He’s the magician and I’m the bubbly, happy front,” says a beaming Agnes Garrigou. She’s talking about her husband Quentin, who just stepped out for a cigarette from the kitchen he runs at their shared restaurant, Le French Café (2525 Araphoe Ave).
Quentin grew up in the Loire Valley, the idyllic stretch of central France known for its fabulous vouvray and sancerre wines. First enamored by watching his grandmother cook — he and Agnes still use many of her recipes to this day — the emerging chef cut his teeth working in kitchens, beginning as a dishwasher, then moving across the line in cookeries and bakehouses throughout France, finally landing in Miami where he and Agnes operated cafes. “Quentin has a passion and loves to feed people,” Agnes says.
Agnes had her youth in Haute-Savoie, a region of the Alps perhaps most famous for its nearly 40 ski resorts. She also grew up in a cooking family and knows her way around the staples.
Prior to meeting, the two were often semi-nomadic, working seasonally with six months on the mountain and another six by the sea. “We met each other in the Pyrénées,” she says. “I was a waitress and he was a cook. After a year together we decided to try the American life.”
That new life began once again by the sea, and stayed there for a decade. But in 2017, the duo moved to Boulder to open Le French Café. “After 10 years in Florida, it was time for us to come back to the mountain,” she says.
White table cloths be damned
Each day, Wednesday through Sunday, around 8 a.m., folks in the Goss Grove neighborhood awaken to the smell of fresh pastry. Of course, there’s croissants and plenty of them. The chocolate-almond variety is the most tasty. On the savory side, there’s quiche, crepes and croque — monsieur, jambon and veggie alike. There are also lovely omelets and a dozen baguette sandwiches.
The scene is welcoming, but even at the crack of nine when the place opens, you can hear the likes of The Strokes at near full volume. The menu reads: “French people are so hardcore they eat ‘pain’ for breakfast.” Though starting the day with any one of the breads is anything but excruciating.
“The restaurant was inspired by our love for food and humans,” says Agnes. “Quentin loves to cook for people and I love to help serve them. We have always been a team and always dreamt since we met each other to have a restaurant.”
Recently, the duo introduced dinner two nights a week, serving from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There’s raclette, France and Switzerland’s even more decadent answer to fondue, that comes with house potatoes and is best enjoyed with the supplemental ratatouille. For those less decadent, French onion soup and charcuterie are a good way to start, with mains like duck breast, salmon steak and boeuf bourguignon all hitting the table as robust tributes to the fatherland of fine dining. But the fare is decidedly unstuffy. White table cloths be damned.
“We call them casual dinners because it’s good family-style food served in a casual ambiance,” Agnes says. “We want people to be able to come as they are.”
While the duo seem satisfied serving French cafe food to the good people of Boulder, they’ve also suggested the possibility of a food truck or a second restaurant in the mountains. Whatever happens, Agnes says they’re ready for the ride: “We will see where life brings us.”