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December 4, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Two months ago I wrote about our dinner at Chloe, a self-described French bistrot near the university. After describing the meal, I confessed to telling Gail as we left that I would eat there all the time if it were in our neighborhood, not realizing that its older sibling, Voilà, is in fact in our neighborhood. As I explained then, Voilà is one of four French restaurants in a one-block stretch in Madison Valley, just over a mile from our house. I have written often about Rover’s and Luc. A month ago I wrote about La Côte Crêperie. But until yesterday, we had never eaten at Voilà.

Like Chloé, Voilà describes itself as a French bistrot, but at lunchtime it turns into a burger joint, albeit a fancy, French-influenced one. The left half of the single-sided, one-sheet menu lists Les Burgers, each with aioli, lettuce, tomato, and choice of frites or a mixed greens salad. One can pay more for additional toppings: bleu cheese, brie, emmental, red onion, truffle oil, sun-dried tomato, caramelized onions, wild mushrooms, fried egg, bacon. Or, one can order the tartine de légumes (open grilled baguette with mixed vegetables) or the gnocchi au pistou (hand-made potato dumplings with pesto cream sauce). These sounded good, but we focused on the right half of the menu. Both of us started with soup (onion soup for Gail, vichyssoise for me), then we ordered the salade gourmand (mixed greens, tomato, ham, egg and apple).

A simple meal, but a good one. Oh, I forgot. We also shared a side order of frites. Those were first rate. I would happily return for another Saturday lunch.

We passed on the crème brûlée and the lemon tarte in favor of going down the street to yet another neighborhood French enterprise, Inès Pâtisserie. It’s relatively new, and I had never been there before, though Gail had brought home a few of their items from time to time. The proprietor has a distinctive approach to her customers. Ahead of us at the counter were two mothers and three young children. One mother started to order when Inès stopped her to ask how many children there were, then went into a case and pulled out pretzel-shaped biscuits for each of them. When the second mother and her child were leaving a few minutes later, Inès pulled a candy out of a glass dish for the child.

Gail was set on ordering canalés, the famous Bordeaux pastries that my sister introduced us to some time ago. (I devoted a post to them three years ago, after returning to Seattle from a trip to New York with a box that my sister had brought to New York from Paris. Two years ago, on the morning we arrived in Paris at the start of our France/Italy trip, Gail and I went food shopping with my brother-in-law and stopped to buy some on the way back to their apartment.) There were several in the display case, or so we thought, but when Gail asked for them, Inès said they were savory pastries, not canelés. But she assured us there would be canelés today. She then brought out the pitcher of batter that she had refrigerated for several days and gave us a lesson on the importance of refrigeration. She ran through the batter ingredients, held up a couple of the canelé molds, and assured us that canelés are easy to make, as long as you are patient and let the batter set.

As consolation, I asked what the similar-sized chocolate-looking pastries were that were under glass on the counter. Chocolate, or something else. Inès looked at me blankly for a second, sizing me up it seemed, then wordlessly lifted the lid, pulled out one of the chocolate-looking pastries, grabbed a knife, cut it in half, and gave each of us a half. Yup, chocolate. And pretty darn good. We bought one, along with a chocolate macaroon and a pistachio one.

This morning, Gail returned for the canelés. That pitcher held only a small amount of batter, enough for a dozen, which were waiting when Gail arrived. She bought two (or so she says) and we each had one this afternoon. As good as the Lemoine canelés that my sister buys? It’s been a while. I can’t really compare. Perhaps not. But what’s the difference? They’re great, and they’re available just down the street.

Categories: Restaurants
  1. gailirving
    December 8, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    I DID only buy 2 caneles, and the owner is from France, born and raised. They must be as good.
    I discovered the shop with Joel one summer afternoon. or maybe spring. We had gone to Bill the Butcher and found a swiss chocolate shop. On our next visit to that chocolate shop we found it had been replace by the Inès Pâtisserie. I have to admit I am delighted to have the replacement. Later in the summer, a new french bakery has opened further east on Madison St. It’s good, very good in fact, but it does not make caneles. These are special and are so delicious. Worth the drive to Madison Valley. And Gail Lopez, you can send them to us any time!

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