4 Life Lessons From The Café Gourmand

What is café gourmand?

The word gourmand (linked to gourmet) literally translates to ‘gluttonous’ in French. However to the French, it’s anything but. Gourmand refers to a person who appreciates great food – the American equivalent of a ‘foodie.’

Café gourmand is a dessert list staple in France. It includes a single espresso with a sampling of bite-sized desserts. At its core, café gourmand is a simple pleasure that’s a great metaphor for how the French live. When I want a sweet little pick me up at the end of my meal, café gourmand is my favorite go-to. Keep reading to find out 4 life lessons I discovered from this dessert très délicieux.

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Café gourmand du moment: Deli Bo.

1. Variety over quantity is the spice of life.

As a rule, each dessert in the café gourmand is only a bite or two, so you’re able to enjoy a variety of different desserts, flavors and textures without feeling overindulgent. People often wonder how the French can eat meals with so many courses. This is all made possible thanks to small portion sizes. Multiple courses work because the quantity of food is proportional to what will be served next. The tiny tastes of the café gourmand align with this philosophy.

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Vanilla cream puff with chocolate shavings, raspberry macaron, lemon tart, hazelnut cream puff topped with chopped nuts.

2. Life can feel predictable – it’s fun to be surprised sometimes.

One of the delights of the café gourmand is that you don’t know what you’re going to get. The desserts themselves aren’t listed, the menu simply states ‘café gourmand.’ (Sure you could ask your waiter, but where’s the fun in that?) It’s typically an ever-changing assortment of house specialities or pastries from the local bakery. Restaurants put their own spin on presentation and types of desserts included. Anything from ice cream, sorbetcrème brûlée, tiramisu, tarts, mi-cuit au chocolat (molten chocolate cake), macarons, crème caramel (flan), and mille-feuille (Napoleon) are fair game.

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Café gourmand du moment: Café Paulette

3. Time is money.

The Café gourmand is actually a recent invention of the last decade or so meant to save restaurant-goers time. It’s a two-for-one because you get your post-meal espresso (a non-negotiable) and dessert in one go. Otherwise a typical lunch could look something like this:

  1. Entrée – (literally ‘entrance.’ In France the word entrée refers to the appetizer, or dish before the meal. I still mix this up…)
  2. Plat principal (main)
  3. Fromage (and or salade)
  4. Dessert
  5. Café
  6. Digestif (digestive – optional, although more common at dinnertime)

And that’s just lunch! Not to mention, any self-respecting restaurant will give you at least 10-15 minutes in between courses, so that’s easily a two hour ordeal. Are you exhausted yet? I’m exhausted, and we haven’t even asked for the bill yet! (aka do not pass go and add 30 minutes to your meal time). Luckily, I’m told the cheese plate is less ubiquitous these days, but that’s a fairly typical rundown. For the average person short on time, let’s just say it’s worth it to combine coffee and dessert.

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Tout fait maison (all homemade): Ginger cookie with chocolate center, orange tarte crème brûlée style topped with a meringue button, chocolate almond truffle, greek yogurt topped with fruit and candied muesli.

4. Balance is everything.

The variety of the desserts in and of themselves is a treat of changing flavors. Going back and forth between the coffee and the sugary desserts also gives a bit of balance to the bitterness of the espresso. It’s a welcomed juxtaposition that brings a delicious close to any meal. It looks and feels decadent, but you won’t kick yourself for overdoing it later. If you ever find yourself ordering a café gourmand I’d love to hear about your favorite desserts. Until next time, bon appétit!

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Chez Gioia. Molten chocolate cake, raspberry Napoleon, whipped cream and chocolate sauce, lemon sorbet.