Stepping into Cafe Madeleine is like being transported into a French pâtisserie. Aromas of baked pastry dough and butter beckon, creating an olfactory dream sequence that makes the streets of the South End feel very far away.
Like all good French cafes there are outdoor tables for warmer months, and stools tucked just underneath a counter by the window for always. Panes of glass offer a glimpse into the immaculately clean kitchen where bakery dreams are made. But the pièce de résistance is the pastry case, housing mouthwatering, elegant delicacies that are nearly impossible to choose from.
You’re having a croissant, because how could you not? But do you satisfy that sweet tooth craving with a Pain au Chocolat, or spring for the Ham and Cheese Croissant, with savory oozed-out Gruyère crisping its edges? Maybe you’re drawn to the simplicity of the traditional, with its innumerable flaky layers. Best to get them all—no one likes hard choices.
And how to resist the Éclairs, filled to capacity with bittersweet chocolate pastry cream and topped with a creamy milk chocolate frosting, rounding it out almost too perfectly? Or the Fruit Tarts, with vanilla-flecked cream tucked under bright jewel-toned fruits? And then you notice a humble cheesecake and think, “Pure silk draped in tart raspberry sauce? Why not.”
You take one of each cookie to go (because again, choices are hard), and you walk out the door. And as the buttery paradise dissipates, you may be surprised to find you’re still in Boston. Which is fine, because we hate commuting—almost as much as we hate choosing only one kind of cookie.
For the holidays each year, Cafe Madeleine offers three or four varieties of the classic French Christmas dessert Bûche de Nöel (Christmas Yule log cake). Pre-order it to win your next holiday party.
In the summer, the cafe does their own take on a lobster roll; but it’s a two-for-one. You’ll get a duo of rolls, one with claw meat and one with tail meat, both topped with mango and radishes.
Obviously, pastry is best straight from the oven. Get to the bakery before 8 a.m. to snag those still-warm croissants.
Cafe Madeleine’s owner, pastry chef Frederic Robert, worked for many years under famous French chef Alain Ducasse. In 2007, Robert won a James Beard Award for the pastry cookbook he co-authored with his mentor: Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d'Alain Ducasse: Desserts et Pâtisserie. You can see the award for yourself—it hangs outside the cafe’s kitchen.
Tastes of Cafe Madeleine
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