Out of the blue
I was drawn to Bleu Café like a moth to flame. I’m a sucker for a small room run by a chef/owner who has a clear passion for creating his/her own take on classic cuisine. Though our experience wasn’t 100 percent perfect, the biggest hits were straight out of the park.
Beignets—the New Orleans cousin to doughnuts—are served hot and copiously dusted in confectioner’s sugar. Though the café serves the classic variety, we couldn’t resist ordering these pillows of crescent-shaped fried dough filled with lemon curd ($4.99 for three). The pastry was light, and the filling had a nice, zesty tang.
Traditionally, deviled eggs should include mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper, a dusting of paprika and whatever other spices make you happy. Sadly, there was nothing devilish afoot with our plate of eggs ($3.99 for four). In one of the sweetest versions I’ve tasted, chunks of sweet pickle relish were the primary note. They should rename them angel eggs—or maybe unicorn eggs.
Hungarian goulash ($10.99) was served along with that day’s soup, artichoke tomato bisque ($10.99). A bed of buttered egg noodles was smothered in chunks of tender pork, chopped red potato, paprika sauce and plenty of sour cream. The sauce was good, and the overall dish worked quite well. The bisque was everything I want from a classy soup, with pureed artichoke, chunks of sun-dried tomato and a cheesy note. It was served in a cute little crock with a few housemade croutons on top.
A Cubano panini ($10.99), also served with the bisque, was a little less successful. A sandwich Cubano should include roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickle and yellow mustard, layered in a long Cuban roll, grill pressed and sliced lengthwise on the bias. As you may have guessed, I’m a fan. What we were served was grilled, thick cut ham with all the other ingredients—except an exceptionally overcooked and mushy pulled pork subbed for the roast—and the inexplicable addition of mayonnaise. Worst, it was about half the size of what I would expect for such a sandwich.
Getting back to the French-inspired portion of the menu, I discovered the real reason—other than the beignets—to have a meal at this café. Having sampled but a fraction of the menu, I would normally refrain from saying, “This is the main thing you should try.” I’m sure there’s plenty to enjoy in the breakfast selection, but the combination of Bleu Café’s quiche Florentine with French onion gratinée $10.99) is one of the best lunches I’ve enjoyed in recent memory.
The soup was served in an earthenware crock, with thin slices of toasted, house-baked baguette supporting broiled Gruyere cheese. Plenty of caramelized onion swam in a brandy infused beef broth beneath the cheese toast lid, and the flavor combination was rich, inviting and downright dynamite. The quiche featured bacon, Gruyere, fresh spinach and spices. Served nice and toasty, it had a fluffy texture, yet the bacon was still crisp amidst the eggy cloud. But the crust, oh, the crust—flaky, buttery, decadent. It was almost as good as my mom’s pie crust, and I might be tempted to call it a draw. Sorry, Mom!