The Harbinger Online

Staffer Reviews French Restaurant “Cafe Provence”

[media-credit id=200 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]I love the idea of having a little bit of France near home. Having a French mom, I grew up around the culture, the people and the food. Especially the food. Even though my visits there seem to be fewer and farther between than when I was younger, I still covet those moments where I find a small piece of France around me. As soon as I heard about Cafe Provence, I jumped on the opportunity to go.

After deciding to get dressed up a little more than I usually would to go out to eat, my friend, Katie, picked me up for our 7:30 reservation. Nestled between Chicos and RSVP in the Village Shops, Cafe Provence has several small, intimate tables sitting outside the door under the overhanging roof.  The sign hanging outside the door shows that it’s “A French Restaurant”.

Walking in, the first thing I heard was a murmur of voices. The music was a pleasant tune that you would associate with old movies set in Paris. After being greeted by the black-clad hostess and giving my name, she showed us to a table for two covered with a white tablecloth in the middle of the small restaurant floor complete with flowers, more silverware than I would know what to do with and a napkin folded in that triangle shape that stands up on its own.

Looking around the dimly-lit room, I noticed one thing first. Old people. Everywhere. There doesn’t seem to be a group around us that doesn’t get Social Security money. Behind me, I can see a bar that takes up an entire section of a wall, stacked to the ceiling with more types of liquor than I can probably name.

The walls have murals on them showing scenes from the French countryside. You know, the one with rolling hills covered with luscious green grass dotted with quaint farmhouses and the occasional chateau. Framed pictures hanging underneath show some of France’s major haute couture players. Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton and the like.

After flipping through the extensive wine list in the menu, I arrive at the entrees. Not feeling very excited about paying $32 for the filet mignon, I scan down the list feeling less hopeful that I’ll be able to find anything I like for under $20.

I decide to settle for the ‘Poulet aux Morilles’. Even though I’m fluent in French, I didn’t know what ‘morilles’ were but I gathered that it was some kind of chicken dish. Further investigation told me that it was chicken cooked in brandy cream sauce with potatoes. It was $27. This was coming out of my allowance.

While we waited for our food, the waiter brought us a wire basket with a small loaf of pre cut bread and a small dish filled with butter. I was immediately disappointed with the quality of this bread. As a person with a French mother and French citizenship, you could pretty much call me an expert. The French do take their bread seriously. But this. This was closer to Wonder Bread than the true French baguette. Bah.

It took longer than I would have liked for our food to come. When it was placed in front of me I saw that my small rounded slices of chicken were arranged in a very nice pattern in the sauce around the potatoes and asparagus. It was actually quite pretty.  There only wasn’t actually much food there.

They gave me two potatoes, and they weren’t even big. Think marshmallow-sized. And eight pieces of chicken that I was able to eat in two or three bites. Good thing I ate a ton of bread.

I don’t know how the chicken was cooked, but they managed to make very flavorful, which can be hard to do with chicken. The sauce, which had a kind of milky flavor, worked well with the chicken. The potatoes were very soft and by pressing on them with my fork I soon had mashed potatoes that I could mix with the sauce and shovel into my mouth. My food also came with asparagus, which soon made their way to Katie’s plate. After I was finished, I was left wanting more.

When our plates were cleared away, I asked for a dessert menu. After all, chocolate cake is one of the only true tests of French food. Katie orders a coffee and I ask for some hot tea.  Feeling very posh, I sip my raspberry herbal tea enjoying the night out.

I have to hand it to Cafe Provence, they know how to make food pretty. The chocolate cake was very tasty, but not the kind of thing I have come to associate with the chocolate cake I’ve had in France. It wasn’t as rich. it wasn’t the kind of chocolate cake that was thick enough to stick to my teeth and made me crave a tall glass of milk to offset its very chocolatey-ness.

My check came to a whopping $38. After paying, I was left with a whopping $10 of the $50 I had with me going in.

Before we left, I got a chance to talk to one of the owners of the restaurant who turned out to be a lady whose husband comes from Brest, France which is a city in Brittany, a region to the northwest of France on the North Atlantic Sea. She told me that her family (our waiter was her son) owns and runs the restaurant. They tried to bring some of a culture that was very dear to them to their home in the US. Just the thing I was trying to find.

Though the food was expensive, I was glad I came. I got a quality meal (the point being quality, not quantity) and a night out with a good friend of mine.

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