Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Enough About The Croissant Doughnuts, How Is The Food? Piquant Epicure & Cuisine

Hello Readers:

If you read my previous two posts, you will know that the croissant doughnut has made its way to Tampa Bay at Piquant Epicure and Cuisine in Hyde Park Village, South Tampa.  If you did not read my prior two posts, check them out here and here.

Just among my friends alone, my pictures on Facebook of crispy, huge, croissant doughnuts have sparked a near riot of frenzied doughnut-lust.  Since my first post, Piquant has gotten smart on their croissant doughnut distribution policy.  It still gets some exasperated looks and some customers walking out in disgust, but there's a lot less croissant doughnut-induced rage from customers than I saw the last time I was at Piquant.    

Part of the new policy, is that Piquant has created a new number system (get a number when you arrive so you can sit in their lounge area versus standing in line).  Orders are filled by number.  There is a four croissant doughnut maximum for the "first come, first serve" batches that appear at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.  (July 2013 Update:  The walk-in maximum policy is now two instead of four - bring a friend when you go to buy croissant doughnuts!)  You can also pre-order croissant doughnuts in quantities of half dozen or a dozen, but your order may take several days to fill.  For example, orders placed this afternoon will not be filled until Saturday.  

Now I will say that Piquant's new policy has definitely made the croissant doughnut distribution less frenzied, however they still need to work on communication as the first counter staff person told me there were no croissant doughnuts available for sale from the 3 p.m. batch.  She also told this to a woman who had come ahead of me.  Luckily a waitress who had served me in the past came up, said "welcome back" and got me a number.  Also every person who came after me was given a number as well, so I don't know why the counter person was telling people there were none available.  

I arrived at 2:47 p.m. on a Wednesday and was given #6, which was actually #7 since the staff accidentally gave two people a ticket with #4 on it.  When my order was filled, there were only enough croissant doughnuts for about 2-3 people so some of the people in line were going to have unhappy stomachs.  

I must emphasize that these are not your typical doughnuts - they take several days to make and are well worth the hassle.  Trust me.  A woman in line said "All this for a doughnut?"  I said "Spoken like someone who hasn't tried Piquant's croissant doughnuts."  I must have said that statement with such intensity and confidence, because the woman clutched her number (which was ahead of my number) close to her chest and nodded with wide-eyed awe.  

In retrospect, I should have said "You're right - this is ridiculous!  You shouldn't stand for this!  Now give me your number and go home now!"  I really need to learn to be more cut throat in bakery matters.

The staff at Piquant boxing up the limited amount of croissant doughnuts at 3 p.m.

I have been telling friends, everyone who follows me on Twitter and basically anyone who listens that Piquant's vanilla creme croissant doughnut is the best of all the flavors.  Do you know what happens when you do that?  Everyone listens and the vanilla creme croissant doughnuts all sell out before Ticket #5 places their order.  I need to learn to keep my big mouth shut!  

Today I had four conference calls and three cancelled.  I had been to Piquant for lunch with a friend and of course they had no croissant doughnuts available.  So when my afternoon conference call cancelled, I thought I would run out and try to see if I could get some croissant doughnuts for the first person I became friends with in Tampa when I moved here nine years ago (a.k.a. Mrs. JWS).  Believe me, after hearing me babble for nine years she deserves a million croissant doughnuts.  But alas - Piquant has a maximum of four rule!

I was able to procure a sugar-coated; cinnamon sugar-coated and raspberry-filled croissant doughnut for Mrs. JWS -- however when the Piquant staff said that they also had Nutella-filled, I said "ahem - put that one in a separate box for me!"

Nutella filled Croissant Doughnut from Piquant
I am the world's worst food stylist, so now I just try to position pictures against backdrops that make me laugh-- like when I placed a sock monkey next to comedian Rachel Dratch's book or a Chinese dragon next to a grilled Italian slider.  So for the Nutella filled croissant doughnut, I have put it on a fish plate from Williams Sonoma on top of a beach towel with the print of Estonia national flag and a lion that I purchased in Tallinn - the Capital of Estonia.  I think the Estonians would love a good croissant doughnut, so really this photo is an homage to them.

Flaky and delicious! My croissant doughnut with a big Lily bite.

The nutella croissant doughnut - like all the other ones I have tried was fantastic.  It is my 2nd favorite next to the Vanilla Creme.  (Oh wait, didn't I say I was going to stop telling people that???) 

(Side Note:  I have tried all of Piquant's croissant doughnut flavors except the cinnamon-sugar one - which Mr. and Mrs. JWS said was their favorite of the ones I "allowed" them to have.  They should have a 6 foot framed and illuminated poster of me in their home for giving them croissant doughnuts!) 

