Thanksgiving Monday, I was able to reward myself for all the unpacking work in the new house with lunch out with a seminary buddy. Kristen lives about 2 hours from our new town, but has occasion to be in Fenton fairly regularly, so suggested we meet at The Laundry. This fun little bistro is, confusingly, also referred to as The French Laundry, but is not affiliated with the Thomas Keller restaurant. It is, however, fabulous! Entering from the chilly street, I found it a little chilly inside, as well, somewhat like a greenhouse without the solar gain. However, I was warm enough and I found the quirky decor, starring vintage kitchen sets, nearly as charming as the young, hip, but friendly waitstaff. The fellow who waited on us was enthusiastic in a pleasant, genuine way, and was well-versed in the menu items.
I can seldom resist ordering French onion soup, if I think it may be done properly. I seldom find it to my liking though, with pallid or bitter broth, too many or too few onions, cheese so thick it chokes me, a crouton not substantial enough to hold up, dissolving into so much unpleasant flotsam. At The Laundry, what I discovered when I ordered it was perfection. Just the right amount of everything, with a lush, rich broth and a sturdy, delicious crouton.
Had I been a stronger, more virtuous woman, I would not have ordered next what I ordered next. I would have contented myself with a salad or ordered one of the vast panoply of delightful-looking sandwiches. However, another of my irresistables was on the menu. I felt a little silly ordering macaroni and cheese after the cheesy, rich soup, so I queried the waiter to discover whether it was truly worth ordering. He assured me it was gooey rather than saucy, then went on to warn me that because it was made with Vermont cheddar, it wouldn't be bright orange. Sold, just like that! It was everything he promised and I ate it with great good cheer and a promise to myself of extra dark, leafy greens at dinner.
I am quite certain that dessert would have been equally wonderful, but I just couldn't. Having lost 40 pounds in the last several months, I am making a concerted effort to be judicious about sugary or otherwise unhealthy foods. Nothing too stringent, just making sure it's really worth it before it goes in my mouth. And if it turns out not to be worth it, it doesn't get finished. However, I did pick up a couple of fragrant molasses cookies to take home.
Upon discovering that the same folks own a bakery a few blocks over, I found myself compelled to stop at Crust before heading to the highway. Oh, what a pleasure for the senses! The air was filled with splendid fragrances and the cases filled with lovely, lovely pastries. Their stollen is just gorgeous and I have plans to return shortly before Christmas, despite our tradition of Christmas morning gorilla bread. For that day, though, what I was hoping is that I would discover pain au chocolat to rival my aunt Miyoko's. She studied at the French Culinary Institute and now sells her stunning pastries at the Ann Arbor farmer's market on Saturday mornings, if you'd like to line up with the other addicts. I have been pretty much ruined for croissants since she brought her concoctions to a family gathering---ham & brie, chocolate, Japanese-French fusion in a sweet red bean croissant. To my delight, Crust offers up a most pleasing rendition of my favorite pastry. I behaved myself and picked up a couple for home instead of devouring it on the spot. Instead, Jeannene and I ate them in bed later that night and giggled over how amazingly delicious they were. I also took her a cherry scone, which she had for breakfast and reported swooningly back to me that it was tremendous.
Oh, and did I mention that they serve what is possibly the best chocolat chaud in the world? Thick, dark, and redolent with spices. Mercy!
If you'd like to go:
www.lunchandbeyond.com will get you to The Laundry.
www.crustandbeyond.com will get you to Crust.
You want to go to both. Trust me.