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Globe South Dining Out

In Cohasset, French treats

Pastry chef and co-owner Jean-Jacques Gabanelle at French Memories, which he opened with his wife, Anne, after emigrating from France in 1991. Below, the pastry case. Pastry chef and co-owner Jean-Jacques Gabanelle at French Memories, which he opened with his wife, Anne, after emigrating from France in 1991. Below, the pastry case. (Joan Wilder for The Boston Globe)
February 20, 2011

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Every once in a while, when I want to calibrate my taste buds to pure deliciousness, I eat a fine croissant.

And there’s nowhere better to find one of those than French Memories in Cohasset Village.

In addition to the basic light-as-air plain croissants ($1.50), the little café makes many types.

My longtime favorite, after the plain, is the almond croissant ($2.75), which has a sweet almond meal inside and crispy edges from a bit of caramelized sugar drippings. It is an outrageously delicious pastry.

Recently, I’ve discovered the coconut isle ($1.80) — a flat rectangle of croissant dough covered in a creamy vanilla custard with sprinkles of coconut, which is every bit as heavenly.

But so, too, are the cinnamon croissants ($1.60). They’re less rich than the almond or coconut isle — and as light as the plain, but sweeter. There are also smaller croissants shaped in spirals, with blueberries, cranberries, or raspberries ($1.50). Some days, the bakery case even has tiny croissants (85 cents), for those who want just a couple of bites.

But the pastries at French Memories don’t end with its exemplary croissants.

The other day, while eating the strawberry rhubarb tart, I could not imagine anything tasting better. The flavors of the layer of sweet and tart fruit over the base of baked custard blended beautifully. The shop sells this and its several other gorgeous tarts either whole ($15.50), or by the slice ($2.60).

I also like their cookies ($.60): The double chocolate is dark, crisp, and not too sweet; the oatmeal raisin thin at the edges and unusually good. I’ll go out of my way to get one of French Memories’ doughnuts (75 cents): They are cakey rounds in plain, cinnamon, or sugar flavors, and they’re baked rather than deep-fried. They are one of the very few pastries that are not made in-house, but they’re so popular the café keeps them on hand.

Husband and wife Jean-Jacques and Anne Gabanelle (he is the pastry chef) opened the café in 1991 after emigrating from France.

I’ve counted on French Memories nearly all that time as a solid place to stop for a phenomenal croissant, or a simple, delicious sandwich. I always order them on one of the house baguettes ($2.50), which is part of the treat. Smoked turkey ($6) is a favorite, and I enjoyed the Campagne sandwich ($7) for the first time last week; it has grilled chicken breast, roasted peppers, and pesto mayonnaise. The Provence is good, too, with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, lettuce, and tomato ($7).

Breakfast sandwiches are also a favorite: Who can resist egg, bacon, and cheese on a split croissant ($4.25) that seems to be lighter than air? Heavenly.

The light-filled, homey bakery opens at 7 a.m. every day, and its seven or eight tables are usually packed during the breakfast and lunch hours.

The Gabanelles also offer soups, and a few, mostly frozen, homemade entrees ($14 to $18) for takeout, including lasagna, beef Bourguignon, quiche, and several meat pies, depending on the day.

Of these, I’ve enjoyed the turkey pie and the spinach lasagna — but the real stars of the show at French Memories are the pastries. There are also excellent chocolates for sale, and a choice assortment of specialty items, including cheeses, pates, cornichons, and salami.

French Memories is a well-loved local institution — an authentic French bakery in downtown Cohasset. The village wouldn’t be as charming without it.

JOAN WILDER

French Memories
60 South Main St., Cohasset
Open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
781-383-2216
www.frenchmemoriescohasset.com
Major credit cards accepted Accessible to the handicapped