Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Petit Paree

228 E. Main Street
Festus Mo.

And now for something new. Angel picked the place, made the reservations and scouted the location ahead of time. We’d heard about it, it had been recommended by a couple of people. Both said the same thing, “It’s a bit pricey”
The Place:
Main Street in Festus still holds nostalgic main street charm. Old brick two and three story buildings side by side with tiny alleys between. There are many shops and offices, and foot traffic is quite common. The road is partially cobbled and the street lamps hark back to the early twentieth century.
Petit Paree claims to have been around for 45 years according to its website, I wasn’t in the area 45 years ago so I’ll just take their word.
The name invokes thoughts of frou-frou French fare, however they apparently recognized early on that this was Festus Mo., (a town originally built in the mid 1800’s to provide alcohol and other sins for the adjoining dry company town of Crystal City) and would likely not support a fancy frou-frou place serving only delicate tidbits and pastries.
So they have steak, and lobster and catfish as well as snails and baby frog legs, and of course, toasted (fried) ravioli.
The place doesn’t open till 4:30, our reservations were for5:00 because of the dog schedule (the dog schedule is how our lives are dictated). It was nearly empty as we entered. We parked on the street against a curb that Angel would bounce over later.
Inside it was dark, high ceiling, large old style ceiling fans, exposed ducting. There was a bar, but it was being used to hold tablecloths, plates and table settings. There was a wall between two halves of the inside, the other side had more tables and a properly appointed bar, our side just had tables.
They were mostly small, four seaters, some round, some square all covered with crisp white linen tablecloths and set with matching silverware and Origami-like folded linen napkins at each setting. Each table was surrounded by old, simple wooden chairs painted black. At each table there were two chairs with armrests, two without. The carpet was dark lavender and swirled with an old European design, like something you’d see in a nice banquet room on the Titanic. This effect was highlighted by the three crystal chandeliers.
The hostess handed us over to a waitress who took our drink orders, tea, tea and Pepsi, and handed us menus. Simple, few pages, not very garrulous (wordy). It really didn’t over-describe any item, nor did it need to.
The walls were decorated with an abundance of French-like posters and paintings, extending high into the ceiling. There were small, wall mounted slanting light fixtures above the tables, not providing a lot of light, but just enough. On each table were lit candles and vases with faux red flowers. The music was pronounced, but inoffensive, Lionel Ritchie, Sting, Carol King, Sade, smooth, adult contemporary.
We were soon served a basket full of croutons, toasted and buttered bread let to go stale. Each crouton was about 1½ square. Adam was elated. I’ve mentioned before how he likes croutons. These were more my style though, light and crunchy, not dark and rubbery.
The Food:
I decided on the Petit Special steak: “heart of the tenderloin - toast wedge” I was not sure what a toast wedge was in terms of a steak. I added the twice baked potato and a salad. When queried about dressing I asked what was available. “The house dressing is a Mayfair. . .” I stopped her right there. “That’s what I want!” I’ll explain later.
Angel had earlier mentioned that she wanted the Prime Rib. Instead she ordered the Filet Mignon. She also asked for the twice baked potato but instead of salad she ordered something stupid, the Cucumber-Zucchini bisque.
Adam asked for the Bacon-wrapped Ground Tenderloin, since it had bacon in the title. The offering mentioned fresh mushrooms in wine sauce, he asked for them to skip the mushrooms. He smartly chose the twice baked potato and then asked for slaw. It turns out they didn’t have any slaw so he ended up with the house salad as well.
We munched on croutons, discussing the Escargot and legless baby frogs, though none of us even considered trying them. We pondered over whether slugs were merely homeless snails and if so should we criticize them so much.
As it turns out, evolution (as if there was such a thing) has led to some formerly shelled snails to lose their shells and convert it into a useless internal organ. These are slugs. The mucus trail they leave behind serves multiple purposes, it helps them cling to vertical surfaces and it helps potential mates find them. I personally cannot recommend leaving a mucus trail to help attract mates. Just let me say that it doesn’t work as well with humans as it does with slugs. Most slugs are in fact hermaphrodites, which I assume makes their day go by quicker.
To keep slugs out of your garden, beer traps have proven somewhat successful. Beer doesn’t actually kill the slugs, it just puts them in a mood to watch football and NASCAR and make passes at ugly slugs instead of pillaging your greens. I’m not sure what beer does to the mucus trailing though, surely it doesn’t help.
