C’est Magnifique!

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Authentic French fare at cozy new café in downtown Alpharetta

By KATIE VANBRACKLE

katie@northsidewoman.com 

collet catherine taylor

What better way to show Mom how much you love her on Mother’s Day than with a delectable French pastry? While you are at it, treat her to lunch as well at a delightful new spot in downtown Alpharetta, Collet French Pastry and Café.

Getting to the café can be a bit tricky. Located next to the Sabri Guven jewelry store, it faces Haynes Bridge Road, but the only entrance is off Old Milton Parkway. Finding it is worth the effort, however, as you will discover not only authentic French fare, but will enjoy making the acquaintance of a charming new neighbor – owner Catherine Taylor.

An elegant woman with a thick French accent, Taylor’s warm, welcoming manner makes the small café feel like home.

Collet French Pastry and Café is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Customers begin arriving as the sun rises to grab a warm chocolate croissant for breakfast. Then comes the lunch rush. Later in the afternoon, businessmen, students or groups of mothers with young children arrive to chat over pastries and coffee. Others stop in for a bite after work or to pick up a cake for an evening party.

Though the hours are long, Taylor can be found behind the counter all day every day, greeting her regulars by name and to know new customers. She loves children and babies, and enjoys speaking with high school students who wish to practice their French.

Don’t expect service in a rush. Remember, in France, people like to linger over their meals, talking and savoring the atmosphere. That’s just how Taylor likes it.

“I want this to be a place where people feel at home and linger for hours. Some people bring their kids here every Sunday afternoon. My customers may be American or from Europe, Japan or Argentina, but they all come to this café because they have some connection to or fond memories of France,” said Taylor.

Those who have visited a boulangerie-patisserie in France will recognize many specialties including the croque-monsieur, a grilled ham and Swiss cheese sandwich with béchamel (white sauce). Or the delicious pate en croute, a meat pie with a mixture of pork and veal marinated in white wine and herbs and baked inside puff pastry. Taylor says this recipe hails from the Champagne area of France where her grandmother grew up.

Other lunch items include soups, salads, a variety of Panini, light and flaky ham and cheese croissants and quiches containing spinach and goat cheese, chicken and mushroom or ham and cheese, all under $10.

Make sure to save room for desserts from the mouth-watering pastry case. Fruit or mousse tarts, chocolate éclairs, macaroons and Viennoiserie (puff pastries) all beckon – almost too pretty to eat. Especially stunning is the beautiful Matignon flourless chocolate cake, which also comes in an individual serving size.

Which is Taylor’s favorite?

“Pastry goes with your mood, so it changes daily,” she admitted. “But I tend to go for anything with chocolate.”

Taylor grew up in northern France, and it was there she opened her first pastry shop with then-husband Francois Collet. After their divorce, Taylor moved with her son to the United States in 1985 to work for world-famous chef Gaston Lenôtre at a pastry shop in the French pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park. Lenôtre, incidentally, was reportedly the inspiration for the character Gusteau in the 2007 animated film “Ratatouille.” A photo of Lenôtre hangs on the wall in the café.

Taylor’s culinary career took her all over the United States, including time spent as an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minnesota and in Georgia.

Francois Collet also moved to America and founded a successful wholesale business in the Atlanta area, supplying French pastries to high-end hotels and restaurants.

Now, Taylor and Collet have teamed up once more to open Collet French Pastry and Café. Collet supplies the pastries, while Taylor has the fun of finally running her “own little place.”

“When I opened my doors in November of 2013, customers were thanking me for bringing a French café to Alpharetta, but I felt like I should be thanking them instead,” she said. “This is a dream come true for me.”

 

Collet French Pastry and Café

2225 Old Milton Parkway

Suite 100

Alpharetta, Ga. 30009

678-770-6066

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