The Pitch: In a world, where the downtown area is growing and the population is hungering for more downtown eateries, Fab Dining Group’s Yavonne Sarber has opened a one-stop Francophile haven – part French market, part deli, and part restaurant. Located in the Fifth Third Building at State and High, the all-things-to-all-people stop, shop, and snack has recently opened its wrought-iron gates. Our heroine, Une Femme, goes for an ooh-la-la-tinged adventure in the Midwestern city of Columbus, Ohio.
Act One: The Deli
Setting: After walking through a dark, low-ceiling dining area, the deli is a brightly lit, shiny counter, showing off its delicate pastry wares, robust meats, and creamy cheeses. Above the case is a blackboard, with breakfast and grab-and-go offerings elegantly written in twirly letters – coffee, croissants, lobster beignets, sandwiches, crepes, and salads.
Lobster beignets, si vous plait.
Three golden spheres arrive, accompanied by a swath of celery remoulade sauce – the lighter take is a good call, as it does not overwhelm the delicate flavors. Like one of those candies with a surprise in the middle, the sweet Maine lobster bits are scattered throughout the light batter.
UNE FEMME: What is French for yum?
Act Two: The Market
Setting: At one end of the deli is a market, featuring pyramids of French condiments, lovely Café Brasserie candles, a wall of wine, chocolates, and wee candies. Above it all hangs a stunning black chandelier, while a huge clock face painted on the wall guards everything. The walls are hand-painted with swirls of purple and tones of silver. The fleur de lis shape so beloved by the French and its sister city, New Orleans, is found throughout the space, as is the heraldic lion, with its two paws up, seemingly beckoning for more food.
Une femme’s fingers lovingly stroll across the gray jars of Mustard Pommery, the king of all French mustards. She is reminded of that time, after college, that she frolicked through the streets of Paris. Oh! And there’s Café du Monde chicory coffee, the sight of the familiar orange can transports our heroine back to New Orleans’ French Quarter, with its continual throb of activity and slightly sour smell.
UNE FEMME: You know, these Caramels de France, started the whole salty caramel rage.
UN HOMME: Those Frenchies.
UNE FEMME: I can’t wait for summer. This will be a lovely place to stop and pick up take-away to eat on the Commons. Grab a baguette, some cheese … (looks sadly out the window at the cold evening) … ahhh, summer.
Act Three: The Restaurant
Setting: While dinner can be enjoyed on the bottom floor, it is the second floor dining room that is truly Frenchified decadence. Featuring tall one-will-make-you- smaller silver chairs, to booths with sliding curtains to the wrought iron fence imported from New Orleans that guards the balcony, this overhang drips with elegance and assignation.
UNE FEMME: I cannot resist duck confit, so I’ll have the cassoulet.
UN HOMME: I haven’t had mussels in a while; I’ll try those.
The cassoulet that arrives is one of those fancy deconstructed dishes, taking this homey dish from rags to riches. Instead of all the ingredients cohorting in a bowl, the beans (zigzagged through with bacon) are presented as a raft on which a whole confit leg and whole garlic sausage perch. Presented in this fashion, on a long spotless white plate, the cassoulet rises from its peasant roots. The mussels arrive in a huge bowl, drowning in a butter, white wine, garlic, and caper sauce. The ebony shells open like oval treasure chests, revealing their delicate orange flesh. Fresh bread is included for dipping and the “frites” are warm, salted perfectly, and nicely crisped. Housemade ketchup is provided for dipping.
UNE FEMME: This…this is delicious. Takes away the chill; the duck skin is crispy. Jeez louise, the flavors are so deep and rich.
UN HOMME: These mussels are magical.
UNE FEMME: Moules.
UN HOMME: What?
UNE FEMME: Moules. That’s French for mussels.
UN HOMME: Oh. You know, we’re not in France.
UNE FEMME: Are you sure?
Chez du Bon is located at 122 S High St. Prices vary greatly, from a $7 grab-and-go sandwich to a $36 entrée for dinner. For more details, visit www.chezdubon.com.