Today’s piece was a treat for me. It gave me an excuse to drive uptown to the Black Pearl neighborhood for a decadent lunch on a blissfully rain-free Tuesday morning.
Tartine is a breakfast, brunch and lunch destination (with phenomenal desserts — more on that later), hidden a block off of Broadway on Perrier right before the river. Chef and proprietor Cara Benson, a New Orleans native, is a three-and-a-half-year veteran pastry chef from Muriel’s Jackson Square equipped with a degree from the French Culinary Institute in New York (where she met her husband Evan Benson, another French Culinary Institute grad). Last year she and her husband decided the time was as right as it ever would be to start their own place and, having had the good fortune to eat at Tartine about a half dozen times since it opened, I can say they made the right choice.
The interior of Tartine is welcoming. A single counter for orders dominates the far side of the restaurant in a dining room of slat-wood tables and chairs broken up by a free-standing fireplace in the front. There are outdoor tables available beneath oak boughs and palmetto palms on the side of the building.
Chef Benson explained to me that “the concept of Tartine was to have … a European feel … it’s from a variety of sources: growing up and being fed baguettes by my grandmother from Luxembourg, the French cooking we were taught in culinary school and the experience of sharing a tartine with my husband on our honeymoon in Paris.”
This fine Tuesday afternoon I had the special, a BLT with greens, thinly sliced creole tomatoes, fried bacon and a fried egg on a house-baked, pillowy brioche bread — a pleasurable contradiction, at once light and buttery. The sandwich came with a garbanzo bean and cucumber salad (served cold) and was complimented wonderfully by house-made blueberry iced tea.
In the past I’ve had one of their eponymous tartines, a house pâté with onion confit on expertly toasted baguette with the tiniest pickles you’ve ever seen. They’re sliced lengthwise across the top and add wonderful crunch and tang to the dish.
Since Cara did serve as the pastry chef at Muriel’s for nearly four years, her desserts are similarly stellar: her éclairs are tiny works of art crafted from butter and sugar, two of my favorite artistic media.
Tartine really does fill a niche in New Orleans’ selection of french eateries previously unoccupied, the zeitgeist of a fleeting morning hour in a Parisian bistro, dining on sinfully rich food in an atmosphere where you won’t be judged for doing it.