By Raymond Bill
Inspired by my most recent dining experience, I decided to see what culinary competition exists in this valley for fine French cuisine. My inquiry led me to Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café where I discovered that they are now open for dinner, serving more than just French favorites. Clementine also offers flavors from Morocco, Spain, Italy and other Mediterranean countries. Whether you are stopping by for fresh baked baguettes or staying for dinner, this café/market is so unique that you will become a fan after just one visit!
Having heard that lunchtime can be quite busy, my date and I decided to take advantage of enjoying dinner together at Clementine. The dining area is newly remodeled to accommodate approximately 40 more seats and the décor is captivating. We were greeted by our lovely and welcoming server, Kira, who was not only well-versed in the cuisine, having spent some time in France herself, she shared with us about the artist responsible for the beautiful paintings on the wall. Kira is truly an ambassador of this gourmet café and we were pleased to share our evening in her company.
Upon recommendation, we began with the French Pate Tartine. This would have been a perfect portion for an entrée but rich enough in flavor to share as a starter. The pate is 100% pork and perfectly paired with subtle flavors of whole grain mustard and arugula with sweet cherry tomato chutney. This was certainly unlike any pate I have tried in the desert.
We followed the Tartine with undoubtedly the best Quiche Lorraine you will find anywhere. Period. The Clementine Quiche is a family recipe that will have you begging for more with each bite. The Quiche is a deep dish serving with bits of delicious bacon and a flakey golden crust, served with a side of butter lettuce and sliced tomatoes in a Dijon vinaigrette. WOW! Though there are so many items I have yet to try, it will be a challenge for me to return without ordering this dish again.
Although a full liquor license will be in effect come November, there is an impressive wine list of which the manager was happy to offer suggestions. We took a moment to enjoy our Sauvignon Blanc from Loire valley before pairing our main course with a Central Coast Pinot Noir. Proper wine serving etiquette was noticed and appreciated.
We opted to share our main course after seeing a large display of freshly prepared desserts near the front of the café. Trusting, once again, our server’s knowledge of the menu and cuisine, Kira placed before us their Cous Cous Royale. This large crock was filled generously with Morrocan spiced chicken breast, Merguez Sausage (a savory combination of beef and lamb), butternut squash, button mushrooms and of course, orange saffron cous cous. This was unlike anything I have ever tasted. The flavors melted together, none overpowering the next. It was a work of culinary art! How could we possibly top such an amazing dish?
Enter the dessert selections. We could have seen a dessert menu I suppose, but a short walk to the display area was all we needed. Although I often order dessert after a great meal, it is rare that I am impressed by sweet treats. Until now. I cannot pay enough compliments to these desserts to convey how deserving they truly are of the accolades. The Lemon Tart was out of this world! Delicious is an understatement. Just the right amount of lemon, it was creamy, set atop a golden crust with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. We also shared a chocolate dessert, with a hint of apricot. It was the most amazing piece of heaven I have ever tasted. Stop by for an espresso and any of these delicious pastries and desserts and you will not be disappointed.
Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café is open from 10am to 10pm throughout the week (except Sunday) and 8am weekends for brunch. Reservations can be made through Open Table or by calling 760-834-8814. Located at 72990 El Paseo Ste 3 in Palm Desert. Stop in and see for yourself how this little market and café is translating talent and passion into sweet success! www.clementineshop.com
Hours:Monday – Friday 10am to 10pmSaturday 8am to 10pmSunday 8am to 3pmHappy Hour Monday – Saturday! 3pm to 6pmBrunch Saturday & Sunday 8am to 3pmDinners Monday – Saturday 5pm to 9pm