Why you should go: For a delectable breakfast or lunch, buttery, utterly fresh bakery treats to eat there or take home, and even gourmet dog biscuits for your best friend. My dog loves 'em, so I tried one. They're delish!
You named your place for a little French tea cake? Shapiro: Yes, but also for the little French girl Madeline in that wonderful series of children's books we all grew up with. And for Madison, our city.
Kolberg: When we first opened, we made madeleines every day. But whether we have them or not depends on what else we decide to make on any given day. Customers are surprised when they don't find madeleines in the bakery case, but we hope they'll understand our purist approach. We've had people buy madeleines and take them to a dinner party a few days later - then they come back and tell us, "Your madeleines were tough!" But our madeleines only have a shelf life of four hours. We make the nicest, freshest products you can find - no preservatives. Maybe you've come in at 5 p.m. wanting a dozen croissants and there's only one left. It was made fresh that day - we can't pull more from the freezer. If you want a dozen, call us and order them!
Shapiro: We're baking almost around the clock. No madeleines today, but I had tarts coming out of the oven all morning, and I'm dipping chocolates tonight. We're eclectic. I love our slogan - "a Midwestern bakery in the European tradition." We made pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. They don't have those in France, but the way we make them is very French.
Are you Francophiles? Shapiro: Well, I was a nurse in my old life. A friend who knew I liked to bake suggested I try the MATC pastry program. It took me four years to work up my courage to go. I ran into my old friend Nancy there - I hadn't seen her for years, but we linked up. We went to Paris for the Coup du Monde international bread competition, and we fell in love with the quaintness of the French patisseries. We thought that was something Madison could use. When we got back to MATC, we started talking about it seriously. I never took a chance before in my life, and then I hit 50 and I took a chance!
Kolberg: I worked all kinds of jobs in my life, but I'd never done something I really wanted to do. This is our midlife business, and that's what it's all about.
What's for the holidays? Shapiro: Last week we made latkes for lunch, with sour cream, for Hanukkah.
Kolberg: We're making stollen, yule logs, gingerbread house kits and cookie trays, with a little fudge and a few hand-dipped chocolates. If you don't see them in the case, it's because they'll sell fast. We'll keep making fresh trays, but we're always happy to do a special order if you call in advance.
Shapiro: Like our products, our decor changes seasonally. All the Nutcracker dolls are Nancy's. I buy them for her, and she buys me cookie cutters. I love them. I'm having fun making decorated cookies - reindeer, mittens, sleighs. They're all hand done. They're fresh and beautiful, little works of art.