Let’s set the scene: You’re in a city far from home, you’ve been keeping a crazy-busy schedule, and you’re feeling pretty burned-out on hotel and airport food. What’s a weary traveler to do? Find a kick-ass bakery, of course, and linger with a mocha over the best breakfast you’ve had in weeks.
That’s how we discovered Les Madeleines, a terrific little French-style bakery in downtown Salt Lake City. Owner Romina Rasmussen, who has worked at top restaurants such as Mesa Grill and New York City and Azul in Miami, opened Les Madeleines in Salt Lake in 2003, and quickly put herself on the gourmet map by being one of the first to offer high-end, made from scratch with the finest ingredients cupcakes and macaroons.
She’s been named the Best Pastry Chef by Salt Lake Magazine, and her kouign-amann—a Breton-style, baked puff-pastry-like cake that features layers of butter and sugar folded into the dough, plus a delightful crust of caramelized sugar on the outside—has become the stuff of legends, making it onto the pages of O and Food & Wine, with a stop on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. So what’s not to love about a bakery founded by a French Culinary Institute-trained chef whose mission is to sell “extraneous calories” through rich, traditionally crafted, flavor-filled snacks?
Not a durn thing, as it turns out. The menu and pastry case at Les Madeleines are stocked daily with standbys like croissant breakfast sandwiches with ham and cheese, scones, sweet brioche, monkey bread, a wide variety of cookies (from linzer to New York black-and-whites), and buttery-flaky pain au chocolat. But if you have a little time to spare, you’ll be rewarded with more creative breakfasts, like delicate crepes with house-made jam, French toast soaked in an orange–Grand Marnier custard, and beignets dusted with powdered sugar. You read that correctly: we found airy, crispy-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the inside beignets—with a spicy twist of cardamom—outside of New Orleans, and they were awesome.
Les Madeleines also offers sandwiches and salads for lunch, but let’s be real: the sweets are what would keep us coming back. But if you don’t live in the Salt Lake City area, no worries: Les Madeleines sells some of their signature deliciousness online, and will happily ship straight to your door.
In case you need more reasons to love Chef Romina, here are three: she volunteers at animal sanctuaries (and even has a couple of rescue pets!), she’s an avid traveler who finds inspiration far and wide, and she’s a supporter of both the slow food movement and her local food scene. And did we mention that she also teaches, both in local classes and in online videos? Grab your apron; we’ll meet you in the kitchen.