I have to disclose something first. I love the French. Okay, maybe not some of the crazy politics or avant garde films, but French cooking, absolutement! I took three years of French in high school and a couple of semesters more in college, hoping I'd one day be able to explore the south of France with native ease.
But it was in a restaurant in The Woodlands, Texas, while writing my stories for Savvy Kids in August 2011, that I came across a great French place... well, American French... that I
Now, a little history. The gentleman who came up with La Madeleine was from France's own Loire Valley. Patrick Esquerré founded the first restaurant in 1983 in Dallas. His staff took to calling him Papi (Spanish for father, which is a little strange, since he's French) and he did well. After 15 years, though, he resigned and four investment companies bought the place. The company was sold again in 2001 to Groupe Le Duff, a French restaurant chain company. Later, Esquerré rejoined the company as its ambassador.
We also took advantage of the bread bar. This selection of fresh baked bread slices is offered for all diners, and there are several different breads available. There's also butter and jam and tiny plates to gather these small samplings, a perfect way to whet your appetite.
This may sound crazy, but my daughter went for the muesli. Hunter is an oatmeal-in-the-morning sort of gal and she almost chose the oatmeal but decided instead to break up her streak and dine on the fresh strawberries and milk that came with this dish. Simple, but very much loved.
Me? There's nothing delicate about me or my choices, and on this particular morning I went after the custom omelet filled with chicken, cheddar and red bell peppers. I chose VERY wisely. I was so incredibly impressed with the chicken within - full of peppery flavor, tasty and decadent. Too many restaurants make the mistake of not seasoning their chicken when it goes into a breakfast operation like this, but La Madeleine did a grand job of giving the meat the appropriate seasonings. Paired with nicely sauteed red bell peppers and that cheddar, and I was happy. Grav voiced some food jealousy.
The omelet came with a lovely and light house croissant, which was huge and buttery and just as delightful as you can imagine.
Grav's almond croissant was perfect, marzipan-laden and rich but not overwhelming. He said it was really all he needed of a morning.
Except, when I find myself confronted by jam and butter, the thought of pairing them with a dark chocolate pastry is just too much for me to handle. This, my friends... this is decadence.
I promised I'd go back and share lunch with you. And here I am... sharing my lunch with you, probably not in the way you hoped, but what the heck.
Merit had gone for the French dip, which was a bit lighter than she expected. The combination of caramelized onions, provolone, horseradish sauce and thin sliced beef paired with a French jus. She chose the popular tomato basil pesto pasta as her side.
And I do mean magnificent. Rather than being a smooth, silky puree, the soups at La Madeleine tend to have a texture to them, which holds onto the flavor of each item. The mushroom soup in particular has bits of mushroom and herbs in it, and there's the tiniest bit of fresh crunch from those bits. Okay, that's not the most scientific of observations. Let's just say it's marvelous.
We all agreed, though, that the best thing on the table was the Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta which Grav brought to the table. This light yet substantial dish included bow-tie pasta in a cream sauce with ham, chicken, peas and tiny bits of red bell pepper. The Gruyere flavor pairs nicely with the meats in this dish, and the large serving comes along with a salty small baguette.
And then there was dessert, and even though I was clamoring for a slice of Sacher Torte, I changed my mind when I saw the coconut cream cake. Yes, my friends, I turned down chocolate for coconut, and I don't regret it in the slightest.
Usually, two meals at a restaurant neatly cover what can be found there. But I love this restaurant, and I had an invite to the sneak peek grand opening party Wednesday night, so of course I went. While Hunter was off doing other things, Grav and I joined dozens of others in a night of sampling and indulgence.
The sampling began with soups, puddles of house favorite tomato basil and also potato. Grav wished for a bit more cream in his tomato basil, but I found
It was paired with the light tomato basil pesto pasta salad, with its bowties and delicate red sauce. I'm betting this salad's going to be great take-out picnic fare.
So, now you're hungry. Sorry about that. Fortunately, as the headline here indicates, you can get breakfast and lunch and dinner at La Madeleine. And I suspect you will after reading this. Mention I sent you. They
You'll find Little Rock's first La Madeleine at 12210 West Markham. It's open 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, call (501) 221-7777 or visit the website. Bon appetit.