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Published: Tuesday, 7/18/2006

Restaurant review: Petit-Fours Patisserie & Caf ****

Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim wrote a song for one of his musicals called The Ladies who Lunch. It s a deliciously satirical commentary on well-to-do women who meet for lunch in chic restaurants to gossip, criticize, and drink midday vodka stingers.

If Sondheim s take on the subject is tinged with venom, most Ladies Who Lunch are surely of a different mind-set. Snide comments? Vodka stingers? In these parts, they are more likely to indulge in gossip while eating chicken salad and cookies washed down with caf a la orange.

At least that s my impression after three visits among the Ladies Who Lunch at Perrysburg s Petit-Fours Patisserie & Caf , presided over by owner Karen Lucas.

At noontime, the restaurant teems with women trading stories over savories and homemade soups from a menu still in flux. At the moment, the offerings include such ladylike delights as Parisian salads, shrimp and egg salad sandwiches, various coffees and teas, and namesake petit-fours, along with madeleines, chocolates, tortes, and other luscious trifles.

It s easy to find the guys in here, a young waitress said with a smile as I marveled at the huge gender imbalance among the wicker chairs, polka-dot cushions, and black and white photographs adorning the pink and gray cafe. During my visits, the men were few and far between.

On a recent afternoon, I was startled to find the dining room completely empty, until realizing all the patrons had gravitated to the covered patio.

Housed in the former Koral Hamburg building on Louisiana Avenue, Petit-Fours currently is open for breakfast, lunch, and Sunday brunch. The amenities are ascetic, in that orders are made and paid for in advance at the counter, and discreet paper tents ask that you bus your table.

Since its opening, the simple menu has remained essentially the same, but with plenty enough to satisfy most appetites. We tried everything fromsoup to tarts, with generally excellent results. I preferred the tomato basil soup over the carrot orange ($2.50/$3.75), and a savory tart du jour for $4.75 was out of this world: creamy mushrooms and goat cheese in phyllo, accompanied by two heaping deviled eggs, each crowned with a caper.

A four-sandwich list included a cold mix of bay shrimp and egg salad between wheat slices ($6.25), its flavors somewhat neutralized by alfalfa sprouts.

Better were the hot choices: grilled portobella ($6.95), roasted and marinated with gorgonzola cheese on a ciabatta roll, helped down with a cold bottle of sweet Izze Fizzy blackberry or clementine soda ($2). The croque monsieur ($6.95), a Parisian version of ham and cheese, was sensational, combining four thick slices of meat with smoked mozzarella on corrugated, parmesan-crusted sourdough. (My only disappointment was ordering the sandwich a month later and finding that the ham had dwindled to two slices.)

Among the foods available for carryout are several varieties of quiche, tarts and tartlets, petit calzones and sausage rolls, and a pastry case s worth of sweets, one more tempting than the other. On the shelves are already-packaged jars of jellies, jams, and the like.

Finally, Petit-Fours offers a classy touch on every sandwich tray: a complimentary cookie, two cornichon pickles (gherkins to us hoi-polloi), and, often as not, an orange twist and a small slice of melon or kiwi fruit.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com



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