Qu’est-ce que c’est café gourmand?
Café Gourmand is amazing. Literally, it translates to gourmet coffee and you’ll find it everywhere in France. Café Gourmand however isn’t just a fancy cup of coffee like you’ll get at Starbucks for $4, Café Gourmand is a cup of coffee (or tea if you order Thé Gourmand) that comes with 3-5 small desserts and usually costs about 7 Euro (or $10). A bargain I tell you, and these aren’t just random cookies or chocolates though, these are real, amazing desserts.
In Paris I had Coffee with mini crème brûlée, mini chocolate cake with créme anglaise, a pistachio macaron and a speculoos cookie
in Grenoble I had a Tea with mini isle flottante, mini lemon meringue pie, a mini chocolate mousse, and a mini chilled strawberry soup
A proper Café Gourmand will have a mixture of textures, flavors and temperatures. That way you’ll never get bored, and the best thing is that they change from restaurant to restaurant and region to region so you can do what I do and judge a city (and its inhabitants) by their Café Gourmand. The other thing is that you will not know what will come on the plate (unless you ask nicely). So it can be a bit of a surprise each time. Some will like that, others will not.
Where did it come from
In days gone past, a proper meal in France was a lengthy undertaking. It consisted of an amuse-bouche (palette teaser), followed by the appetizer, main course, cheese course, dessert, cup of coffee and finally a digistif like Cognac. (Note that the coffee came after the dessert.) Like the rest of the world, most French people today no longer have the time or money for such a meal. Many restaurants have dropped the cheese course altogether and in a further effort to speed up the french meal, Parisian restauranteurs in 2005 began to serve the coffee AT THE SAME TIME as the dessert. A bafflingly ingenious concept that has been occurring for years in the US but hey, I’m not complaining because their stroke of brilliance gave birth to the modern day Café Gourmand.
Why we should have café gourmand
In France, when you go out for a meal it’s much more of an affair than in the US. You go with friends, get an aperitif an appetizer, drinks, an entrée (or plat principal en Francais) and you always finish with dessert. In the US we don’t do that. I would say that more often than not when I go out to eat in the US I get a main dish and maybe a beer.
One of the reasons for this is that in the US, the desserts are more often than not just not that interesting or exciting. They are too large and too much of the same flavor. I love chocolate cake as much as the next guy, but I don’t want to slog my way through a pound of mediocre cake that costs $7 and feel like a fatty afterwards. That’s why Café Gourmand is so amazing, it’s as much a dessert as an dining experience.
Of course, you can have mediocre café gourmand but if one of the desserts isn’t that great, who cares? There are 3 or 4 others!
I’m not advocating that Americans should eat more desserts, I’m advocating that we should eat more, smaller, better desserts…with coffee.