Sometimes restaurants invite you to slip into a different identity for a little bit. The swanky city steakhouse with the swaggering bar-hoppers; the moody rainy-day cafe. You step inside and shed your earthly struggles. Demonic boss? Child-care woes? A sense of burbling dread about the state of the world? Gone, evaporated, for a precious little while.
MA France, on the fringes of Lexington, is that sort of place. Francois and Cecile Attard, natives of Perigord, France, run the shop, a combination market and cafe. They speak tentative English. Everyone who works here is bilingual. And nobody is in a particular rush.
It is primarily a market, with cases of French meats (boudin noir), cheeses (mimolette beffroi), mustards, jams, even little pastel squares of soap. Pastries — pain aux raisins, panier pomme — are flown in daily from France’s LeNôtre Bakery and warmed on-site for grab-and-go goodness.
Ah, but there is also a three-stool counter that overlooks a galette- and crepe-making station. This is prime real estate on weekends, when the line for breakfast stretches out the door with harried parents, kids in soccer uniforms, and people who need more coffee. For a quiet weekday lunch, though, it’s the perfect spot to settle in with a book.
Nobody is in a hurry to make your food or to provide faux advice. This is not an assembly line lunch. You will not be given an ice cream scoop of avocado or an explosive squirt of sour cream. You do not need to point at 10 varieties of lettuce or plead for more rice. Instead, you will watch as someone — possibly in a beret — pours batter onto the griddle until it’s a perfect moon. Then, you will simply wait.
Opt for a crepe with chocolate or fruit if you prefer sweetness; if you favor savory, go for a large rectangular buckwheat galette, darker and less rubbery than its sugary counterpart. Fill it with smoked salmon, brie, mushrooms, and olives. The brie dribbles out the side of the galette, which is folded at the edges, just barely open-faced, a cross between a standard crepe and what looks like a pizza. There’s a healthy portion of salmon, mushroom for softness and texture, and olives whose briny zing cuts the richness of the cheese. The galette hangs off the edges of the paper plate, which quakes under its weight. You’ll need a knife and fork. Wash it back with Elixia French lemonade in wild strawberry, a sparkly treat that tastes like champagne.
Most customers and employees opt to speak French, and people will humor you if you pull out your high school catchphrases. (And, after a few minutes here, you just might.) This isn’t an everyday place. Few people can spend $11 on a galette or $7.60 on a small bit of soap. But it’s nice to know that it exists. Sometimes you have the money and the time. C’est la vie.Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.