Monday, March 5, 2012

Restaurant Review: Café des Amis...gateau love!


I have discovered my all time favorite dessert.  If I had just one last dessert wish, this would get the call.  This gateaux won't win any beauty contests but the flavors of it are amazing. It is...Gateau de Sirop.  

I could wax poetic about the beautiful molasses and spice flavors in this somber and humble looking cake.  Before it even went into the oven, the heavy aromas of molasses, cane syrup, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and vanilla steeped the kitchen.

We filled pantry containers with  slices of this gateau.  Therefore,  I will, most assuredly, be tucking into a slice every afternoon this week with my afternoon cup of tea.

This dessert hit my culinary radar because it carries a story with it.  It's probably evident that most dishes I cook arrive in my kitchen attached with  memory or experience...a story.  On our weekend away to cajun country, I ordered it for dessert at a little jewel of a local family owned restaurant. 

I not only fell in love with the dessert but also with the entire restaurant.  I decided this restaurant stop would most assuredly be shared on "Snippets of Thyme".

I am truly pleased to introduce a most authentic cajun restaurant tucked away in the tiny cajun town of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana- Café des Amis.

Café des Amis is an airy and artsy restaurant that hums with a definite urban vibe.  

However, it is situated right in the core of a quaint old-fashioned downtown street that could have been the filming location for Mayberry in the old T.V. program "The Andy Griffith Show".

I have not been this delighted by a restaurant for awhile.  Before deciding on where we should stay for our weekend away, I browsed the online menu  of Café des Amis.

One quick glance at the menu had me intrigued and my taste buds tingling, so we booked ourselves into a B&B right around the corner  that I highlighted here.

It's not that easy to find quality cajun food outside of a home kitchen.  There is the "blackened this...and overly spiced that" that has become the popular notion of cajun food.

But, then stands this wonderfully authentic cajun restaurant that serves dishes untouched over time.  The menu that  is served at Café des Amis  carried me straight back to the foods as I remembered them from my childhood growing up in Louisiana.

When plates arrived at the table, the first dish my fork wandered to was the 'rice dressing' side dish.  It is imperative in cajun cuisine that the rice dressing taste spot on.

First bite... I sat back and congratulated my taste buds.  Perfect blend of gaminess, spices, and herbs.  If they can get rice dressing 'right', then this was going to be a gratifying and delectable gastronomic holiday for me.

I ordered one of the appetizers on the menu.  It was a round of crawfish cornbread sitting in a pool of spiced creamy crawfish sauce.  The cornbread was moist with just the right amount of spicy 'kick'.  It was a wonderful cake-like consistency for scooping into the creamy crawfish.

One of my favorite parts of traveling is hearing the stories behind the people who are local.  Nothing gives me more pleasure than eating good food and hearing someone tell a local tale from their part of the world.

So, here is where I met Logan.  Logan is a bright eyed-cheery girl who made me feel completely at home in this restaurant.  As I was commenting on the fun and whimsical artwork on the wall - she quietly informed me that she was the artist behind them.

"You painted everything in this restaurant?" I asked wide-eyed.  "Most of the animal and city-scape paintings" she answered with a sweet and unassuming smile.

We chatted away while I tucked into the delicious rice dressing, cornbread, crawfish sauce, and bowl of shrimp and okra gumbo.

Her paintings would be fun additions to a kid's bedroom or a funky  ice cream or coffee shop.  I asked her where they could be purchased and she lead me to her site here

The dish I ordered for lunch was a layered crawfish medley inbetween fluffy puff pastry.  The presentation of this dish was fun and attractive.  However, I was still happily lingering over the wonderful flavors of that rice dressing, as well as the deliciousness of the crawfish cornbread...and the perfectly flavored maque choux corn.

Café des Amis has all sorts of amusing stories to add  to its quirky stylishness.  In the late 1800's, the building that now houses Café des Amis had one of the first hand cranked elevators in town.  

The restaurant managed to preserve a portion of  the elevator crank shaft.  Its heavy black iron structure towers above the hostess station right when you enter the restaurant and makes a wonderful presentation.

So, dessert rolled around.  I was really so pleased with the savory menu that I planned to pass on anything sweet.  But, the Gateau de Sirop caught my attention so I chatted with Logan about it.

As she brought a piece to the table, I noticed the intriguing darkness of the cake.  The molasses and cane sugar make this dessert an almost black color.  The aroma of the spices immediately tickled my nose.  I was thrilled that I had not passed on it.

Breaux Bridge is as classic a small cajun town as it gets.  Country living is at its truest.   This is a small friendly chatty community that  loves their heritage and good cajun food.

I returned home inspired to recreate their gumbo here, but what most intrigued me was trying my hand at making that gorgeous and delicious Gateau de Sirop.

I saw these Pomegranates at the market and thought how well their shimmering ruby colored seeds would pair nicely with the cinnamon/molasses/syrup infused blackness of this simple cake.

The cane syrup that I used came from another small cajun town called Abbeville.  This and the molasses are what give the cake its stunning dark color.

