Monday, July 28, 2014

Help Me, Sweet Baby Breesus!

Located directly across from Parc Sans Souci in Downtown Lafayette, The French Press offers up fresh Louisiana versions of classic dishes that we have all grown to love. This casual dining spot with a rustic charm has quickly become a favorite in town and has even garnered the attention of SAVEUR Magazine who called it one of their “100 Inspiring Places and Things to Eat” (Jan/Feb 2013). Walking in, you can see why.

With its tall ceilings, your eye is instantly drawn up to the gold paneled ceiling. The original concrete floors make you wonder how much ink was spilled in this old printing plant. The beautiful green walls have tiny cracks, exposing the white brick and stone work underneath. The wait staff is dressed all in black and they move stealthily from table to table. It’s a friendly environment that serves a breakfast and lunch menu seven days a week. From a group of six college aged friends to a family grabbing lunch after church, the setting is welcoming and inviting to everyone.

With his unique twist on the traditional, Chef Justin Girouard was named a semifinalist for a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award in February for the third consecutive year. His artistic and creative abilities shine in each dish and you’ll have a hard time trying to decide what to order; and that is a good problem. 

One of my favorites on the menu is the Cajun Benedict. Take everything you know about the classic Eggs Benedict besides the poached eggs and throw it out the window. The Cajun Benedict replaces the English muffin with a slice of French bread that is topped with boudin and two poached eggs. It only gets better from there. Instead of the classic which features a hollandaise sauce, the Cajun Benedict is topped with chicken and andouille gumbo and scallions. If you haven’t had it yet, I suggest you do on your next visit.

Our server suggested that we each have an à la carte order of one of their best sellers, the Sweet Baby Breesus. Named in honor of everyone;s favorite Number 9, the Breesus is a perfectly fried boudin ball paired with bacon, drizzled with Steen’s Cane Syrup all sandwiched between a soft buttermilk biscuit slider.

You get butter, salt, spice and sweet in each bite. You can get three of them with cheese grits or breakfast potatoes as a meal or order them individually as a starter like we did. Either way, like its namesake, the Breesus is powerful and delivers a touchdown. 

Breaking away from my normal order, I decided to try the Buffalo Bill Poboy. The poboy comes with either fried shrimp or oysters and all sandwiches on the menu come with your choice of scallion potato salad or fries; either regular or truffle. If the choice between shrimp and oysters leaves you torn, order it half-and-half to get the best of both worlds. I’m an oyster man myself and love a good, cold potato salad so for me the choice was easy. 

All poboy aficionados know that the bread is the most important part of the poboy. Too much bread and you can’t taste what is in the sandwich. Too little and you’re left with a soggy, textureless mess. The bread on the Buffalo Bill Poboy was spot on. The ratio of bread to fixings offered just enough bite and resistance that I could taste the levels of flavor. The oysters for the poboy were fried to golden perfection not damaging the delicate texture of the meat. The breading of the oysters was seasoned and not excessively dredged; allowing for THEIR flavor, not the batter, to be the star. They were lightly coated in a buffalo hot sauce that gave the sandwich a subtle kick that stayed at the same intensity the whole time. The poboy comes dressed with a slaw that helps combat that kick, so don’t be intimidated by this sandwich if heat isn’t usually your thing. Crisp bacon adds another level of texture and depth to this clean, fresh poboy. This may have been the first time I’ve had bacon on an oyster poboy, but I think it will become my standard from now on. It is like a Cajun surf and turf on French bread. This is a combo that makes each bite enjoyable. 

My wife ordered the Croque Madame, a play on the classic Croque Monsieur. Both the Madame and Monsieur are black forest ham and gruyere grilled cheese sandwiches with tomatoes and herbed aioli. What makes the Madame different is the addition of a creamy béchamel sauce and one sunny-side-up egg. Get it?

I’m glad my wife filled up on those delicious truffle fries because that gave me the chance to finish off this delicious sandwich. The buttery, rich béchamel; one of the mother sauces of French cuisine, coats the inside of your mouth. The warm, runny yolk of the egg trickles down the sides of the sandwich with each knife cut. The ham is sweet and salty and the cheese melts perfectly, holding the Madame together with each bite. The Madame is comfort food and makes you feel like you are in a cafe in France. It is that magical of a sandwich and may have become my new go-to on the menu at there.

The French Press is a well balanced restaurant and bar offering breakfast/brunch, lunch and white linen fine dining during the weekend. It’s no surprise that they’re an “Eat This Lafayette” recommendation.

Like The French Press on Facebook or visit The French Press online for hours of operation and more information.

The French Press
214 E. Vermilion St.

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