Monday, December 16, 2013

Chez Arnaud French Bakery – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough’s birthday was looming, so I was trying to figure out where I could take her for a lunch date. I threw out a couple of places and she suggested Chez Arnaud. I hadn’t been there and had heard her talk about it. I was 100% IN!!!

The place is very modern, clean, and almost minimalist on the inside. There’s a refrigerated case with sandwich kinds of things and then a dessert case. We did some in-depth perusing and finally decided we’d get a small item, a side dish, and split a sandwich (after D.Rough scaled back considerably what I originally wanted to order – sometimes, I get excited about food). We got a foot-long club sandwich with mortadella, provolone, and pistachio butter, a goat cheese tomato basil friand, and these fried potatoes with bacon, cheese, and onions.

We were going to have to go back up to check out the desserts when it was time. There’s no point in rushing into important decisions like this.

The really nice counter person actually coursed our lunch for us. She brought out the friand (like a flaky puff pastry pot pie) first, so we dug into that. Delicious. Very light and flaky crust and piping hot (she had just taken it out of the small oven). The goat cheese was just to eh point of melty and I wanted to eat a much larger version of this (the photo makes it seem large, but it was about 5 inches across – so not small either). Great starter!

The fried potatoes were split into two different bowls (this server is really top-notch) for us. The cheese was melty on the top and when you could get a bite with all the ingredients, it was super tasty. The only thing that would have made these potatoes better would have been if they had some crust on them, but I know it’s difficult and time-consuming to do that. As they were, they were great and I’m not even complaining a tiny bit. I loved them.

The sandwich was great and made me want to go back to Paris and eat outside a café in the blistering cold winter weather. Crusty bread, but not enough to destroy your mouth when you bite it. Great mortadella and cheese combo and the light pistachio butter was a wonderful touch.

It was dessert time. This took an equally long time to decide, especially since I wanted to get everything. The desserts aren’t just appetizing here, they’re beautiful. Beyond “pretty”. So pretty there are parts you’re not sure if you’re supposed to eat. Look at the photo!

After D.Rough shot down my dreams of eating an entire foot long swiss cake roll the size of my leg (I know it isn’t a swiss cake roll, but that’s what it looks like), we got a Moulin Rouge and a Cayenne Chocolate Macaron for D.Rough (since it’s her birthday), and I got a Pombleu – which she told me was a layered stack of custard, mouse and a blueberry-pomegranate mouse on top with some crumbles. I told the girl I would stop eating when I hit the gold part at the bottom of the Moulin Rouge.

The Moulin Rouge stole the show it was incredible. Very light and “happy” tasting. D.Rough always laughs at me when I describe food with non-food words, but it’s true. I wanted more of these, or maybe an entire log of these! How can I order this? In log form? Sheet cake form? Or do I just have to order a hundred of these little guys? I’m willing to do it.

The macaron was really good. I’ve gotten into these little cookies more and more over the past few years. I’ve always liked them, but I’ve had some bad ones, which means I know what GOOD ones taste like. These were really good ones. Just a tiny hint of cayenne at the end, which the girl told us people sometimes mistake for cinnamon. I can see that. Really good and flaky cookie that we both loved.

The Pombleu was really good as well. I like shooter-style desserts (I’m sure D.Rough is rolling her eyes right now). Pudding shooters. Key lime pie shooters. Cake shooters. Cake vodka shots – whatever. I like them all The blueberry pomegranate flavoring was subtle but any more than that would have made the whole thing too sweet. This wasn’t too sweet. It was perfect.

I’d say this was a pretty good showing for my first time at Chez Arnaud. The only thing I was bummed about was they were out of the giant macaron sandwiches they sometimes have. I had my heart set on one and I suppose I’ll have to come back! When this place runs out of things, they are out until the next day. Just a warning.

Oh, and there is a decent parking lot in the back of the building, in case you can’t find parking out front on Grand Ave.

Top 5 things about Chez Arnaud French Bakery
1. Moulin Rouge
2. Goat cheese friand
3. French sandwich on a long baguette
4. Potatoes, cheese, and bacon
5. Extremely helpful staff who will answer all of your questions!

Bottom 5 things
1. They were out of the giant macaron sandwiches
2. Some of the clientele can be pretty uppity at a French bakery, even in St. Paul. I would likely have “words” with some of the customers we saw this day…
3. Get there early during the lunch hour or you run the risk of them running out of things you want (and you WILL want everything)
4. It was a tiny bit pricey for our lunch (but cheaper than flying to Paris for lunch!), but still reasonable
5. ZERO pencil thin mustaches, berets, and tiny cigarettes here!

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