390 S. Mills Road, suite b, Ventura
At the end of 2015, I came to a crossroads. I needed a change and I had to decide if I was going to really try to hunker down with the Atkins diet or go full carb into a mainly vegan diet. And while ethically the choice was easy, in the end it came down to one thing: Bread, I wish I knew how to quit you. And Café Ficelle (ficelle is French for a bread loaf similar to but thinner than a baguette) has certainly proved my point.
Walking into this unassuming offshoot of Jewelry Couture off Mills Road, I had no idea I would be transported into this post-modern industrial bakery that has this unexplainable homey feel. It’s much larger on the inside than I imagined, with overly high ceilinged, polished concrete floors and exposed red-painted ventilation pipes. The bakery shelf of bread and pastries is rather alluring and uncomplicated. The dining room is spacious with small tables and starburst-style chandeliers, plus a nice little patio. It’s clear that the owners pay particular attention to detail in keeping the place surprisingly clean. Maybe it’s just because it’s only been open for a month or so but I think it’s just the status quo.
This new eatery has not gone unnoticed by the locals — with proper planning we got there early enough to snag a table and get in line before it got too busy. Thankfully, it’s a true cafe and not just a bakery so we had a decent list of breakfast options that weren’t only pastries.
To start, I ordered the nitro cold-brew coffee while my one companion ordered mint tea. As expected, the cold-brew came out looking like a fine pint of Guiness, but had the reverse effect and really revved up my awake-ness. Fair warning: this style of coffee is more bitter than I expected but I was not so put off by it that I couldn’t finish it. The tea, however, had the opposite flavor impact, served in a French press with fresh mint leaves. The flavor was simply refreshing and whisked me back to Paris, where I had a similar experience at an obscure hookah bar.
Along with our beverages, we ordered a croissant and pain au chocolat. The pastries were fluffy with slightly crisp crust. The pain au chocolat, similar to a croissant with drizzled chocolate icing and filled with Valrhona chocolate, was a work of art. It was as delicious as it was aesthetically pleasing.
For our breakfast, we ordered avocado tartine, croque-madame and a fruit crepe. I can’t express how surprised I was that both the presentation and flavors exceeded my expectations. This place is new but it feels as though it’s tried and true after years of trial and error. But after a month? Truly unexpected.
My tartine, or avocado toast, was simply lovely: freshly baked multigrain bread topped with ripe avocado mash, thin slices of watermelon radish and a slightly salty pistachio crumble. It came with a side of fresh blackberries, currants, green and red grapes, strawberries, cantaloupe and honeydew.
The croque-madame was the croque-monsieur — classic French breakfast sandwich filled with béchamel sauce, ham and Gruyère cheese — topped with a fried egg. This decadent dish, though not so hearty a size as to be overwhelming, balanced flavors and textures of creamy, salty, warm and crispy. The dish was literally mouthwatering.
The buckwheat crepe was fluffy and thick, although buckwheat simply lacks pizazz, at least compared to our other dishes; but that was the nature of the order. It came with fresh strawberries with a healthy layer of strawberry grand marnier glaze and a dollop of whipped cream.
There are rare dining experiences that go without some sort of flaw, as nothing is ever just perfect. I am, however, having a terrible time trying to find anything to complain about at Café Ficelle. I’m not one for forming codependent relationships; but, Cafe Ficelle, I believe this is the beginning of a beautiful and tasty friendship.