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Restaurant review: Farm-to-table French flair at charming Amélie Cafe in Fairfax

  • Amélie Cafe's Moules Marinieres comes in a savory broth perfect...

    Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal

    Amélie Cafe's Moules Marinieres comes in a savory broth perfect to soak up with bread.

  • The interior of Fairfax's Amélie Cafe during lunch service.

    Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal

    The interior of Fairfax's Amélie Cafe during lunch service.

  • Amélie Cafe's Warm Pistachio Goat Cheese is served with crunchy...

    Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal

    Amélie Cafe's Warm Pistachio Goat Cheese is served with crunchy crostinis and greens.

  • Amélie Cafe's Salade Chevre Chaud features grapes, sunflower seeds and...

    Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal

    Amélie Cafe's Salade Chevre Chaud features grapes, sunflower seeds and a vinaigrette.

  • The Amélie Burger features Emmental cheese, caramelized onions and greens.

    Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal

    The Amélie Burger features Emmental cheese, caramelized onions and greens.

  • The Vegetable Quiche served with greens at Amélie Cafe in...

    Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal

    The Vegetable Quiche served with greens at Amélie Cafe in Fairfax.

  • Amélie Cafe offers indoor and outdoor seating.

    Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal

    Amélie Cafe offers indoor and outdoor seating.

  • Amélie Cafe's Tarte au Citron features silky meringue.

    Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal

    Amélie Cafe's Tarte au Citron features silky meringue.

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When I arrived in Fairfax on a recent Friday, the town was abuzz like a resort town. There were so many people walking around the small downtown area. It was alive and vibrant, as was lunch at Amélie Cafe, whose parklet was almost full when we were shown to our table.

The team of three Frenchmen behind Amélie — Germain Michel, Samie Didda and Romain Martinez — have been busy. Besides Fairfax, they have locations in San Francisco and New York City.

We were too late in the day to taste the housemade breakfast pastries and croissants. We consoled ourselves with Quiche Lorraine ($8.50), a lovely ham-studded custard with a crisp but flaky crust, and later, the Tarte au Citron ($8), which had a smooth mound of Italian meringue with a pâte sablée crust and went well with a glass of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2019 ($13).

Ahh, but I’ve jumped ahead. The next table had something we’d not seen on the menu: Baked Camembert ($14), which was topped with soft, roasted cloves of garlic. It’s warmed in a little pressed wood box and served with crostini. The rich, creamy cheese on the crunchy toasts paired wonderfully with wine.

Michel, a certified sommelier, has partnered with winemakers in France and Argentina to produce a couple of wines that are available at Amélie. The wine list at Amélie reflects his enthusiasm for tasty, food-friendly wines. The wine-by-the-glass list comes in three categories: bon, très bon and excellent. We ordered three glasses from the très bon list. They were $13 each for a nice-sized pour in thin, large, stemmed glasses.

The Bordeaux Comtesse de Malet Roquefort 2020, a blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon, had good minerality and acidity. The 2019 Miraval Studio was an elegant shade of pink, with sound structure and acidity. Its more advanced age didn’t show. The mourvèdre-syrah blend from Domaine du Somail Fabre-Michel “plume” 2020 is a modern-style Minervois with good concentration, but not jammy.

We had wanted to order the Chicken Mousse with Muscat Gelee and Pickled Vegetables ($14) but it was just being made and had not set up yet. But what’s a French café without escargot? So, we went that direction. The six escargots arrived in little ceramic cradles ($16), but not as described on the menu. More crostini arrived with the escargot but it wasn’t possible to dunk them into the little round holes.

We asked if we could have some untoasted bread ($6), which isn’t listed on the menu. The torpedo-shaped baguette arrived in an oval black bowl with a generous smear of butter around the side just below the rim of the bowl. The butter was sprinkled with chives and coarse salt. How fun and tasty it was to tear off a piece of the bread and swipe in through the butter.

A salad of frisée, pears, an assortment of plumped mushrooms and a champagne vinaigrette ($16) was a salad special. The frisée is featured in the Salade Lyonnaise ($18) as well, which is my favorite salad. The frisée is tossed with the warm mustard vinaigrette with lardoons and shallots, and crowned with a poached egg. This salad with a side of the lovely bread would be an ideal lunch.

The Mussels of the Day ($23) were plump with lots of white wine, leek broth with a bit of cream. Again, that side of bread came in handy. as I didn’t want to leave one drop of that delicious broth.  French Fries ($6) arrived with little bowls of aioli and catsup. The aioli lacked any punch of garlic, and the fries just didn’t have that crispy exterior (hiding a mealy center). However, a woman at the next table ordered the Amélie Burger with Fries ($19) and loved them both — to each their own or “à chacun son gout” as the French say.

Our French waiter was straight out of central casting. He was charming, playful and efficient, right down to flicking a cloth at an empty table as he passed by.

The Butternut Tartine ($15), lightly toasted house-made whole grain bread topped with roasted butternut squash, arugula and pinches of soft goat cheese, was drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

If you want to give your taste buds a treat and practice your French, this place is for you.

Bon appétit!

Ann Walker is a freelance food writer. Email her with suggestions, comments and questions at ijfoodwalker@gmail.com.

Amélie Cafe

Address: 71 Broadway, Fairfax

Phone: 628-253-5161

Website: ameliefairfax.com

Cuisine: French bistro

Noise level: Comfortable

Liquor selection: Wine and beer

Vegan dishes: Yes

Gluten-free selections: Yes

Organic offerings: Yes

Dog friendly: Yes

Parking: Street

Hours: 5 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays; 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; closed Tuesdays

Prices: $11 to $32

Reservations: Yes

Summary: A lively café offering organic farm-to-table French bistro fare









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