“We believe in the power of the table as one of the most magnificent things in the human arsenal. People come to the table for lots of things — to talk about the good and the difficult, to relax, to enjoy each other, to share news… It’s all about the power of the table.” These words by Aux Délices (pronounced Oh Dalease) owner, Catherine (Cat) Michel, encapsulate the essence of her small European style dessert boutique.
The Michel family moved to the states in 1987, and Patricia, Cat’s mom, worked as a French teacher at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School until it closed in 2018. Patricia would make her crepes for students as part of their French lessons, resulting in generations of kids who enjoyed her famous family recipe.
Growing up, Cat says her parents did a great job keeping the French culture alive. Our days “centered around meals,” says Michel. And Aux Délices was an outgrowth of those experiences. “We wanted to share our culture with others and impress upon them that we built a place for them to linger,” says Michel.
Aux Délices, which means “to the delights,” is a family-owned and operated business that opened in Port Warwick on September 1, 2021. Owner Cat Michel, a designer by trade, says she sought to design the boutique so that “people would come in the door, stop, take a breath and say, ‘Oh, I love this.’” The desire was to communicate that message “through color, tone and product,” says Michel. Together, with her contractor husband, Steve, the “dynamic duo” was successful in their endeavor of design and construction, as one customer lauds on Yelp, “Ambiance is wonderful, clean and cozy! This is a must visit on the Peninsula, nothing else like it!” With its Parisian feel, Michel says, “It’s like the kind of café you would walk into in Paris.”
Aux Délices’ specialty is artisan small batch ice cream made by Lolly’s Creamery in Virginia Beach. The boutique carries seven classic flavors and offers guest flavors every week. Additionally, its menu includes among other items, Liegeois coffee, milkshakes and teas, Belgian waffles and freshly made French crepes, which, of course, are specially made by Patricia, who just happens to be from Paris, France. And all the drizzles used are award-winning sauces straight from Boston, Steve’s home of origin.
The dessert boutique has two slogans: “life is short” and “make it delicious.” “The shop is a place of gathering goodness, in products and people,” says Cat. “Everything we carry means something to us,” Cat continues; “it’s one thing for a product to be delicious, but the second element was that we wanted the products to be from companies doing well.”
Apparently, Cat and family have hit a sweet spot on the Peninsula as the greatest challenge the boutique faces, Cat says, is that “by the third week, we needed more space… we have been so well received. It is pure joy to have people thanking you for opening your doors.” Part of what brought Cat and Steve to the decision of moving forward with the boutique was not being able to go home to France during the pandemic. At that point, they said, “Oh, we’re doing it! If we can’t go home, we will bring home here.” And bring it here they did, with a multi-generational business that gives everyone from 8 to 78 a place to belong.
With their traveling spirit, it’s no wonder Cat and Steve got this right. “We are wanderers at heart,” says Cat. “If there’s something we can experience, that’s what we’re going to do.” And with Aux Délices, they have afforded a bit of that experience to folks across the Peninsula.
TO THE POINT:
Address: 129 Herman Melville Ave., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Catherine (Cat) Michel, owner
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