ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Beignets, anyone? You may have heard them described as “French doughnuts.” But the beignets served fresh every Saturday at Clafoutis are better than that. Imagine light, melt-in-your-mouth yeast dough, barely sweet, warm, soft and fresh. Twist this into a yummy knot and add a dusting of powdered sugar. Voila! Perfect with your morning coffee.
I knew the beignets must be good at this little restaurant because when I tried to order one a few weeks ago, they had sold out. This time, I arrived earlier and beheld a full tray of these treats. I started my breakfast and launched the weekend without regret.
Clafoutis, to the best of my knowledge, is the only place in Santa Fe where you can buy and eat a beignet created a few hours before. This ultra-popular restaurant also is a bakery. If beignets aren’t your bakery passion, you can get a chocolate croissant, a slice of clafoutis – a French fruit cobbler – madeleines, fresh bread, beautiful little tarts, Napoleons and a lot more at the bakery case. The tempting display case sits just past the front door. Some of these creations look too good to eat.
LOCATION: 402 N. Guadalupe St., Santa Fe, 505-988-1809
HOURS: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m.
Clafoutis serves breakfast and lunch only, and breakfast is my favorite. One of my choices here is the croissant breakfast sandwich: egg, ham, cheese and (for an extra 50 cents) green chile, all arranged between a buttery, made-that-morning croissant.
But you can get light, French-style waffles here, crepes with several fillings, as well as the traditional French breakfast of bread, butter, jam and coffee. Or try the beautiful platter of cold meats and cheese with a freshly baked baguette – plenty for two or three hungry friends to share. The staff knows how to make omelets, too, with a choice of several fillings. Order a “soft” omelet if that French specialty is to your liking.
In addition to the beignets, a recent Saturday’s breakfast specials included Green Eggs and Ham, a version of the classic eggs Benedict with pesto. Several of our fellow diners ordered this, and it looked great. I opted for another special, French toast with fresh fruit. It was so pretty I was tempted to take a picture of it to send to my mom, a great fan of fresh fruit. But I started eating instead. Sorry, Mom.
The thick-sliced bread had a wonderful lightness to it and a pleasant bit of crunch on the outside. Inside, the thick toast was hot and soft. Between the two pieces of egg-battered bread came a layer of chopped fresh pineapple, sweet strawberry quarters, blueberries and banana slices. More fruit sat on top and on the sides, and the plate was finished with a swirl of chocolate syrup. What a beautiful feast. There was soft butter on the table and a container of syrup.
My friend ordered Le Special, which, as it turned out, wasn’t very special. The best thing about it was that it came with a little colander that held a flaky, naturally sweet croissant and some slices of Clafoutis’ good baguette with little jars of jam (including blueberry). The rest of his breakfast, two eggs which he’d asked for over easy and some sliced ham, was less successful. Part of our disappointment was our lack of awareness that the ham would be cold unless we asked for it grilled. The second problem was that the eggs had been cooked on a grill that was too hot. The edges were crisp and brown but the whites still runny. (I’d had this combination before with bacon, crisp and hot, and perfect scrambled eggs.)
Despite the customers who packed every table and the extra 10 or so people who stood waiting their turn, service was friendly and unstressed. Ann-Laurie Ligier, one of the restaurant’s owners, makes it a point to greet you with “bonjour” and a smile. Customers feel that their business, whether they buy a meal or a collection of pastries to eat at home, is appreciated.
We had to ask for coffee refills, but that was understandable given the hustle of the morning. Coffee is good here, and you can get espresso drinks served French style in a bowl with warm milk if you ask.
Parking is an issue, but on Saturday we were told we could park across the street in state employee/visitor parking lot because the offices are closed on weekends. During the week, if the few places behind the restaurant are filled you might have to look for street-side parking.
Our breakfast for two, with one coffee, was $17.61 before tax and tip.