C’est La Vie offers exquisite pastries, baguette sandwiches and custom cakes.By Janice Randall Rohlf
It’s rare on Cape Cod that a café has both a bagel-and-lox and a croque monsieur on its menu. Rarer still is that both would be exceptional—fresh, tasty and reasonably priced. But that’s just what you’ll find at C’est La Vie, a new kid on the block in downtown Hyannis. Quickly, the cozy café and bakery has become a favorite address not only of Francophiles yearning for an authentic croissant (plain, chocolate, almond) or éclair (chocolate, pistachio, coffee) but also for anyone who’s craving a satisfying, homemade breakfast, lunch or afternoon pick-me-up. “Everyday people can come here,” says owner Nathalie Tournier, a native of southern France. “Everyone [regardless of income] should have access to nice food.”
Disillusioned by baking mini pastries for whip-thin society ladies in southern California, Tournier moved east with her four children and opened C’est La Vie last October. With its pastry cases lined with exquisite fruit tarts, lovely layered mousses and other typically French pâtisserie, the cozy eatery with Piaf playing in the background is identical to one you would find on any corner of Paris. But take a closer look, and you’ll notice slices of pumpkin and apple pie next to the dainty macarons; grilled cheese next to quiche Lorraine, and Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins stacked beside buttery sugar cookies called sablés.
Shortly after opening C’est La Vie, Tournier added an award-winning, French-trained pastry chef to her staff. With such talent at her disposal, Tournier says she is excited about offering custom wedding cakes and other special-occasion pastries not found elsewhere on Cape Cod. She wants to introduce Cape Codders to French specialties like a deliciously dense chocolate pavé cake and l’opéra, layers of almond cake, espresso-flavored buttercream and bittersweet chocolate ganache, all topped with a chocolate glaze.
“I want this to be more than just another coffee shop,” says Tournier, who loves that the light in New England is similar to that in her native Provence. “I want to have an actual connection with my customers.” Translation: She wants to spoil her customers, and to this end coffee is served in glass mugs that have been warmed inside with a splash of boiling water, and Tournier’s daughter, Chloe, 18, a budding make-up artist, crafts sandwiches as meticulously as she would apply eyeliner—every inch of the mini baguettes from France-to-Falmouth baker Boris Villatte is covered with ingredients like roasted tomatoes, fresh arugula and, appropriately, Dijon mustard. If you’re lucky, Nathalie’s own ratatouille, simmered for 48 hours, will be available the day you visit. Or, you can build your own salad from an assortment of delicious ingredients. Whatever you choose, always leave room for a splurge from the pastry case—it’s an unwritten rule.
Tournier loves Hyannis, and in return has given the town a spot as comfortable as one’s own family room. “I want the people who live here to come and bring their kids,” she says. Come, we will, but getting us to leave might pose a (nice) problem.