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By Jim Duncan Reviews

La Mie Bakery & Café
841 42nd St., 255-1625
Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. - 4 p.m.

La Mie Bakery & Café

Long perceived as frilly and unfit for the Middle American ethos, French cuisine is actually one of the great triumphs in the history of human coping. The French invented all — sauces, stocks, braising, charcuterie and much of contemporary cookware when their country lacked the natural resources of its neighbors. France possessed neither the fuels of heavily forested Britain and Germany nor the natural fats of olive-rich Iberia and Italy. So French cooking developed as an exercise in doing more with less. Now, about 220 years after the French invented restaurants (as a means of coping with massive unemployment), French cafés have debuted in Des Moines with a genius for changing American perceptions. Django and Le Jardin were named modestly, to evoke gypsy culture and the garden respectively, but Joe Logsdon’s place goes furthest to deny the pomp of old misconceptions. After all, what could be more humble than a breadcrumb (La Mie)?

La Mie is an ersatz-free zone. There are no travel posters, no French language menus and no overpriced French wines. Its ambiance lacks pretension, particularly on Saturdays when the self-serve tables are stacked with every treat in the baker’s repertoire. Since opening, La Mie has demystified French names, making things less intimidating to non-foodies. Gone are the “Croque Monsieur” and the “Salade Nicoise,” though one can still find a grilled ham and cheese made with Emanthel or Gruyere cheese, as well as a salad made with tuna and olives, potatoes, green beans and hard boiled eggs. La Mie’s authenticity is based in techniques that are employed invisibly. This is a real scratch bakery. Logsdon would rather eat Velveeta than use pre-mixed flour. Since he apprenticed with an international cheese importer, he’s not about to do either. La Mie’s bakers break their own butter and fold it in, carrying their dough from sheeting to usage — a two-to-three hour process that very few American bakeries bother with anymore. They also roll baguettes by hand and practice true lamination — two lost arts.

Their results rank among the great food discoveries in Iowa — six to eight fresh artisan breads and about 30 fresh pastries (the textures of which can produce tears of gratitude) a day. After eating La Mie cinnamon rolls, there is no going back to others. The same is said, frequently, about their scones, brioches, croissants, pecan rolls, caramelized apple Danish, rhubarb cream puff pastries, tarts of seasonal fruits and almond cakes drenched in marzipan. I could go on, and on. The sticky pecan rolls no longer sell out by 10 a.m. each day, something that plagued their addicts back when Logsdon was operating more than one store and serving three meals a day.

He’s focused now, and La Mie is open only for lunch and breakfast. The kitchen has just two burners, so preparations are subsidiary to the store’s main mission as a French bakery. My quiches were served in perfect pastries, with bruleed eggs and layers (rather than immersions) of spinach and Lorraine treatments. I liked a Roquefort salad dressed with roasted beets, nuts and greens, but a red pepper and carrot soup stood out by balancing the flavors of both vegetables. A leek and potato soup made me long for a stronger stock or some cream. A creamy mushroom soup was divine and true to its simple name. Logsdon’s French onion soup, the best I’ve had in town, only appears when he has time to make a true brown stock, which is rare now that he doesn’t serve dinner. Sandwiches star because of the breads. Logsdon has invented one that is developing a cult following — the “Tuskegee” — an open-faced egg sandwich on ciabatta with peanut butter, bacon, red onions and Dijon mustard. It’s not just for Elvis anymore.

Side Dishes
Bistro Montage’s calves brains are developing their own cult following, both as cutlets (served with foie gras and pesto) and sautéed with homemade noodles… Cochon 555, a heritage hog feast and competition will include Des Moines on its ten city culinary tour of America — CV

Food Dude Reviews 2009 2008 Reviews ~ 2007 Reviews
Best & Worst of 2008 (01-01-09) Maxie’s (01-08-09)
Fawn's (01-15-09) Kwong Tung welcomes the Ox (01-22-09)
Noah's Ark (01-29-09) Taste of Elegance (02-05-09)

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