Vincent Benoliel is a real Frenchman who eats quiche and drives a tiny pink Smart car to shuttle between his two Miami area café-bakeries. The Le Boudoir spaces are done in pale pink and dark brown to resemble a modern Parisian salon. There are pastries, including the hard-to-find Paris Brest (praline butter cream piped in almond chou pastry), open-face tartines on sourdough bread, panini, salads, cheese plates and dinner specials like grilled mahi mahi with fennel and small rib-eye with fingerling potatoes.
The Paris native learned to cook as a teen from his grand-mere at his grandparents' restaurant, and then worked in a brasserie. He spent many family vacations in Miami, and moved here seven years ago. Over Saturday brunch at his new Brickell place, I sampled chef Alain Dumas' morel mushroom omelet, French toast and steak tartare followed by several macarons. The miniature merengue cookies are the new dessert darling, and Benoliel sells them online and in a boutique in his Coral Gables cafe.
The name for the sweet comes from the Italian maccarone, as they were first made with almond paste. In the 16th century, the pastry chefs of Catherine de'Medici brought them to France, where they were refined using powdered sugar, almond flour and egg whites. European Jews added coconut for an unleavened Passover sweet. In 1930, French patissier Pierre Desfontaines hit on sandwiching two together with ganache to create the double-decker. They are crunchy, chewy and creamy in one bite, and melt lusciously on the tongue. Flavors to try here are raspberry, rose petal, pistachio, hazelnut, vanilla, coconut and chocolate. Ooh la la!