French


Georgia French Bakery has been in Duluth for, roughly, one and a half decades, and yet, bloggers just don’t write about this place. Why? Because the new insert-trendy-cliche-here joint in Midtown is more newsworthy than an authentic French bakery in the ‘burbs? I suspect in all honesty, as the location is a little tricky (on Satellite, a bit to the mall-side of the corner of Satellite and Pleasant Hill), and the proprietor (yes, French) is modest, disconnected from the food news machine, that it gets missed. No spiky jelled hair, no chummy chum with Tony, and well, whether you’re authentic and serve the real deal just doesn’t need to count, does it?

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At lunch they serve sandwiches. You get four styles of bread, and the offerings for the day are placed on a blackboard, easy to see. I’d show the blackboard but the picture is blurred.

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I enjoyed the proprietor, spoke with him briefly, largely about the closing of Cafe Gourmandises, which used to be the lead French eatery in these parts.

Recommended? Yes. We’ll be back. Authentic French isn’t all that common.

Georgia French Bakery and Cafe
3512 Satellite Boulevard
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 622-2682

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If you’re a foodie with an ounce of pride in what you eat, and you are anywhere near Suwanee, a suburb north of Atlanta, then you need to run, not walk, to Cafe Gourmandises. Seriously. It hasn’t gone away, and it continues to produce some of the finest food value around. Staff? Ridiculously amiable and chatty. The chef? The most approachable guy this side of Guy Wong. The food? Terrific.

A fine Kobe burger.

The shaved and crispy lamb sandwich is to die for.

I snuck in for lunch recently. My daughter had the shaved and crispy lamb sandwich, and I had their Kobe burger. And perhaps I’m spoiled, as decent burgers for me are just a couple blocks away, but the lamb was definitely over the top. And as good as the lamb is, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten the same thing twice in this restaurant.

We’ll be back. My wife now recalls this place and I’ll need some excuse to get her here.

Cafe Gourmandises
686 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard
Suite 200
Suwanee, GA 30024
(770) 945-6599

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It was a funny set of events that left us at La Petit Maison this last Saturday evening. We don’t often eat French, but a bistro like this one offers the best chance for my wife to enjoy French food (she’s not good with milk, cream, cheeses or butter, but enjoys bread). As an appetizer, we tried La Petit Maison’s escargot.

Plenty of butter and herbs in this dish. La Petit Maison has excellent breads.

I liked them. Drenched in butter, these actually are the first snails I’ve had that tasted good. Experiments with escargot in my youth and early teens inevitably led to disaster, and once I was married, French wasn’t a cuisine we frequented. The closest equivalent I have to these tasty morsels is a good cooked oyster.

La Petit Maison
6510 Roswell Road
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
(404) 303-6600

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La Petite Maison is a one story eatery on Roswell Road, between Mount Vernon and Abernathy, found on the left hand side of  the road while driving north. It’s a place that has been on my  radar for a while. La Petite Maison is right next door to Clay’s Sports Cafe. Clay’s Sports Cafe is nearly impossible to see, but La Petite Maison can be seen from a distance (separate building and all). I’ve been driving by this eatery for a while.

Deal is, I’ve been getting out at 3pm to go looking for food. La Petite Maison has classic lunch, then dinner hours so when I’ve been interested, La Petite Maison has been closed. This day I was out around lunch, looking for another restaurant, and was running by here when I realized that La Petite was on my short list. Hence, step inside.

It’s graceful inside. The tables are cloth covered, there are flowers on the tables, and nice wood on the chairs. Booths are available. A small functional bar is on one side. There is covered outside seating, seating that would come in handy during the spring and fall. Staff is small but excellent, really excellent.

I had three things this day. I had a soup special, a lobster bisque, a ratatouille, and what I thought was a salmon salad – I’m not sure that order came through the way I wanted. It might be a salmon entrée and a salad. I’ll post the picture. You can decide for yourself.

The lobster bisque featured a sprinkling of lobster and a lot of that dark brown soup. I liked it, plenty of flavor. The ratatouille was sweeter than I expected, but really did fill a need I have. I can’t get enough vegetables in my diet. Finally, seeing the salmon plate was a Zen moment. Yes, the plate looked that good!

You sit, look at this and wonder. Yügen comes to mind. Japanese chefs cutting their arms off to attend French schools and  learn how to cook French come to mind. It’s pan Asian, this worship of things French – think Bakery Cafe Maum and Cafe Mozart and how two disparate cultures all zone in on the idea of aesthetics in food, how if this plate of food were served to you in Bishoku, say, you wouldn’t blink an eye.

I don’t have many moments like these.

