Last summer Jill Gedra Forster moved her Nickel City Cheese gig from the tiny space on Elmwood Avenue to the Horsefeathers building on Connecticut Street (site of the former Martin Cooks).
One side houses the cheese gourmet food shop while the other is the French-style brasserie called Lait Cru with food by head chef Will Peterson. Because we are always eager to improve our foreign language skills, we looked up the translation of Lait Cru — unpasteurized milk. Aha.
Lait Cru serves dinner, but on a Cheap Eats budget that’s not going to fly. So we resorted one of our tried and true cheap tricks — lunch. It’s a way to experience high-end food without the wallet crunch.
No loads of leftovers to tote home in a Styrofoam to-go container, but that is the point. High quality at a price that’s doable.
So we-three-ladies-who-occasionally-break-out-of-work-to-lunch left our dreary February desks to experience a Paris cafe. The beautiful space includes warm wood and wedding reception worthy flowers on tables.
The lunch menu is brief, divided into Hors D’Oeuvres, Les Oeufs (eggs), Sandwiches and Fromage & Charcuterie (cheese and meat).
Hors d’oeuvres run $7 to $10, and work for a lunch, like the tempting bowl of soup d’oignon $9 (onion soup) or the mac and cheese ($7) we ordered for “research purposes.”
Two of our choices came from Les Oeufs: an egg sandwich $7 (scrambled, over easy or over hard) with aged cheddar on a choice of white, wheat or sourdough (add $2.50 for ham or bacon) and the frittata du jour ($9) with mixed greens.
Tempting was cured salmon with whipped chive cream cheese, hard boiled egg on vollkornbrot (brown) bread ($9). Above budget was the pork belly and eggs ($13); eggs and hash is $11.
I went with one of the two sandwiches.
The Nic Mac ($11) with house roast beef, American cheese, onion, pickle and a special sauce on a toasted roll was tempting, but it was the grilled cheese ($10) made with Delice du Bourgogne cheese, roasted fennel, orange and onion jam on brioche bread that called to me.
Sipping our tea, we heard eggs being beaten in the semi-open kitchen, then voila, lunch arrived.
When is the last time you moaned over lunch? We did, many times. The fluffy scrambled egg sandwich included lots of melted aged cheddar on a beautiful roll with big crispy strips of bacon.
The wedge of kale, onion and rich truffle gouda frittata (think quiche) arrived with a huge side of mizuna greens perfectly dressed in a light Dijon vinaigrette.
The grilled cheese was like no grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten. The buttery grilled brioche slices encased the delicate Delice du Bourgogne — a triple cream soft cheese — with the fennel and the orange/onion jam for an unbelievable taste combination. A pile of perfectly dressed greens rounded out my plate.
The mac and cheese was an incredibly tasty, creamy dish of spiral noodles with a delicate white cheese sauce topped with buttery bread crumbs. More than enough for us to share, or as a solo lunch.
Is a Lait Cru lunch for every Cheap Eater? Maybe not, but it brings to to mind Julia Child’s mantra, “You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.”
And so we found a way on a Cheap budget to experience just that axiom.
Lait Cru Brasserie at Nickel City Cheese
346 Connecticut St.
Hours: Breakfast and lunch served 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday followed by dinner 5 to 9 p.m.; brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Vibe: French brasserie with a side of 1980s tunes from your youth.