The bisque/salads arrived. The salad was simple, mostly iceberg lettuce topped with one baby celery stalk, one carrot sliver, and roughly half of a cherry tomato. The dressing was quite good. We’d first sampled Mayfair, and only sampled it, at Jilly’s back in July. It seemed quite salty there but it had possibilities. (almost everything at Jilly’s was too salty). Petit Paree’s version was very, very good. Mayfair dressing is egg based with oil and anchovies, reminiscent of a Caesar dressing. Even Adam liked it, though he didn’t love it. I was quite pleased especially since Adam gave me his half tomato.
Angel’s bisque was served cold, more like a gazpacho than a bisque, it was only slightly creamy and ice cold. Angel loved it, I tried it and decided it may as well have been a light ranch dressing with dill added. It wasn’t awful.
The tea girl never let any of us get below the halfway point in our drinks. The waitress stopped by and chatted for a while, explaining that it was very, very quiet, which went without saying since we were still the only patrons and we don’t talk much or very loudly.
Above us a loud Avon-ish doorbell sounded. She perked up and said “Your food must be ready.” And took off toward the kitchen.
The food was delivered, simple, quaint and tasty looking. Each of the steaks had been char-blackened slightly. Adam’s was essentially a high quality hamburger swimming in a wine enhanced au jus. (gesundheit!) My steak was sitting on two wedges of toast, simple buttered white-bread toast cut in diagonals. There were two more wedges at the sides. The twice baked potato was actually a twice baked half potato, with cheese and butter mixed in to the scrambled and re-installed entrails of the potato. I cut into the steak and determined it was slightly over done. I’d asked for pink, but in the yellowish dim light could barely see any pink at all. It ended up being a little dry, not terribly so, but a little drier than had been hoped for. Angel’s was melt-in-your-mouth perfect, far pinker than mine. Adam’s fell apart at the touch of a fork. These were high quality meats. The potato was excellent. It was however only a potato so it’s hard to get all gushy talking about it. We were served a basket of rolls, which angel found to be a little chewy. I didn’t have one since I’d had croutons earlier and now was staring at two entire slices of toast.
Near the end of my steak I siphoned off some of Adam’s wine au jus (gesundheit!) which improved it considerably. Adam didn’t care much for the sauce though he didn’t spit it out, and I agreed they’d slathered on too much for the portion size.
None of us was overstuffed, by design. This was a French-like restaurant, we wanted dessert.
We were shown the offerings, all cheesecakes. Angel opted for the double nuclear fudge thing, I took the old fashioned, which was plain and topped with bar strawberries, Adam had a caramel crusted cheesecake, to go.
We asked for coffee, but I was a bit concerned. From my chair I had a clear view of a coffee pot, one pot only, and it had been sitting there since we arrived about forty five minutes earlier. Coffee usually doesn’t age well sitting on a burner for that long. I was hoping that there was another, more recent pot somewhere else.
But no, we were served what I was sure to be acrid sludge from that one pot.
I sniffed, not too bad, sipped, hey not bad at all! I was pleasantly surprised. If I hadn’t known it had been sitting there for an hour or more I would have assumed it was fresh. I inquired and was informed that this was Cain’s coffee and yes it does hold up well.
Angel surrendered to her cake about halfway through, I found extra space and shoved down all mine. Adam sat with his Styrofoam box, smiling. There was nothing remarkable about the desserts, it is said they are home made, but not that I could tell. Not bad, just nothing to get all gooey about.
Then the check arrived.
Yeah… a hundred bucks.
Then a debate broke out amongst us. I expected as much since I’d been warned that this place was pricey. Angel insisted that it was a really nice place and the food was quite good. We countered with the Trattoria Giuseppe defense, which is that TG is simply awesome and we’d never quite spent a hundred bucks there.
She conceded that point but countered that Petit Paree would be a place to take someone to impress them, I asked if she was referring to ‘dating’. She said yeah, people who were courting or getting engaged or impressing the in-laws.
So it came down to the fact that it was quite good, not as good as TG, but it wasn’t completely Italian like TG, and had some interesting food choices that we would never actually try. The atmosphere was exceptional, the service was professional and dutiful. The food was very good, but not really very, very good.
Will we go back? Sure if we ever start dating again. I don’t need to spend a hundred bucks to impress my in-laws. Otherwise it’s just a little too pricey for the quality.
We liked the place a lot, it was cozy, friendly, tasty and pleasant. The only real ding was the price.

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