The French Hen, great food made from scratch

Lakewood restaurant has great, homemade food transformed into quaint bistro with European twist

25 years of chocolate making experience combined with a love of fresh, original food has culminated in the reopening of a quaint Lakewood bistro.
Edie Rahlf, Manager and Chocolatier of The French Hen, started making chocolates about 25 years ago from home. This hobby of experimentation soon became a passion worth pursuing.
“25 years ago there wasn’t the Internet, there wasn’t the food network and I couldn’t find any books on tempering chocolate. So I made thousands of dollars worth of mistakes and I learned as I went along,” Rahlf said.
Six years ago Rahlf felt ready to put her plan of selling these chocolates into action and started renting restaurant space after hours to do her work. This proved more of a financial burden then she had hoped.
Rahlf explained, “If I am going to make 1,000 chocolates it takes me four or five days, and to rent a restaurant after hours costs about $75 a day.”
This costly sum pushed her toward buying an already established restaurant, what was then and is still called The French Hen. Though this purchase came with its own clientele, it also came with its own set menu that didn’t appeal to the fresh, scratch-made style Rahlf prides herself on.
“When we started the menu was much more rudiment then it is now. It was just soups and sandwiches, and [the previous owner] didn’t even make her soups. The name eluded more to the décor,” Rahlf said.
Though Rahlf disagreed with the standing menu, the clientele was more important. She began to revise the menu to add fresher ingredients without changing the style of the dishes.
All of the soups are homemade, a Frenchman by the name of Pierre makes the deserts and during the summer she creates a garden next to the restaurant. From this garden she uses all the lettuce and herbs she can.
The restaurant itself is quaint. For each section there is a different theme corresponding to mismatched French bistros. One of the unique qualities of the restaurant is the fact the tables, chairs, plates, bowls and other dishware don’t match.
I had the opportunity to try the French Onion soup that was made fresh that morning, the Rick Monster Panini and the tropical themed dessert.
The soup was some of the best I’ve had in a long time. The onions were heavily caramelized and the broth was incredibly rich. It was presented in a ramekin with a single cheesy croton on top.
The sandwich was a combination of pepper jack cheese, chopped jalapeños and sliced beef all on thick sliced bread. The bread they use is nice and soft in the center and has a crunchy crust on the outside.
As wonderful as the meal was, the dessert was even more beautiful. It was this white cake with chocolate designs on the base, a passion fruit topping, a coconut cream and berry soaked center. It was a delightful combination of sweet and fruit flavors.
The 25 years of chocolate making that this restaurant was built on is given freely at the end of a meal. Beautifully designed truffles are presented as a teaser to introduce customers to the product, and then countless other varieties are available for purchase.
This restaurant far exceeded expectations, and I would encourage anyone to go there to experience unique style and amazing food.

Written by Daniel Conrad