Monday, June 21, 2010

Small Café, Fond Memories

When our son was four years old we took a trip to France, and since we've never been interested in the four-star, play-it-safe experience, we've always opted for a more ground-level view. That meant staying in small, family-run hotels and eating in local restaurants, most of which weren't geared for English speakers. Contrary to stereotypes of the French, the innkeepers were invariably helpful and friendly, even reverting to the English they learned in school, much better than my college French, to give us pointers on what to see and where to eat. It didn't hurt that our son loved escargot and duck more than pizza or hamburgers, which seemed to amaze our hosts, and we were able to bask in the reflected approval.

Our days would always start in the small breakfast room of the hotel, the innkeeper bringing two long-handled metal pots, one filled with strong coffee and the other with hot milk. A simultaneous stream from each would be poured into our cups, and a basket of pastries or a baguette from the village bakery would appear, often accompanied by homemade jam.

The reason I bring this up is that we went by Florio Bakery on a recent morning when Carrie Birrer (left) was just setting out the day's pastries, the smell of cinnamon and sugar mixing with the heady richness of just-brewed Trailhead Roasting espresso. You may remember her from the coffee shop of the same name on SE 28th and Ankeny, and this one, located in a little bungalow just off MLK, has many of the same wonderful French-style pastries, along with her famous (and much missed) scones (lower right).

Light spills into the south-facing room containing the pastry counter and espresso machine, and there is an adjoining room with tables where you can sit back and watch the neighbors passing by on their daily errands. It already looks like a popular spot for moms and their kids, with a basket of books and toys to keep them busy while their mothers sit and relax.

In a departure from the typical coffee shop model, the scones are also available at several local stores in the freezer section under the Florio label. At the café she's also offering ready-to-bake frozen scones and croissant dough filled with fruit or savory fillings to customers who may want to have her freshly baked pastries without having to change out of their jammies. I'm thinking this is going to be the ideal solution for breakfast for overnight guests or to have on hand when a friend stops by for coffee.

Birrer is also marketing her pastries this season at the St. Johns Farmers' Market on Saturdays, and she's talking about expanding her café menu to include lunch offerings in the near future. As for me, I'm going to be heading there as a tasty destination for a dog walk, and to pretend for a few minutes that I'm back at that small hotel in France.

Details: Florio Bakery, 431 NE Rosa Parks Way. Phone 503-928-9444.


Anonymous said...

This sounds great. Corvallis is lucky enough to have a French pastry chef of its own (Le Patissier), but it can run out of food sometimes. The frozen, eat at home pastries sound perfect!

kab said...

Good French pastries are always welcome…and I felt the same way about the frozen version. Yum!

EcoGrrl said...

right across the street from my house - i love padding over there in my slippers for the ginger scone, and the hot chocolate is deeeelish

kab said...

I'll be sure to wave next time I'm looking out the window!