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Benjamin French Bakery & Cafe

BenjaminA cool morning like this would be perfect for stopping in at a French bakery, having a cup of cafe and a croissant. Ah, to be in Paris -- but my next visit won’t be until May.

So instead, I can practice the cafe culture at Benjamin French Bakery & Cafe in the heart of Thornton Park.

Benjamin, which moved downtown a month ago from its year-long spot on Goldenrod Avenue, occupies a large (in comparison to your typical French cafe) austere space. The display cases are not exactly overflowing, at least they weren’t on my two visits. But what I sampled I liked, for the most part. The pan au chocolat croissant had buttery, flaky bread with bits of rich chocolate baked in. If you’re looking for sweeter things, you might be attracted to the tarts, Napoleons or macarons on display.

I also sampled a quiche, which I purchased and took home, although the friendly person at the counter offered to have it heated for me to eat there. The quiche, served in a small aluminum pie plate, had a perfect crust holding the eggy filling, which had wonderful bits of bacon in it.

I was less enamored with the croque monsieur, the ubiquitous sandwich found at  just about any cafe in France. I’ve always described it as an inside-out ham and cheese sandwich, the ham between the slices of bread and the Swiss cheese melted on the outside. It’s really a knife-and-fork kind of sandwich. The one at Benjamin looked like the real thing, and the flavors could take me back to Rue de Rivoli. But the ham was pretty scarce, and at $6.99, it should have had more substance.

I like the people I had contact with, and it’s always fun to practice your bonjours, mercis and au revoirs on native speakers.

Benjamin French Bakery & Cafe is at 716 E. Washington St., Orlando. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Here is a link to the BenjaminFrenchBakery website. The phone number is 407-797-2253.

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