a taste of Paris: French Roast

French Roast
Upper West Side
85th + Broadway

Yesterday I decided to stop for bit of caffeination before I headed to a babysitting job on the Upper West Side – sometimes you just need a little pick-me-up before you can tackle the Tonka trunks and trains of a three year old.  I sat down at French Roast, a lovely little café on 85th and Broadway.  French Roast is actually a full-on restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  How more New York can you get? We’re talking all the yummy deliciousness of croque monsieur, french toast, homemade granola, french onion soup, crepes, omelettes, and crème brulée.

The inside of the restaurant is just as adorable as the outside.  A cozy French ambience – black and white tiled floor, brick red leather booths, a coffee (and liquor) bar, chandelier lights, and decorative mirrors.  I chose to sit outside, as it was pretty noisy with all the customers chatting it up inside.  Plus, I want to enjoy the refreshing NYC weather before it gets too cold!

With the lively atmosphere of a Parisian bistro, both French Roasts pay homage to this most lively and cosmopolitan of cities.

I ordered a large, skim café au lait.  As opposed to a latte, which is espresso with frothed milk, a café au lait is literally “coffee with milk,” that is hot coffee with steamed milk.  Therefore, a café au lait is not as strong as a latte and is usually a bit cheaper.  The waiter (or, garçon, rather) carefully shuffled the full-to-the-brim beverage to my little outdoor table.  The drink was served in an ornate porcelain bowl and was crafted with an artsy flower design atop the café froth.

I cupped the bowl with bowl hands and carried the warmth to my mouth for my first sip.  The temperature was perfect – while it wasn’t so hot to burn my tongue, I could still feel the warm liquid as it traveled down my throat.  The weather in New York is finally beginning to change from those scorching summer months to a crisp, cool Autumn.  The bowl was soothing in my hands – more so than your typical coffee cup or mug.  The bowl shape, sans handle, requires you to grasp the drink with both hands, as if you’re hugging your drink against the nipping Fall breeze.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the coffee mild and creamy, despite the fact that I ordered my café au lait with skim milk (which sometimes dilutes the frothiness of espresso drinks).  The taste was mild, since I ordered a café au lait as opposed to a strong latte.  And the flavor was full and present (not burnt and bitter like Starbucks, though I do love my Starbucks!).

I sat alone at the outdoor table and sipped my drink while I read my new book, Our Story, a memoir compilation by several of the actors and actresses who performed in the 1961 “West Side Story.”  I purchased the book at the annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Flea Market, where you can buy some pretty amazing Broadway memorabilia.  Anyhoo, I’m just starting the book, but am already in love.  Each chapter is written by a different Jet or Shark character from the movie – Action, Graziella, Juano, etc. – and reveals the behind-the-scenes rehearsal process, working with the legendary Jerome Robbins, and performing the timeless American musical on the big screen.

What better way to spend a lazy hour than with a good book and a café au lait?  Stop by French Roast (85th + Broadway OR 11th + 6th) anytime – remember, they’re open 24/7!

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