Echoes of Paris can be found in Orlando, if you know where to look
Published: November 17, 2011
Les Petits Pleasures
2120 Edgewater Drive
In 2005 and 2006, I lived and worked in Paris, first as a student, then as a personal chef. Every day, I was spoiled by the ready availability of buttery, fresh pain au chocolat,croissants and chaussons aux pommes. Since returning to Florida, I’ve been disappointed by Orlando’s lack of quality laminated pastry. The French “patisserie” at Epcot seems like a cruel joke, even though I always hope for more than what’s offered there. But a recent surge in Francophile storefronts is encouraging, including Les Petits Pleasures in College Park and Café 906 in Winter Park.
Les Petits Pleasures, helmed by chef Philippe Cahagne and his statuesque wife, Stephanie, is a lovely if understated bake shop. The Edgewater Drive facade is a brilliant display of baked goods arranged under glass domes, in well-lit cases and in wood baskets. Classic French pastry is the focus, including napoleons and mille-feuille, Proust’s spongy madeleines and my beloved apple turnover (the aforementioned chausson aux pommes) in all its layered flakiness.
I loved the turkey and brie on a buttery croissant ($7.90) – there’s no resisting melted brie and sliced apples – and the texture of the dough lent credence to chef Cahagne’s knowledge of classical lamination technique, the process by which butter is layered into the dough to give that hallmark flakiness. The sandwich, in true Gallic style, didn’t skimp on Dijon mustard and mayonnaise, though I’d secretly hoped the mayo would be made in-house. There’s no comparison between store-bought and homemade.
The man has a way with quiche, too; the creamy quiche Lorraine ($7.10) was perfectly smooth – and, for more egg-cheese-and-ham loveliness, indulge in the croque madame ($7.80), a ham and cheese sandwich dunked in egg batter pain perdu-style, griddled, then topped with Gruyère cheese and a fried egg (fried in butter, bien sûr).
Café 906 has moved in where the former Cup o’ Soul coffee shop used to be, and the place has become an adorable breakfast spot with a French-accented gentleman behind the counter. Parking is a disaster, but once you find a spot (street parking off Denning is your best bet), there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself well fed.
Perfect pastries are in order, including a viennoise chocolat – a twisted brioche-style bread with lots of dark chocolate chips – a treat I particularly adored during my jaunts in Le Marais. Café 906 is celiac-friendly, too, with several gluten-free options every day. If sweets aren’t your thing, I also loved the pepperoni-and-pepper jack rolls, which would have been a great addition to the braised short ribs we made for dinner that night. The place smells amazing, too, in no small part due to the locally roasted coffees and fresh soups made daily. I tried the butternut squash soup, which was lightly scented with nutmeg (too much would have made it dessert) and piping hot.
I’ve consciously tried to stay away from anything that triggers the kind of wistfulness that remembering Paris can generate, but visits to Les Petits Pleasures and Café 906 are worth the nostalgia if, for a moment, I’m back on the Right Bank, dangling my legs over the side of the Pont des Arts, sharing a croissant with the rest of the city.
> Email Holly V. Kapherr