Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Palo Alto: Monday night at Mayfield Cafe

I really needed to get out of my apartment on Monday evening and keep myself distracted, so I ran errands and then decided to take myself to dessert at Mayfield Cafe around 8:45pm (they are open until 9:30 on weekdays).  The interior is an inviting one, with the comforting drone of the open kitchen.  I got the same bar seat that I had when I came for coffee and a croissant in September.  Joel the bartender helped me pick the creme brulee with madeleines, over the chocolate tart.

The creme brulee - a very generous portion, certainly enough for two - was excellently smooth, not too sweet, and had a nice citrus flavor and a perfectly thin sugar crust.  The accompanying madeleines, however, were disappointingly dry!  I told Joel about this unfortunate situation, and he immediately said he'd try and get some fresh madeleines, which he did in about three minutes.  The replacements were much better, though not perfect.  Serving madeleines in a restaurant takes courage, because they're ideal right after baking and decent for a little while afterward, but dry madeleines are a travesty.

Replacements are at the upper left

A few minutes after that, the manager (I think?) brought over a plate with a cookie on it, proclaiming, "Here's a warm butterscotch cookie for you.  Again, we apologize for the madeleines."  Quite a surprise, and as it turns out, this cookie was everything you would want in a cookie: a little crisp around the edges, very chewy the rest of the way, and butterscotch/caramel-y without being cloying.  Eventually my coffee came, freshly brewed, and rounded out my dessert feast.  If Mayfield served little versions of their butterscotch cookies with the citrus creme brulee instead of the madeleines, I think that combination would be a knockout.

In both of my visits to Mayfield, I've experienced consistency and timing issues with their food preparation and service.  But, in both visits they handled such errors with class and generosity, in addition to being unfailingly polite and friendly.  On Monday night I was only charged for the creme brulee, which was suitable since my coffee had been rather late.  But regardless, I still put down $12 on the $8.75 bill.  Immediately replacing the madeleines with fresher ones was already a very satisfactory move.  The butterscotch cookie was above and beyond what I would expect, but such little gestures are the sort of thing that really help a restaurant cultivate and maintain clientele, and it's heartening that Mayfield treats diners - even solo diners just stopping in for dessert - this way.  That attitude, along with the warm atmosphere, is why I'll keep returning.  The lunch and dinner menus are [overly] pricey and not very suitable for my budget, but the breakfast and dessert menus are more reasonable.