Food & Drink: C’est la Vie like a charming trip to France




Rachel Pinsky

If you go

C’est La Vie Café & Crêperie/Soirée Supper Club & Catering, 1307 N.E. 78th St., Suite 10, Vancouver. 360-553-5836. Café and store hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Keri Buhman describes her business model as, “kind of like a mullet, business during the week with the cafe and party on weekends with Soirée Supper Club.”

During the week, you can find her running her C’est La Vie French Café & Crêperie.

Buhman, who grew up in Vancouver, developed her passion for French food during a 10-year stint overseas where she obtained a sommelier degree from the New Zealand School of Food & Wine, was head sommelier at a 5-star resort in the Maldives, and taught at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine.

In 2011, when Buhman returned to Vancouver, she decided to open a crêperie at the Vancouver Farmers Market. That business grew and became her current French food oasis on 78th Street in Hazel Dell.

This space houses C’est La Vie French Café & Crêperie, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Once a month, there is a Soirée Dinner Party. There is a well-stocked store on-site packed with local goodies such as Silagy Sauce, Kember’s gluten-free mixes, Oliver’s Bloody Mary Mix and Oregon Growers jam. There are also C’est La Vie goods such as granola, compound butters, buttermilk rosemary dressing, sweet pickles and a well-curated collection of wine.

Soirée Dinner Party happens once a month. Six courses (each paired with wine) are served at a long communal table built by Buhman’s husband, Justin (a general contractor who built this friendly space). Past dinners included an homage to Julia Child featuring classics such as potato leek soup (vichyssoise) and coq au vin.

On a recent morning visit, I was seated across from regulars Bob and Alice Chase at the communal table. They have tried most of the menu items and assured me that everything was good. I indulged in a mimosa flight (it was mimosa Monday) and a pistou tartine. The salad of the day included peaches, heirloom tomatoes, housemade ricotta, quinoa and candied pecans on a bed of mesclun with vinaigrette.

There were 12 different types of mimosas on the menu. I’m indecisive so I got a flight of three flavors — blood orange (citrus-y), St. Germain (a bit of elderflower) and Fleur (sweet, floral hibiscus).

The pistou sandwich starts with a fresh rustic baguette from Grand Central Bakery in Portland. Herby and nutty French pesto (pistou) is slathered on the bread then topped with melted mozzarella. Tomatoes and briny Kalamata olives are nestled in the cheese. The sandwich came with a mesclun salad drizzled in a delectable housemade buttermilk rosemary dressing.

The salad of the day was the perfect showcase for gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, fresh peaches and creamy ricotta.

Buhman shops for fresh produce every day. She told me, “I like to get my hands on the produce.” And, that (along with housemade ricotta) made this salad extraordinary.

Buhman’s attention to detail, along with her passion for French-inspired fare, combined with friendly service in a bright, comfortable setting, are why I return again and again to this charming cafe in Hazel Dell.