Service wasn’t just good, it was excellent. To note, it’s a tad pricey for a salary man’s lunch. Most of the men here wore ties, about half were in full suits. I was probably the most dressed down male in the eatery. The toughest guy in the place spoke French and after his meal, stepped behind the bar. Bartender, maybe? Wouldn’t be surprised.

I didn’t find this place pretentious. It serves sandwiches. It has plenty of good salads, with an emphasis on seafood plus greens. There are entrees, in the 14 to 19 dollar range. Sandwiches are closer to 10 than 5. And the pace is casual. This isn’t a spot for the 30 minute lunch.

Verdict: Graceful, not pretentious. Really good food. Superb staff. Highly recommended.

La Petite Maison
6510 Roswell Road
Sandy Springs, GA 30328

La Petite Maison on Urbanspoon

La Madeleine is a chain, in several states, and is also a bakery and restaurant. It’s generally well favored at work. It’s not uncommon to see people at lunch with “La Madeleine” brown bags by their desks. It has been hampered recently because of all the construction around Perimeter Mall, but otherwise is a fairly common sight.

I went here for lunch once, out of curiosity. It’s homier than other regional French bakeries and cafes, using heavy wood furniture inside. The setup is kind of a buffet style line, where you ask for foods to be given to you and/or ask for foods to be made for you. At the end they present you with a wooden spoon mounted on a base (carved with a number) and you’re asked to sit and wait for your food.

To begin I had some cream of potato soup, a bread stick, and a small lemon based dessert. All were quite good.

Bacon is optional on the potato soup.

The sandwich had a lot of flavor for a turkey based sandwich. A lot of that was the layer of bacon in the sandwich. In terms of flavor for the buck, this sandwich was quite a bargain.

The brown strip between the turkey is a layer of bacon.

I looked carefully at the menu afterwards for items that could be used in a diet. I didn’t see any so I asked the staff. They couldn’t recall any either. So, unlike some other bakeries, which offer inexpensive vegetarian sandwiches that could be used in a diet, this isn’t an option at La Madeleine. In almost all other respects though, this is a pleasant, carefully crafted sandwich shop and bakery and I do recommend it.

Verdict: Pleasant sandwich shop and bakery with nice sandwiches and nice breads. Highly recommended.

La Madeleine Country French Cafe
1165 Perimeter Center West
Atlanta, GA 30338
(770) 392-0516

La Madeleine French Bakery on Urbanspoon

This is wild coho salmon, a daily special, from Cafe Gourmandises:

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In other news, the La Times has a nice article on truffle hunting in Australia. And for those who would like an overview of recent attempts to cultivate the French truffle, the online magazine Salon has an excellent article on the subject. Georgia, as it turns out, has its own native truffles growing in groves of pecan trees, called a pecan truffle.  Links detailing more about the pecan truffle are here (AP article) and here (NYT article).

Co’m Vietnamese Grill Fusion is one of several shops found in the Shops of Dunwoody complex, just north of the intersection of Mount Vernon Highway and Chamblee-Dunwoody. It was a last minute choice that day and one that was a bit impulsive, considering I walked in about 15 minutes before they closed for lunch.

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As  I entered, they told me the grill was closed and that I could order from the appetizer menu and from their salads. After a bit of a confusing order, I ended up with an appetizer and a salad, their Carpaccio Kobe Beef and the Co’m Goi Salad with lamb.

kobe beef appetizer.

kobe beef appetizer.

Since I had managed to confuse myself as well, I thought the appetizer was the salad and kept wondering why it was so light, just meat and onions. Then the salad arrived and I had one of those “uh oh” moments and readjusted my expectations.

lamb salad

lamb salad

Both were good, though to be honest, if I had to choose one, I’d choose the appetizer. It was light, spicy, and delicious. The salad was very good, but not quite as sublime as the appetizer. To finish, the staff talked me into an “off the menu” dessert, a raspberry cake with white chocolate icing. It wasn’t hard, as I’m partial to most things colored red, including raspberries and strawberries.

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That was really good as well.  In general, service was good, the restaurant pretty, and the bartender refreshing and down to earth.

Verdict: Surprisingly good. Highly recommended.

Co’m Vietnamese Grill Fusion
5486 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd
Dunwoody, GA 30338
(770) 512-7410

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Henri’s Bakery is an Atlanta institution, which has been in town, according to their sign, for 80 years. By my arithmetic this store should have opened in 1929, the year of the great stock market crash. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a testament to the quality of this place, and its ability to adapt to the times. There are two locations, one in Buckhead and another in Sandy Springs. The Sandy Springs location is found at the northeast corner of the intersection of Johnson Ferry Road and Roswell Road, in a strip mall that has, among other patrons, a Trader Joes.  This review is exclusively about the Sandy Springs location.

