I love all things French. I don´t know why. To the best of my knowledge I am an offspring of those who had few, if any, encounters with anyone of French ancestry. And, as a child the closest I came to French food was an occasional crepe. Adding to the mystery- I have never set foot in France.
My first encounter with authentic French came when a woman, who claiming to be French introduced me to my first bottle of Lafitte. And then my second. She eventually admitted she was actually from Dublin. California.
The French have a certain way with things. In my world, they hold the top rung in style, fashion, flirtation, design, sexiness, seduction, and of course ambiance and food. My study of the Frenchifaction of life has progressed to more than mere fascination.
That explains why my enthusiasm shot off the charts when Kranston and I happened upon La Pichet late one evening as we were quickly traversing Seattle in search of culinary secrets.
The postage stamp-sized cafe in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle- a few blocks up from Pike Place Market- is a glistening oasis of simplicity in a sea of stylized restaurants that frequently miss their mark. On a First Ave. block, boasting Jimmy Choo knock-offs, haute couture and a flash of funk, Le Pichet shines.
Its sparkle comes from the simple purity of concept that owners Joanne Herron and her partner Jim Drohman have perfected since opening six years ago. This café has stories. Late night interludes, early morning breakfasts. Think of this- Almonds sautéed in olive oil served with coarse sea salt- Potted duck served on a creamy celeriac and cucumbers with brandied cherry vinaigrette. That my friend is culinary foreplay. Served throughout the day the purity of concept is as exceptional as the food.
"After spending time in France we decided we wanted to open a small French Cafe. We found this space and did it.e brought a bit of Paris home." Herron said on a busy morning dampened only by a Seattle mist.
With hard boiled eggs on the bar, boxes of yet unpacked delivers that had just been brought in the door, the café was bustling with waitresses in Francophile attire, waiting on customers enjoying Pain et Buerre, Oeufs plates, jambone et fromage, and other authentic French delights in an authentic French café. Missing was the Americanization of the French concept. Bo glistening pastry cases with pre made delicacies of over sugared, butter cream filled puffs. Not an éclair in sight. Just simple authenticity.
That is the secret of Joann and Jim´s success. Successful concepts need to be pure. The duo went to France, fell in love with the café concept and designed theirs using the purity the French have perfected over the years.
Purity of concept- staying focused- the art of knowing who you are and sticking to it is a tremendous talent that every restaurant owner needs to acquire, fine tune and practice continually.
Stick to the stylization of your original concept. The authenticity of Le Pichet was a large portion of its success. Their concept is so pure, simple and on the mark that it would be impossible to not feel invited as soon as you walk through the outdoor café and into the front door. Banquets, long zinc bar, and of course a customer spreading butter on a baguette.
Yes, the French have mastered it- Sexy seduction through a simple culinary concept. Putiy of concept. Never lose focus. Just like the owners of La Pichet.