Bonjour, mes amis! See if you can solve this brain-teaser:
Q. What can you find on both North Oracle Road in Tucson and les Champs Elysees in Paris?
A. A fun ambiance to practice your French, or any other language for that matter.
B. A charming café to enjoy breakfast or lunch in the French style.
C. An outdoor terrace to relax with a glass of wine after a hard day of work or shopping.
The answer is all of the above. And you can save the plane fare by stopping by Frogs, a new organic bakery and café with a French twist in the Casas Adobes Plaza at Ina and Oracle roads.
Frogs opened Dec. 6 and has been “jumping” ever since. Marc Lory and fellow owners, Isabelle and Jean-Luc Labat, all Parisian transplants, had a vision while living in Paris to open an organic bakery and café in the U.S.
Marc was an experienced entrepreneur, with a specialty in starting new businesses. Isabelle had worked at Air France, the French national airlines, for 20 years in a variety of positions, primarily in public relations. Her husband, head chef Jean-Luc, has impeccable credentials. His last position was at five-star Fouquet’s in Paris. It was at Fouquet’s that Jean-Luc prepared exquisite French desserts for such celebrities as Clint Eastwood, Celine Dion, Bill Clinton, and even Nicolas Sarkozy and supporters the night Sarkozy won the French presidential election in 2007.
The trio quickly agreed on the concept for their new bakery and café in the States: American food with touches that reflected their French roots – simple and natural fare, prepared quickly and at reasonable prices. Tucson was chosen because it is a melting pot of many countries and open to different tastes and foods.
The Casas Adobes location was an attractive one to them, with its spacious covered porch, ceiling fans and umbrellas, and a good distance from traffic; it’s an ideal location to enjoy the great French pastime of people-watching.
Marc said the group came up with the name Frogs, “…because it’s quite relaxed, unpretentious and to some people it actually refers to the French themselves.”
The ambiance reminds one of a rustic, French country home. Tables and chairs are made with recycled woods. Jean-Luc and Isabelle also brought with them some family antiques: coffee mills and scales, which are on display behind the counter.
As a former classroom French teacher, I couldn’t wait to try Frogs (the café, that is, not the legs!), which has a diverse menu for breakfast, including pancakes ($5), and lunch, such as tuna club sandwich ($8). All dishes are made in-house with natural ingredients and as much locally grown produce as possible. The menu includes such French specialties as:
• croissants and pain au chocolat (croissants filled with chocolate) ($3),
• choice of two homemade soups per day, served with a slice of organic bread ($5),
• quiche served with field greens or cup of soup ($6-$9), and
• ooh la la desserts, such as vanilla Napoleons ($5).
Folks order at the counter and within a few minutes, their selection is brought to the table.
It’s a happy marriage between self-service and the little luxury of being waited on.
Some of my personal faves are scones ($3), which are just the right size, and the shrimp and avocado salad ($l0), served over greens with a side of organic dressing and a slice of homemade bread. The shrimp are plump and tender, and oh that avocado, served during that brief window when an avocado is neither under nor overripe and is in a word, sublime.
Service is attentive. Once when I chose an outdoor table that was getting too sunny, the waitperson graciously helped me (and my entire meal) change to a smaller table where I could enjoy the rest of my lunch in cool comfort.
For breakfast, lunch or a quick picker upper, stop by Frogs. Even if you’re not a fluent French speaker, you can enjoy one of the best aspects of being a francophile, la bonne cuisine francaise. Bon appétit!
Barbara Russek is a freelance writer in Tucson. She welcomes comments at Babette2@comcast.net.
Frogs Organic Bakery and Café
7109 N. Oracle Road
Open Tuesday through Sunday
from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.