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I came in largely for sandwiches, and after having read Foodie Buddha’s two excellent reviews (here and here), mostly focusing on the Buckhead location. Therefore, I knew what I wanted to try and I was going to be sure to have it made fresh. And even though I arrived at the peak of lunch hour on a week day, the crowds were light and I obtained my smoked turkey sandwich on an onion roll pretty fast. I accompanied that with a black bean “salad”. (Just what is the difference between a black bean “salad” and black bean salsa, anyway?)

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Both were good. The serving size of turkey is generous, the roll was good and fresh, and I do like *cough* black bean salads *cough*.  It’s good enough to raise the question of whether it’s comparable to or better than Wright’s Gourmet and Alon’s, both nearby. And I think comparable is about the right scale. All three have strengths and weaknesses compared to the other. But while Henri’s would take me out of my way heading home from work, Alon’s is along the way. That peculiar fact of geography tips my preference to one after work. As a lunch spot,  however, you could roll dice and end up with a delicious sandwich no matter which one was chosen.

Henri’s Bakery
6289 Roswell Road
Atlanta, GA 30328
(404) 256-7934

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Alon’s Bakery and Market, Dunwoody edition, is the bigger, brasher, brighter counterpart to the Virginia Highlands location. Gone is the small quaint shop, but in return there is more access, and more space. Included in the size increase is a richer selection of sweets and breads, more market items, a coffee shop, substantial amounts of inside and outside seating, and loads more parking space.

For people who commute along 285 to get home, this location offers much more access to Alon’s sandwiches and goods. I’ve been here at least three times since I located it.  It’s relatively easy to get to once you exit 285 onto Ashford Dunwoody and head north. It’s opposite Perimeter Mall, and it’s the largest component of the complex of restaurants and shops it is found in. Like Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, it’s close enough to the loop to make it a very short detour on the way home.

Things I like about this Alon’s: they have a lot of sandwich sized breads, and they are inexpensive. Between the breads, a lot of vegetarian prepared foods, and at least one vegetarian sandwich, they make it easy to drop meat for a day or more, should you desire. If you want to feed your inner carnivore, the meats they do offer are high quality and delicious. Need something cold and sweet? They have gelato and sorbet at this location.

Verdict: Great sandwiches, prepared foods, exotic soft drinks,  quality breads and desserts. Highly recommended.

Alon’s Bakery and Market
4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Atlanta, GA 30346
(678) 397-1781

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This was a last minute choice on a day when my wife wasn’t feeling well. She asked me to pick up some food and bring it home. Usually that means heading to an ethnic restaurant and getting a few items to go. But we had been wanting to find Alon’s Bakery and Market for some time. So I didn’t tell her I was heading that way. I wanted it to be a surprise.

Alon’s can be difficult to find. As you near it from the north, it seems a dozen roads spin off in every direction. It’s easy to get lost. This time, though, I stayed to the right when the road split. Soon, I spied the sign I had seen in so many web pages and managed to find a parking spot. Once parked, I called and let my wife know where I was.

Once inside of Alon’s, the store has a way of just making you stop, look, and stare at the items they offer. I can’t begin to encompass all they sell, but the first thing you see are danish and cookies, then small desserts. Alon’s sells breads as well, but I didn’t see any, as it was late in the day. Next was a sandwich ‘booth’, then prepared foods. And that’s just the left side. On the right there were fine cheeses, other dairy products, items like truffle oil, an assortment of hard to find soft drinks, and fine canned goods.

So, to start, I got some cookies and a danish. I picked up three desserts, a lemon square, a small apple based dessert, and a cheesecake tart. Three sandwiches followed (turkey, pastrami and ham), then small salads: chickpea and feta, a tabouleh salad, and orzo, chicken and cashews.  I ended with a couple sodas (Fentiman’s Ginger Beer, and Gale’s Root Beer).

Once home, I unpacked everything and people took what they wanted. I ended up with the roast beef sandwich and the beef was fresh and cool, the bread crusty and excellent, the sandwich quite good. My wife really liked the turkey, commented on the quality of the meat and my daughter’s sandwich was finished before I could ask her about what she ate. The salads went over well. I like the orzo salad the most, my wife was partial to the chickpea salad. My daughter came back for seconds on all of them.

The desserts were very good. I thought the apple dessert was exceptional, the cheesecake tart very good. My daughter liked the lemon square, but wanted a bit more flavor from it. The cookies, oatmeal raisin bites, were popular as well.

For those who don’t want to treat this as a place ‘to go’ there is outdoor seating though not a whole lot of it. The sightseeing in the area is pretty special, though. It’s not every day you see someone park their greyhound outside and then go shopping for food.

Verdict: Unusually good place to buy sandwiches, bread, prepared foods and desserts. Charming, a visual eyeful. Highly recommended.

Alon’s Bakery and Market
1394 N. Highland Ave
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 872-6000

Alon's Bakery and Market on Urbanspoon

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