Pardon my French Bakery, Cafe and Wine Bar is a most unexpected strip-mall jewel concealed behind a gas station in Eagan. The injustice. The bright, spacious interior is dotted with subtle touches of France, which were obviously placed by someone who knows a croissant from a crescent roll: native Frenchman Frederic Klein (who is related to Patrick Bernet of Patrick’s Bakery and Cafe). Catching my eye were the ceramic cigales (cicadas) — symbols of Provence — clinging to the fireplace and the neat rows of lavender lining the windows like little purple hedges.
With such attention to detail and beauty, I knew the traditional French goodies in the gleaming display case would be authentic and delectable.
For anyone who has been to France and fallen in love with the unapologetically butter-rich and cream-laden desserts, coming back to the States can make one want to send her sweet tooth into hibernation. Thankfully, Klein has brought more than a handful of France’s sweet classics to the Twin Cities, four of which were tasted here.
Aside from the obvious croissant and pain au chocolat (both of which were dreamy… golden and flaky on the outside with billowy, buttery layers within) no French bakery is complete without Opera cake ($4.10, left). This is a cake that shouldn’t mess around, and it doesn’t at Pardon My French. Three tiers of rich almond cake, moist as if briefly bathed in an almond dew, predominate this bonne bouche. But it’s the two layers of dark chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream, so thick you can almost peel them off, that harmonize the subtle cakey and lush textures and flavors. Like a two-hour massage, each bite of this Opera cake feels like a luxury.
Whenever I’ve been fortunate to meander crooked Parisian streets, without fail, I’ve turned a corner to find a crowd pressed against a patisserie window, peering, salivating, starry-eyed. The object of their affections: macaroons. Stacked high in neat pyramids or chic, orderly rows in every imaginable pastel hue, the little dainties can’t help but attract admirers. Klein’s
versions ($1 each), available in eye-catching chocolate, pistachio, Grand Marnier orange, strawberry, and lemon, live up to the hype. The meringuey, almond sandwich cookie (right) is fluffy and crackles just a teensy bit as you bite in, collapsing into a chewy, sugary essence of the intended flavor. The chocolate cream filling in both the chocolate and pistachio cookies, believe it or not, helps to round out the sugar burst of the meringue. A perfect, playful tea party morsel fit for Alice and all her friends in Wonderland.
At Pardon My French, the cream layers in the Napoleons ($3.50) is whipped so light, they belie their own decadence. Also called mille-feuille, or “thousand leaves,” the Napoleon is known for its multitudinous layers of puff pastry and pastry cream. Topping it off is a gooey blanket of white sugar glaze embellished with chocolate
chevron design. Yum.
Easily overlooked alongside the dazzling multilayered and colorful delicacies is the dependable, and my favorite of everything I tried, chocolate eclair ($2.95). It comes bulging with chocolate custard (and also available with vanilla or coffee filling), no skimping here. The pastry casing is faintly sugary and flaky, like a good pie crust. I felt like I was eating pudding one minute, and a Chinese doughnut the next: a lush combination of sweet bread and smooth, feathery, rich chocolate cream.
Pardon My French also serves up a large selection of French and American wines by the glass, as well as French-inspired quiches, breads, soups, salads, and sandwiches. It also has a full espresso bar.
EDITOR’S UPDATE, 9/25/09: Another visit to Pardon My French revealed some unsavory details. A cafe salad was a nigh-inedible overly sweet mess, the tarte flambe (essentially a flatbread pizza with onions and bacon) was insubstantial and overly salty, croissants were a merely passable white-bread compromise, and — worst of all — a baguette served on the side was a crust-free, squishy, Wonder Bread insult to the word, not fit to be sold at an establishment with anything even vaguely Francophonic in the name. An apple chibouste pastry, it should be said, was quite pleasant and up to the standard that the exterior and menu promise. — James Norton
Pardon My French Bakery, Cafe and Wine Bar
1565 Cliff Rd (in Thomas Lake Center)
Eagan, MN 55122
HOURS: Mon-Thu 7am-9pm
OWNER: Frederic Klein
ENTREE RANGE: $7-15; Bakery, $1-4
BAR: Wine / Beer
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No