Bistro Vendome has the right ambience for brunch

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After eating my way through the menu at Euclid Hall for this week's review, I stopped by Rioja, the Larimer Square restaurant that Jen Jasinski and Beth Gruitch opened six years ago, and also by Bistro Vendome, the restaurant at 1420 Larimer Street that the pair took over in 2006.

Bistro Vendome is renowned for its brunches -- and with good reason.

I stopped in on one of the first truly cool Sunday mornings of the fall. The dining room and patio were as charming as ever, and the place had the feel of a country kitchen crossed with a café. Beams of sunlight were bouncing off the wooden tables, bottles and ceramics that line the yellow walls. (Yellow invokes hunger, the bartender told us.)

I sat down and ordered a French press of coffee and a basket of croissants, served with housemade jams. I've found apple jelly, orange marmalade and tart strawberry rhubarb jam here, and spread on a flaky, buttery croissant, these jams are reason enough to come to Bistro Vendome. I could -- and perhaps should -- have stopped with the croissants.

But I went on to order the Gaufre Maison, a homemade waffle topped with sauternes pears and Nutella whipped cream that wasn't nearly as rich as I was expecting. In fact, I could hardly taste the Nutella. I also took on an order of steak and eggs, enriched with silky foie gras butter but served medium well when I'd ordered medium rare. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the avocado and Dungeness crab omelet, plump with the addition of triple crème.

At Bistro Vendome, though, the space and atmosphere are so lovely that I can forgive most missteps. And so one sunny Sunday I'll be back, settling in over that good coffee and those great croissants.

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