My wife and I have always loved Benjamin French Bakery (https://www.benjaminfrenchbakery.com/), the cute bakery-cafe in Thornton Park, a picturesque neighborhood near downtown Orlando. We don’t go as often as we would like, because it is extremely difficult to park around there. I figure the local hipsters can easily walk to the restaurants and bars in their neighborhood, but they ought to rename the place “Thornton No-Park” for everyone else.
Well, after a recent morning doctor’s appointment, we found ourselves in the area in the morning on a weekday, so we figured we had a chance to park nearby and enjoy a relaxing brunch at Benjamin. Luckily, my plan worked. It had been so long since our last visit, we ran slightly amok, but we are a fun couple who knows how to party, so we ordered food with reckless abandon.
While we sat at an indoor table and waited for our meals, we couldn’t resist tearing into some of our bounty of baked goods. The plain croissants from Benjamin French Bakery ($2.89 each) are the finest I’ve ever had. So rich and buttery, so flaky and crispy, so many soft inner layers. Granted, I’ve never been to France, or even the France part of Epcot, but these are pretty mind-blowing. To quote Run the Jewels, “Ooh, la la, ah, oui oui!”
In addition to the two plain croissants, my wife picked an almond croissant ($3.99; the triangle in the bottom left), I got a blueberry pastry ($3.99; center), and we split the gorgeous apple turnover ($3.69; cut in half in the bottom right). The turnover was magnificent, but I still give the plain croissants the nod for being the best in this box. The other two pastries were fine, but they look like they’ve been partying in Miami, don’t they?
Then our beautiful food arrived. My wife got the Bordeaux sandwich ($9.95) on a fresh baguette, although you can choose any of the sandwiches as a pressed panini as well. The sandwich contains brie cheese, apple, grapes, and mixed greens, plus tomato and balsamic vinegar, but she asked them to hold those. Brie is one of the only cheeses my wife likes, and one of the only cheeses I don’t like, which is one of those weird little things about life. They were very generous with the brie on the sandwich, and the baguette was warm, perfectly crusty on the outside, while soft and yielding inside.
I had a hard time choosing between two sandwiches, but ended up with the Bastia sandwich ($9.95) on a fresh baguette. It contains paper-thin slices of prosciutto (one of my favorite meats), mozzarella cheese, mixed greens, tomato, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. It’s a very different vibe from the Italian subs and hoagies that are my favorite meals, with the baguette so much smaller and crustier than most soft sub rolls. But still, I felt so continental, enjoying what is essentially a fancy ham and cheese sandwich for brunch at this nice little cafe on a weekday. Hey, I might not be a Francophile, but at least you know I know where France is.There is another really terrific baguette sandwich I love here, the St. Tropez, with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumbers, but my love of prosciutto won out this day.
Still, smoked salmon sounded good too — doesn’t it always? — so I took a chance and also ordered the Oceanne quiche ($8.20) for us to split. This lovely quiche contains smoked salmon, spinach, cherry tomato, lemon, feta cheese, and in addition, according to Benjamin’s website, “cheese.” Which cheese? Mozzarella? Gruyere? I would have liked to know, but it doesn’t matter, because it was so delicious!
The Oceanne with a slice already cut out:
I hate that quiche was a stupid punchline among lowest common denominator sitcoms and hacky stand-up comics in the ’80s and ’90s — a food that “real men” wouldn’t dare eat because it’s fancy and French, hon hon hon! How ignorant and xenophobic can you get, with a little misogyny and homophobia baked in? What is quiche, but eggs, cheese, and often some kind of meat baked into a savory pie, in a buttery, flaky pie crust? If that isn’t a manly meal, I don’t know what is! Fictional manly man Ron Swanson would probably love quiche! But that’s stupid too, just like any “battle of the sexes” humor. Everyone would probably like quiche, unless they hate eggs or pie crust. I don’t understand why quiche isn’t the official meal of the United States of America — cheese-and-egg pie, to be enjoyed any time of the day or night. Maybe, just like socialized medicine, quiche just desperately needs to be rebranded to reach the audience that would embrace it if they gave it a chance. Patriot Pie, anybody?
Well, that’s my review of Benjamin French Bakery, one of my favorite breakfast and brunch spots in Orlando, as well as one of my favorite bakeries. The croissants and baguettes are second to none around here. I wish I could say the same for the parking situation, but going at an off-time (not around 11 AM on a weekend) seemed to help. And don’t forget to treat yourself to a quiche, capisce?