Lots to love about charming Clintonville newcomer
While sitting in a great little new cafe recently, the potent aroma of multiple flower bouquets entwining with the scent of freshly baked rolls and pastries reminded me of a line from an old poem: “Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!”
That I was thinking about James Oppenheim's poem, titled “Bread and Roses,” in a cafe called Flowers & Bread, was not lost on me. Also not lost: I've been impressed by most everything I've sampled from this charming newcomer.
Flowers & Bread, which enjoys an address seemingly destined by fate — across the street from the Park of Roses in Clintonville — is a multipurpose facility. That's not particularly surprising when you consider that it's the brainchild of a multifaceted duo: edible Columbus editor-publisher Tricia Wheeler and edible Columbus contributor Sarah Lagrotteria.
Wheeler also owns the nearby Seasoned Farmhouse — a self-described “recreational cooking school” — and Lagrotteria, a trained chef, has previously taught writing at Stanford University and been a publicist for celebrity chef Mario Batali.
In one room of their new business collaboration, flower arrangement is taught. Another chamber hosts baking classes. Upstairs, elaborate dinners are occasionally held. This review only concerns the cafe located between the two aforementioned rooms on the first floor.
That cafe occupies a quaint little space where sunlight streams onto stark white walls, fresh flowers in pewter-cup vases perfume every round gray table and a tasteful soundtrack of jazz standards features crooning by the likes of Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney.
Customers line up in an even smaller room facing this seating area to choose lovely pastries from a display case and savory items from a cooler. Daily soups are also available, and the two I tried were excellent: potato sage with a velvety texture that doesn't rely on an overabundance of cream; and peppery Manhattan clam chowder with a delightful — and not heavy — creamy tomato base.
At $8 each, these soups are expensive, but they're delicious and come with a nifty, sesame-seeded “sunflower roll” that, for a worth-it 50 cents more, can be embellished with terrific, sweet-and-salty, house-made butter.
Five sandwiches are offered, too. The superb yeasty loaves called ficelles — think thin baguettes — with crackly-yet-chewy shells are the best part of these sandwiches. But what they house inside isn't bad, either.
My favorite sandwich is the Smoked Salmon ($9) with not-too-salty fish, capers, cream cheese and scallions. Fans of an iconic French sandwich — the jambon-beurre — will find a winning version of that simple, ham-and-butter ensemble perked up with cornichons and smoked deli meat ($8).
Brie cheese and coarse, smoky-sweet bacon jam enhance the Smoked Turkey sandwich ($9), and the Roasted Veggies ($8) receives smoky notes from grilled mushrooms and zucchini, which effectively play off a sweet-tangy house pepper jelly, arugula and a ricotta-like “feta-yogurt spread.”
Among the uniformly great pastries I've sampled are a savory Focaccia roll ($3.50) with tapenade, asparagus, rosemary and a killer, cheese-fortified crust nearly crisp as a cracker; a wonderful Tart Cherry Hot-Cross Bun ($3) offering a typically restrained sweetness; an intense Buttermilk-Chocolate Bundt Cake ($3.50) with a molten dark chocolate center; a fantastic Coffee Cream Scone ($3.50); and a dense-yet-springy, knockout Zucchini-Carrot Cake ($4) topped with an uncommonly fluffy, whipped cream-cheese frosting.
These can be enjoyed with beverages such as a properly frothy Double Cappuccino ($4); a huge cup of strong-and-dark, not-bitter house coffee prepared with beans from Backroom Coffee Roasters of Galena; and a Blooming Tea ($4) that, as its herb-and-floral leaves slowly expand in a transparent glass of hot water, looks and tastes like an unfolding flower.