Bistro Foufou

(Traverse City, MI) — We aren’t afforded the opportunity to visit Traverse City as often as we’d like, usually limiting trips to summer and fall. Window shopping downtown, strolling along at a slow pace, epitomizes our weekend getaways. We’re not so much into the beach scene or longing to be part of the concert-going crowd. Our interest veers more toward which eating and drinking establishments have we not yet tried. Bistro Foufou boasts classic French fare, served in a casual yet elegant environment. With stalwart foodies Cookie and LettersToJ at our side, we venture to test that claim...

He Fed:

It is gorgeous outdoors! Summertime heat is omnipresent, but in the early evening, a calm breeze from the lakeshore helps make it pleasant enough to consider sitting out on Bistro Foufou’s small patio.

I pop inside to take a peek at the restaurant proper. A time warp might have opened because I feel as though I’d stepped through into one of the Paris bistros Juliet and I frequented a couple years ago. Warm, dark wood. Small, intimate tables draped with pristine white, ironed cloths. In the back, the kitchen is a blur of efficient preparation peppered with the occasional good-natured laugh of camaraderie.

Back outside, we’re in the mood for sparkling water and a nice, moderately-priced bottle of rosé—Commanderie de la Bargemone—which is lightly sweet, yet finishes dry. Some crusty bread with heavy butter paves the way for shareables. I am practically rubbing my hands together like Scrooge McDuck when a platter of Escargot arrives. The snails have been sauteed with oyster mushrooms in a pesto butter sauce and topped with a puff pastry. Although I’m a little wary when it comes to ‘shrooms, these are just rich and creamy earthen bits which complement the slightly briny escargot. Juliet and LettersToJ beg off, so Cookie and I lap up every last bit with the pastry. Second only to Paris Club’s preparation, I wish I could eat Bistro Foufou’s at least once a week.

The kitchen’s playful attitude is well represented in the Steak Tartar. Finely minced beef, held into a rough circle by egg yolk and olive oil, sprinkled throughout with bright green, faintly salty capers, and sprinkled with black pepper has been topped with a carefully stacked tower of house-made waffle-cut potato chips. We attack, scooping up the well-balanced, mild meat with abandon. I’m struck by the restraint of seasoning, pleasantly surprised to discover the beef is allowed to sing through the other ingredients.

For my entree, I select the special of the day: a pork chop paired with asparagus and mashed potatoes. Those potatoes are magical, with a great quantity of butter and probably some cream cheese tossed in. Asparagus is still crisp, with no wilt, buttered and salted simply. The chop is monstrous, bone thrusting proudly from the plate. It is perfectly cooked, with a bit of pink at the bone, crispy fat, shards of mushroom, coated with a red wine gravy and sprinkled with scallions. One bite with all components is enough to send me to Nirvana.

Somewhere along the line there is a glass of merlot and profiteroles, but that part is hazy. Enough good French food can transport you into the realm of half-remembered dreams, and Bistro Foufou accomplishes that mystical feat. Can’t wait to go back.

She Fed:

We don’t usually get the chance to go out to a decent restaurant the night before a barbeque competition, let alone one as nice as Bistro Fou Fou. The thought of a relaxing French dinner before staying up all night to smoke brisket and pork butts seems incredibly decadent. We arrive a few minutes early and ask to sit on their small patio. The weather is unbelievably gorgeous and since no other patrons are taking advantage of the deck, we might as well.

Our server is Nick who is friendly and prompt without being cloying or overbearing. When the four of us are together, we tend to be an animated group and Nick rolls with the punches easily. What puts him at the top of my list as a server is his recommendation of the 2012 Commanderie de la Bargemone rosé. It not only knocks our socks off but also comes in under $30. Nick says it will go well with nearly any starters and is very drinkable. Indeed—it’s crisp and dry with notes of berries, flowers, and melon. A fabulous deck wine to start the meal!

We decide to share the escargot special and the steak tartare. Seems only natural to eat a big slab of raw meat before we cook some overnight, right? The escargots have been roasted with mushrooms; in fact, they’re hard to distinguish from the mushrooms at first glance, and are served between puff pastry with the pan juices. While I love mushrooms, I’m not as big of an escargot fan as Jeremy. I take a bite and find the mushrooms are caramelized and meaty, but the snails are just too chewy and earthy for me. I move on to the tartare, served as a ground patty with capers, shallots, mustard, capers, and lots of salt and pepper. Piled atop the raw burger is a lovely mound of waffle cut potato chips (or gaufrette in French.) I believe fabulous steak tartare might be my all-time favorite chip dip!

I can be ridiculously fussy about crab cakes, usually finding them to be more “cake” than “crab” in most eateries. But the wine reco and the tartare are so darn good, I opt for Bistro Fou Fou’s crab cakes, figuring this place will get it right. Two generous crab cakes are plated with frites and a mixed green salad with bacon vinaigrette. The cakes are almost entirely crab meat; I’m not even sure how they stay together, frankly. They’re clean and fresh tasting, not at all fishy. The salad and frites are a superb accompaniment (who does frites better than the French?) and the rosé continues to work with it all. I clean my plate in record time.

Though stuffed, we’re wanting a taste of dessert. I opt for the chocolate pot de creme with salted caramel, toasted hazelnuts, and a madeleine. It’s luscious and rich. The perfect end to a perfect meal. Don’t let the name throw you off, Bistro Fou Fou truly delivers.

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