A TOUCH OF FRANCE ON ITS WAY >>>
Their women are loose. They don't bathe. Their cooking is the best in the world.
These and other choice stereotypes about the French have been flying about for a long time, carried to a level of absurdity when the French government challenged the American line in the Middle East.
But it's hard to argue that the French can seriously cook. Generations of French have labored not only to collect knowledge about all things culinary, but also to sanctify it and put it in words - intricately detailing the best way to create a dish, as well as the second, third and fourth best way to create it. In regards to Americans, many French believe we would still be eating canned corn, sliced ham topped with pineapple rings and Hostess fruit pies seven days a week without their influence (hello Saint Julia).
I love French cuisine - mother sauces, truffles, escargot and dishes done en croûte. I especially love anything with lardoons. And to a point, I agree that the French invasion of the American culinary scene was advantageous to all concerned. I also love lunching at a Parisian bistro, soaking in the food, culture and people for several hours at a time - as the French do.
Ah, to curl up with an afternoon book, listen to hot club jazz and dip a spoon into a French onion soup (toward the back end of the cup - natch) while ripping into a baguette and sipping anything out of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
In these here parts, that's a dream unfulfilled. (Though I have had many a wonderful meal at La Crème Brulee in Steilacoom. And there's a rumor it will open for lunch soon. Mais non ...)
I'm thrilled to report a French-style bistro will open in the Proctor District in the next couple weeks. Chef William and Shannon Mueller, the talent behind Dinner Solutions and Babblin' Babs Bistro, tell the Volcano they plan to convert their formal dining space in the back of Babs into a Parisian-style bistro called Secret. Barely large enough to seat the French Olympic volleyball team's starting lineup - at separate tables - Secret will pack plenty of joie de vivre. Sink into the comfy leather couch, sip a café crème and daydreaming of Paris and Jean-Luc.
The Muellers will serve classic French food, leaning toward the peasant side. While the final menu is still be tested on friends, you probably will enjoy a glazed Cognac pate ($9), Escargot Provence ($12), French cheeses, French onion soup ($8), exotic mushroom crepe ($10 and delicious), ratatouille with sun-dried tomato crepes ($10), rooted vegetables cassoulet ($10), pork cutlet with Vermouth cream sauce (412) and Steak Wellington Goes Naked ($20) - all prepared as if the dishes were meant to hang at the Musée du Louvre.
The coffee will be prepared as they do along the Seine. The wine will be imported from the many regions of France.
And the Muellers say they'll wrap it all in a stress-free, cozy, soothing environment.
"Americans need to slow down," says Chef William. "It takes 25 minutes to cook real food. People should expect to enjoy a 40-minute experience. They need to pull their fingers of the keyboard and have a conversation."
He's not joking. Electronic gadgets will not be tolerated at Secret.
"We're drawing the shades and swirling low-volume jazz in the room, which will be for adults only. I want people to unwind and enjoy our French food," says Chef William. "You want be able to find this environment to sip coffee anywhere in town."
The small room has several two-person high-top tables, an antique chair, a comfy leather chair and two-person couch. Scenes of France hang on the walls. The lighting is low. And the sliding door seals off the din from adjacent Babblin' Babs Bistro.
The Muellers have priced the food below what they should considering what they're paying to import the French treasures. Grab a friend, a bottle and share a pumpkin bread pudding with caramel apple sauce ($8), trio of mousse ($9) or an assorted cookie plate ($4) and catch up.
Secret will be open Tuesday through Friday for early and late lunch. The Muellers, apparently, want to ease into it ... like the French.
[Secret, opening soon, lunch Tuesday-Friday, 2724 N. proctor St., Tacoma, reservations only, 253.761.9099]