la boulange, fillmore & california, san francisco
Els and I hit up the Fillmore Farmer's Market last weekend to speak to a man about some smoked fish, and we brought our appetites with us. The farmer's market itself was on the smaller side, and the booths we hoped would be offering bountiful breakfasts and pots of hot coffee did not actually exist. So, we decided to take advantage of being outside of our neighborhood and stroll around in search of something to get our day started right. When we first walked past this place, I mistook it for the chain store with a very similar name (you know the one), and didn't bother to investigate any further. Fortunately, Els cleared up my confusion shortly thereafter, and we returned for a second look. I'm glad we did, because this was a pretty charming little cafe. The menu offered perhaps fewer choices than expected, but what was available all sounded inspired and delicious. I settled on a croque madam, a sandwich I had never tried before (I did, however, try a croque monsieur for the first time earlier this year). I should at this point make note of the fact that this was set up like a cafe and not a restaurant: you have to wait in line to order at the counter, then take a number, find a seat and wait for your food. Personally I think this makes the experience a little more chaotic than it needed to be- there were customers loitering around everywhere, making navigating the inside of the shop frustratingly difficult. However, Els and I managed to find some pretty decent seats in the upstairs area, and we both enjoyed the low-key decor of the place. As you may note in the top photo above, large coffees at La Boulange are served in bowls, which I thought was pretty neat (although I have to say that the coffee was pretty bad). As for the sandwich, this was a pretty great first experience with a croque madam! Like a croque monsieur, a croque madam has ham, swiss and bechemel- but the main difference is that it is topped with an egg (sometimes there are further variations, like the addition of vegetables, but not here). As you might imagine, it was a rich, salty and indulgent sandwich. It was messy, too, and Els took the only napkin we were given even though she was eating oats with a spoon and I had buttery cheesy grease all over my fingers. Jeez. I'd also like to mention that the salad was quite good, too, with a slightly sweet vinaigrette topping the mixed greens. And although it was not a sandwich, Els swore that the warm oats with brown sugar and fruit served in milk that she got was the best she'd ever had. I'm definitely looking forward to coming back here again to try out some of their other offerings.