Food thoughts: Santa Fe’s French connection

Santa Fe has a French connection. It seems that a lot of French people have settled in The City Different. Perhaps it’s the similarities to the South of France, the soil is good for both grapes and lavender here. Whatever the reason, they are here and we are better for it. Bakery/cafes with French or European flair seem to thrive here. Whether you want a croissant, a Croque Monsieur, a piping hot bowl of onion soup or a decadent dessert, one of these places will have it.

Santa Fe food

Chez Mamou on a  Saturday afternoon in winter photo/Steve Collins

Chez Mamou, 217 E Palace Avenue shares a space with Noëlla, a high-end bead and jewelry boutique, is the latest French bakery/café to sprout up in town. The bright interior brings a feel  of contemporary Paris to Santa Fe. Paul Perrier, a popular fixture in town from the now defunct Café Paris, is the baker here.  He learned his craft as an apprentice to a boulangerie in Paris and he’s been perfecting his skills for years. The shop is separated from the kitchen by a glass wall so you can watch Perrier at work. In addition to a mouth-watering assortment of pastries and more, they serve breakfast and lunch, dinner and a patio may be on the horizon for summer.

Santa Fe food

Clafoutis brings a taste of France to Santa Fe, photo/Steve Collins

Clafoutis, 402 North Guadalupe (505) 988-1809, is owned, Anne-Laure and Philippe Ligier, a Parisienne couple who owned an Albuquerque bakery for years. After a brief return to their native France they returned to New Mexico, this time to Santa Fe. They opened Clafoutis in 2007 and caught on almost from day one. It was the first of the new wave of European bakeries that sprung up in town. Anne- Laure works the counter and greets customers with a cheerful, “Bonjour.”  It makes you want to speak French. Philippe, a classically trained baker, is tucked away in the kitchen plying his craft and he’s a master at it. This little slice of the French countryside offers breakfast, lunch and an array of fresh baked goods from Madeline’s, to baguettes to decadent French dessert. Walk if you can. Parking at peak times can be challenging.

Santa Fe food

Swiss Bakery Pastries & Bistro, photo/courtesy Swiss Bakery

Swiss Bakery Pastries & Bistro, opened in January, 2012, is another spot that caught on right away.  Swiss born and trained baker/owner, Philippe Mϋller worked at a long-gone Swiss bakery once located across the street. Classically trained In Switzerland, a place known for its cakes and chocolates, Muller’s baked goods are popular. While it feels a lot like a French bakery, there are subtle differences between the two countries’ confections. Ask him when you go. In addition to the breads and pastries, the café serves breakfast and lunch and at meal times is almost always packed.

Santa Fe food

The French Bakery’s been at La Fonda for over 35 years, photo/ Steve Collins

The French Pastry Shop If you’re in the Plaza area and you get a craving for a French patisserie, pop into the granddaddy of Santa Fe’s French bakeries. They’ve been in the venerable La Fonda on the Plaza for over 35 years. In addition to baked goods, they serve breakfast and lunch including a selection of savory and sweet crepes.

Café Vingt Cinq, opened in 2010, lies on the south end of Cerrillos Road, almost to I-25. Its unusual location at the Fashion Outlets, a factory outlet mall, was a brave choice but it seems to work.  It filled a void for both residents and visitors wanting a taste of France without driving into town. The owners are Joel and Liza Mazire, he’s from France and she’s from Santa Fe. Joel, who learned his craft working at The French Pastry Shop for years, does the baking.  The cases are filled with delectable looking pastries. As with all Santa Fe’s other bakery/café’s, they serve breakfast and lunch in addition to baked goods.

Whether you want a French-inspired casual meal, a cup of café au lait or some bread or pastries to take home, stop by one of the Santa Fe French bakeries for a taste of the Old World in the new.

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8 Responses to “Food thoughts: Santa Fe’s French connection”

  1. Pola (@jettingaround)
    February 4, 2019 at 10:47 pm #

    Oh, this makes me want to go back to Santa Fe! When I was there, I wasn’t on the lookout for French places… Good to know they’re there. :)
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo of the Week: St. Peter’s Square, Vatican CityMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      February 5, 2019 at 8:33 am #

      We have some unusual places her that you wouldn’t think to look for- an African restaurant, a Japanese noodle house, a Persian restaurant come to mind and there are more surprises, too. We’ll write about them eventually,

  2. Sue Mally
    February 5, 2019 at 9:38 am #

    Georges and I love Clafoutis! They have the best baguettes and croissants in Santa Fe. We’ll have to try Chez Mamou and the French Pastry Shop one of these days. Yes, Santa Fe has a great mix of restaurants and cultures … we love living here!

    • Billie Frank
      February 5, 2019 at 10:27 am #

      Agreed! And from Georges, who grew up in Paris, that’s a high compliment. Have you tried the Swiss Bakery?

  3. Mr. Bill
    February 5, 2019 at 9:56 am #

    The authors of this article may have missed the recent opening of Vivre on Johnson Street (formerly Nostrani). Our meal there was as good, if not better, than any we ever enjoyed in our travels in France.

    • Billie Frank
      February 5, 2019 at 10:26 am #

      Actually, this post was all bakeries, We have a mention of Vivre in this week’s Tidbits which will be posted some time today. We’re also getting another French bistro this month. Chef Charles Dale is opening Bouche.

  4. DCJ
    February 7, 2019 at 10:19 am #

    Chez Mamou is a wonderful find. the pastries are not to be believed..so far my favorite is the “success”, either hazelnut or chocolate.

    • Billie Frank
      February 7, 2019 at 10:45 am #

      Thanks for sharing your favorite Cafe Mamou pastry. We’ll have to try them- I’m a fan of both chocolate and hazelnut. It will be a difficult choice- may have to go for both.

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