WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? A SUGGESTION IN FRENCH

101415frenchmktwfl1Perhaps lured by the aroma of baked pastries, below, customers took advantage of a crisp autumn day for lunch at the French Market this week. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON
101415frenchmktwfl4

Open the door to the French Market on East River Road in Rumson, and the aroma of fresh baked pastry overwhelms your senses. PieHole tells you this as a favor. It’s easy to lose control and forget that you are there for a reason.

Since July, chef Laurent Chavenet has been filling the shelves of this market with his butter-enhanced flaky creations. But it’s not just pastries: a six-page takeout menu offers French specialties such as quiche, crepes and croissant sandwiches, as well as salads and a charcuterie plate.
101415frenchmktwfl5Croque Monsieur, a fancy ham and cheese sandwich. The two interior tables, below, are often occupied. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

101415frenchmktwfl3Two marble-topped bistro tables in a front window offer an eat-in option, but the market can be busy at lunch time, making take-out a more reliable alternative.

Befuddled by the olfactory blitz, we realized that we needed to order lunch, and asked counterperson, “what’s the most frequently ordered item?” Answer: a croque monsieur, or ham-and-cheese sandwich, at $7.95. Or, as they called it into the kitchen, a TFM6: it’s easier to place orders by menu numbers.

The takeout container for the sandwich was environmentally sound cardboard. Unfortunately, the croque monsieur did not hold up for the four-and-a-half minute drive from Rumson to Fair Haven.

The whole point of the croque monsieur is that there is a crunch to the bread — usually brioche, but in this case white — after the sandwich has either been pan-fried or baked to a lovely crispness. The creamy bechamel sauce topping is a tasty contradiction in texture to the sandwich.

The ham’s salty essence, the lightly nuanced twang of cheese and the luxurious bechamel covering were such tasty components, but the mushy bread was a disappointment.

Lesson learned. Don’t order this sandwich to-go. Grab a seat at one of the tables and eat it piping hot from the kitchen.

The French Market is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

SUSAN-ERICSON