The French bakery and cafe invasion of Central Florida is still on the move with several new outposts, including one at Epcot's World Showcase.
Disney's Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie is the result of a wonderful transformation of a former sweet shop. Tucked inside the collection of shops and restaurants in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower replica, this new café is the best kept breakfast secret for early bird Disney-philes. The eatery opens at 9 a.m. daily — two hours before the ropes are dropped to allow entry into World Showcase. Guests in the know can access the bakery through the park entrance between the France and England pavilions.
Inside, guests walk through a small gift shop before catching the first glimpse of the bakery cases displaying jaw-dropping sweets and savories.
This is a quick-serve café, so you look, point, drool, gulp and then choose from the overwhelming display of baguettes, tarts, éclairs, cakes, cookies, croissants, creme brulee, turnovers, soups, mousses, Napoleons, cheese plates, sandwiches, pissaladiere (pizza-like dish from the South of France), salads and quiches.
I sampled the cheese plate ($5.95) with gruyere, port salut, brie, blue cheese and a mini baguette. The assortment was the perfect starter for a quick A.M. nosh. The cheeses were all at optimum temperature for enjoying the full flavors and aromas.
The ham and cheese quiche ($4.95) featured a rich custard and wonderful notes of tarragon and nutmeg. About the size of an individual pot pie, the savory breakfast entrée was easily shareable.
The meringue-topped lemon tart ($3.20) had a creamy filling with nice sharp tang on the palate. The chocolate croissant ($2.85) was a buttery, flaky indulgence that practically melted in the mouth.
We ate at a small café table outside. I admit the setting may not be Paris, but it was a swell spot to start the day at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
Add Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie to the best desserts on the run in Epcot. Of course, you will need to run a couple laps around the promenade to overcome the calorie guilt. But a foodie has to do what a foodie has to do.
By the way: L'Artisan des Glaces, an artisan ice cream and sorbet shop, is scheduled to open in the France Pavilion in June. I am definitely going to need a new pair of running shoes.
•Closer to reality and downtown Orlando, Delights of Benezit has opened at 2120 Edgewater Drive in the space formerly occupied by Les Petits Pleasures, which has moved to St. Augustine. French pastry chef Fabrice Benezit is the talent behind the new eatery. For information on the College Park cafe, call 407-203-2828 or check out delightsofbenezitfabrice.com.
•The third newbie for hungry Francophiles is cozy Le Gourmet Break at 150 S. Magnolia Ave. in the heart of the center city. I haven't been to this one yet, but looking forward to dropping in soon. In the meantime, you can check it out at le-gourmet-break.com.
These newcomers joined a hearty lot of great French bakeries in Central Florida. Among my favorites are:
•Croissant Gourmet Bakery: 120 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park; 407-622-7753; CroissantGourmet.com
•La Gourmandise French Bakery: 359 W. Granada Blvd., Ormond Beach; 386-672-5594; French Bakery.net
•Mon Delice: 557 E. Third Ave., New Smyrna Beach; 386-427-6555; Facebook
Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie
Where: France Pavilion, Epcot, Lake Buena Vista
When: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; World Showcase opens at 11 a.m., but guests can access the bakery through the entrance between the France and England pavilions.
How much: $1.95-$5.95 (also, requires theme-park admission, one-day park ticket is $94.79)
Wine by the glass: $5.87
Beverages: Soft drinks, coffee, beer and wine
Extras: Quick service, outdoor dining, take out
Credit: All major
Wheelchair access: Easy