Monday, November 20, 2006
Ode to Cojean
As if the invention of the Slingbox wasn't enough exhilaration for one week, another extremely exciting event occurred right in my own neighborhood last week. Cojean opened another café on the lower level of the Bon Marché department store! Yes, I know, this news makes Tom and Katie's recent Rome nuptials and the Iraq war seem almost obsolete. To those of you living under a rock (or in any city other than Paris, France), Cojean is a chain of cafés offering healthy (or at least disguised as healthy), Anglo-style sandwiches, quiche, salads, soups, drinks, desserts and snacks in a très chic atmosphere complemented by the world' most smiley waiters and waitresses. The atmosphere is zen, the food inventive and delicious and, with locations all over Paris, Cojean is the perfect spot for a quick, take-out lunch on the go, an intimate tête-à-tête with a friend, or a relaxing solo lunch hour complete with both French and English-language magazines for one's reading pleasure. Their toasted sandwiches put street paninis to shame; today, I sampled (read: scarfed down) the mozzarella, tomato and artichoke on toasted organic sesame bread variety, and also enjoy the chicken Caesar on poppy and goat cheese, pesto and fresh veggie versions.
The soups, sandwiches, quiches and salads change seasonally, and this autumn's menu offers a mélange of the traditional (mini ham and cheese sandwiches on fresh baguette, 3-cheese quiche, molten chocolate cake) and the original (chicken-coconut-pineapple-mango chutney mini brioche sandwiches, sweet potato-pear-mint soup, white chocolate raisin cookies). There is something to satisfy everyone's tastes, even the pickiest of eaters. And the employees are an international pot pourri of could-be models in blue aprons whisking your empty tray away before you have a chance to swallow your last bite, attending to your every desire (or at least culinary, that is) and never ceasing to smile in the process. A few of the employees from the Madeleine location (my former stomping ground before the opening of this new location) have now moved to the Bon Marché venue and I am now welcomed with friendly faces who have upped me to official Cojean VIP status. Some of my current seasonal favorites include their homemade granola ( which makes for an excellent mid-afternoon snack at work), their turkey-swiss-tomato brioche sandwiches (with real turkey, a rarity in this city of myriad ham sandwiches), pretty much any of their soups (although the pumpkin-vanilla and eggplant-coriander stand out), their cakes (chocolate, carotte and lemon), their fresh slices of mango (apparently delivered daily from Ghana especially for Cojean), not to mention their thai chicken or poached egg-parmesan-green bean salad varieties, their freshly-made fruit smoothies and their wrap sandwiches.
Not to mention free copies of The International Herald Tribune and every luxury magazine printed in France to peruse while chewing. Cojean represents the new trend in modern Parisian "luncheries" (a word I just invented seconds ago referring to cafés with modern design that offer lighter, more inventive cuisine for the new generation). Cojean is the pioneer, but these modern, usually organic, luncheries are popping up all over the city: Naked (healthy salads and snacks on the rue Colisée in the 8th), Lood (juice bar), Jour (make-your-own salads), Bioboa (organic café near Opéra offering perhaps the city's best veggieburger), La Ferme (fresh-from-the-farm "bio" products, and a mean Sunday brunch) and Eatme (a French nutritionist's dream). Long gone are the days when one had to choose between a steak frites or a street crêpe for mid-day nourishment. And while these other establishments are all delicious and enjoyable, no one holds a candle to the original "snack chic" Master, Cojean.