The recipe calls for Crème Anglaise.  I did make this deeply flavorful bourbon kissed cream, but I also made a whipped bourbon laced cream. (for photographic purposes!).  Both are delicious but Crème Anglaise is "over the top" good.

It's forecasted to rain all week.  I've been busy planting my summer herbs.  So, with this deliciously spiced molasses cake, I'll sit back in the afternoons with a hot cup of tea, watch my herbs grow, 

and indulge in a beautiful slice of this french cajun inspired Gateau de Sirop.

Cafe des Amis Gateau de Sirop with Creme Anglaise

(adapted from Judy Walker, The Times-Picayune from the restaurant owner Dickie Breaux)

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 dozen large muffins.They also freeze beautifully.  If using a round cake pan, makes 8 slices.

1 cups canola or peanut oil
1 3/4 cups pure cane syrup
1 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup dark molasses
1 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans (if desired)
Pomegranate seeds (garnish)

Preheat the over to 350˚ F degrees. Combine the oil,  cane syrup and molasses in a bowl.

In a separate bowl,  stir baking soda into boiling water. (Snippet's Notes:  be sure the baking soda is dissolved in the hot water) Add to the oil,  syrup and molasses mixture. Add all other remaining ingredients and beat well at medium to high speed with an electric mixer. Be sure that everything is mixed in really well before pouring into baking pan.

Fill large muffin tins,  sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray,  about three-fourths full. (Snippet's Notes:  the first time, I filled them too high and the batter spilled over the tins.) Bake at 350˚ F degrees until they almost set,  about 15 minutes. Add the chopped pecans on top (if desired) and continue baking until the muffins are completely set.

   Crème Anglaise

   (Makes about 1 cup)
   1/2 cup whole milk
   1/2 cup heavy cream
   3 egg yolks
   1/4 cup granulated sugar
   1/2 tablespoon bourbon

Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring just a boil.

Meanwhile,  combine the egg yolks and the sugar in a mixing bowl and beat well until light yellow and slightly thickened. Gradually pour the milk and cream into the egg mixture,  whisking constantly.

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and stir over very low heat with a wooden spoon. Cook,  stirring,  without boiling until the sauce coats the back of the spoon. Do not over cook or it will curdle. Stir in the bourbon. Serve warm or chilled.


  1. Gateau de Sirop,mmmmmmm...
    I love this dessert.
    Cafe des Amis is a delicious place.

  2. This review makes me want to visit Louisiana! In the meantime, I'll definitely try my hand at this cake. If I can't find cane syrup, any suggestions for substitutes?

  3. Wow - your lovely photography shows this off to its best! so lovely - the cake got me on the first photo!

  4. I love the deep rich color of this cake from the molasses and spices, I've never heard of it! Your version looks even prettier than the restaurant's.

  5. A beautiful post, as always. I love the little 'snippets' into your world that reveal so much of the things you love. That is what blogging is about, after all.

  6. if i ever open a cafe you must promise to review it! amazing, and this cake does look uttterly incredible. i may have to bake it very soon....

  7. Delicious looking gateau. I want some now! And what a great review of this cajun restaurant. You have such a talent for writing about your beautiful part of the world and always make me want to visit. And of course there is the food...Thank for such a luscious post!

  8. the gateau is to die for! And the ambiance of that cafe is so lovely through your lense.

  9. Hello Sarah -)) Thank you for visiting my blog. I love your photography, very rustic and has a lot of character! I am going to visit you from time to time, if you don't mind -) You have a wonderful day today.

  10. This looks awesome...bookmarked


  11. I LOVE all your photos. Beautiful composition and lightings. Love the dessert even more. I am definitely going to try making this.

  12. Sarah, we have nothing like Cajun food out here in California. My mom makes a great gumbo after living in NO years ago, but that's as good as it gets for me.
    And I've never tried a gateau like yours. I bet that molasses is so rich and good.
    Beautiful photos as always!

  13. Mmmmmmm....your cake looks fantastic. And your photos are stunning and evocative as always~

  14. Thank you for the lovely post. I enjoyed the pictures and the website for the paintings. I liked it so much that I bought a painting. Peace and Light - Lorraine

  15. Lorraine - that just makes my day! What wonderful whimsical pieces she paints. She was as enchanting as her work.

  16. Sarah, the painting arrived last week and it's more than I could have asked for! It will make for a lovely birthday present for my college girl. Now she can have her duck with her no matter where the wind blows her. Thanks again for sharing Logan with all of us. Your blog is so inspiring, maybe someday I'll look at food the same way you do. Peace and Light - Lorraine

  17. Awww Lorraine, that is the sweetest thing that happened. I can just imagine Logan's face beaming as cheerful and happy as your daughter's face! So glad I could link you two.

  18. Many people choose great dining restaurants for a special occasion, so the food must not disappoint- in either selection or quality. You don’t need to feature a huge menu, but it should be interesting, offering unique items that patrons wouldn’t find at any other restaurant.

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  19. I read your post, I really appreciate your experience and I will get good knowledge from their as well. This is greast post about photography.

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