Just between us foodies: If you knew that the Triangle's premier French bakery had expanded into the adjoining space and opened a café, wouldn't you want to rush over and be among the first to sink your teeth into the shattery crust of a demi baguette filled with ham and Gruyère?
Yeah, so would I. But unless you've been a regular customer of the bakery, chances are you didn't know that La Farm Bakery (4248 NW Cary Parkway; 657-0657; www.lafarmbakery.com) opened a café next door more than two months ago. That's because owner/master baker Lionel Vatinet and his wife, Missy, kept the cafe's opening quiet. They were expecting their first child about the same time as the scheduled opening and wanted to avoid a sudden rush of new customers.
Now they've had a chance to get the café more or less up to speed, and it's open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the mornings, popular companions for a steaming mug of Counter Culture café au lait include croque madame, homemade granola with yogurt and fresh fruit, and scrambled egg, ham and Gruyère on house-baked croissant. As the day progresses, options expand to include a French-accented assortment of soups, salads and sandwiches. Breakfast is served on Sundays until 9 a.m., when the brunch menu takes over.
La Farm Café is a casual, order-at-the-counter sort of place with café seating and a communal farmhouse table. It's still a work in progress, with wine service and an expanded entree offering possible future additions.
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Meanwhile in Raleigh, a bakery of a very different sort has expanded its retail presence. Bittycakes (395-8848; www.bittycakes.com), whose cupcakes were previously available by e-mail or phone order, are now sold at Café Helios (413 Glenwood Ave.; 838-5177; www.cafehelios.com).
Before you head over to Glenwood South, though, you might want to call the coffeehouse and check for availability. Owner/baker Kim Hammer says she delivers her cupcakes (and miniature "itty-bittycakes") to Café Helios two or three times a week, and they're often sold out.
No wonder. These are not your everyday cupcakes. Hammer is a fervent proponent of using local and organic ingredients, from the lemon basil, lavender and other herbs she grows in the café's nearby garden to the eggs she gets from area chicken farmers. In her licensed home kitchen, she transforms these ingredients into a varied assortment of confections, from Scharffen Berger chocolate with Valrhona chocolate buttercream to key lime buttermilk. There's also a flavor of the month, which typically showcases the local harvest -- like the local strawberries in May's featured flavor, strawberry buttercream.