Tasty bakery expanding shop

Alice Jones
Food Columnist

The Les Marais bakery has bought up two storefronts on Chestnut Street and is creating a Parisian afternoon getaway. Aside from elegant treats and rich coffee, Les Marais also offers a variety of fresh rounds and baguettes, a bevy of pastries and a small selection of grilled sandwiches.

Les Marais bakes a heavy Croque Monsieur ($8.75) on sweet pain de mie which is cut too thickly, but has a soft inside that pairs nicely with the very tender ham. The grain mustard adds a mild bitter bite to the creamy, freshly-melted Gruyere mixture.cropque
The ham and gruyere sandwich ($10.50) is a lighter option to the Croque Monsieur. It lacks the melted cheese on top, but makes up for it in abundance between two pieces of country levain bread with a somewhat spicy grain mustard smear.

The mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwich’s ($8.50) very fresh flavors come from a light pesto aioli that brings out the sweet flavors of the basil and tomato between a large segment of fresh tradi baguette. It’s just divine.

Another angelic item is the three-cheese sandwich ($9.75) layered with Gruyere, Parmesan and Fontina cheese between sliced levain bread baked with fresh pear and kale. The sweetness of the bread and flavors of the robust cheeses are accented by sweet caramelized onions and add a bit of texture.

Les Marais is realistic about what people can and should eat, and serves reasonably-sized portions. The quiches are a perfect-sized square for a satisfying breakfast or lunch. The vegetable quiche ($6.50), though, blows the ham and cheese ($6.75) version out of the water. The airy texture and light creaminess of the whipped egg and cheese blends well with the florets of broccoli.

Pastries range from croissants to muffins, and include a deliciously large chocolate chip cookie ($2.75). It’s chewy and far from doughy, packed with sweet milk chocolate chips. On the off chance you arrive as the cookies are coming out of the oven, you’ll get one gooey rich bite of heaven.

The fruit beignet ($3.50) is pretty lackluster. It is not your typical fried fluffy square of dough doused in powdered sugar. Les Marais’s beignet is rather thick and bland. It is topped with raw sugar crystals and the pastry is only made sweet by the custard center flecked with pomegranate seeds and a raspberry.

Another disappointment is the chocolate croissant ($4). It has a delicious flaky, airy and buttery pastry dough, but is so wide that the strip of dark chocolate seems miniscule and is hard to portion to each bite.

Les Marais serves Stumptown Coffee from a roaster in Portland, Ore. that has a rich deep flavor without being too bitter. The Cold Brew iced coffee ($3) is delicious with a warm sandwich and a cappuccino ($3.50) warms the soul on a chilly day. The 50-cent almond milk substitute does not mix well with the strong coffee.

There is only one storefront in use at the moment, but work for expansion into next door is already under way. This currently petite cafe will benefit from a larger sitting area and could even expand their menu if fitted with a larger kitchen.

Les Marais is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

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