Is there any sandwich more classically French than the Croque Monsieur? (Je pense que non aka I think not.) The simple, yet oh-so-satisfying layered masterpiece of Gruyere (or Emmental), ham, and French bread fried in butter has been satiating hungry Parisians for just over a hundred years. Sandwich scholars agree that the croque (which comes from the French verb meaning to crunch) first appeared on bistro tables in 1910 as a hearty snack to nibble on between sips of coffee and drags of cigarettes. Before long the Croque Madame followed, a spin on the classic topped with a fried egg; the Croque Provencal, another popular deviation, throws tomatoes into the mix for the fresh, Mediterranean flavor of Provence.
Now before visions of cheese sandwiches drive you mad enough to book a plane ticket to Paris, let me assure you that one of the very best croques I have ever tasted (and I’ve tasted plenty) came from a New York kitchen. Buvette, Jody William’s chic, French gastrotheque in the West Village, may just serve the best croque variation in the city. Her classic Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame receive rave reviews, but what really stopped this Restaurant Girl in her tracks was the Croque Forestier. The decadent sandwich layers rich, mellow Gruyere with roasted mushrooms and hearty French bread. There’s so much cheese covering the bread (and I mean this in a good way), that it’s difficult to determine where the fromage ends and the carbs begin. Aromatic Herbes de Provence—a blend that typically includes rosemary, tarragon, savory, lavendar, thyme, sage, and marjoram—enhance the earthy goodness of perfectly roasted mushrooms. The dish reaches heights of rustic perfection that merit its own moment of silence upon first bite (or at least that was the case when a hush fell over my table after our first taste).
As with the other small plates at Buvette, the real secret to the success of the Croque Forestier lies in whimsical, thoughtful details; in this case, a pile of small, salty and sour pickles lends the perfect amount of acid to cut into the richness of the sandwich. The kitchen dishes out Croques during the lunch hour, and evenings after 11pm, so plan your visit accordingly!
42 Grove St
New York, NY 10014