Fridays at Fonfon
Lingering over lunch at a place we love…
By Jan Walsh
Chez Fonfon has long been one of my favorite restaurants. I just love the country French cuisine, authentic antiques, and bistro bustle—all of which speak to me saying, “This is where I belong.” And through the years Kev has also grown to love this place as much as I do. “It’s great to here today, at someplace we love,” he says, just after we are seated.
And there is much to love… Chez Fonfon’s servers proudly don the traditional French uniform—black vest, black pants, white shirt and apron—posturing the importance of their role. The authentic, French antique, frosted windows and back door, inscribed with “Café” and “Restaurant,” envelop Fonfon in soft, warm, natural light. Creamy and chocolaty French pastries tempt guests as they walk in the door. And the open bar, decorated with seasonal fruits for hand crafting cocktails, welcomes those without reservations.
The training of the staff is archetypical of owners, Frank and Pardis Stitt. It is on display in the servers au courant knowledge of the preparation and execution of the back of the house. And their eyes survey every detail in the front of the house. Today our server, Mary Kathryn McCullough, greets us with a warm smile and an offer of a black napkin for Kev, who is wearing black pants. We are in the mood for a cocktail. Thus, she points to the blood oranges at the bar and recommends Blood Orange Thing and Blood Orange Mimosa. We order both. The Stitt restaurants—Fonfon, Highlands, Bottega Café, and Bottega Restaurant—serve their famous “Orange Thing” cocktail. Blood Orange Thing is a concoction of vodka, triple sec, and fresh squeezed blood orange juice, muddled. I love red grapefruit, and blood oranges offer the same juicy tang, along with notes of tart cherries and raspberries. My cocktail is garnished with a slice of this crimson-colored fruit, which I proceed to eat rather than drown in my glass. Don’t let the color fool you. This “Thing” is not sweet, but sweet tart, thirst quenching, and nourishing—blood oranges are packed with Vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber. And Kev has discovered the mother of all mimosas! The freshness of the blood orange shines through in this lively, silky, tasty find—also not too sweet or too tangy. Both are highly recommended!
We always start with the bread here. Today we have two servings: Petite Baguette and Butter and Tartine. Tearing apart the crusty baguette, we spread butter inside for our first bite. I admit that I am not a fan of kale, so I almost did not order it. Yet Mary Kathryn’s description sold me on it. The tartine is hearty, healthy, and filled with vim and vigor. It is grounded with two slices of toasty bread, spread with creamy farm egg salad, layered with acidic kale in cider vinaigrette, and crowned with fresh and crisp radish and carrots. Think open faced, vegetarian sandwich. And I have a newfound favorite that I almost overlooked.
Kev opts for the award-winning Hamburger Fonfon. And I am delighted to have four fish options: Les Grand Plats: Grilled Salmon and Trout Almondine, Spécialité du Jour: Roast Grouper with crawfish beurre blanc, and Chaque jour: Red Snapper. Those little crawfish almost got me. But I finally selected the snapper. Kev’s burger arrives open faced with melted comté melded to the thick, juicy patty, accompanied by grilled red onion, pickles, pommes frites, and house made condiments. The burger patty is always juicy, moist, and cooked to order from outside to inside—no dark, hard, over charred rims ever. Although Fonfon’s frites are always to die for, I do not try their complex frying method at home, but happily leave it to the pros here. They arrive thinly sliced, with a golden with a lustrous salty sheen on the outside, light and fluffy inside, with an addictive aroma and flavor. My snapper is served floating on a bed of jumbo asparagus, crowned with lemon hollandaise and pea tendrils. The fresh from the Gulf, grilled with skin on snapper is moist, lean, and firm, glistens with freshness and succulence, and is bursting with a mild, nutty flavor. Their diet of crabs and shrimp lend to red snapper’s distinctive flavor. The asparagus are fork tender, with a lovely sweet-bitter grassy flavor. Mary Kathryn explains the asparagus were shaved to lessen the fibrousness, and blanched, rather than grilled, resulting in a softer, more edible plant. Worth the extra effort, as I have never had better asparagus. And the lemon hollandaise adds acidity, citrus, and creaminess, complimenting both the fish and the vegetables. Through the years, I have had many marvelous fish specials here, but this one might just be the very best!
For dessert we order Strawberry Trifle paired with a beautiful bubby, Corpinnat Gramona Brut. The colorful trifle is a layering of sponge cake, diplomat cream, macerated strawberries, and finished with Chantilly cream. The presentation invites us to dive into this dreamy dessert. And the scrumptious synthesis of cream and berries melts in the mouth. Save room for this one!
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