When Ms Froyo insisted on taking me to Le Pain Quotidien for brunch after a long night of wine and girl talk, I didn’t really expect to get a new blog post out of it. After all, it’s a chain, every store looks somewhat the same, I have already had quite a few business lunches there back when I lived in Abu Dhabi (yes, the Emiratis are big fans of all things European), and the food and beverage offer is neither highly original nor does it include many dessert items. In other words, I would have preferred to spend my money elsewhere. But I learned my lesson: Letting my friends take over the culinary steering wheel from time to time is a good idea. A great one in fact.
First of all, the atmosphere at Le Pain Quotidien (French for “The Daily Bread”) might be carefully designed by corporate sharks who are out for your money, but they did an excellent job. As soon as I took a seat at one of the wooden tables, I felt like I was transported someplace else. Someplace closer to my actual home; a calm, rustic bakery café where I could sit all day long with a magazine, listen to French chansons and order one coffee after the other. You wouldn’t want to bring your work here, though. The combination of fresh-bread-fragrance, background chatter and the preppy clientele doesn’t lend itself to tired eyes and worried thoughts.
The food was a pleasant surprise. Even the savory breakfast dishes sounded so tempting that I forgot all about the sweet options for a moment. And when I did order something sweet, it was tiny but packed an enormous taste. Which could be considered both good and bad, since a small portion translates to fewer calories, but I was left yearning for more. The Belgian waffle with fresh berries was prepared in true European fashion with a very crisp, sugary exterior. And Ms Froyo’s recommendation of adding some of LPQ's own hazelnut spread elevated it to whole different level. This spread is to-die-for and should never find its way into my kitchen as I would be eating it by the spoonful.
To satisfy my inner fat child, I had the waffle as a main course, hot chocolate as a drink, and shared a piece of carrot cake with my friend for dessert. In my defense, Le Pain Quotidien serves a healthy version of carrot cake that comes without frosting and has a a very rich, spicy aroma. I loved the presentation of the small, round cake on a large white porcelain board. It was a lovely finish to our brunch and easily satisfied both of us since all we were looking for was a sweet snack.
Last but not least, the hot chocolate deserves a mention. Steamed milk is served in a round cup and you get to add the dark, liquid chocolate all by yourself. That means you can choose how chocolate-y you really want it, and enjoy watching the milk change its color. Oh, the simple pleasures in life…
Le Pain Quotidien originated in Belgium and has 10 locations in the DMV, including Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Clarendon, Bethesda and Alexandria. It specializes in artisan breads and pantry items such as jams and chocolate spreads, as well as European open-faced sandwiches and pastries, all made from organic ingredients. Its communal table concept invites patrons to share a meal and start conversations with strangers.
Brownie Points for the Belgian waffle: 3 out of 3
Brownie Points for the carrrot cake: 2 out of 3
Brownie Points for the hot chocolate: 2 out of 3