It was Mississippi Maven's birthday and she had never been to Winter Park. A natural for a girls' day out of shopping and lunching, downtown Winter Park offers many enticing dining options, high-priced boutiques for eye-popping browsing and fantastic people watching. It's not uncommon to spot a celebrity. Everyone here is so filthy rich that nobody bothers them.
After a scenic walk around Rollins College's lakefront campus, we
We were seated at the end of a plush, red velvet banquette, near floor-to-ceiling windows viewing an artsy children's clothing store/photography studio, a man-made banyan tree twinkling with white lights, and the ornamental ponds we passed on the way in.
In fact, during our fine lunch I had a direct view of a woman's full-body plunge into one of the ponds. No kidding! (I told you that the people watching is good.) Talking or texting, she tumbled in with a yelp and a splash, and then, out she jumped, cell phone in hand, none the worse for the dunk.
One thing I have discovered about the Orlando area is the surprising number of dining deals at great restaurants. This spot featured a three-course lunch for $11.95, and there were choices aplenty.
The salad course consisted of either a Caesar or house salad. The Maven had a Caesar and I chose the house, which was a simple combination of spring greens and vegetables dressed in a garlicky herb vinaigrette. Having had some mediocre-to-bad vinaigrettes lately, I appreciated the strong flavors in this one. A basket of sliced bread - yes, it was the authentic French variety - didn't last long because the Maven and I like to carb up. The waiter offered to replenish the basket and we sheepishly agreed.
Entrees ranged from Coq au Vin and Veal Normande to Crepe du Jour and Quiche, with several other temptations in between. After much hand wringing, I selected a Croque Madame, a French version of a ham and cheese sandwich. Served warm, this luscious sandwich contained thinly sliced sweet ham nestled between two Texas-sized pieces of white sandwich bread, the outside of which were smeared with a mixture of Gruyere cheese and possibly a roux (sorry, it's just a guess), then decadently topped with a fried egg and broiled. I couldn't wait to pierce the yellow yolk and watch it cascade down every nook and cranny of that Croque.
|Merci, madame, may I have another?|
The French love to top things with fried eggs and that's just what they did with the Maven's hamburger.
|I have already tried this at home. I highly recommend putting a fried egg on just about anything.|
Her Paris Bistro Burger featured ground sirloin, lettuce, tomato, red onion, Brie and Dijon mustard - and an egg, of course. Heads up: The waiter didn't inquire how she wanted the beef cooked and it was prepared medium-well. If that's not how you like it, you better speak up. Evidently, that preparation was fine with the Maven because, except for some inferior tomato, she really enjoyed that burger.
Both lunch plates came with a side of fries, which were totally unnecessary. We were getting stuffed and dessert was on the horizon - creme brulee and profiteroles. The Maven cracked into the brulee and I devoured the profiteroles, which were ooh, la, la outrageously enjoyable, the sweet cream puffs sandwiching vanilla ice cream and basking in an intense ganache. The pleasures of these treats were magnified by cups of delicious coffee that our attentive and friendly-but-not-overbearing waiter refilled from a silver coffee decanter throughout our meal.
My review would not be complete without a nod to Paris Bistro's ambience. This is an intimate place that exudes the refined but welcoming nature of a true French bistro.
Are you reading this, Hubmeister? Soft French music, delectable French food, fine French wine, quaint French atmosphere. It's perfect for Valentine's Day. How timely!
Verdict: A praiseworthy bistro, aptly named. C'est merveilleux!
216 North Park Avenue