The admonishment to “stop and smell the roses” may be a well-worn cliché, but it’s also often worthy advice. Maybe “stop and smell the baked goods” is better advice, especially when you’re in the vicinity of Gourmandise The Bakery. I’ve been zooming past this venerable bakery/cafe on 300 East for decades and shopping at the Wine Store across the street without really giving Gourmandise the attention it deserves. But following a few recent visits, I’m reminded of another cliché: “The best things in life are free.” Well, maybe not quite free, but at Gourmandise, some of them are pretty inexpensive.
I was prompted to visit Gourmandise after recent updates like a redesigned interior and a new menu of small-plate dinner specials, along with wine service that includes wine flights and food-pairing options. A new addition to the staff—chef and general manager Sam Lubing, formerly of Z’Tejas—also piqued my interest.
Eye-opener No. 1: Each time I’ve visited Gourmandise, the place has been mobbed. Lunches and dinners—especially Friday and Saturday night dinners—are very popular. Again, I think the affordable prices have a lot to do with that. In the evenings and even during lunch, the line of folks queued up to purchase goods from the bakery counter will often extend to the front door. On Saturday nights—even until 10 or 11 p.m.—cars line up on 300 East as customers drop in to buy goodies for the weekend, or to fill a sweets craving that wasn’t quite satisfied wherever else they’d eaten dinner.
For many years, “JJ”—French-born Jean-Jacques Grossi—has been the backbone of Gourmandise, and periodically returns to France for additional training in his “lifelong pursuit and refinement of the perfect pastry.” Judging from the popularity of his pastries and the flavors and textures of the ones I’ve tried, I’d say he’s well on his way. Gourmandise offers a mind-boggling, nearly overwhelming selection of desserts, breads, pastries, cakes and even bagels. Cakes, tarts, cheesecakes, bread pudding, brownies, baklava, Napoleons, marzipan, puff pastry, croissants, caramel apples, muffins, scones, Danishes, turnovers, tiramisu, macaroons, lady fingers, cannolis, éclairs, all sorts of baked breads—this is just a partial list of the bakery items you’ll find at Gourmandise. And, with the exception of a baguette that didn’t exactly rock my world, the baked goods I’ve tried at Gourmandise have been superb.
Eye-opener No. 2: Bakery aside, the rest of the cuisine emerging from the kitchen is damned good. Meals begin with an assortment of fresh-baked rolls and butter—a nice touch. The cafe is open early—at 7 a.m.—for breakfast, with a menu of breakfast paninis ($6.25), apple-cinnamon baked custard French toast ($5.95), quiche, croissants, signature pastries like the pecan roll ($3.25) and much more. At lunch, paninis and deli and hot sandwiches take center stage, along with an enticing choice of entree salads like the raspberry and walnut salad with goat cheese and housemade apricot vinaigrette ($6.75).
Every new day brings a featured quiche ($5.45/slice). They are made from scratch with quality Gruyere, creme fraiche and other top-notch ingredients, and they are divine. I tried the quiche Lorraine (ham & cheese) during a recent Monday lunch visit and was bowled over by how light and airy the quiche was, with rich Gruyere flavor and a light, flaky crust. For $7.95, you can order a quiche combo, which includes a side dish of salad, soup or fresh fruit. I opted for the French onion soup, which was also excellent, topped with housemade toasted bread and a layer of melted Gruyere. My wife opted for a somewhat healthier lunch: the vegetarian chickpea smash ($6.25). made with toasted bread (choices include baguette, croissant, light or dark rye, and thick-sliced white, sourdough, whole-wheat and multigrain) stuffed with a generous mound of lightly mashed garbanzo beans, red onion, chopped olives, roasted red pepper, avocado slices and Italian parsley, with a light lemon-olive oil dressing. It was outstanding.
Even more impressive to me is Gourmandise’s new small-plates dinner menu, which is offered in addition to its extensive regular menu—although, I have to say, these “small” plates aren’t very small. A scrumptious plate of roasted Brussels sprouts ($7) with crunchy pancetta, pine nuts, dried cherries and a tangy sherry vinegar was enough for four to share. Likewise, my wife and I split a generously portioned shrimp-stuffed avocado with salad greens and a light and beautiful dressing of lime, lemon and orange juices ($8).
Au poivre slow-roasted tri-tip steak with fingerling potato hash, caramelized onions and a Burgundy-Gorgonzola pan sauce ($9) is the most popular small-plate dish at Gourmandise, but my fave is the ragout of Mediterranean-style sirloin and short-rib beef over luscious, creamy Arborio rice risotto ($8). There is also a vegetarian risotto ($7) and a seafood risotto ($9) on the menu. And a very fairly priced wine selection with bottles like Gruet sparkling wine and Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé from ProvenÃ§e beautifully rounds out a Gourmandise meal.
Eye-opener No. 3: The service at Gourmandise is among the best I’ve found in Utah. I can’t think of another eatery where the staffers—from servers, managers and hostess to the bakery counter workers—are more friendly and accommodating. Natalie, John, Jonathan, Sam, Kayla, Elena, Christian—and others whose names I forgot—make dining at Gourmandise delightful.
So I won’t be passing by the local gem that is Gourmandise in the future. I will return hungry and often, with eyes wide open.
GOURMANDISE THE BAKERY
250 S. 300 East