Dear readers, I have confessed in the past that most of the places I visit frequently never make it to the blog. There are a lot of reasons for this – though you may claim that it’s pure selfishness, the fact is that it’s a combination of things. For my local places, I assume no one is interested in seeing Queens places; then, for places that I go to all the time, I always think that I’ll get something different next time, so I might as well wait until I have more dishes to post…
One of the places I visit on a regular basis but have never posted about here is La Boulangerie in Forest Hills. It’s a great little spot for grabbing a bite with a friend, and there was a period of time that I was there literally once a week for lunch.
In the winter, their homemade chicken noodle soup (which often boasts very little noodle, and occasional potatoes) is about the loveliest bowl you can envision. Sweet, sweet broth, chunks of chicken, and a random scattering of veggies that seems to change with the weather and the chef’s whims – just love. Every bowl is served with a big hunk of baguette and delicious butter. I’ll talk about the baguette in a minute…
Also seen above in the 4th pic is focaccia; while I’m not a huge fan of theirs, that ginormous piece they gave me only cost $2… to buy the whole sheet (which is like the length of my arm) is about $5 I believe.
I’ve also sampled their other soups – not pictured – but found the chicken noodle the most consistently satisfying bowl. In fact, whenever I go with my best friend, it’s the only thing she gets.
I’ve also tried the quiche – which comes with a small side salad – and found it perfectly tasty but maybe not my personal preference for things to eat.
They also have a number of sandwiches that I’ve tried… and they are all good, but my absolute favorite is the duck one (not pictured). Intensely meaty, with the pronounced flavor of duck, fresh mozzarella and a bit of basil… oh my, BFF and I split it often with our lunches. They have a version of the Cuban (above), and your standard French baguette sandwiches, which are all tasty… but my heart lies with that fabulous duck sandwich. They come served with a small ramekin of cornichons as well and are about $6.95 each (though I believe the duck sandwich, as it’s a special, is a little bit more at $7.95).
And then there are the salads… Quite honestly, it’s hard for me to go here for lunch and not get one of their delicious Nicoise salads. The perfect amount of dressing for the perfect combination of butter lettuce, tuna, green beans, anchovies, tomatoes, onions, olives, hard boiled egg, potatoes… just perfect. They give you a bowl with it when you eat there, so I take everything out and mix it up very slowly; actually, I take out all the toppings, cut them into smaller pieces, mix with the dressing, then cut the lettuce – still in the plastic container – into bite size pieces before tossing all together. It creates the loveliest bite and just… yes, this is what spurred my obsession with Nicoise salads last year. In fact, writing this has made me want one something fierce right now…
I’ve sampled the other salads, including one topped with chicken that I found a little dry – but find the Nicoise the one that I dream about.
They also have cool things like chestnut tree honey displayed on the shelves around the eating area – and for sale.
As for the baked goods – I’ve had some of their pastries and all are good or better. The breads are great, though I find the ciabatta – ask them to slice it – is absolutely perfect for having friends over and serving a lot of spreads and dips. It holds up well and has a great structure.
However, my first love at La Boulangerie is the baguette. The perfect crack of the crust, the airy structure of the slightly sour crumbs, the slick of the butter they give you if you get the baguette with one of your salads or soups… just amazing (they will also sell you a small bit of it for 50c if you ask for it with your whole baguette-to-go purchase). I was thrilled to discover how good their baguettes are – my neighborhood was seriously lacking – and it’s hard to pass up. I have been known to eat an entire baguette for a meal, with a bit of cheese and meat. YUM.
Quite honestly, every other Sunday finds me waiting in line for a baguette before I run over to the farmer’s market for the rest of my grocery needs. Yes, there’s a line and they often run out of baguette fairly frequently – on Sundays. The trick is to go at off hours or, if you’re lucky, around 11:30 they bring out a fresh batch… I’ve sometimes had to come back around 1 to get my fix. (Because of an update to my routine, I’ve been going at 9:30 and there’s still a line, albeit smaller than at 10:30 or 11! and haven’t had a problem getting a baguette.)
I’ve noticed, however, that their popularity continues to grow as the product is fantastic, the prices are reasonable (they also make coffee, but I don’t know anything about such things so I can’t tell you about the quality – it tastes fine to me – and that’s also fairly popular), and the place is just great. Service varies – the women who have been there longer are AWESOME, while the young’ns can be hit-or-miss.
Overall, though – I will continue to visit near weekly (I actually went twice this week…) and enjoy their baguettes to the fullest.
PS If such things interest you, the owner/master baker frequently walks around and greets people, and is very clearly French all the way. Lovely man.