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More French Onion Soup (and Romance) at Café du Soleil in NYC

24 Aug

I’m back in NYC with my Trusty Sidekick, and after being apart all summer we decided to go out for a romantic and expensive French dinner. So, we headed to Café du Soleil.  Besides being right around the corner (relatively), CDS’s fantastic French menu, weeknight specials, and charming bistro ambiance make it perfect for a nice but inexpensive meal out.

Editor’s note: Unfortunately the romantic, candle-lit atmosphere didn’t make for the best pictures. I apologize in advance for the poor lighting in these photos!

Location: 2723 Broadway, New York City

In one word: French

Food: Our meal started with a really interesting sweet and savory breadbasket. Half of the pieces of warm bread were filled with raisins, while half were filled with black olives. Both types were delicious dipped in CDS’s intensely flavored herb olive oil. This olive oil is one of my favorite reasons to come to this restaurant!

There are things you’d eat every day of your life, if you could. For me, French Onion Soup is one of those things. I had to order a crock ($6.95), plus a small plate of Escargots ($11.95).

The French Onion Soup was very large for being only appetizer-sized. So satisfying–gruyère-y, warm, and rich as you’d hope it to be. There were tons of carmalized onions inside my crock, waiting to be rescued (eaten) from the rich onion broth. I love it when that happens.

But, as good as the French Onion Soup was, I have to say the highlight of my meal was the escargots. They came outside of the shell, nestled inside a row of baguette slices and smothered in yummy garlicy herb butter. On top of the baguette were small pieces of diced, tomato that must have been dressed in some kind of vinegar because they were sweet and acidic and cut the richness of the snails and butter perfectly.

Unfortunately it’s hard to see from the lighting in this picture, but the escargots were very large–about the size of a quarter–and very well cooked. They were tender and had great flavor. If you haven’t tried them before, think of the rich, meaty, and earthy flavor and texture of a well-cooked mushroom. Not rubbery, not fishy. You’ve got to try them. The crusty baguette was the perfect complement to the escargots and sopped up all the garlicy buttery goodness really well.

CDS has different specials each night of the week that give you a chance to get great food at amazing prices. Because we went on Monday, Steak Night, when any steak on the menu is $12.95, my Trusty Sidekick ordered Steak with a Red Wine Reduction Sauce ($12.95) and a side of steamed asparagus ($4.95). The steak was prepared as he ordered and was a fairly generous portion (we took home leftovers). The steak special is definitely a fantastic reason to visit CDS.

For dessert we went all out and ordered their Espresso Chocolate Mousse ($6.95) and Crème brûlée ($7.95). Any chocolate lover will be in heaven over the mousse. It’s dark, rich and smooth. The espresso flavor is very subtle–I’m not a coffee person, but I loved the flavor. Something to note: this mousse does have a thicker texture than a traditional mousse–it’s more like peanut butter in your mouth than what you might expect if you’re thinking of a mousse as being airy and fluffy.

CDS's Chocolate Espresso Mousse--YUM

I have to recommend the Crème brûlée–it has a hint of lavender that makes the flavor amazing. The crispy sugar crust is such a great contrast to the creamy egg custard. I hear this is on CDS’s To-Go menu…might become a good dessert to pick up every now and then, or everyday.  It is a huge portion (we took home leftovers–best leftovers ever!), so if you love crème brûlée and you love someone else who loves crème brûlée, you could definitely share this dessert and be very happy.

Drink: We skipped beverages in favor of dessert (such are the dilemmas of a grad student on a budget), but noticed that CDS has a great selection of wine by the glass for affordable prices ($7-$8). We’ll definitely be back sometime on a Wednesday night, which happens to be when CDS’s special of the day is 1/2 price bottles of wine.

Service: Our service was friendly, though not the fastest I’ve seen. There were a couple of times we were looking around the room for our waiter. The wait staff member who was handling water was very attentive, though, which I appreciated; our water glasses were always full.

Scene: There were several other couples in the dining room when we arrived, and a few families were seated while we were dining. This is a great place for a date or for a family night out, though the lighting may be a little dark for smaller kids (i.e. If they can’t see very well, I imagine it may be a very messy meal for them).

If the weather is nice, ask to sit outside on CDS’s sidewalk “terrace”. It’s right on Broadway so you’ll get to enjoy some great people watching while you eat.

Dress: There really is no dress code that we saw on a Monday night–maybe this would change slightly on the weekend? It’s located in a neighborhood dominated by Columbia students, so I suspect you can go casual, wear jeans and nice top and you’ll fit right in.

Cost: Our romantic dinner only cost $52, plus tax and tip. Not bad for romantic dinner standards in NYC.

Delivery: 86th St to 125th St; Central Park West to Riverside Dr.

If you like, try: Meritage in St. Paul, Salut in Edina (MN), or Cyrano’s in Chicago

Ze Best Crock of French Onion Soup at Salut

13 Aug

My Happy Place is in this crock.

Location: 5034 France Avenue South, Edina MN

In one word: Gruyère

Food: I met my friend Patricia for lunch at Salut at 50th and France. If you don’t have a chef in your life who is generous enough to spend all day making an onion/wine/beef-stock reduction (thanks, Jenna!), the next best crock of french onion soup is waiting for you there. It has a rich, flavorful broth, and is smothered in thick, melty gruyère cheese floating on yummy slices of baguette. For $8.95, ze price is a little steep, but, then again, can you put a price on soup that takes 24 hours to make?

If you’re not an onion person, there are other reasons to check out Salut. They have a great oyster bar with different varieties of fresh oysters. And, their hand-cut Pomme-frites with béarnaise sauce were voted “Best Fries in the Twin Cities” by Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine.

Our lunch started with one of the best bread baskets around–Salut’s baguette with sweet and creamy house-churned butter. I’m not a butter person, but this butter is irresistible.
If you can, save some of your baguette to dunk into the delicious French onion soup. Mine arrived hot and bubbly, overflowing with gruyère cheese.

Mesmerizing, isn't it?

Try your best to pace yourself. I like to get through the layer of gruyère cheese on one side of the crock,  enjoy some of the rich broth and carmelized onions, then tackle the other side.

As a little girl I made a list of all the things I wanted in a husband, and this soup meets every item on that list: hot, comforting, rich and cheesy (after all, I do love puns). French onion soup, where have you been all my life?

So rich, filling, and flavorful, it’s all you need for a fantastic lunch.

Drink: I had iced tea. Very lemony and cold, it was the perfect refreshing beverage to go with my soup.

Service: Our service was friendly and fast.

Scene: We seemed to be surrounded by other ladies (and some gentlemen) enjoying a leisurely afternoon of shopping at 50th and France.

Salut’s decor gives the restaurant a feeling of a modern “Americanized” French brasserie. Some might find the red walls, black and white checked table-cloths, and giant vintage French posters a bit gimmicky, but I like the atmosphere it creates.

If the weather is nice, ask to sit outside on Salut’s patio–great food and great people watching.

Dress: Well, this is Edina, so feel free to wear any or all designer labels you own, and/or your giant diamond ring(s). Just kidding. But really, you want to clean up at least a little.

Cost: I had a fun lunch with a great friend for only $12. Ooo la la!

If you like, try: Meritage in St. Paul, Brasserie Jo in Chicago, Cafe du Soleil in NYC