The Dining Divas and guests just like to have fun—and that’s what we had when we lunched at Gigi’s Cafe at the eye-catching Broadstone Marketplace in Folsom.
Our greeter was the bartender, known only as A.J., who was tapped to be our server for the day. Lunchtime begins at 11 a.m. at Gigi’s, and there was action that early in the day. A nicely appointed table in a room that could provide private dining was set up and ready, although there was not much room between the back wall and the fountain in the center of the room, making it difficult for water pourers to perform their duties. The décor includes some French touches (the Eiffel Tower vases holding faux roses might need to be replaced), and the executive chef, Gerard Robert, is from Nevers, in Burgundy, France.
The lunch menu offers a good number of choices without being overwhelming. We ordered country pâté; fried calamari; escargot with garlic butter sauce and sliced almonds; French onion soup; and the day’s soup, lobster bisque. We also ordered a crab cake, even though it wasn’t on the menu.
The generous serving of calamari had a light, delicate touch, although the seasoning was bland. Neither of the soups was hot enough, and the bisque was too tomatoey. The crab cake topped with slivers of red pepper had an interesting presentation, but the flavor was so delicate that all you could taste was sauce. The escargot proved to be the best of the lot, but then anything swimming in butter, with the added crunch of sliced almonds, can’t be all bad, can it?
Moving on to entrées, we ordered the shrimp salad, made with walnuts, red onion, green beans and feta with mint vinaigrette; eggplant pistou; BLT hamburger topped with Boursin cheese on an Italian slipper-shaped roll known as a ciabatta; ahi tuna sandwich; cannelloni crêpe filled with ground veal and topped with Alfredo and marinara sauces; curried-chicken crêpe; and lobster-stuffed ravioli.
The ahi sandwich was the star of the day. The ahi was fresh and perfectly cooked, neither over- nor underdone. The caramelized onions on top added sass, and the ciabatta was nicely warmed. The burger also came in for high praise, although I don’t recall it having much cheese. Once again, the ciabatta was just the right touch.
Personally, I wanted more curry in the chicken crêpe and more seasoning in the ravioli. The shrimp salad had a sweet touch, possibly from the mint vinaigrette.
The eggplant? No way. It was undercooked, unappealing to the eye and not very flavorful. Pistou is a condiment from Provence made of fresh basil crushed with garlic and olive oil—it lacked zing and didn’t do anything for the bland eggplant. It would be a good choice for a vegetarian if it came out of the kitchen the way it should, but then so would the forestière crêpe, made with wild mountain mushrooms, and the pasta fresca: angel hair pasta made with tomatoes, basil, onion and garlic.
To accompany the food, Diva Joan Leineke selected Ferrari Carrano Chardonnay (Alexander Valley) and Monticello Merlot (Napa). Elegant wine glasses added a festive note. The Chardonnay was my favorite; it was neither overpowering nor oaky, and was a pleasant wine to go with our food.
One of the best parts of a Diva lunch is that we order all of the desserts. At Gigi’s, that meant pear almond tart, “very berry” crêpe with seasonal berries and vanilla ice cream, cheesecake, crème caramel, caramelized apple crêpe with walnuts and vanilla ice cream, and triple chocolate mousse cake.
For me, the very berry crêpe was the winner, with its generous filling of berries. The crème caramel was traditional and perfect in execution—creamy and soothing to the palate.
From the Divas
Joan Leineke appreciated the bacon and the slathering of mayonnaise on the burger, as well as the fries—crisp on the outside, mealy on the inside. She also tapped the crème caramel as the top dessert.
Gayla Mace proclaimed the ahi sandwich “very tasty.” If she were to return, she would check out the designer martinis. “The menu was very extensive and looked good,” she said.
Paulette Bruce-Miller always looks for atmosphere; she would have enjoyed a little French music. Her favorites were the escargot, burger, cheesecake and crème caramel; as a calamari expert, she wished the generous serving had been crispier.
Peg Tomlinson-Poswall wanted a little more atmosphere, too, and asked that the fountain in the room’s center be turned on so we could see what it looked like at dinner. No luck: There was not enough water in the fountain. She loved the fries, thought the burger’s bacon was nicely flavored and said the cheesecake was a good one.
Karen Young, who was on her third round as a Dining Diva guest, enjoyed the ahi tuna sandwich for its tenderness and full flavor. The lobster-stuffed ravioli, she said, did not have enough oomph. “I couldn’t identify any flavors,” she said. She thought the atmosphere was charming, bright and cozy, and the service staff friendly and knowledgeable, but a little slow.
Her guest, Linda Donnels, another Diva repeater, liked the restaurant’s bistro feel and gave high marks to the escargot, burger and apple crêpe.
Guest Mary Kessler also liked the escargot and the crisp, flavorful fries. Her husband, Michael, preferred the ahi sandwich.
Carolyn Fischer, Mace’s guest, gave first-place honors to the crème caramel. “I could put my entire face in this,” she exclaimed, also noting that the calamari, escargot and burger were worthy choices.
Bruce-Miller arrived a little late, with news that she is a nonna (grandmother) again. It’s a boy for her son, Rob, and his wife, Lexan. That makes two boys and two girls for Bruce-Miller.
Hearing about my upcoming trip to New York City, Michael Kessler said that’s where he was born and where his parents reside. His 78-year-old mother teaches human sexuality to sixth graders. “I had to take the class from her when I was in sixth grade,” he said. His father is a professor of astrophysics. “I come from a family of high achievers,” he explained. “I couldn’t stop with just a bachelor’s degree.”
Young came up with an expression to keep in mind, especially in trying times: “Keep your seat belt fastened at all times—in the car and out.”
Fischer is a friend of Mace’s—a “full-time job,” she said. As it turns out, it definitely was a full-time job that day, because the Fischers and the Maces later attended the Celebrity Chef Challenge, a benefit for InAlliance, together. Leineke was one of the competing chefs, assisted by Bruce-Miller. Tomlinson-Poswall was a judge, and I went to encourage folks to bid on Lunch With the Divas. (David Berkley was the top bidder.)
Gigi’s provided a look at the continuing growth explosion that is known as Folsom. Its location in the trendy Broadstone shopping complex opened our eyes to places worth visiting in the area to sample the sights and the food.
Gigi’s Cafe, 2756 E. Bidwell St., Folsom; (916) 817-2332; Lunch daily 11 a.m.–2 p.m., dinner 5–9 p.m. Sunday–Thursday, 5–10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.