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Published: Sunday, 11/18/2012

COMMENTARY

Farewell to Fifi's Reprise

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE COLUMNIST

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The food industry is a tough, tough business.

Last week, it claimed another victim. And this time, it was one of the brighter lights in Toledo’s culinary stratosphere.

Fifi’s Reprise, long regarded as among the prime restaurants in town for fine dining, closed its doors last week after 32 years of business in one form or another. Fifi Berry opened her restaurant Fifi’s in 1980, ran it successfully for several years, and eventually closed it before selling it to new owners in 2007. The following year, she bought it back and rechristened it Fifi’s Reprise.

The name was changed, but the idea was the same: elegant dining (Dover sole amandine, bouef au fromage, red wine-braised duck breast) in sophisticated, upscale surroundings. And the bar was one of the classiest in town.

But the food industry is a tough, tough business. Tastes changed, competition increased, and fine dining can be a difficult sell anyway in a town with a chili dog stand on every corner.

But Fifi’s and Fifi’s Reprise lasted a little more than 32 years while serving consistently excellent food. That’s a good run in a business that can be so tough.

T-giving eats

The classic, Norman Rockwell-esque view of Thanksgiving is that of an extended family — and maybe some friends — all sitting down to eat a happy meal together in a well-appointed dining room. But as we all know, real life does not always correspond to our idealistic fantasies of how it should be.

Some 10 percent of us choose to eat a Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant, according to the National Restaurant Association (though to be honest, that figure sounds high to me). Whatever the number is, an awful lot of people spend an awful lot of time looking for a place to eat on Thanksgiving that does not require them to do any cooking or cleanup. The problem is, the vast majority of restaurants are closed for the day (which is one of the reasons that 10-percent figure seems exaggerated).

Which leads us to the question: What restaurants in the area will be open on Thanksgiving day?

We don’t pretend to know every place in town that is going to be open, but we do know a few to get you started: Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center (buffet), Claddagh Irish Pub & Restaurant (buffet), Holiday Inn Perrysburg French Quarter (buffet), Hilton Toledo (buffet), Park Inn Hotel, Saba’s Bistro 1705 in the Holiday Inn Splash Bay Maumee (buffet), Hong Kong Buffet (traditional Thanksgiving buffet as well as Asian foods), and all area Denny’s locations.

If you’re planning to eat out on Thursday, call your favorite restaurant to see if it will be open, too.

Signing

Cynthia Kallile returns to town triumphant on Nov. 30 when she will be signing copies of her cookbook, The Meatloaf Bakery Cookbook.

A Toledo native, Ms. Kallile is now the chef and owner of The Meatloaf Bakery, which TimeOut Chicago called “the most unusual success story in Chicago.”

You think? In the very heart of the vibrant Lincoln Park neighborhood, this store has been capitalizing on the cupcake craze by selling, yes, meatloaf that looks like cupcakes. With mashed potatoes for frosting.

Not every item they sell there is made up of the standard beef-veal-pork mixture for meatloaf — some are made from chicken or salmon or lentils. But every one does resemble a cupcake or some other form of pastry.

Ms. Kallile will be at Barnes & Noble Booksellers at 4940 Monroe St. beginning at 6:30 p.m. Think how great a holiday gift the book will be for people who are fans of both meatloaf and foods that look like other foods.

Old-fashioned tea

The neighborhood of Vistula — it was Toledo’s first neighborhood, but you knew that — has a charming tradition to help begin the holiday season.

On Dec. 7-9, the Matthew Brown House will be the site of nine Victorian Christmas teas, complete with finger foods and clever little desserts. A host of teas will be offered too, of course, and it will all be served on fine china and linens.

The house will be open for an open house (that sounds a little more redundant than I’d hoped), so guests can also see the 1865 Italianate home in its fullest restored glory.

Seating is limited to 30 people for each tea, so reservations are required at 419-389-3452. The cost is a $25 donation to the Historic Vistula Foundation, which helps to preserve the architecture and character of the Vistula neighborhood.

Tea times are at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3: 30 p.m. on Dec. 7; at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. on Dec. 8; and 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 9.

Items for Morsels may be submitted up to two weeks before an event to food@theblade.com.



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