Monday, June 20, 2011

Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Cafe


Palm Desert, CA. My time in the desert is often a solitary time to disconnect from my hectic life in L.A. and focus on my projects. When I go out there, the first place I go to is Trader Joe's to stock up on all my culinary needs for the week. I've been there so many times, and yet until recently I never even noticed there were a bunch of eateries in the shopping center.

On my most recent visit I decided to look up online where I could find the best patisserie in the desert. Low and behold, I learned of Clementine Patisserie Boulangerie, and discovered it was in the shopping center I was most familiar with; right next door to the store I frequent the most in all of the Coachella Valley.

It's funny how sometimes things are right under your nose and you don't even notice. I think part of it, at least for Angelinos, is that we drive everywhere, always focused on getting from point A to point B. In fact the only time we seem to ever look around is when we're looking for a parking spot.

Tea Cakes
I am absolutely guilty of having tunnel vision. I drive down the same roads, bike through the same paths, and walk along the same streets, year after year, and routinely don't notice all the wonderful restaurants around me. Often I am dumbfounded when I discover a new eatery online or get recommended one that is only blocks away from where I live. Oh well. I guess it's better to be late to the party than never, so long as I make it before they run out of cake, or in this case a pastry.

Upon discovery of the place, I hurried over there the first moment I could with my friend. He was in the mood for something savory, but I politely told him to "shut it" as nothing comes in between a pastry and me.

When we entered the shop and escaped the blazing heat, it was like jumping across the pond to a cozy little patisserie in Paris. The owners were behind the counter bringing out fresh baked goods and helping customers decided on their purchases. I browsed the display and wrestled with what to order. Everything looked like bites of heaven.

Cheese Croissant
We settled upon the cheese croissant and a blueberry teacake. The croissant was very subtlety sweet. The edges were crispy, while the inside was doughy and light. The cheese filling had a delicate balance of zest and sugar. The teacake was even better. It was incredibly moist and rich. It was sweeter than the croissant, but still nowhere near being overpowering or saccharine sweet. I was elated with our purchases. The owner then came out and offered us a slice of the bread pudding, an item that I would not order on my own. The bread pudding blew the first two items out of the water. It was spongy, had a smooth vanilla flavor, and almost savory compared to the teacake. That is not the texture nor the taste I would normally want in my baked goods, and yet it all worked very well.

Blueberry Tea Cake
The items are a little pricey, and some, like the cupcakes from Over the Rainbow, are not made in house, but overall it is well worth the visit. While all three items I sampled were phenomenal, what I was most impressed with were the owners and how cordial and engaged they were with us and their other patrons. The atmosphere was so welcoming I really just wanted to stay there.

Afterwards my friend noticed one of the owners in Trader Joe's and joked that they just purchased their baked goods from Trader Joes's, sprinkled a little powdered sugar on the confections, and then sold them for a hefty price. I laughed at the notion, and don't doubt some bakeries have some rather dubious practices, but I assured him that there was no way what we had at Clementine came from a box.

I plan on taking all my friends and family here and trying every item on the menu. This will be one of my must stops, besides Benny's Bagels for the French toast bagel and Birba for the French Lemonade, when I go out to the desert. I am starting to detect a "French" pattern. Perhaps my next quest will be to find the best French fries in the Coachella Valley. I guess I should grab my running shoes and starting looking around.

Clementine Patisserie Boulangerie 

Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Cafe72990 El Paseo
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 834-8814

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