COLLEGE PARK — If the different nationalities have their specialties when it comes to preparing great meals that are famous worldwide, then the French have probably cornered the market when it comes to their truly sumptuous pastries.
It’s entirely appropriate that Walt Disney World launched the annual Food and Wine Festival at Epcot last week, offering specialty food, wine and music now through Nov. 13, with an international flair held throughout the World Showcase. But even with that enjoyable event going on, one of the most popular spots in Epcot has to be the France Pavilion, made to look like a Paris neighborhood with a view of the Eiffel Tower, shops that sell French goods such as Guerlain perfume, designer fragrances, cosmetics and soaps, and, for those bringing along a health appetite, two excellent French restaurants, the Bistro de Paris and Les Chefs de France.
But the highlight for many — and the reason why the lines get so long there — is that ever popular bakery, the Boulangerie Patisserie, which has some incredible French pastries for those who want to know why the French have such an amazing reputation for an exceptional patisserie.
Of course, admission to Epcot will prompt some people to limit how often they make it to Boulangerie Patisserie, but that’s all right. If you live within the Orlando area and have a regular craving for fine French pastries, you don’t actually need to hit the theme parks to satisfy your sweet tooth. A delectable alternative can be found in College Park, right near the corner of Edgewater Drive and Princeton Avenue, in a charming little bistro called Les Petits Pleasures French Bakery Patisserie.
Located at 2120 Edgewater Drive, and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the name of the cafe is obscenely modest, since there’s really nothing “petite” about the pleasures to be found here. In truth, the meals here are quite grand.
When you first walk in, you’ll notice the tables available for your dining experience, but most of the central room is devoted to that front counter where the array of baked goods and patisseries tempt you with their irresistible good looks.
For example, in true French fashion, you can get a croissant — plain, chocolate or almond. There are apple turnovers, Bear Paws, Strudel, assorted danishes, a Cinnamon Twist, and Jalousie … each one as delicious tasting as they sound.
If you love fruit, you may find yourself drawn to the shelves that stock those patisseries … eclair au chocolate. Eclair a la vanille. Tarte aux faises (strawberry), Tarte aux fruits (mixed fruit), Tarte aux pommes (apple), Tarte Normandy and Tarte frangi-poire (almond pear).
There’s also a Flan a la noix de coco (coconut) or a Flan a la vanilla. And these are not imported and stale by the time they hit the shelf.
As the cafe’s menu notes, “All of your food is freshly prepared to order. Your patience is appreciated during this time ….”
It’s actually the servers who may need the patience — or the people waiting in line. Both times I’ve visited Les Petits Pleasures, I’ve noticed the customers ahead of me positively struggling to decide what to order — because frankly, it all looks so, so good, that it’s hard to settle on which assault on your waistline you want to attempt first.
In all honesty, I count myself among those fussy customers, because frankly I went back and forth between a chocolate croissant and a Tarte aux fruits for what seemed like most of the Ice Age until I settled on the latter, which was amazingly good.
Those pastries may be what first lure you in the front door — or keep you coming back — but there’s a lot more variety to this cafe than that. Breakfast is served all day and includes French Petit Dejeuner (French breakfast) which comes with a croissant, baguette, jam and butter and coffee (and they’re not kidding — this is exactly what I’ve eaten many times when I stayed at hotels large and small in Paris), or an Omelette Croissant (two eggs and two filings of your choice inside) or — no great surprise here — French Toast.
There are also crepes for breakfast or lunch — the Nord (complete), with ham, Swiss, mushroom, creme fraiche, and an egg; Bretagne (Ocean), with smoked salmon, creme fraiche, Swiss and mushroom; Savoie (Mountain), with ham, potatoes, racelette cheese, creme fraiche, and lardon; and Paris (Royal), with Noix de St. Jacques (scallops), creme fraiche, Parmesan, and mushroom. Sweet crepes are available, too — strawberry, pear chocolate, banana chocolate, Jam (apricot or strawberry) or Brown sugar.
House specials include Quiche Lorraine (ham, Swiss), Quiche Florentine (spinach, Swiss), Croque Monsieur (a traditional French sandwich with ham, Swiss and bechamel), or a Croque Madame (grilled ham, Swiss and bechamel topped with an egg), plus salads, hot or cold sandwiches, and drinks that range from Perrier water to assorted coffees and teas and, yes, homemade hot chocolate. It’s hard to imagine a French cafe without a choice between coffee or hot chocolate.
The sandwiches are served on a croissant or baguette and come with Swiss or cheddar, lettuce, tomato, mayo and dijon for the cold ones, and with bechamel sauce for the hot.
Examples of the cold sandwiches includes ham, turkey breast, turkey and brie, tuna, vegetarian and BLT; the hot sandwich menu includes ham and cheese, chicken and mushroom, and spinach and cheese.
Quite obviously, there’s little chance you’ll sit there thinking there’s nothing on the menu.
You might also enjoy the French accents from your servers, or the pleasant ambiance in this cozy cafe, which is open Mondays through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
It’s the ideal place to stop by just to sample a pastry — because it’s a virtual certainty that if you’ve been there just once, you’re going to set a goal of trying each and every one they have, believe me.
It’s also the perfect breakfast or lunch spot, in one of Orlando’s best neighborhoods.
And again, the pleasures here are hardly “petite.” It’s a joy from the moment you start checking out that delectable pastry counter.
To learn more, call 407-422-4702.
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