Everyday delights at Le Pain Quotidien
Nestled in the streets of the Old Pasadena shopping district, Le Pain Quotidien is a combination of a European styled bakery and countryside cafe with its specialties in organic, homemade breads and dishes. Having both refreshments and meals, Le Pain Quotidien accommodates those looking for a break from the bustling city.
The French styled design and decor of the exterior invite customers inside for a look at the various foods for sale. The cafe provides a small seating area both outside and inside, with a communal table that stretches throughout the length of the room. Pastries, breads and jams are sold in displays in the bakery up front while the restaurant is farther inside.
Walking in, I was met with the comforting smell of coffee and a soothing coffeehouse bumble of customers talking among themselves. Classical music played faintly in the background, mixing with the inaudible chatter to create an air of relaxation. With the welcoming atmosphere, customers have the freedom to either mingle or enjoy time alone. The walls are a simple, warm maple color and are sparsely decorated with striped tapestries. Oversized salt and pepper shakers sat on each table while several squashes sit along the communal table, adding to the cafe’s unusual appeal. I sat myself at a small wooden table and was given a menu not long after by a waitress with a friendly smile.
Captivated by the sweet, rustic design of the cafe, I expected the food to be of similar culture. Le Pain Quotidien prides itself on its quality organic food, as noted on the menu, so I was not surprised by the higher prices. Looking through a selection of drinks, salads and hot dishes, I decided on the Baker’s Lunch. This would score me a bowl of soup and a Tartine, an open faced sandwich, at the combined price of $12.95—cheaper than the two if purchased individually. Disregarding my usual thriftiness, I also treated myself to a feast of chickpea soup, a grilled chicken and smoked mozzarella melt and a raspberry lemonade.
After a brief wait, the raspberry lemonade arrived first with a separate glass of the leftovers, coming as a delightful surprise to me as I was expecting only a glass. The drink was a pink, fruity color with bits of raspberry pulp. Taste of the raspberry in the lemonade was distinctly natural and gave the tartness of the lemon a fragrant twist. Sweetened with agave sugar and diluted with just the right amount of water, the drink was not cloying but rather refreshing.
Soon after, the soup arrived. The generous servings of chickpea, pumpkin and squash made it a thick consistency. However, for such a saturated golden color, the soup lacked severely in the flavor department. I could only taste pepper and a little of the vegetables.
Although the soup was slightly disappointing, the tartine, which was presented atop a wooden board and wax paper, impressed me. The half sandwich was a sight to behold with its stacked layers of cucumber, radish, arugula, smoked cheese and chicken on a slice of sourdough. A bite of the sandwich yielded a tangy taste from the tomato salsa on top with a smoky aftertaste from the cheese and chicken. The bread was toasted to a crispy perfection and paired well with the similarly fresh cucumber on top. Sandwiched between were the smoked chicken and cheese which added much needed protein and filler. The tartine was unlike anything I had ever tasted and was impressively palatable.
Though I may not have enjoyed the essence of the chickpea soup, it was made with quality ingredients like the rest of the menu. All things considered, I believe the different entrees would pair well with any other sides on the menu as I found what I ordered was pleasing.
Le Pain Quotidien delights with its tasteful decor and diversity in flavors. The cafe’s vintage style represents the whimsical and laidback vibes one can enjoy. Whether you’re a wearied shopper passing by or a student set out for a taste test of your own, Le Pain Quotidien is sure to charm.
Written by Jamie Chen, Staff writer
Photo by Jamie Chen