Le Moulin à Café: My Treat!
One of the most delightful aspects of being a flâneuse, one who loves nothing better than taking in the passing scene, is that there’s no end to the surprises -- neither in New York nor in Paris. So, it was the other day while running errands that I was brought up short at the sight of Le Moulin à Café. That such a place should appear on York Avenue on the Upper East Side in Yorkville at the very moment when I was hungry and looking for a place to have lunch, was a stroke of serendipity.
Reading the sign over the door, what immediately came to mind was Le Moulin Rouge, the world-famous cabaret in Paris known for naughtiness, light-heartedness and ‘joie de vivre.’ That's where the French can-can was born. That's where Toulouse Lautrec, who would immortalize the dancer La Goulou, met he and watched her perform. All of which left me wondering what Le Moulin à Café was all about. I crossed over.
Le Moulin, charming and idiosyncratic, has a neighborhood vibe. And it’s more than a café – it’s a café up front, a restaurant at the rear, and an épicerie to one side. An épicerie? Oui! A grocery selling favorite French products including La Colombe coffee from Corsica and Amora’s Moutarde Du Dijon. Which makes it quite unlike any other small French café-restaurant in the city. At least any I've had the pleasure to visit.
At Le Moulin they speak French! I’m greeted with a Bonjour! to which I respond in kind. The waiter, who could not be nicer (he helps me switch tables three times without so much as a grimace) speaks fluent French, unlike your trusty correspondent.
I finally settle in at a table where I could get a shot of the charming nook. See for yourself. What better place to make yourself at home and take notes on the lively lunch time scene? What I forgot to do was take a picture of the scrumptious quiche accompanied by a well-dressed salad. At Le Moulin the eggs are organic, the produce locally grown. All around me, the dishes coming from the kitchen are beautifully prepared, and the 'Roseall day" adds its own note of joie de vivre. Mais oui!
Two women seated nearby were comparing the croque madame with that of Café D’Alsace, which they considered best in the city. I made a mental note to come back for brunch, give it a try. To date, my best croque madame was at The Mark, at Jean-Gorges Vongerichten's restaurant in the hotel of the same name. But I'm willing to sample that at Le Moulin. If you’re wondering what’s a croque madame? The croque Monsieur, the classic French ham and cheese sandwich covered in béchamel, becomes a Madame when a fried egg is placed on top of it.
I'm told that during the week, much of the conversation that takes place is in French. it's that for the moms who drop their children off at the nearby Lycée Français, the French School on East 75th Street, Le Moulin is a home away from home, a chance to speak one's own language and be free of the pressures of being an ex-pat.
When flying with TWA years ago, we would often arrive in Paris at an hour too late for dinner. One of my favorite memories was heading for the small bar at the hotel Celtic, where the bartender would fortify us with a late night croque monsieur and a glass of wine, before we trundled off for a good night’s sleep. My beloved hotel Celtic has been transformed into the luxury hotel Balzac, which is on rue Balzac in ‘the eighth’, off the Champs and a few blocks from the Etoile. My old worn-out Eyewitness Guide to Paris, listed the hotel Balzac as one of the best in the city.
Can you guess the year that uniform was worn? It wasn't a shiny fabric as it appears, but a refined gabardine.
To sum up the ofderings at Le Moulin, everyone raves about the eclairs topped with dark chocolate and filled with a chocolate mousse. So, too, the pain au chocolat. The crossianta in any mode. Another crowd-pleaser was the omelette with wild mushrooms. I'm looking forward to a return visit. Did I say prices are reasonable?
A group seated nearby at Le Moulin were coming from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, recently ranked the Number One museum in the world. To say that they were happy to have found a less trampled oasis is an understatement. This neighborhood gem situated at 1439 York Avenue, is open from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM Monday to Friday and from 8:00 AM to 5 PM on Saturday and Sunday. They are open evenings for events and private parties. Should you want a croissant for breakfast, get there early because they sell out quickly at what is a taste of Paris in New York.
Thanks for stopping by. J'espère vous voir la semaine prochaine. Yes, I hope to see you next week, when I'll have the coffee brewing.