Sunday, December 7, 2008

Last night we celebrated J's birthday and all the good things of the Holiday Season with a special dinner at one of our longtime favorites, Cafe Jacqueline. It was our one splurge for December.

J & I have been dining at Cafe Jacqueline since 1979 when French Chef Jacqueline Margulis opened this small storefront restaurant in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach.

It has always been a special and unique restaurant and, over the years, has not changed from its original concept: Soufflés!

The menu is simple. Except for salad or soup as starters, it is only soufflés made to order by Jacqueline, who is busy at work in her small kitchen, whisk in hand, five nights a week.

We usually share a meal soufflé and follow it with a dessert soufflé. The pace is leisurely...remember, Jacqueline is cooking for the entire restaurant, which, while not very big, is big enough to keep one chef very busy, even a chef with a helper doing some of the prep work. In this era of big noisy restaurants, it is truly a treat to slow down and enjoy a conversation that one can hear across the table in this calming dining room. Our dinner took about 3 hours; last night our service was a bit too slow, but it may have been simply the timing of our orders. Jacqueline has one just one oven in her kitchen and, since soufflés start to deflate as soon as they come out of the oven, they have to be served immediately. I think our order fell between those of some larger parties. The two waiters never stopped scurrying around the dining room.

I chose for the meal soufflé, my favorite, the Broccoli soufflé. From time to time, we’ve splurged on a Lobster soufflé. And there are always a few special ones each evening...last night there was one with Chantarelle Mushrooms and another with Chestnuts and, I think, Leeks. Our soufflé was sheer heaven.

The waiter always serves the meal soufflés at the table and he got to ours before I could get a picture of it whole.

For dessert, J passed up his favorites, either Chocolate or Grand Marnier, and decided on one of the evening's special fresh fruit ones: Blueberries.

Dessert soufflés are usually not portioned out by the waiter, but are eaten directly from the dish, unless you ask for individual plates.

We started our meals with French Onion Soup for J and a Endive and Roquefort Salad for me. I drank Champagne and he drank a French Chardonnay.

What a treat!

Soufflés are priced between $30 and $50, depending on the fillings. Our meal cost about $120 before tip.

Note everyone ordered as we did...we observed several couples who came in just to share a dessert soufflé...dessert can't get much better than this. And, if you don't care for sweets, a first course and a meal soufflé make for a most satisfying meal.

We cannot find a web site for Cafe Jacqueline, so here's the information you need to make a reservation...and do make a reservation. We saw several parties being turned away last night because they had not reserved.

1454 Grant Ave. (bet. Green & Union Sts.), San Francisco
Dinner Wed. – Sun.

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