Albany - Cafe Saint Honore ... Oo la la ... chien chaud, canneles, and the world's best macaron
This cafe that opened two days ago on the corner of San Pablo and Solano makes me smile for many reasons.
First, you have to like a business that has a spokes cow ..."Louis la Vache"
Second, it makes you feel French ... wanting to dust off those high school French books and parle Francais (I NEED my books)
But mainly the baked goods make my tastebuds smile ... yes they do.
That macaron was a wonder. The bright pink currant was like no other I've had ... crisp, creamy, tangy, sweet and deeply flavored. I've never had a shell on a macaron that had such a delicate crunch to it like that with a light, lovely, melty center. These are tiny, little bigger than a quarter, and only $1 ... but with more merit, personality and heart than more expensive and larger versions.
The cannele ($2) was a thing of beauty. I keep reading about custardy centers and I have never truly experienced it until now.
Very good strong coffee ...French roast I'm guessing. The sign on the pot just said frog fuel ... hey, the owners are French, so they can say anything they want in that regard. I'm not sure the brand, but someone said Holy Cow ... though I couldn't find any reference on the web. A very generous medium was $1.50.
They have a number of espresso drinks ... including Latte Mexique.
There are also drinks called "Vachenccinos"
They open at 6am and close at midnight.
- 2 poached eggs with buttered baguette $5.75
- Yogurt with jam and croissant $5.25
- 1/2 baguette with butter and jam $3
Lunch includes a number of sandwiches and salads. Most are $5.75 - $6. The most expensive is the Croque Monsier for $7.50 which includes a small salad.
On the back of the menu
"Cafe-Saint-Honore is named after two famous streets in Paris, rue-Saint-Honore and rue-du-Faubourg-Saint-Honore. We want your visit to be like walking into a little corner of France. "Louis la Vache" is the official spokescow for Cafe-Saint-Honore. "Louis" has ancestral roots in Normandie, noted in France for its rich cuisine and fine dairy products."
Louis ... I've been to France. I know France ... and you sir, are better than France. Your little cafe with the bright sunny windows is very comfy. The coffee is better than in France. The baked goods I had this morning stand up to the best of them. The prices are waaaay better than France ... and most places in the East Bay ... and the staff very welcoming ... and everyone speaks English ... French optional.
Louis ... this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship
Cafe Saint Honore
862 San Pablo Aven, Albany
I'm doing a Croque Monsier crawl or as someone called it a Croque-off,
I'm holding off for a while until I try a few more places and have a better feeling for what a good croque is before reporting ... if all that cheese and bechemel sauce doesn't cause me to croque. I'm pacing myself.
However, while still on the journey I know enough that what Cafe Saint Honore (CSH) is selling is a tasty ham and cheese sandwich but not in the running ... especially with Rendez-Vous a half block away selling a much better version for the exact same price.
CSH keeps a sandwich of two thick slices of pan de mie with a slice of gruyere and thick slice of ham wrapped in the deli case. When you order, they run it through a panini press until the cheese melts, add another piece of cheese on top ... I find it hard to believe that would have anything to do with bechamel ... brown it in the oven, cut it in half and spear each slice with a toothpick topped with a cornichon.
The ham they use is very good though and much thicker than I've had in any croque to date.
It comes with a nice green salad that has dried cranberries, pecans and slivered almonds. The ceasar salad dressing was tasty.
CSH does march to its own drummer. They had samples of something which was pleasant. They didn't mark what it was so I looked in the deli case and it turned out to be the quiche. That would not have been my first guess ... or second.
Still, I like this quirky little cafe. They still don't have the service together and watching the whole operation is entertainment in itself. It seems to have found favor with the neighborhood and it is cheery in there with people on their computers or parents dropping by with kids.
They have Ici making a special flavor for them from their Frog Fuel roast coffee. Unfortuantely they were out today. I still have to give the French hot dog a try. They use Millers hot dogs.
Still haven't tried the croissants. They have a French chef make the dough off-site, proof and bake them in-house.
Yes, yes. Very nice about breakfast, sandwich and salad lunches, and lots and lots of baked goods/desserts, but do they actually serve any FOOD (that is, the main courses one eats for dinner--and you did say the restaurant is open until midnight)? Do they serve beer and wine and/or spirits? If not, it's not a "French café."
