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taste is ‘grande‘ at tiny Patisserie Amie

Mary Bevans Gillett - May 19th, 2005
Didn’t mother always say “...the best gifts come in small packages...”? A stop by Patisserie Amie proves that, once again, mom was right! This tiny French bistro is big on taste, ambience and hospitality.
Patisserie Amie is Traverse City’s newest addition to its busy downtown dining scene. It is located at 439 East Front Street, tucked along the bank of the Boardman River near Wellington Street. Look for the striped canopy with Patisserie Amie’s signature sign heralding “Croissant, Café, Chocolate,” along with nearby tables on the grass and a flower decked window displaying baskets of fresh bread and ribbon-decked boxes waiting to be filled.
Inside, a glass case filled with bombes, tarts, madeleines, chantillies and dense and delicate chocolate specialties dominates one end of the café, while a cozy cluster of four tables and a few window seats line the walls. An eclectic mix of French posters and knick-knacks season the space with comfortable ambience.
Seating can only accommodate 12-16. The daily menu hangs over the case with long lists of coffee drinks and tea selections sharing equal space with the dining options. But, don’t let the size mislead you. The tastes and textures are extraordinary.

STEADY FOLLOWING
Owner Eric Fritch opened his new Patisserie in mid-January. Primarily relying on word of mouth advertising (“…the best kind,” Fritch said), the café has already built up a steady and enthusiastic following. The free-flowing stream of patrons range from colleagues meeting for lunch, to friends sharing tea and dessert, to take-out customers and the casual passerby. A visit reminds one of stopping for coffee in a neighbor’s comfortable kitchen with the cheerful chatter, tempting smells and well-read newspapers on a chair.
Fritch brings classic French training and over a decade in the culinary business to his venture. He was trained at the Seattle Culinary Academy under award-winning French pastry chef Regis Bernard. Described as a “feisty Frenchman,” Bernard is a third generation Normandy pastry chef who was previously the executive pastry chef for the Four Seasons Hotels.
A New Jersey native, Fritch lived in the Seattle area for 10 years prior to relocating to Michigan in 2001 with his wife, Amie, a Detroit area native, and their two young children, Alena and Ean. After a year in Ann Arbor, they moved to Traverse City where Fritch worked in the kitchens at Bowers Harbor Inn, Tapawingo and Hattie’s and also taught through NMC’s Culinary Arts program. It had always been his dream to open his own restaurant. When the bistro space became available late last fall, his vision of a tiny Parisian patisserie took shape.

SPLIT MENU
The menu is split between daily specials and regular mainstays. The dessert staples include citrus, raspberry and tiger bombes, pear almond tarts, chantilly, madeleines and delicate meringues. Other dining favorites include truffled eggs, lentils and sausages, tea sandwiches and a luscious French waffle, piled high with fresh whipped cream and fruit. The bistro lunch always features a specialty omelet - recent editions include spinach, shrimp, and bacon and wild mushroom – as well as daily crepes like smoked salmon with caviar, crème fraiche, capers and spinach. The daily plate has featured cassoulet, pommes frites, steak frites, and vegan spicy eggplant pasta while the soups have showcased coq au vin and bouillabaisse. Bread is baked fresh at Patisserie Amie with an Italian bolo, a crusty Pain au Levain and various flavored Parisian baguettes available daily.
Drinks are reminiscent of a Viennese coffee house. Coffees are hand ground and French pressed, with such individually prepared specialty beverages as Melange, Hitch, Café Moka and Espresso Gold. Teas range from Earl Gray, orange pekoe, and green to oolong and lapsang-souchong. The most popular beverage is Patisserie Amie’s rich hot chocolate, made with fine Belgium chocolate, topped with hand whipped cream and served in glass tumblers.
Fritch’s menu is inspired by his vast collection of French cookbooks. A few of his favorites include Larousse Gastronomique, the classic culinary encyclopedia; The Physiology of Taste: Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy by French 18th century gourmand Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin; the Art of Eating by noted food writer M. F. K. Fisher, and The Escoffier Cookbook by Auguste Escoffier. He’s assisted in the kitchen and throughout the café by NMC Culinary Arts graduate Karin Thompson and two other staff.
What does the future hold? This summer, Fritch is planning outdoor seating and seasonal specialties. Look for fresh fruits, even more pastries, and glacé, a French ice cream. Long term, Fritch hopes the Patisserie will become a neighborhood staple and is considering catering, and other ideas for growing the business.
“We’ve barely scratched the proverbial surface,” Fritch said. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

Patisserie Amie is located at 439 East Front Street in downtown Traverse City. Hours are Tuesdays-Fridays, 10 am – 5 pm, and weekends, 11 am – 3 pm. The bistro is closed on Mondays. Phone is 231.922.9645.


 
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