It's known as a Place Keith Goes. But even without the possibility of sighting Keith Richards, Luc's Café has allure enough, a little Parisian bistro in the heart of Ridgefield. Past the stately homes in this prosperous New England town, Luc's is tucked in the basement of a 200-year-old building behind Main Street.
A bistro by definition is modest and simple. Luc's worn bar seats six at rattan stools in a small sunny room filled with round French café tables topped in gold-hued marble (or marble-looking formica). On a window sill above a table near the door, two small blackboards mark the permanent reservations of Bert (Keith's father, RIP) and Roy, who drove Bert around. There's a family connection. Owner Herve Aussavis is married to the niece of Keith's wife Patti Hanson.
The low-ceilinged, raftered dining room has stone walls, paper-topped tables and a cozy, casual and very French feeling with mustard-colored accents and black banquettes. Our waiter brings a bowl of small, dark Niçoise olives flecked with dried rosemary. Slices of white baguette are appealingly chewy. Our friendly, experienced waiter offers suggestions of wines by the glass, but at $10 a glass, a bottle seems a better bargain, especially if we take home what we don't drink.
The menu is straight-up bistro – you can get a simple sandwich of house-made pâte and cornichon on a baguette or an entrée like sole almondine or steak frîtes. Also true to the bistro spirit, you can get anything on the menu from 11 a.m. to closing.
We order the chicken liver and foie gras terrine. Beneath a thin layer of aspic, the liver mousse is light and creamy, served with toasted bread. A handful of salad shares the plate: whole parsley leaves, fronds of chervil, and pale green frisée. The parsley leaves, with their fresh, bright green flavor, dominate, and are a wonderful counterpoint to the luxurious terrine.
Frisée aux lardons tames hearty curly endive with bacon and a poached egg. The presentation, the salad stuffed into a plain white bowl, epitomizes Luc's. The salad isn't gorgeous; it's work-a-day. The egg is properly poached, but the lardons are overcooked. My friend says she likes the bacon crispy, but it hasn't been carefully chopped, and it looks like the heat was too high, leaving us with hard bits of bacon of different sizes. Still, the salad is enjoyable.
Croque monsieur is made with thick slices of pillowy soft bread bathed in béchamel. Beneath the crunchy exterior of grilled gruyère, a slice of ham rests in the creamy center. It comes with mesclun, a salad of baby greens dressed in mustard vinaigrette.
Desserts are also made in-house, and we succumb to the apple tartin. Plump slices of apple have poached in caramel sauce. They rest on a whisper of pastry crust. The tart is topped with a substantial scoop of crème fraîche. The sour flavor of the thick cream works well with the sweet, but not "too sweet" caramel apples.
Luc's has a transporting atmosphere and reminds us that French isn't always fancy.
Luc's Cafe, 3 Big Shop Lane, Ridgefield. Information: 203-894-8522, lucscafe.com.