Sunday, June 11, 2006

Merci Buckets

1600 W. Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN

Chaise longue. Most people know the meaning of this phrase, but not the proper spelling or pronunciation. Look at the second word closely; it's not "lounge", it's "longue", and sounds like the word "long". Some dictionaries now include an entry for "chaise lounge", since we in America often twist things around a little bit and eventually the dictionary people give up and let us have it our way. But I'm sure the French would scoff at us for what we have done to their words.

What would they have to say about Barbette, I wonder. Other reviewers have made the assertion that walking into Barbette is just like walking into a cafe in Paris, but my sources (Jimmy and Judy), tell me it's really nothing like that at all. I don't know if Barbette's intention is pure authenticity or not, but I don't think it matters all that much because what they've got is really damn good in its own right.

The breakfast menu includes a selection of omelettes, quiche, waffles, crepes, and such, as well as a few versions of Eggs Benedict and things like granola, yogurt, or croissants. One distinction we noticed right away - they only offer one kind of potato (pommes frites, or french fries), and you must order it separately if you want it. We got a half-order and shared it as an appetizer, and that was plenty for the five of us who were sampling it. A whole order is huge (super-size, we might say), so be warned that you should only order the pommes frites if you plan on sharing with a friend or two. The standard accompaniment to eggs in place of potatoes is a salad of lightly-dressed field greens, which makes the meal quite a bit lighter and an option we wish more restaurants would offer.

Rachael, Jimmy, and I all got the traditional Eggs Benedict and we all liked it. The hollandaise sauce is quite good and they know how much is enough. Judy got the daily quiche which included red peppers, leeks, and asiago, and said it was "the best quiche she had ever had", though we all knew she was hyperbolizing, and she knew we knew. Alex got an omelette with brie and fines herbes, which she liked although couldn't finish. And finally, Beau got the french toast, and emphatically told us to never allow him to get french toast anywhere else because this was the best - eggy, delicious, and served with plenty of real maple syrup. The only loss of points came as the result of an unfortunate coffee-free period near the beginning of the meal, but that was only a minor complaint.

So, incroyable!, the breakfast club was happy for the third week in a row. Barbette, our French (or French-inspired) cafe spoke to us in language we all understood... quality breakfast food.

See also Barbette Revisited.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Reflections on the Corner Table

Corner Table
4257 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55409

I hate getting my hair cut. Part of it is allowing a stranger to touch my head while trying to think of things to say other than, "Hey, get your hands off me." Once, when I was thirteen, and awkward, a hair stylist told me that my face was too plain for the haircut I had, and then he proceeded to give me a stiff helmet of hair that would have better suited a grandmother. A big part of why I hate getting my hair cut is that I have to sit facing a mirror for an hour, watching the uncomfortable look on my face as I try not to think of myself as "too plain" and tolerate someone else's hands on my head. Given all of that, I was not happy to find my seat at the Corner Table facing a wall-sized mirror. Was I going to have to watch myself eat? Ick. I sized up the people on the other side of the table, decided Judy was my best bet, and begged her to trade seats with me. From the far more pleasant back-to-the-mirror seat, the restaurant atmosphere was gentle, soft green walls with minimalist maroon colored paitings, nice wooden tables and a stone floor.

No one else was in the restaurant when we got there. In fact, we had to send Rachael to look at the sign, because we were afraid they weren't open. After we had perused the menus, a family sat down outside (nice outdoor seating, if Jimmy would ever allow us to sit outside), and later still a couple of women took another indoor table. Still, it was an ominous sign. Was the food that bad? Fortunately, no.

Items on the menu were about $9, with an assortment of high-end breakfast options as well as an al a carte menu from which you could create a traditional breakfast. Jimmy had the Juevos Rancheros, which he said were "good". Sarah ate the Farmer's Breakfast including thick slices of local ham, which we all sampled and liked. Rachael and I had the vegetarian hash, which was too small and which Rachael regretted ordering as soon as the words left her mouth because she realized too late that she wanted meat. Judy had a daily scramble special with spinach, tomatoes and parmesan. Beau got French Toast because he was tempted by the bottles of real maple syrup on the table when we got there. He described it as too dry and "too sweet" - two words Rachael had never before heard him say. He did, however, like the homemade sausage patties. Nearly every plate left the table empty. Jimmy and I both agreed that, even though it was a late breakfast, we'd still have room for lunch, because the portions were small.

Our overall grade was a B. Sarah, happy with her ham, gave it more, and Beau, still bitter about the too-sweet French toast, gave it less. Judy's grade reflected the seat I made her use, because, really, nobody needs to watch themselves eat breakfast, but she did like the food. We were a satisfied breakfast club for the second week in a row. Unprecedented.