I settled in to wait for my Croque Madame with a huge, brightly colored mug of dark roasted coffee at a sunny window with the aroma of baked butter all around. Muted, rapid-fire French slang bounced from the open kitchen as the staff rushed fresh croissants from the oven to waiting regulars at Le French Café in Boulder.
My breakfast was simply two slices of good white bread spread with creamy béchamel sauce, layered with smoked ham and butter, oven-melted until a Gruyere blanket is browned, and crowned with an over-easy egg—this is what fast food breakfast sandwiches want to be when they grow up. Each sigh-worthy bite of yolk-soaked, cheesy ham goodness gets spread with a little bit of raspberry jam.
And vive la différence between “French fries” and real, crisp, skin-on, fresh frites made by a French chef and served with Le Ketchup.
Le French Café is set at Boulder’s foodiest crossroads, Folsom Street and Arapahoe Avenue. Next door are the Great Harvest Bakery, Vitality Bowls, Rincon Argentino, WoodGrain Bagel & Deli and Yellow Belly Chicken, and in the vicinity you can find Tibetan, Greek, Thai, Mexican and Japanese fare.
Agnes and Quentin Garrigou opened Le French Café in Boulder in 2017 and have navigated the challenges ever since. Their breakfast and lunch menu features savory and sweet crepes, croissants, pain au chocolat, raisin rolls, tarts, quiche, sandwiches, omelets and salads.
Boulder Recipe Flashback: Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub
Opened in 1999, Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub at 1922 13th St., Boulder, was famous for not-ice-cold ales, live Celtic music and jams, and a comfort menu that included the classic Irish pub dishes. It was shuttered in 2017. The address is now home to Steakhouse No. 316, and formerly it was the site of the James Pub and Grill. When the following recipe was shared in the 1990s, it was noted that it was an O’Neill family favorite from County Cork, Ireland, and had been adapted for the American home kitchen.
Conor O’Neill’s Shepherd’s Pie
2 pounds ground beef
2 pounds ground lamb
4 large cloves garlic, slivered
1 large carrot, peeled, 1/4 inch chunks
1 large leek, 1/4 inch slices (white part)
1 large onion, 1/4 inch dice
2 tablespoons salt, approx.
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, approx.
2 teaspoons thyme (dried)
1 teaspoon sage (dried)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups unsalted chicken broth
1 cup unsalted beef broth
1 12-ounce bottle Bass Ale
1 8-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 and 1/2 cups frozen young peas
2 and 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Homemade buttery mashed potatoes made with red-skinned potatoes
Saute crumbled beef and lamb in a saucepan and cook until browned. Add garlic, carrot, leek and onion and then thyme, sage, about 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes over low heat until vegetables soften. Add flour gradually until incorporated and then stir in broths and ale. Mix in tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Add more broth as needed.
Turn off heat and stir in peas and parsley. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning. Pour into a deep baking dish, top with warm creamy mashed potatoes and bake in a 450-degree oven for about ten minutes until browned. This can be one large dish, smaller pie pans or a large muffin tin for individual pies.
Note: The recipe did not specify the quantity of mashers nor how to make them. Ground pork or turkey can be substituted for the lamb. Line the pan with pie dough to add an extra degree of comfy to the pie.