Recently, thanks to the Windy City Blogger Collective, I was invited to attend a tasting and cooking class at Le Pain Quotidien, a new bakery and cafe located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, next to the French Market on Clinton and Randolph Streets. In 1990, the first Le Pain Quotidien, which means “the daily bread,” was opened by Alain Coumont in Belgium, and was inspired by his childhood memories of rustic breads and baked goods his family used to make. The first stateside location opened in New York City in 1997. Today, more than 200 locations are spread throughout the world. Just last month, the very first Le Pain Quotidien opened its doors in Chicago, with locations in The Gold Coast and Lincoln Park to follow shortly, and even more are in the works.
Le Pain Quotidien embraces the communal table and promotes a social atmosphere at each of its locations. Le Pain Quotidien uses organic ingredients and everything served is freshly made on the premises. Breakfast options include croissants and pain au chocolats, mushroom and goat cheese omelettes, or homemade granola-topped organic yogurt. For lunch, organic vegan soups, roasted turkey and avocado tartines, and grilled chicken cobb salads are all on the menu. After work, try the charcuterie plate, various cheeses, vegan quinoa tabbouleh, or spreads and freshly bakes breads, all with a glass of organic wine.
During my visit, I not only was able to try some of the fantastic homemade breads, spreads, and salads, but I was able to actually make some of Le Pain Quotidien’s menu items, as well. We began by making quinoa and spelt biscuits which were incredibly easy and fun to make. Made with only six ingredients, including whole wheat flour, these biscuits are a great representation of the natural and wholesome foods Le Pain Quotidien offers. Once we were done with the biscuits, they were sent to the refrigerator to cool prior to baking. During this time, we were given a tour of the bakery where the bread is made fresh daily.
Next, we were split into teams to make the various components of our pea and radish tartine, which is a Belgium open-faced sandwich. We made spring pea hummus, with fresh peas, tahini, olive oil, and a bit of sea salt, and spread it over fresh bread. We then topped it with more peas, fresh mint, and radishes. This tartine was delicious. The brightness of the mint and the fresh peas on top were a nice touch to the refreshing spring pea hummus; a perfect springtime dish.
We also made a coconut chia seed pudding that was so delicious and easy to make, I will need to start preparing batches at home. The chia seed pudding was added to the quinoa and spelt biscuits, along with fresh berries, to make a healthy and new version of a strawberry shortcake. And, we had enough biscuits to take home to enjoy for the week!
Le Pain Quotidien’s West Loop location will soon be offering bakery classes, much like the one I took part in, beginning in June. Like the philosophy of the restaurant, the bakery class was social and fun and would be the perfect after work or weekend event for a group of friends or couples, or even for co-workers looking for a bonding or after work activity.
Overall, Le Pain Quotidien is a welcome addition to Chicago’s various neighborhoods, not only for its organic breads, delicious salads and tartines, and seasonal offerings, but for its communal spirit. Le Pain Quotidien embodies Alain Coumont’s vision of having a place where one can feel at home…away from home.
West Loop: 135 North Clinton Street, Chicago 60661
Gold Coast: 10 East Delaware Place, Chicago 60611
Lincoln Park: 1000 West Armitage Street, Chicago 60614 (opening soon)