Mon dieu RW! The French say "Oh la la" not "Ooo la la", that comes from movies like American in Paris. Canele is spelled with one N, I think....
Otherwise, thanks a bunch for the tip about this place. Can't wait to visit, but it sounds as if I should try it during off hours because of the service issues.
I stopped in there today around 1 p.m. The macarons really are good, although I wish they could be a tiny bit bigger (two bites instead of one). I also got some ice cream: candied Meyer lemon and pumpkin. (Ici digression: I guess I'm too used to sorbets and gelatos, because I really find Ici to be too fatty -- the butterfat really smothers the flavors).
However, I suggest waiting for a few weeks before you try them at a peak time, because there were significant service problems to be ironed out. They only had one person taking orders (although there were at least three other people working there), making coffee, scooping ice cream, etc., This caused long waits, which were compounded by the fact he didn't seem to know what he was doing and had to ask the older man (owner, I presume) a question (or more) on every order. When it was finally my turn, I ordered macarons (he had to ask what the flavors were) and two scoops of ice cream to go (he had to ask where the to-go cups were), and then he only rang me up for one. I said I'd ordered two. He looked confused. I asked him if he'd given me two (they were packed to go in a container with a lid), and he said yes, so I paid for two scoops. But when I opened the container on the way out the door, my two scoops of ice cream were one small scoop and one partial scoop. Maybe he actually gave me a single serving with two flavors, but since after our discussion at the register I'd paid for a double, I wanted a double. At this point, the very nice older man looked at my container and said "we'll double that" plus he gave me back $2 so I only paid for a single.
So basically, I'm not slamming them, I'm just saying that although they are trying hard, they don't have things running smoothly yet.
Thanks for posting this. I've been watching that corner since I moved to Albany last month. Stopped by on the way home and grabbed a couple of canneles, which were as good (if not better) than you described. They also seem to have 7-8 flavor of Ici ice cream by the scoop. They were extremely nice - I was looking around after buying the canneles, and they offered me some ice water while I looked! The tarte au citron is next on my list to try, and their long hours mean that it will be quite dangerous to resist both ways of my commute.
Rworange - from someone relatively new to the area, thanks for all of your helpful and thorough posts!
re: little cook
All that and ICI too. Yeah, I forgot ice cream was mentioned on the menu. Thanks for finding out the brand. Kind of makes me chuckle ... I'm guessing the French name game gave ICI the edge.
Welcome to the nabe. Solano Avenue has some nice places. Looking forward to your reports.
Here's the lunch menu which includes the chien chaud ... French hot dog
BTW, the baguettes looked lovely.
French ham on buttered baguette $5.75
French salami on buttered baguette $5.75
Tuna nicoise on baguette $6
French gruyere and ham $6
Chicken curry with mango chutney $6
Turkey and cranberry $5.75
Chien chaud (French-style hot dog: hot dog on baguette with bechamel sauce and gruyere) $5.75
Croque Monsier (Grilled ham and gruyere w/bechamel served with small salad) $7.50
Spring mix salad (small) $3.50 (large) $5.25
Spinach salad includes sliced egg (small) $3.75 (large) $5.50
Spring mix with grilled chicken $6.75
Spring mix with chicken Cordon Bleu $6.75
Spring mix with nuts and cranberries $6.50
Spring mix with ham and walnuts $6.75
Mandarin spinach (spinach, sliced egg, mandarin oranges and toasted slivered almonds) $6.75
Spinach chicken Caesar $6.75
There is a grab and go special ... sandwich, salad & drink for $10
Near the counter there are post cards of the Eiffel Tower that have a coupon on the back for a $1 discount on the purchase of any beverage, sandwich or bag of coffee
I believe they also had a tart. There were three glass cake plates on the counter and another plate of Gavottes
Speaking of the Gavoittes, I think they have a few shelves of French groceries against one wall. They were just getting set up, There was a whole deli case with nothing in it yet.
IMO, this seems like it will be the best addition to that neighborhood which is getting to be a little corner of the Mediterranean.