Sarasota French Restaurant: C’Est La Vie
1553 Main Street, Sarasota 941-906-9575
In a culinary-climate where nouvelle cuisine and phrases like ‘kicking it up a notch’ are in vogue, I was determined to find a restaurant that honored the ‘CLASSICS’. I don’t know about you, but I am still fascinated with the accomplishments of Julia Child and her devotion to mastering French cooking and bringing it to Americans!
Again, the google researcher, my search did not yield too many ‘French’ restaurants in Sarasota! I remembered a very pleasant experience at C’Est La Vie a while back and their claim as an “Authentic French Bakery & Café”! Since my dining experience there, I have acquired a new friend who has visited Paris often and has even taken cooking lessons there!! Personally (and sadly) I have only been to Paris in my dreams and when my face is buried in a French cookbook!
My ‘Parisian’ friend and I set out for downtown Sarasota’s Main Street with hopes of finding a table outside. As luck would have it, there was a table and we made a B-line for it. Before we even sat down, a server greeted us and we immediately felt welcome. BEFORE I go any further and BEFORE I even put the first bite in my mouth, it must be said that I would have been perfectly content to spend the afternoon just sitting there! Sarasota in May is so BEAUTIFUL that it makes the fact that I have not been to Paris, MORE than palatable!!
I enjoyed the straightforward way the menu was presented in logical ‘categories’. My eyes went to: Specialties; Crepes & Salads! Looking up to consult my lunch companion, I discovered she was MISSING!
She explained later that she had gotten up in a panic to go inside to the bakery to pre-order her favorite pastries before they were gone! Umm….
My lunch companion ordered ‘Croissant au Jambon’ ($8.95) described as ‘a toasted ham and cheese croissant with béchamel sauce’. I ordered the “Crepes Poularde’ ($8.95) described as chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce with a choice of buckwheat or white flour crepe.
While waiting for our entrees, the much anticipated French bread showed up with (YES) real BUTTER! The baguette had just the right about of ‘tug to the bite’ and was delicious! Resisting the urge to devour the baguette, I settled for two bites and eagerly awaited my crepe!
It really DID feel like we are at Parisian Café, when a delightful young lady kind of gracefully ‘swooped’ in with a tray and a smile and delivered our food! I don’t think she spoke English and for some reason, I just found that ‘charming’!
This was my first experience with a ‘Buckwheat crepe’ (which our server had recommended). I almost did not make this choice but I was glad I did! The first thing I noticed about my plate was the generous distribution of the cream sauce! So often, cream sauces get lost or absorbed and I find myself asking for ‘sauce on the side’! Sometimes cream sauces can actually be too rich (YES, even for me). This sauce, however, was perfectly balanced and allowed the chicken and the fresh mushrooms to have their own say.
In an ‘homage to healthy’, I had ordered the salad instead of the potatoes as a side dish. Typically I have found that salads as a ‘side dish’ are sometimes just a way to fill that otherwise empty place on the plate! This salad, however, ended up being a ‘contender to my crepe’! The dressing (described as a balsamic vinaigrette) had more ‘body’ than most vinaigrettes and delighted my taste buds!
My immediate appetite being somewhat sated, I now focused on my dining companion’s plate (the Croissant au Jambon). Just LOOKING at this croissant was pleasing to the palate!! All kind of ‘puffy & golden’, I couldn’t wait to sample this! I have previously had Croque Monsieur which is similar, but the introduction of the Croissant vs. the bread, I found to be brilliant! The béchamel did not overwhelm the sandwich but rather served as kind of a ‘glazed’ enhancement. The house ‘potatoes’ occupied that other ‘place on the plate’ and were quite lonely as it turned out. Sometimes entrees command your attention and cast themselves into the limelight! In fairness to the potatoes, they were very good; they just got ‘upstaged’!!
Our diligently attentive server removed our plates and we just knew we would NOT have room for dessert! The lunch entrees were extremely generous portions and I was more than satisfied. Following my lunch companion’s example, we entered the bakery so that I could make my own selections to take home with me. Her selections were already waiting for her in one of those nice white bakery boxes!
Standing in front of the pastry counter and viewing all those desserts in the showcase, I was overwhelmed! The last time I felt like that, I was at TIFFANY’s in New York and could only LOOK and not ORDER! This time, I was in a position to ORDER and I planned to bring back several of those French pastry ‘gems’ home in my own WHITE box!! . (OK, I confess to nabbing a coffee macaroon that never made it into my box)!
Never one for ‘moderation’, I was so pleased with myself that I limited myself to three (3) selections. The charming gentleman with the French accent behind the counter eloquently described everything I pointed to! Somehow I managed to make a decision and ordered something ‘Chocolate’; Pistachio’ and Almond.
Still feeling in my ‘French mood’, dinner that night was a petite Filet with a Marchand de Vin sauce which I usually linger over! My apologies to the filet, but we raced through eating it to get to our AUTHENTIC French pastries!!! Divine, sublime are two adjectives that come to mind! Somehow I think that the “French language” probably can offer adjectives that do these pastries more justice!!
(How is this: riche, délicieux, decadent)?
SO………….would I go BACK to C’Est La Vie? POSITVELY … Oui! (in a Paris-to-Sarasota minute)!!
I am looking forward to trying their Quiche Lorraine and their Parisienne Salad!
Five (5) Limes to C’Est La Vie!
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