Crème de la Kane
Kane Concourse is a pretty exciting stretch of road if one is looking for, say, a cardiogram. As far as food goes, though, even Arthur Godfrey Road, with its almost unbroken stretch of banks, is more promising for people looking for a little lunch. Culinary excitement in the 96th Street area was for years limited to the heart-stopping moment when one received the check at the Palm -- said check certainly explaining why so many neighborhood cardiologists managed to stay in business.
So vive la France! Specifically long live the French Bakery! What's especially exciting about the French Bakery (whose Parisian-trained Argentine owner reportedly returns regularly to France for inspiration) are the prices. Although the menu at this casual café always features a few fairly high-ticket items ($12 to $18) of fairly typical Miami fare, the place's strong suit is cheaper stuff such as one would expect at a bakery in Paris itself -- that is, authentically French pastry preparations. A recent $12.50 special of two tiny crabcakes, for instance, while nicely spiced, contained crab strands rather than lumps, and drizzles of an odd and unappealing sticky sauce that tasted like sweetened fig jam. A generously sized $7.95 daily special of Gorgonzola and red-pepper quiche plus mesclun salad, on the other hand, was simply scrumptious: the crust buttery perfection, the naturally sweet roasted red peppers plentiful, and the creamy-rich yet light filling containing just enough pungent Gorgonzola for subtle flavor rather than the cheesy overkill usual in American quiches. A flaky strudel du jour, featuring the same roasted peppers plus chicken and ricotta in a layered phyllo crust, was equally skilled and sparing in its use of cheese.
If "pizza Alsacienne" is on the menu, go for it. The tarte flambé, with a thin but much-more-tender-than-crisp crust topped with onion, bacon, and sour cream, is nearly impossible to find in the United States in any form, and the French Bakery's surpasses many I've had in France, including in the tart's French/Germanic home province of Alsace.
Breads are very good here, assuming you prefer chewy treats to airy puffballs, so daily sandwich selections like bresaola, arugula, and parmigiano are always tasty, too. But do leave lots of room for desserts. Across the board crusts are flaky, while cream fillings are cloud-light, fruit fillings are crisp-fresh, and nothing is overly sweet. Above all do not make the mistake of ordering only one crème brélée for two people, even if you were totally over it years ago, and even if sharing one dessert is your norm. Trust me: Friendships have split over far less than dividing this crème de la crème.
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