But since croissant doughnuts at Piquant are in such high demand, let's talk about the food instead - since chances are not everyone who goes to Piquant will actually be able to get a croissant doughnut. 

When I arrived for lunch at Piquant, I received a warm welcome from the staff and was seated in a nice tall backed banquette.  The lunch menu had soups, flatbreads, salads, quiche, sandwiches and a nice variety of drinks.  Since I arrived early, I first started with an iced coffee.  They delivered it to me in a plastic cup which seemed weird for someone having a sit down meal, but it was quite tasty.  A sign said that they served local Buddy Brew coffee and another sign showed Te Bella tea.  Since I live very close to the original Te Bella, I appreciate supporting local Tampa businesses.

Because there were no croissant doughnuts at lunchtime, I needed something to take the edge off my pastry craving.  I asked if they had any almond croissants left.  There were none in the case, so our waitress went to see if there were any in the back.  She returned and said "No, but we have one chocolate croissant left."  I said "OK" and ordered that one.  Then she returned sheepishly and said "Um ..." and I said "Let me guess, no chocolate croissant either, right?"  She nodded sadly.  Why do you hate me, Piquant?  I sighed.  Evidently Jesus didn't want me to have any pastry.  

Both Mrs. JWS and I ordered the house iced tea.  WOW!  We both agreed that the unsweetened iced tea at Piquant is the best we have ever had.  Our waitress told us it was a blend of teas - she rattled off a bunch of flavors.  I think she said blackberry and peach or maybe it was apricot - I don't know, whatever the blend is, it was super tasty.  I'm going to have to bribe the owners at Te Bella or Chef Ricardo Castro at Piquant to tell me what that tea is, because it is so flavorful and refreshing.  Excellent!

Now in my first Piquant blog post, I had the bacon, egg and cheese baguette for breakfast - which was chock full of bacon and very delicious.  For lunch at Piquant, I had the Butternut Squash Salad - butternut squash, bleu cheese, dried cranberries, candied pecans and smoked chicken with a raspberry vinaigrette.  When people say you first eat with your eyes, they had this salad in mind - the blend of colors, the perfect diced ingredients - I took a minute just to savor its perfection before eating. 

This salad is the perfect blend of ingredients - smoky, rustic, sweet, salty, tangy and crunchy.  I also liked that if I went to every restaurant in a 30 mile radius of Piquant, I bet I wouldn't find another restaurant that had a butternut squash salad.  So many places fall back on traditional salads - caesar, Italian chopped, the wedge, chicken tortilla ... so to have a new flavor combination was really appealing to me.

Mrs. JWS had the Power Salad.  It normally comes with pulled chicken, but Mrs. JWS has gone vegetarian - so here is a picture of the salad without chicken.

The Power Salad comes with purple spinach, brown rice, avocado, feta, grape tomatoes, pulled chicken, chickpeas, roasted red peppers and a Dijon mustard vinaigrette.  Talk about another great flavor profile.  Mrs. JWS loved her salad.

I also had the "Puree du potage et lardon" soup.  With my 4 years of high school and 1 year of college French, I'm going to guess - pureed potato and bacon soup.  It was good and flavorful but too thick for my liking.  I wanted to warm up some evaporated skim milk and thin it out a bit.  But if you like really thick, hearty soups - check it out!

The lunch at Piquant was very good.  The service was sincere - there were a few hiccups, but overall pretty good.  The woman who I would assume is front of the house manager and Chef Ricardo Castro walked around the restaurant and checked in with the guests to make sure everything was great and that everyone was happy.  I love the decor - modern French bistro/bakery cafe.  To me, Piquant is like the Oxford Exchange without the pretension - just upscale, reasonably priced, delicious food with sincere staff in a great modern environment.

Candle-topped banquette

The Croissant Doughnut line

So whether you're looking for croissant doughnuts or just want to check out a great place to eat in Hyde Park Village, try the breakfast or lunch menu at Piquant.  I enjoyed the food, atmosphere and service and recommend it for your next South Tampa meal!

Nutella croissant doughnut on a BMW convertible leather seat - decadence at its finest!

P.S. What other bakery/restaurant has this ... SUPER COOL!

July 20, 2013  Update:  Piquant is now offering the Guavassant - a croissant doughnut with guava filling dusted in powdered sugar.  I, of course, had to try it.  Crunchy flaky croissant doughnut with a most amazing pure, not too sweet, very fresh tasting guava filling - incredible.  It tastes like a bite of Hawaii by way of Paris.  Give your tastebuds a culinary passport by checking out Piquant's Guavassant.    

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