La Farm Bakery & Cafe (Cary, NC)

croissant image courtesy of flickr

La Farm is one of the Triangle’s premier bakeries, and one of only a very few that make good artisanal loaves of bread (Loaf, Rue Cler’s Bakery, Guglhupf, and Chicken Bridge Bakery are a few others that come to mind).  So this is one of the best places to come – and folks throughout the Triangle  do – to get a good baguette, a loaf of crusty ciabatta, or a croissant.  Or, of course, for one of many delightful treats.

Despite the linguistically hybridized name, this is a thoroughly French boulangerie.  And, though it’s set in a typical Cary strip mall (seemingly far from everything), it actually manages to evoke that small Parisian cafe feel.  It’s charming inside, with delicious looking baked goods all around, and a recently expanded cafe section that spills over onto the narrow sidewalk out front.  Even if the bread wasn’t worth the trip, you’d want to come back.

But enough about the bread for now.  The cafe is tempting in its own right, with breakfast and light lunch/dinner fare on offer.  The menu features a number of sandwiches, salads, and egg dishes – nothing unexpected really, but solid choices, and a superb value for most selections.  You can get a large sandwich with a side of chips for just $6.95, and kids meals are just $2.25.  I’ve had several of the sandwiches, and, it must be said, while the bread is great, the sandwiches are merely average.  I recently had one with smoked turkey/homemade creamy slaw/peach-chipotle bbq sauce (one of this summer’s special menu additions) that was rather boring.  There just wasn’t much flavor.  My wife was similarly underwhelmed with her “Mediterraneo” (fresh mozzeralla/roasted tomatoes/basil/balsamic vinaigrette (+added chicken, $1.95) on foccacia).  Sandwiches are served with a side of homemade hearth-baked potato chips, which are crunchy but a bit lifeless; they are greatly improved by dipping in the accompanying buttermilk ranch dressing.

I’ve yet to try the egg-based or breakfast dishes, but many of them sound appealing.  Then again, if I were here for breakfast, I might just choose a buttery croissant or one of their outstanding white chocolate-cinnamon scones (I’m not a fan of the triple berry variety).  Speaking of white chocolate, everyone seems to love La Farm’s white chocolate mini-baguette, and I am no exception.  So even if you’re a little disappointed by your meal, pick up a pastry or loaf to go, and you won’t be let down.

Note that La Farm also sells at the Raleigh farmer’s market on the weekends.

Zucchini Bread

At this time of year, zucchini grows rampant in North Carolina.  Fortunately, there are a lot of good uses for this versatile vegetable.  Grilled, sauteed, on a pizza, in a kabob, you name it.  Another delicious way to use it all up is by making zucchini bread.  It’s a sweet quick bread like banana or pumpkin bread.  This particular recipe tastes more like a carrot cake, and would indeed make splendid cupcakes with the addition of a little cream cheese frosting.  You probably won’t mistake this for healthy, but it sure tastes good.  Enjoy it plain or (even better) warm it and spread some salted butter on it, this recipe makes enough for two loaves.

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3 cups grated zucchini

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups nuts (such as walnuts) – optional

1 1/2 cups coconut

Instructions: Beat sugar with eggs and vanilla.  Add oil and zucchini and mix.  Mix dry ingredients separately and then add to the sugar/oil/zucchini mixture.  Stir in raisins, nuts, and coconut.  The batter will be very moist.  Bake at 350F in a greased large casserole pan (or two loaf pans) for 45 min to an hour, or until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Can be frozen.