Jacqueline's Bakery & Cafe- Downtown Melbourne- 5-Stars
Word of the Day: Chef: from Old French chief "leader, ruler, head"
The word chef gets bandied about these days, and I must agree with Chef Jackie that it is due to all the cooking shows on TV. Everyone who makes something in a kitchen is called a chef. However, the important part of that word is not so much the cooking as the managing. With an M.B.A., Chef Jackie more than has that part down and with a Le Grande Diplome from the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School, she more than has the cooking part well in hand.
Chef Jackie lived in France for 20+ years and certainly brings that culture to her kitchen every morning.
Located somewhat between Meg O'Malley's and The Mansion, just off of Strawbridge on New Haven in Downtown Melbourne is a slice of France known as Jacqueline's Bakery & Restaurant. Upon entering I was greeted warmly and enthusiastically by the counter help, I can't recall their name, but they were bubbly, professional and welcoming. Wanting to get a fair sample of Chef Jackie's fare I ordered some Chocolate Crinkle cookies, a Fruit Tartlet, a rather large Napoleon and a slice of Nirvana, otherwise known as Cheesecake.
Look at the pictures. Just look and then look some more. This stuff appeared so amazing and so authentically French that I had to glance out the window right quick to make sure I was still in Melbourne and not Paris (sadly, I was not in Paris). Hoarding my goods I strategically retreated to an open table and began to devour the beautiful creations in front of me.
As the menu clearly states and the smells authenticate, there is nothing fake here. Chef Jackie insists on using only the freshest, natural ingredients to be found and man oh man does it show. The Chocolate Crinkle cookies were everything they should be and more. They were crinkly on the outside, fluffy on the inside and chocolaty all over! There is no mistaking the taste of something baked with real vanilla and cane sugar. These were dusted with just the perfect amount of confectioner's sugar so that they weren't too sweet, but rather sat perfectly on the palate.
As difficult as it was, it was time to move on to the next item sitting lovely on my table, the cute little fruit tartlet. Fresh fruit, fresh custard, fresh tartlet dough, what more can be said. If this wasn't the tastiest little tart I have ever had, then I am not the Big Boy. The fruit was so succulent and sweet, it tasted like it was harvested that morning and the custard? Let me put it this way. It was so fresh and so creamy and so freakin' delicious it gave me a tonguegasm. The crust was flaky, tender and cooked to perfection. A lot of people seem to overlook the crust. I assure you it is just as integral to a good tart as the custard and this crust stood up to the mana that was the homemade custard.
Tearing myself away from the tartlet, I turned my gastronomical attention to the humongous slice of Napoleon that sat regally before me. As a food critic, I usually take one or two bites of something and box the rest. Halfway through the Napoleon, I stopped myself to contemplate the flavors. Un. Real. The picture doesn't lie and words cannot do this justice. If the cookies and tartlet were fantastic, this was extraordinary and I still had the cheesecake to go! the custard, the crust, the custard, the crust oh my, the topping!
Taking a moment to savor the flavors dancing across my persnickety tongue, I gazed lovingly at the items before me. Wow. This was, without a doubt, some of the best-baked goods I have yet had the pleasure of scarfing down. Re-acquiring my implement of culinary destruction, I plopped a forkful of the cheesecake in my mouth. As my tongue swirled around the cheesy goodness I mentally kicked myself for putting off this noshery for as long as I did. There is no mistaking the taste of homemade cheesecake versus the previously frozen variety. This was incredibly light, fluffy and creamy. When you can taste the fresh vanilla and cream cheese you know you are sampling the work of a true Master Chef. Hey, Le Cordon Bleu doesn't hand those Le Grande Diplome's to just anyone and it shows. Not only was the kitchen churning forth exemplary food, but the whole place was run tighter than a battleship at Guadalcanal.
From the staff to the ingredients to the cleanliness of the floor, you could feel the hand of a Master Chef. Chef Jackie is by far the best pastry chef I have yet sampled. Everything was so delicious and incredibly authentic that I felt remiss for not brushing up on my French before I ventured inside and I must return to sample her sandwiches and French Onion Soup (I bet that is out of this world!).
The Big Boy says, "For authentic French goods made from scratch by a Master Chef, run, don't walk to Jacqueline's Bakery & Restaurant in Melbourne."