Why: If you’ve been pining for those delicious crepes and macarons you discovered at the C’est la vie booth since at the Vancouver Farmers Market, hunger no more. Vendor/Owner Keri Gallagher, recently opened up C’est la vie in the Angst Art Gallery, offering a little taste of France, café-style, in downtown Vancouver. Gallagher also teaches Around the World in 80 Wines next door at the Niche Wine Bar. Breakfast, lunch and dessert are on the menu and a daily special board offers soup, salad and savory tarts.
Atmosphere: C’est la vie occupies the back of the art gallery and has seating for approximately 10 diners at petite tables with benches and chairs, as well as a couple of bar stools at the counter. Light blue walls set the foundation for an uncomplicated French-themed look that feels a lot like sitting in a countryside kitchen. A touch of old and new are agreeably combined and go mostly undetected unless you sit back and look close. Jars of preserves and loose-leaf tea and tea cups are displayed on shelves where an iPod dock also sits filling the air with French music. The door next to the food prep area has an antique door knob with a modern deadbolt just above it, and a timeworn skylight brings a sense of era to the gallery and café while allowing access to the light of day.
What I tried: I chose the mozzarella, tomato, basil and balsamic reduction crepe and paired it with the daily special salad, which was a baby kale and arugula, roasted beet and goat cheese terrine creation that came with two slices of a baguette. My dining companion had a Croque Monsieur sandwich and paired it with the daily special soup, which was French onion topped with gruyere toast. We also tried the Obsession tea — a green tea/passion fruit variety that was deliciously inspiring.
My crepe was made traditionally thin and delicate and filled with a single layer of fresh tasty ingredients before being folded into a rectangular shape and drizzled with the balsamic reduction that was tangy sweet.
The kale and arugula-based salad was tossed in a lemon dressing but the real treat was the two sections of roasted beet and goat cheese terrine — a layered construction of golden and red beets and creamy mild goat cheese. It complimented the spicy character of the arugula and contrasted with the tart lemon dressing for an adventurous salad.
My dining companion was satisfied with his choices and found both the Croque Monsieur, an open-face version of grilled ham and cheese, and the French onion soup delightful. The sugar from the caramelized onions blended with the rich saltiness of the broth, imparting a comfort food quality. The sandwich is accompanied by a small mixed green salad of freshest quality tossed in C’est la vie’s homemade lemon dressing.
After our meal, we sampled the flourless chocolate cake and a chocolate/orange macaron, as well as a pistachio macaron. The cake reminded us of rich chocolate ganache and the macarons were both true to their flavor, with an airy crust outside and a ribbon of creamy center within.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: More than 30 specialty teas are on the menu including black, oolong, green, white and herbal varieties.
The apple cinnamon and salted caramel crepe and the lemon and powdered sugar crepe sounded appealing for dessert.
The smoked salmon and herbed cream cheese crepe would likely pair well with the daily salad special, as would the Black Forest ham, Swiss and gruyere crepe.
Other observations: C’est la vie is a wonderful addition to downtown’s breakfast and lunch dining options. It delivers exactly what it claims in both fare and atmosphere.
The welcoming service, quaint, relaxing atmosphere and delicious dishes provide an experience you will want to return for.
Cost: All menu items are less than $10. Beverages are $4 and less. The Morning Special includes a homemade scone and cup of tea or café au lait for $4.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Where: 1015 Main St., Vancouver. Located in the back of Angst Art Gallery. You may also view the daily specials on C’est la vie’s Facebook page.
Health score: C’est la vie has received a pre-opening inspection and is scheduled for a routine inspection sometime in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.