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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Daily Bread

Counting Calories a la Francaise

By Daniele Thomas Easton

[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
For French gourmets, some words always manage to conjure images of the good food of days gone by. Call a jam "confiture mamie," or a spread "dame tartine" and the trick is played!

Nostalgia laced with a genetic sense of attachment to quality food will lead French diners to flock
to cafes offering "dame tartine" smothered with "confiture bonne-maman"!

I had this same pleasant reaction when I learned that the Pain Quotidien would open a new bakery cum restaurant in Centre City.

My memories go back a long way both in time and in space: In Paris, I used to stop at Le Pain Quotidien for my morning coffee and croissant on Rue Montorgueil, or would join in at the communal table for a hearty lunch at another facility on Rue des Archives.

After spending three months in France, my first breakfast upon my recent return to Philadelphia had to be at the new Pain Quotidien on Walnut Street.

Going there (several times now) has been like seeing a classic movie, remembered only in black and white and ... being given the opportunity to see not only color, but to enjoy the additional pleasure of aromas wafting through the restaurant.

Some memories immediately flashed back: the visual and relaxing comfort of a restaurant here wood furnishings predominate. Wood tables, chairs, counters, armoires, floors. A light wood typical of North Europe. The communal table of unusual dimensions is made from the floorboards of old trains. Coffee served in bowls similar to those my grandmother would use. Except that she was not offering the wide selection of hot drinks, latte, espresso and the like of the Pain Quotidien.

I smelled with relish my hands after breakfast: this is some olfactory test of mine, my own Proustian madeleine, after eating a French croissant (made with butter only!). Try it, the aroma of fresh butter will impregnate your hands for a while.... I went again for lunch at the communal table, in a happy mix of young workers, students, mothers with kids, and shoppers ready for a break. Remember Tiffany's is across the street. Outside others, snacking at the tables, were soaking the first rays of sunshine.

The food, salads,tartines, quiches, were fresh, tasty and creatively presented. An added bonus, the calorie indication! So American. Never in France had I ever read any calorie count on the menu, but savouring a goat cheese arugula salad with pine nuts and parmesan with the knowledge it is only 580 calories eradicates any hesitation before ordering an extra dessert!

Add an espresso, please. Only five calories!