Anna Velas-Suarin

Crazy over Madeleines

Goodies at Madeleines (my fave is on the rightmost side of the plate).

Crepe au chocolat chaud et chantilly. Organic mixed green salad with shrimps. Chicken breast with cepes mushrooms sauted in fresh organic Italian parsley and garlic with organic brown rice (or Battambang rice). Yoghurt stawberry ice cream (low fat). How’s that for lunch?

Well, if you are salivating now, head off to…Madeleines! However, we Manilans will have to suffer in our cravings (for now?) because Madeleines’ first-ever branch is about 2,000 kms from Manila. (Wink!) Yes, my dearies, Madeleines is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the place that healed my soul when I was suffering from lunacy brought about by a tear-jerking break-up.

This is no time for melodramatics so let me introduce you to Madeleines and its beautiful, wacky, sexy, sweet and strong-willed owner and executive chef and pastry connoisseur, Karen Le Calvez.

Madeleines is located in a quiet neighborhood near Sihanouk Boulevard (where Lucky Market is – for expats who are very familiar with this Phnom Penh landmark). (Update: Madeleines has moved since this post so the new address is below this post.) Madeleines is a dream-come-true for my close friend, Karen. She’s always wanted to have her own café-restaurant-bakery and Phnom Penh just turned out to be the perfect place to have her wishes fulfilled.

I’ve known Karen since the start of her family’s stay in Manila last 2000 (or maybe even earlier). They stayed in the Philippines for several years and then had to relocate to Phnom Penh after staying back in Europe for a while. When I went to Cambodia last June 2007, it was time to reconnect with her again. I realized that I missed this woman’s presence in my life because of her funny and intelligent take on almost anything about life. She is also too ‘human’, too ‘real’, and that means, you can be very comfortable with her, warts and all. Being both expats in Phnom Penh (her country of origin is France and I am a true-blooded Pinay), we shared our dreams, expectations, and struggles that usually come with being ‘strangers in a foreign land.’ It just felt like we were just taking off from the time we last talked while she was still in Manila.

Anyway, I also must thank her (and her whole family too!) for allowing me to stay in their beautiful house with their two crazy and sweet dogs, Luna and Sabbay (ok, the ‘sweet’ goes to Luna and the ‘crazy’ goes to Sabbay) 🙂 while they vacationed in France and Finland for almost a month. That really gave me the much needed solace and quiet moments while I was starting a fresh chapter in my life.  It also made me an expert nanny for dogs! (I have old posts about my sojourn in Cambodia so you can view them, too).

Just about the time that I was already leaving Phnom Penh (with my newfound love and now hubby!) last December 2008, she opened Madeleines! I was too happy for her but admittedly, a little bit sad for me because then I realized that I will miss her goodies so much! Darn, why didn’t she open earlier?! ;D

Anyway, Karen gifted me and JR with a quiet and sweet farewell lunch party at Madeleines last December 24 (and another one on the Saturday before that where Karen also opened up bottles of exquisite French wine – or so my poor memory can serve me right now!) In that lunch party, Karen made me a special organic salad with mixed greens (among them, watercrest), and shrimps. Yummy yummy yummy, to think it was very healthy! I was so thrilled when she served it that I had to take a photo of it before I gobbled it up. See this photo on the right.

Organic mixed green salad with shrimps especially made for me! (Grab it at Madeleines!)

I asked her how would she name it and she said I can coin up a name for it. I need more time for that so for now, let’s simply call it, Organic mixed green salad with shrimps. During the dinner farewell, we had her fabulous pastries (see the photo again below). Arrgh, it’s even harder to write about these goodies because now I am really salivating! Of course, my favorite is Madeleines because it is not too sweet, just the right amount of sugar and so it makes you feel so satisfied without ever feeling that you ate too much sweets for the day. Whenever I would order a box from Karen and brings it home, I had to strictly forge an agreement with then housemate, JR, to eat it only when I am around (!) because he also loves it like crazy. (Actually, I got to ‘steal’ a couple of so pieces on one of those days he was not looking!) 🙂

Yesterday, Karen sent me an email and updated me about her new ‘concoctions’ and darn it, I was ready to buy plane tickets for Phnom Penh if only I had the budget for it! Among her latest menu items are the oatmeal banana organic palm sugar cookies, yoghurt green mango ginger ice cream (she said here, “No cream and home made yoghurt, low fat…good for us!” Tasty! My kids don’t want to eat other ice cream since I started that!”)

The new salad offerings include Nicoise salad, Greek feta mint salad, tomatoes, olive and basil salad, potato no-mayonnaise with grain mustard dressing salad, tzatziki and organic green salad with paratha bread, and fresh mint tabouleh salad.

She also added 2 hot dishes: porkchop with fresh rosemary, and sauted baby potatoes or Battambang rice and organic salad; and the one I mentioned above – chicken breast with cepes mushrooms sauted in fresh organic Italian parsley and garlic with Battambang rice.

And there are crepes, too! They are all served with organic side salads. They are: crepe with ham and emmenthal cheese with egg; crepe with eggplant, mozzarella, tomatoes and basil; and crepe with chicken, bell pepper, tomato, onion, garlic and basil. For the sweet crepes, try Karen’s crepe avec pommes caramelisees a la cannelle et chantilly, toutes les patisseries, and yup, not to be outdone, she also has white chocolate cupcake.

For sandwiches, you can have her feta mint eggplant baguette sandwich, and parma ham with rocket salad and tomatoes.

Do you still have the space for the desserts?! Don’t quit yet, you will love her fondant au chocolat with strawberry yoghurt ice cream! She also bakes homemade cookies, oatmeal, dark chocolate chips, raisins, butterscotch and birthday cakes full of candies that you (and your kids!) would also go crazy about.

After a good and quiet meal (ok, it depends on whom you are with!), you can easily just relax there, perhaps read a good book and listen to your Ipod music. The place is so cozy and relaxing that you’d feel you are just home where everything feels so sweet and familiar. However, on a busy day, you might feel guilty to overstay when others are waiting to be seated so just come by another day and who knows, the place may just open another branch soon! Perhaps in Manila too?!

It’s so cozy, you’d have to force yourself to leave or end up staying there the whole day!

Hurry up for reservations and be crazy over Madeleines, too! Bon appétit ! Amusez-vous bien alors ! (With the help of Francis who said my first attempt for this sentence is meant for older and more formal audience. Hehe!)

UPDATE: Sorry, as of mid-2012, Madeleines has closed down because Karen and her family already moved to Bangkok.

[This is not a paid blog.]

Farewell lunch party at Madeleines (the beautiful owner-chef, Karen, is on the left, seated. Others in photo: Hubby JR, Idon, Ate Cel & Hanne)

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