Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Petit Louis (Bistro)- Columbia, Maryland lakefront

Bonjour Petit Louis, it has been awhile. 

Arranged by my high school French teacher Madame Doff, Petit Louis welcomed my French class for a 3-course lunch to introduce us to French cuisine. 
During the course of two days, Petit Louis served lunch to over 200 French students from Centennial High School. This is actually my first time eating at the bistro section of Petit Louis (click here to view our Petit Louis comptoir post).

Me with my friends  at an enormous table

Me meeting CEO Tony Foreman (r) the special event coordinator (L)

My first impression of Petit Louis -  it made me feel as though I had been transported halfway around the globe to an authentic parisian bistro. The dark wood paneling, bistro chairs and tables and the intimate lighting all create a cozy and sophisticated atmosphere that screams French. 

Once our student group was seated, we were warmly greeted by CEO Tony Foreman who spoke to us about the restaurant and our lunch ….and ready for this -  IN FRENCH. That's right, Mr. Foreman, the noted celebrity restauranteur - who along with acclaimed chef Cindy Wolf has several other award winning establishments including Charleston, Pazo, Chinghiale, and Johnny' -  took the time to help high school students improve their French. That's really cool. 

Immediately following Mr. Foreman's speech, a parade of servers with family style-food trays rushed out of the kitchen. It was reminiscent of the "Be Our Guest" movie scene from Beauty and the Beast. The waiters were so happy to serve us and explain each dish. We were off to a great start.

The hors d'oeuvres included gourgères, canapé de bettrave, and gravlax canapés. What's a good french bistro without remarkable pastries, right? Petite Louis did not disappoint. Even though this was my first time trying gourgères, this certainly won't be my last. This savory and puffy choux (light pastry dough) pastry filled with gruyere cheese was perfection - warm and buttery, melt-in-your mouth goodness. 
Canapé de bettrave and gravlax canapés

The canapé de bettrave (red beets, chèvre, walnut vinaigrette, and belgian endives) was also terrific. I'm now totally enamored with endives. It tastes like a less bitter and thinner version of celery. When paired with beets and chèvre cheese it was a great mix of sweet, salty and crunchy.  The gravlax canapés were a hit for me too and had the same feel (sweet, salty and crunchy) but in a different way. The combination of the house-cured salmon with salty gravlax capers and sweet crème fraîche sitting atop crunchy, thin toast slices is mighty good.
Pomme frites

The second course arrived with pomme frites, quiche aux legumes, salad verte and croque monsieur.

The pomme frites were quickly eaten up at my table, but I can't blame them. Long and thin fresh cut potatoes, lightly crispy with a hint of salt.  It was hard not to eat the entire bowl.

Quiche aux légumes
Each slice of the quiche aux légumes (butternut squash and chèvre) had a deliciously light pastry crust filled with generous amount of sweet butternut squash topped with fluffy cream, eggs and cheese filling.  PL quiche is tall and thick, just the way I like it. Some students got full on the other entrees before they ate their slice, which just meant more for me. Yep, I had 2 slices.
Salade verte

French food emphasize fresh, simple ingredients. This salade verte is a prime example of an authentic french salad- mesclun greens, reggiano, and red wine vinaigrette. Simply delicious.

Croque monsieur

The Croque Monsieur was probably the biggest hit at my table. Again, the emphasizes was on fresh, homemade ingredients. Each individual ingredient was perfect in and of it self. Put together and grilled it was  a masterpiece. The students at my table commented that they could eat this "ham and cheese" sandwich everyday for lunch.

For dessert, we received an "assortment de patisseries" (housemade cookies and French pastries). Unfortunately, I couldn't take a picture because it was eaten up so quickly but trust me when I say it was all good too.

After trying Petit Louis' bistro section, I have a newfound appreciation for all the effort that's put into making the meals. There's a lot of love going on in that kitchen. I really respect that a well noted restaurant would take the time to help 200 local high school French students in their educational endeavors. I hope they invite us back next year.

Merci beaucoup Petit Louis et Tony Foreman.

- Thomas Regnante