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International Delights

Riverside's Bakery Ribault is a treasured discovery

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When you're in the mood for Italian coffee and French pastries, step into the European-style café Bakery Ribault. Tucked into 5 Points, Ribault has a fabulous selection of pastries, coffees and teas, and a small raised patio area reminiscent of the tilting street-side dining of Italian cafés.

There's plenty of inside seating, but I recommend sitting outdoors as long as the weather holds. The later you go, the less chance they'll have a full pastry case, so that's two reasons to get up early. Everything's made fresh daily, so when they're out, they're out.

Ribault (perhaps named for the area's famous explorer, Jean Ribault?) makes its pastries in-house, outsourcing only the bread for sandwiches and dessert case items-a variety of cakes and chocolate delicacies.

My top two choices were Almond Pastry ($3.50) and Pain au Chocolat ($3.50). Both were buttery, flaky and delicious. The Pain au Chocolat is heavier and so rich, it's similar to fried dough-chocolate heaven. If you get there early enough, they might still be warm-yet another reason to get up! The lighter almond had a generous portion of almond paste in the center and was sprinkled with sliced roasted almonds, creating a flavor explosion in each bite.

To accompany your pastry, order a Lavazza coffee, Ghirardelli hot chocolate or tasty teas from China and India-hot or iced; Ribault has got your back. There are also dairy-free soy, almond and coconut milks. Ever the Earl Grey lover, I took a chance with London Fog tea; it perfectly suited my tastes that day. The Fog, a sweeter version of fragrant Earl Grey, brought out more notes from tea mix. I'm also a sucker for glass mugs, so it was a delight when my London Fog arrived in one.

The sandwich selection did not disappoint; I'll probably find my way back to try a few more. They serve a variety of both vegetarian and meaty paninis, but this gal can rarely turn down a muffalatta ($9.99). One tap of the bread and I was sold. The flawless buttered, crisp crust housed a juicy, cheesy interior of Black Forest ham, Genoa salami, provolone cheese, nut-free pesto, olive tapenade and tomato. I don't think I've ever seen tomato on a muffalatta, but the addition made for a lighter version than the heavier, oily standard.

I've avoided the elephant in the case because it will conquer everything. Holy croissant, Batman. This is the real deal. Beneath that light outer crunch lie layers and layers of buttery flakiness. Get these gold-kissed, U-shaped beauties for breakfast or lunch with a little extra tszuj of ham or bacon and egg, chicken salad or avocado. If you can croissant it, they'll do it. I wasn't 100 percent sold on the mayo-and-mustard combo on the ham-and-egg croissant sandwich ($6.61) but, again, it didn't disappoint.

Next time you're on the prowl for a good café, do yourself a favor and explore Bakery Ribault.

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If you have a recommendation, shoot me an email at biteclub@folioweekly.com.

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