, and deeply flavorful bread—how often do you come across a baguette this good? He may have known beforehand of the croissants, which made owner and baker Vincent Colombet a name back over at La Boulangerie's flagship location in Logan Square. There is a formidable talent (who is indeed French) behind this little cafe.

And it's classic stuff, sure, but the cafe makes its departures. On the sandwich menu options include the Southern—peach-barbecue chicken, slaw, and greens—and the Cosmopolitan, which combines pastrami with tomato, cucumber, horseradish, and chives. Fillings are premade and meticulously presented in the deli case; sans bread, there are a few you could mistake for some fancy sushi roll, if you weren't thinking too hard about where you were. Servers slide your filling of choice whole-hog into a warm segment of baguette. What we tried was fantastic: a pulled-pork sandwich, for instance, with queso fresco, red pepper, avocado, and a verdant-tasting jalepeno relish; and a classic number called a Parisian, with ham, thick slices of Mimolette, tomato, mustard, and cornichon. It tasted like just the thing to bring to a picnic.

Actually it strikes me now that Mimolette is orange, and whatever cheese made it onto the sandwich was not. Was this cheese Mimolette, as advertised? Who cares! It was fantastic. And the only drawback to a tomato-goat cheese quiche was that nobody's figured out a way to incorporate a baguette into it.

This is all counter service. Some pastries for after dinner were packed into a little box for us—a plate would've been fine, but opening the package felt like a reward for making it through a delicious slog. Another delicious slog lay ahead, in the form of a gooey, eggy canele; a tiny, perfect choux puff, filled with pumpkin cream and glazed with caramel; and another superlative seasonal gesture, a pumpkin macaron. I'm a fool for pumpkin (even "pumpkin") flavors, but there were other macarons, like black sesame and apple, that'll presumably change with the seasons. I'll be thrilled to see what else this bakery comes up with.

La Boulangerie Bakery and Cafe, 915 W. Belmont, 773-489-3141

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