Saturday, June 24, 2006

In Search of French Pastry (and Jean-Robert's Greenup Café)

When I e-'d mon amie, Mary, about Jean-Robert's new café earlier in the week, she shot me back a response asking what time we should go on Saturday. Thinking the first Saturday might be mobbed, I suggested sometime early in the day. Firing right back, she said, fine--she would pick me up around 6:30am so we could be first in line (if there was one) for the 7am opening! So, bright and early, we were off to Covington in search of the only real French patisserie in the tri-state area.

After making our way across the Suspension Bridge, we headed to Greenup and 3rd Street to park and soon spied a French flag, with "Open" emblazoned on it, hanging from the front of a pretty Italianate-style house. (There is no sign.) After taking stock of the lay of the land, we concluded that the entrance was on the left side of the house, up two steps to a small porch.

Despite marking our arrival at 7:02am, we were the 3rd and 4th customers of the day! Bakery staff was still stocking the cold case and some items were lacking prices, but, my oh my, what was there was mighty impressive.

While Mary decided upon a still warm pain au chocolat ($1.55) and un café for her breakfast choices,

I was still in a quandary trying to make up my mind. So much to choose from!

Looking for something special and light, I chose the fruit mousse of the day ($3.50), in this case, a chilled strawberry and vanilla molded one, served on a large wafer cookie squiggled with chocolate.

After paying our tab, we made way to the front room of the house and a small table for two in front of a very long Italianate window facing Greenup Street. The room was painted a warm pink color and was decorated with French clown memorabilia and a cardboard cutout that I promptly dubbed the "Keep On Truckin' Chef"!

After finishing our delicious treats, we decided to explore the second floor which the bakery staff had invited us to do. The walls of the staircase area were painted a grassy green color and a primitive brass sculpture was situated on the landing between the first and second floors.

The front room on the second floor was painted a bright nectarine orange, with Thonet bentwood armchairs and natural wood tables. A framed antique poster of "Dalí descend dans le métro" greets diners as they enter the room.

The middle room was painted a deep rose color and had white tables set up in a squared off horseshoe-shape, reminding me of a board room.

A closet with the door removed contained shelves and a quirky set of antique "See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil" monkey candlesticks. The room's decorations were funny, funky, French and unexpected.

Making our way back down the stairs, we stopped again in the bakery to check out the additions to the case. This time there were individual sized Bavaroises ($3.25), Opéra Cake ($3.50), Crème brulée ($3), Amadines ($3.25), Lemon Tart ($3.25), Fruit Tart (market price), Chocolate Mousse ($3.50; Deluxe, $4.50), and Chocolate or Coffee Éclairs ($2). Croissants range from $1.40 for plain, to $1.50 for Pain Raisin and $1.55 for Pain au chocolat.

I decided the temptation was too great (and who knows how long it will be before i get back here again?) and sprang for one of the beautiful pieces of Opéra cake to take home for a midnight snack. Mary, meanwhile, was staring intently into the case and softly said, "Isn't that a macaron decorating that cake?"

I looked where she was looking and, sure enough, it certainly looked exactly like one half of those light as air little cookies! Turning to address the salesgirl behind the counter, we asked the fatal question. Could there be, at long last, real macarons available in this area? Hélas, not really knowing what she had was worth its weight in gold around here, she said, No. It was just a chocolate cookie. Little does she know. And I can only hope that my request to the café's manager that the pastry chef consider making some real macarons, rather than just using them as a decoration on another dessert, comes true!


Anonymous Mary Twiss Connolly said...

Dear Sandye,

Wish you were still with us - I miss you so much. :)

In honor of you, my dear chica, I ordered 2 dozen macarons from the pastry chef, Jean-Philippe, last Friday & picked them up the following Saturday ($16/dozen - about the same price as in Paris). He graciously made 1 dozen pistache and 1 dozen rose (2 of my favorite macaron flavors at Ladurée in Paris - our shared favorite city).

Before leaving I tried one of each. Just as I was savoring the pistache one, I caught a glance of Jean-Philippe over my shoulder. "How are they?", he inquired. "Fabulous!", I proffered. "Is the ganache too strong?", he wondered. "No, no! The macarons themselves are delicate and then there's that wonderful burst of flavor when you get to the middle - c'est parfait!", said I.

Gave some to your brother and his family. Maybe Ruth will be so kind as to order some for your memorial service. You will love it.

4:43 PM  

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