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French Food Tips

 

Serendipity in San Diego

Ôpera Café
8480 Redwood Creek Lane
San Diego, CA
http://www.operadesserts.com/

There are many enjoyable things in Southern California but outstanding French pastry was not  among our expectations until we came across Ôpera Café downtown San Diego a few years ago. Meanwhile, this successful pastry / eatery / catering venture run by two French pastry chefs has moved to another neighborhood and is still well worth the trip.

We recently dropped by for lunch. The bright café with indoor and outdoor seating was full and bustling but service was fast and friendly. We started with a croque-madame and a goat cheese salad, both fresh and tasty and way above your average lunch experience. Then we treated ourselves to a sample of Ôpera pastries and there it was, the real French touch (not a given in America, even in French labeled places). The passion fruit mousse was airy and delicate, the chocolate trilogy a strong and delicate ensemble and the lemon meringue tarte simply irresistible with its perfect sablé crust.

Ôpera has many more goodies for you to discover, including crêpes, croissants aux amandes, pains au chocolat (they are opened for breakfast too) and delicious macarons. If you have a French sweet tooth, look no further, this is your SoCal spot.

Mon-Fri 7:00am-2:30pm  Sat 8:00-2:00pm

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Bistro and pastry classics in Little France, Brooklyn

Provence en Boîte
263 Smith Street
Brooklyn, NY
http://www.provenceenboite.com/

No wonder Carroll Gardens is home to this typical French bistro: this cozy, family-friendly neighborhood in western Brooklyn has attracted more and more French settlers over the last few years. Beside the  visible French presence, Smith Street is a great spot for relaxed shopping away from bustling Manhattan, especially if you are looking for kid stuff. Once you are done, it is time to enjoy Provence en Boîte.

You will find a nice assortment of bistro staples on the menu: quiche, croque-monsieur, croque-madame and onion soup, to name a few. The food, served by a friendly Franco-American staff, is fresh and tasty. Then, even if you are not usually a dessert person, don't miss out on Provence en Boîte pastries, they are as varied and good as in France. The bistro actually doubles as a pastry shop, so you can get some croissants, cookies or pastries for home even if you don't stop by for a meal.

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Lovely brioche spot on the Upper West Side

Margot Pâtisserie
West 74th Street & Broadway
New York, NY

Perhaps even more than crispy croissants, good brioches are difficult to find on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Brioche is a sweet kind of bread enriched with eggs and butter, perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea, or as a snack. Good brioche has airy, tender crumbs and a delicate buttery taste.

One of the best brioches we have eaten in Manhattan can be found at Margot Pâtisserie (2109 Broadway, actually hidden in the Ansonia building on West 74th Street). Margot is a great spot for French viennoiseries such as croissants, brioches and apple turnovers. They also have delicious pastries. If you try the irresistible tarte Tatin (caramelized upside-down apple pie), don't forget to warm up before serving.

Last but not least, Margot is also a tiny, unpretentious café where you can enjoy all these goodies, and some serious coffee, next to Jacques Doisneau evocative black and white photographs.

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Tarte flambée contest in Midtown Manhattan
 

The Modern
9 West 53rd Street
New York, NY
 

db Bistro Moderne
55 W 44th Street
New York, NY

We used to think that the Modern (the trendy MoMA restaurant) was peerless in NYC when it came to tarte flambée, this delicious Alsatian savory tart covered with crème fraîche, onions and bacon. We're not quite sure anymore. We recently had tarte flambée at Daniel Boulud's newly opened Bistro Moderne and we were quite amazed by how crispy and melting it could be at the same time. Well, now all there is to do is to go back to the Modern to check who's the winner.

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A fine French pastry shop in Chelsea

La Bergamote
9th Avenue & 20th Street
New York, NY

La Bergamote (named after the signature candy of Nancy, in northeastern France) is the right spot for you if you crave croissants, brioches, good coffee and fine French pastries, such as éclairs, religieuses, fruit tarts and mousses, and many others you will be delighted to discover. We are particularly fond of their “bûches”, the log-shaped sweet buttery cake the French can absolutely not celebrate Christmas without.

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