A Night at the Le Pain Quotidien Bakery


Before last week, I had never stepped foot into a Le Pain Quotidien restaurant, though I certainly recognized the name.  

While I can’t place where I’d heard of it (likely, passing several LPQ outposts on the streets of New York City), I (correctly) associated the name with wholesome, artisanal foods, and European flair.

The first Le Pain Quotidien opened in Brussels in 1990.  Today, there are more than 200 Le Pain Quotidien locations throughout the world – primarily in Europe, but also reaching as far as Sao Paulo, Brazil; Mumbai, India; and Tokyo, Japan.

In the US, Le Pain Quotidien can be found in New YorkLos AngelesWashington DC AreaConnecticut and Philly… and now, as of very recently – at several locations in Chicago!

[photo provided by Le Pain Quotidien]

 

Last Tuesday night, I attended an event at the Le Pain Quotidien in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood as a member of the Windy City Blogger Collective.  In addition to touring the restaurant and bakery and sampling their goods – I also got to try my hand at making a few seasonal recipes!

The West Loop location is conveniently adjacent to the Chicago French Market, Ogilvie Train Station, and the Clinton Green Line stop.  Though right in the heart of downtown Chicago, once through the doors I instantly felt transported to a European cafe with it’s cozy ambiance of warm wood and perfect pastries.  

One half of the restaurant is a gourmet food shoppe with counter for picking up fresh coffee, breads, and pastries to-go.  The other half is a lovely cafe, complete with table service and an Organic Wine list.

While the recipes are inspired by their Belgian origins, they strive to use Local, Seasonal ingredients as much as possible.  The menu, which includes plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, also has a very contemporary spin – incorporating popular super-foods like quinoa, chia, and millet.

Speaking of the Vegan options at LPQ…

  • Their Vegan menu options are easy to spot, thanks to the little carrot symbol pictured below.
  • All of their bakery breads are 100% Vegan, except for the Challah.
  • I hear their Vegan Blondies and Apple Cannele pastries are simply incredible… which unfortunately means they often sell out very, very fast!
  • And as for savories… their current menu includes a Tofu-based Quiche, a Lentil & Avocado Salad, a Black Bean Hummus Tartine, and a Daily Soup!
 
The West Loop location also has a HUGE bakery attached to it – large enough to bake all the breads for up to 5 or 6 locations of Le Pain Quotidien as they expand throughout the Chicago-land area.  
 
They make all their bread fresh every day – which is perfectly fitting given that the restaurant’s name translates from French to “The Daily Bread”.  Any bread that doesn’t sell at its peak is donated to local food pantries.
 
Additionally, their loaves contain only ingredients that you might find in a home kitchen – with the secret ingredient being “time”.  Their largest loaves can take up to two days to make from start to finish.

#NightAtTheBakery

The delicious food and hospitality of Le Pain Quotidien’s #NightAtTheBakery Blogger event has me convinced that any meal at LPQ is sure to feel special.

When we first arrived, we mingled with some of the restaurant’s key employees over a delicious spread that included fresh baked breads and assorted tapenadesblack bean hummusquinoa tabbouleh, mint lemonade, and hibiscus tea.

Then, it was time to get cooking!  First, we made some of the best biscuits I have ever had.  They were made simply of unbleached Spelt four, with a little bit of quinoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda.  [Note: our instructor mentioned that LPQ always uses unbleached flour, and suggested we do the same at home since bleached flour is… exactly as it sounds… processed with Bleach – yuck!] We then mixed in some heavy cream, shaped the dough into biscuits, and brushed them with melted butter.  That’s it!

I’m looking forward to experimenting with this recipe to see if it can be veganized successfully.  If so, I will be making this biscuits all. the. time.  I was able to bring 6 fresh biscuits home and Mike and I each looked forward to our daily biscuit until they were gone :-)

Next, our instructor paired us off into teams assigned to the various tasks needed to complete our meal.  One pair made Pea Hummus, another sliced & sugared some fresh berries, and a third pairing made a Coconut Milk & Chia Seed ‘Pudding’.  I volunteered to work the station with the Fresh Mint and Radishes – they needed to be chiffonaded and julienned, which turned out to be much easier than it sounded!

It was amazing how just a few simple components could lead up to the beautiful meal we had.

With half of the items from above, we made a beautiful spring entree – a Pea, Radish & Mint Tartine.  Tartines, a menu staple at Le Pain Quotidien, are simply open-faced sandwiches.  

Our lovely Instructor Anna demonstrates Tartine assembly


The Pea Hummus is a new favorite of mine – with the sweetness of peas balanced by the bitterness of tahini.  Defrosted Frozen peas work well in this recipe, making it easy and affordable too!

The Pea Hummus paired amazingly well with the crusty sourdough bread, fresh mint, and radishes, for a perfect Spring entree or party appetizer.  While LPQ also provided Pancetta as a topping option, trust me, this tartine has plenty of flavor without it.

I’m so delighted that Le Pain Quotidien is allowing me to share this recipe with you:

LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN
Pea, Mint & Radish Tartine

Serves 2

Ingredients

For the pea hummus:
• 1 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen peas, defrosted
• 2 tbsp tahini
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 2 pinches of sea salt
• black pepper

To serve:
• 2 large slices of sourdough bread
• 4 radishes cut into slivers
• 8 mint leaves, chopped
• 4 tbsp shelled peas

Directions

For the pea hummus, put the peas, tahini, olive oil, salt and black pepper into a food processor or use a handheld blender to blend in short bursts of 10-15 seconds, until you have a smooth purée.

To serve, spread the pea hummus on the bread, then top with the radishes, mint and peas.

Seeing my beautiful tartine made me hungry.  Luckily, we just had one more quick (and fun!) task to do before we all sat down to eat – assembling the desserts!

We simply topped our fresh-from-the-oven biscuits with chia pudding and sugared berries for a modern take on a Berry Shortcake, with the chia pudding cleverly standing in for whipped cream.

Each of these recipes took basic ingredients and elevated them to gourmet status.  The simplicity and quality of these dishes perfectly demonstrate the Le Pain Quotidien experiencethe purest ingredients, prepared in a thoughtful way – which I look forward to enjoying again, and again.

I left the event with plenty of leftovers in hand along with a few parting gifts – including a lovely tote bag and a copy of the beautiful Le Pain Quotidien cookbook, personally signed by the founder of Le Pain Quotidien, Alain Coumont, who all the staff raved about as a genuinely nice and passionate man.

Some of the recipes from the book that I’m most excited about trying include:

Le Pain Quotidien also plans to teach baking classes at its West Loop Bakery, so keep your eyes on their event calendar.  The first 3 VeggieNextDoor readers to sign up for a class using the code below will get $10 off! 

Thank you to Le Pain Quotidien for a lovely and delicious evening, and welcome to the Windy City!

I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever been to Le Pain Quotidien before?

What would you use as toppings for an open-faced sandwich?