Loyal customers of Berkeley’s French bakery and deli, La Bedaine, have been puzzled since its abrupt closure last June, without a sign in the window nor an explanation on its website regarding the prolonged hiatus.
The good news is that, as of Jan. 17, owner Alain Delangle is back in his cheery shop with the striped awning and butter yellow walls. He admits that he suffered a stroke in the kitchen of his Solano Avenue shop, but adds that, luckily, he was found by some customers. Right now, he is feeling a little too shy to go into details about what he has been through and prefers to focus on the future rather than the past.
The pastry and take-out shop is easing back into production in stages. To start, Delangle will offer pastries, bread and his signature salads, whose names could double as a French culture trivia contest: Racine (roasted beets, radishes, marinated carrots and celery root remoulade), Delacroix (arugula, poached pear, roquefort, candied pecans and dried cranberries) and Cyrano (house salad with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, cucumbers and Niçoise olives).
The French-born chef was previously executive chef and owner of Le Charm French Bistro, which opened in 1994 and was voted as one of San Francisco’s top 100 restaurants by the San Francisco Chronicle for four years in a row. After 14 years at Le Charm, he sold his share and opened La Bedaine in 2009 as a classic French traiteur, a business catering to working families, featuring a range of French favorites to take away. Delangle is touched that his customers missed him, but does not want everyone to rush back at once because if there were a line out the door, it would be too much for him to handle.
The pastries in his case on our recent visit included eclairs, tarte Tatin, financiers, pain d’epices (spice muffins), filled meringues, bittersweet chocolate tarts, pear tarts, plus bags of cookies, such as hazelnut shortbread. Soon, Delangle plans to add pâte de fruits (a chewy, jelly sweet) and marshmallows.
As customers happily wander in and murmur, “Welcome back,” they search for their favorite treats. They’ll find baguettes and batards, but not all the varieties of bread Delangle used to make. One customer was hoping for a croissant but had to be told, “Sorry, not yet.” Eventually, he will add back his quiches and croissants.
Meat dishes will come last. When La Bedaine was in full swing, Delangle offered a line of classic French charcuterie, such as terrine of wild boar and duck gizzard confit, as well as sandwiches, soups and salads. He prepared individual dinners including coq au vin, stuffed quail, lamb curry, duck à l’orange and veal Marengo. Each came fully cooked and vacuum packed. Eager Francophile diners who were pressed for time just had to immerse the plastic bag in hot water for 15 minutes to reheat.
Delangle and his wife promise to update the La Bedaine website as soon as they can and eventually reconnect the phone. For now, the shop’s hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.