CVI Crapcam
A saucy sandwich, with a side o' fruit. Credit: CVI Crapcam

What: The croque madame

Where: L’Atelier Deli, 129 La Plaza, Palm Springs

How much: $9

Contact: 760-778-7895;

Why: Lots of flavor in a small package.

As the story goes: Raphael and Charlotte Farsy, a young French couple from Paris, came to Palm Springs in March 2012 on their honeymoon. As often happens when people visit here, they became smitten with the desert, and decided to stay. Raphael is a pastry chef—and so L’Atelier Deli was born.

We should all be happy about Raphael and Charlotte’s decision to stay, because as a result, we get the benefit of this small, utterly charming French café tucked into a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot in downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza. You’ll find Raphael behind the counter, most likely, with Charlotte handling the bulk of the serving.

The menu includes breakfasts, salads, sandwiches, quiches and a variety of French pastries and desserts. The dish that has our mouths watering the most comes from the breakfast menu: the croque madame.

It’s a simple treat: a ham-and-cheese sandwich between two toasted slices of white bread, with béchamel sauce and, on top, a fried egg. Individually, these ingredients, while of high quality, aren’t anything to write home to Paris about: In this case, ham is just ham; béchamel sauce is just butter, flour, salt and milk; etc. But put them all together, and the result is yummy. The salt in the ham and the béchamel are muted by the bread; the richness of the egg and cheese add a ton of taste; and so on. It’s all pretty basic, really, yet the flavors that result are far from basic.

While pretty much everything we’ve enjoyed at L’Atelier has ranged from good to outstanding (especially the quiches; always check the specials board to see what’s available), be warned: The food here is not cheap. A tall but otherwise normal-sized slice of quiche will set you back $6 or $7, for example, and that delightful fruit salad accompanying my sandwich in the picture above was a whopping $4. The small, artfully presented round of apple, strawberry, banana and kiwi was refreshing and delightful, yes, but I wouldn’t pay $4 for it again.

But thanks to the charm of Raphael and Charlotte’s little café, as well as all of that flavor, I will happily pay $9 for that croque madame again. It’s fantastic.

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...