Who can ever forget Fred the Baker, the haggard, perpetually exhausted Dunkin Donuts baker and his iconic lament, “time to make the donuts?” Every morning an annoying alarm clock would rouse Fred from his deep slumber and he would wearily utter his trademarked catch phrase as he prepared for the rigor of the day. For fifteen years—from 1982 to 1997—Fred the Baker let America know it was time to make the donuts, reminding them that while he was doing so, the guys who make the supermarket donuts were still in bed. The Fred the Baker commercials became ingrained in American pop culture, but they also had a ring of truth.
Being a baker means rising very early and working during hours in which most people are sleeping. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “bakers work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays” and “the work can be stressful because bakers often work under strict deadlines and critical, time-sensitive baking requirements.”
La Quiche Parisienne Bistro is an exemplar of every story you’ve ever heard about how hard bakers work. Master baker Bruno Barachin and his better half Sabine Pasco, the on-site pastry chef, put in the type of hours which would exhaust most nine-to-fivers. Hard work is a way of life with which they are very familiar, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. Similar to Fred the Baker, any sour disposition with which Bruno and Sabine might wake up, dissipates when they greet customers at their sprawling new location.
From its launch in 2006 through May, 2013, La Quiche Parisienne Bistro held court in a delightful Lilliputian café in Albuquerque’s downtown area. It wasn’t exactly an ideal location. Not only is parking downtown an adventure, ingress and egress for folks who don’t work downtown is a time-consuming exercise in patience. The cafe, ensconced in a pedestrian mall, was a bit cramped (to say the least), but its diminution could be viewed as a positive because diners were surrounded by the wondrous aromas emanating from the bread ovens.
In its new location, the space which previously housed Glazed Hams & More in the Mountain Run Shopping Center, there’s plenty of parking and seating is no longer in personal space proximity. Because the new location is much larger, however, those alluring aromas dissipate across a larger area and you won’t imbibe them quite as much. The new location boasts of more counter space for pastries and breads. Showcased in glass pastry cases is a larger assortment of even more colorful and delicious pastries. It’s a wonder drool tracks don’t run down those pastry cases from customers studying their contents carefully.
Among the indulgences, you’ll find loaves of country bread, sourdough bread, fruit tarts, fresh-baked baguettes, quiches, artisan cakes, pain au chocolate (chocolate croissants), and so much more, all tempting treats which bear witness to Bruno’s Master Baker certification and Sabine’s genius. The bistro’s beauteous breads and pulchritudinous pastries will be available, in season, at the Nob Hill Growers’ Market every Thursday from 3PM to 6:30PM. On Saturdays, also in season, La Quiche’s products will be available at the Albuquerque Downtown Growers’ Market. It’s the closest thing you’ll find in Albuquerque to the experience of al fresco noshing on bread and pastries in France.
The breakfast menu is somewhat limited if all you’re perusing are the six items categorized as “Breakfast.” Expand your perusal to include the “Viennoiseries” section of the menu and you’ll reach the mother lode. Viennoiseries are baked goods made from a yeast-leavened dough in a manner similar to bread or from puff pastry, but with ingredients which impart a richer, sweeter character similar to that of pastry. The dough is often “laminated” with a bright oily sheen. The Viennoiseries menu includes flaky croissants, apple turnovers, cinnamon rolls, Danish, brioche and more.
The lunch (or early dinner) menu includes three soups, four salads, an array of sandwiches in which the bistro’s bread shines, tartines (open-faced sandwiches), appetizers and entrees. Entrees are served with your choice of side: salad, Ratatouille, endives braises or French fries. It’s a surprisingly ambitious menu if you’re of the mind that bakery menus are limited. It’s also surprising that the menu isn’t strictly a vehicle for showcasing the bistro’s baked goods (take the steak frites, for example).
A bowl of the onion soup Gratinee is a great way to start your dining experience. If you don’t share that bowl with two or six of your best friends, you may not have room for anything else. The soup is served in a swimming pool-sized bowl similar to the bowls of pho served in Vietnamese restaurants. As with many French onion soups, this one is topped with bread and cheese though the cheese doesn’t drape over the entire bowl as some French onion soup does. Also unlike so many served in Albuquerque’s French restaurants, this is a vegetarian soup made with a vegetarian stock. It’s not quite as rich as French onion soup made with beef broth, but is quite good in its own right.
The French country pate from the tartines section of the menu is another excellent starter. Served as an open-faced “sandwich,” the pate is sliced into quarter-inch thick slices and placed atop a slice of French country bread then topped with shaved carrots, lettuce and red onions. Cornichons, those delectable small pickled gherkins, olives and an incendiary French mustard complete this plate. The pate is somewhat on the coarse side (so much better than the mousse variety) and doesn’t have that strong liver flavor of some pate.
The sandwich menu is comprised of seven sandwiches, all made with the bistro’s amazing homemade breads. All sandwiches are served with French fries, though you can substitute fruit or a spring mix salad for a pittance more. Extra cornichons and French fries are other options. Named for the capital city of the Alsace region in eastern France is the Strasborg Sandwich which is constructed from pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and 1000 Island dressing on toasted Levian bread. The pastrami is the ubiquitous Boar’s Head brand, but it’s sliced on the premises. The sauerkraut has just enough fermentation to make it pleasantly sour; it won’t purse your lips. The Levian bread (bread of a wild yeast) is outstanding with a nice elasticity and texture.
My Chicago born-and-bred Kim is much more carnivorous than I and would have steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner if she could. She often laments the inability of Duke CIty chefs to season steaks well. For her to compliment the seasoning of a steak means the chef is a bona fide genius. The steak at La Quiche was perfectly seasoned for her with the amounts of kosher salt, cracked black pepper and garlic she enjoys. It’s an eight-ounce Angus cut prepared to your exacting specifications and is served with French fries and parsley butter. Slather the butter on the steak for a moist, creamy glaze and rich flavor.
The 2007 animated film Ratatouille probably did more for the consumption of vegetables than all the food pyramids put together. Ratatouille, a traditional French stewed vegetable dish, is popular among dieters because it’s low in fat and calories while being rich in nutrients. There are many ways to prepare ratatouille and most are passable. La Quiche’s rendition is wonderful, a medley of red, green and yellow peppers, onions and endive tossed in olive oil and grilled to perfection.
Our first life-altering experience with the pain chocolate (chocolate croissants) baked at La Quiche was at Limonada, the outstanding Italian sibling of Torinos @ Home. It was an experience we duplicated at the bakery where this delicious treasure was created. The croissant is delicate, light and flaky with a buttery essence. The chocolate is an “adult” chocolate, not the cloying milk chocolate stuff kids enjoy. There’s a Goldilocks quantity of chocolate—not too much, not too little…just enough. This is probably the very best pain chocolate in New Mexico!
La Quiche Parisienne Bistro is a sleek, elegant escape to baked bread deliciousness, but there’s so much more to this paradise of pan. For instance, there are some nine quiche dishes on the menu, each one an invitation to swoon-inspiring flavors. There are decadent desserts a plenty sure to wear down your willpower. Make a run to the Mountain run shopping center soon.
La Quiche Parisienne Bistro
5500 Eubank Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 9 June 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: French Country Pate, Ratatouille, Steak Frite, Onion Soup Gratinee, Strasbourg Sandwich