With a Continental European Flair, This Little Café is Re-Defining a Town Undergoing it's Very Own Renaissance!
It’s White River Junction’s latest arrival on So. Main Street. It’s where great coffee, fine food, teas, and sumptuous desserts all come together to break you out of your mud season doldrums. Café Renee will pave the way for you from here to the warmer summer months when you’ll be able to comfortably sit outside to watch the trains go by without shivering away. (Bicyclists take note — this place reminds me of the mountain cafe's in southern France that dot the little hillside towns where professional bicyclists train for their next Tour event.)
View from Cafe's Renee's front windows. Watching the trains lumber along with their colorful, artistic graffiti, with cup of smooth coffee in hand, is as relaxing as anything you'll find in or around the Upper Valley.
Café Renee is the brainchild of Janni Moselsky-Hansen, and is born out of her love for good, natural, organic food and coffee, as well as her deep-seated desire to protect our environment. Janni spent time living in Europe where, for generations, people have tried to preserve the earth by re-using, rather than throwing away or recycling. Janni is sensitive to what she uses to the point of trying to break people of their throwaway-generation habits by providing real, washable and reusable coffee cups and bowls (for the daily soup specials!), refraining from using plastic bags, and discarding less food waste by ordering in just the right quantities from local producers whose products she knows will sell.
For example, on a personal level, whenever Janni goes to a coffee shop herself, she brings her own cup. That’s because she has a keen appreciation for reusing items until they either fall apart or stop working — even while her love for preparing and serving the highest quality of foods remains high.
Jenni's Chicken Caesar Croissant Sandwich. One of the specials of the day at just $5.95 comes with a yummy cookie on the side!
Janni’s Chicken Caesar Croissant luncheon sandwich special was a real treat for me. It consists of Old Bay seasoning on freshly-grilled chicken (southern style), grilled with olive oil, adding just a tad of cayenne pepper (or holding off on it upon request), then finished with a Caesar dressing placed on a nice buttery Café Renee croissant. Romaine lettuce is the standard for a Caesar – but Janni’s not getting much of it due to problems with its growing and production, so she’s moved to red leaf lettuce, a little softer but very nice on a sandwich because of its texture. Hint: Never use a croissant baked the same morning for a sandwich because a 24-hour-old croissant is just a bit stiffer and it holds together better in the hand without falling apart. Janni can always add fresh-pressed garlic, or even bacon if you'd like — "a really nice smoked bacon" is all I could get for details from Janni (she understandably doesn’t want to give away all her secrets!).
Janni, cute as can be in her black French beret and braided pony-tail pulled asymmetrically off to one side, knows how to serve up baked goods, fruits, soups, sandwiches, and smiles that will most certainly carry you away!
Nearly all the lettuce, cheeses, and produce Janni uses are organic and local – or as local as she can get during the winter season. Think Long Wind Farm tomatoes from E. Thetford, VT grown just 15 miles away year ‘round. If not local to the Upper Valley, then Janni strives to procure produce that's local to New England. If it's not in season, still rest assured Café Renee's fruits and vegetables are predominantly organic! (Or see: https://www.longwindfarm.com). Janni tells me she’s totally dedicated to using Long Wind Farm's delectable tomatoes.
Long Wind Farm Tomatoes. Soil grown. Never hydroponic. Alway organic, fresh, and delicious!
The Café Renee sandwich special is only $5.95 – and it usually runs 2-3 times a week. Otherwise Café Renee’s sandwiches are $6.95 when not on special. The chicken Janni use is flash frozen and naturally free range. The same goes for the eggs she uses. Jenni affectionately calls them, “eggs from untprtured hens!”
Of course, this week’s Chicken Caesar Croissant could also be put on a roll. Like a local King Arthur Flour creation, or one from Vermont's own La Panciata bakery or the VT Bread Company. Janni prefers to go small and go local whenever she has the chance. La Panciata is based in Northfields Falls, VT, and the VT Bread Company is Brattleboro-based. King Arthur Flour, of course, is just up the road in Norwich, VT, and is always a go-to staple when other breads are out of stock.
