La Quiche Parisienne Bistro is a modest sandwich shop and real French bakery located in Downtown's Fourth Street mall. Proprietors Sabine Pasco and master baker Bruno Barachin (along with sole employee Marie-Pierre) do better than grow flowers in the desert—they get out of bed at 2 a.m. and bake. And bake and bake some more.
“I make all the pastries myself,” said Sabine, nodding toward the extensive pastry cases against the back wall, all filled with fine indulgences like colorful mango mousse cake ($3.50), creamy lemon tart ($3.25), trio chocolate mousse ($3.50), croque monsieur (the real deal with cheese on the outside, $7.99), salmon quiche ($5.99) and an amazing sweet almond tart glazed with chocolate ganache ($3.25). Bruno handles the breads.
The single croissant I tried was an oasis amidst American mass-produced doppelgangers, an orgasmic bliss of crisp outer shell combined with swirls of supple, buttery dough.
I followed it with an order of l’assiette Parisienne ($7.99) for lunch. The ample plate consisted of a whole baguette, neatly sliced with a side of real butter, a healthy portion of sliced brie, a pile of really good prosciutto, a nice green salad with lemon dressing, cornichons and pitted kalamata olives, and a large serving of pâté. This pâté was so simple, yet so moist and rich with fatty meat and a touch of warm, nutty sherry that I had to inquire as to its origin.
“I make it myself, and it’s nothing fancy,” said Sabine.
The technical definition of pâté is a spreadable meat paste served as a starter with toast, bread or crackers. Nothing fancy, right? Since most is made from cooked liver and fat with seasonings and wine (and maybe some butter for consistency), it’s really about the quality of meat used.
Sabine and Bruno are old-school not only with their pâté, but in that they use no commercial preservatives in their baked goods. That means their bakery items can’t be kept for extended periods of time. With a limited shelf life, breads and pastries have to be so good that they sell quickly; and based on the steady stream of customers they had while I was dining there, I'm reasonably sure there's no danger in anything going stale.
Location can make or break a restaurant, and Sabine and I had a good chat about the pros and cons of being Downtown. The foot traffic was definitely steady, but as she pointed out, that’s not always a good thing.
“The homeless people, they are everywhere; I must chase them off,” she said, and regaled me with an amusing story about how she got so sick of miscreants smoking pot on the decorative stone wall out front that she covered it with potted flowers.
The inside of La Quiche is quaint with a hint of edgy coolness courtesy of local artist Gary Eugene Jefferson, whose paintings render culinary hallucinations in vibrant colors.
Sabine said, “It’s good to show off local artists—Albuquerque is a place where people come from everywhere.”
In fact, she said her place takes in good business from Europeans staying in the surrounding hotels. The convention center has also been an excellent source of diners hungry for a taste of home. La Quiche is user-friendly for people who aren’t that familiar with French cuisine, however, thanks to straightforward, fresh foods and hardworking people with sterling baking skills. There may even be wines in its future. With or without Beaujolais, it'd be hard to top the simple act of finding an authentic croissant in the pavement of downtown Albuquerque.
The Alibi Recommends:
• Fresh croissants
• Any of the pastries (try the almond) or fruit tarts
• L’assiette Parisienne
• Lyon sandwich (Genoa salami, butter, lettuce, tomato and cornichons on a fresh baguette)
La Quiche Parisienne Bistro, 401 Copper NW #A (in the Fourth Street Mall), 242-2808; Hours: Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; closed Sat and Sun. Price range: inexpensive to moderate. Credit cards accepted, patio, catering, bakery.