Norwich, VT-based King Arthur Flour is always a stand-by for sandwich rolls at Café Renee.
But what really sets Café Renee apart from other local coffee shops in the Upper Valley? I think it's all about the atmosphere. Sure, the coffee is top notch, and the croissants bet anything else in the region for taste that rally brings me back to my days living in Paris. So what is it that keeps drawing me back time and again to this lovely, little, local "café that could," as I've now affectionately coined it? Well, it's simple...Janni's attitude is always ebullient, exuding love while engaging with her customers. And the atmosphere she's created here is so very special. It reminds me of being in Nice, France in a small cafe on the edge of a large plaza with it's black and white tiles that pull the eye to people passing by in a place where people watching is a pastime everyone comes to enjoy. Here, Café Renee's unique look out at So. Main Street and its passers-by, cars that flow past, and the trains that share their graceful rumble from across the street make this spot one pace you'll quickly come to love.
Place Massena in Nice, France. Where environment and atmosphere, and its local color, are all that matter! See why Café Renee reminds me of this special place?
Overheard while I was sipping my latest cup of Puerto-Rican special brew at Café Renee:
Janni effused, “The atmosphere here is amazing.”
And other comments overheard…
“Call this an Artist Café. Please. Period. It must be experienced.”
"There’s a nice energy here.”
“The quiche was so delicious.”
What else sets Café Renee apart? How about Janni’s dedicated efforts to help those in Puerto Rico displaced and still starving in many cases in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma. She does this by identifying small coffee growers/roasters in rural Puerto Rico and selling/serving their products at Café Renee. She also sells Mountain Grove Coffees, roasted right here in Vermont. All are taste tested, smooth, and delicious!
The coffee special when I wandered in was a Mocha Yaucono. A rich blend of robust café puertorriqueño topped with a creamy frothed hot cocoa. ¡Sabrosísimo! All for just $2.75.
Mountain Grove, a more locally-roasted coffee — as in right here in VT!
And Janni’s choices of music are as eclectic as they are relaxing. It’s the only place around I can consider a true “artist café” that has a slightly edgy but comfortably Bohemian, continental flair all its own. Come try it out at 39 So. Main Street in White River Junction. Enter through the Hotel Coolidge lobby until the weather warms up. After that you can walk right through the front door from the street into the Café.
Hours are 7 am to 12 pm, but Janni tells me she's usually in the Café until 1 pm puttering around, cleaning, or re-organizing the space to be sure it's as comfortable as can be. And she's considering extending hours until 2 pm as the summer months roll in. Once you try it, I expect you’ll be back for many return visits. You'll probably see me there writing my next piece for the dailyuv.com, or in my cycling gear for a quick stop-by to grab a bite to keep me going strong on my morning ride. Spring can't come soon enough!
It's all about atmosphere here at Café Renee, plus some really special treats, from croissants and pan au chocolate to delectable soups and sandwiches, cookies and coffee that go so well together. To eat in or take away. Janni will make your day that much more special and relaxing. Bicyclists are always welcome to drop in to tank up on needed calories, coffee, or hydrating goodness of all kinds — just like they do in the mountains of southern France!
More pix for you to get a feel of this neat little Café...
Oooh, and the quiche...
These black & white tiles make me feel like I'm back in that plaza in France.
Coffee is always ready—hot and smooth, with three or four varieties from which to choose!
Janni behind the counter, talks with her hands just like they do in France and Italy. She has a natural flair for making you feel like you're in a whole different country!
Dave Celone of E. Thetford writes as Poetic Licence here on the dailyuv.com on many things great and small that impact the Upper Valley region of NH and VT. Please leave a comment or question below if you wish. Dave does read and reply.