Clintonville's Flowers & Bread is a classy take on simple pleasures.
For many long months, a sign adorning a big white farmhouse on High Street just across from the entrance of Whetstone Park tempted passersby with the promise of two of life's finer things. Then, in January, Flowers & Bread opened, the unveiling of a joint venture between Tricia Wheeler (proprietor of The Seasoned Farmhouse and publisher/editor-in-chief of Edible Columbus) and Sarah Lagrotteria, who ran a private chef company in Los Angeles. It's worth the wait.
True to its name, Wheeler and Lagrotteria's endeavor focuses on arranging flowers and baking bread. There are popular classes in baking, the floral arts, gardening and cooking. But for those of us who just want the end product, the bread and just about everything else here is wonderful.
The loaves—crafted by Sarah Black, cookbook author and baker extraordinaire from New York—are a good place to start. The epi ($3.25), a pointy, wheat-stalk-shaped baguette, is perfect with a crisp exterior, soft and yeasty inside. It's great with Flowers & Bread's wonderful housemade butter and jam, for sopping up sauce at home or just by itself. Ficelle ($2.50) is a mini-baguette, thinner and a little softer in the crust but just as delicious.You also can't go wrong with a loaf of the hearty sprouted whole wheat ($7.50), a sunflower roll ($1.75) or the small white boules ($3.50), which sport a deep, dark crust and pillowy interior.
The ficelle is just the right bread for the café's excellent sandwiches, such as the smoked salmon with herbed cream cheese, capers, red onions and lemon zest ($9), smoked turkey, brie and bacon jam ($9), black forest ham with butter and cornichons ($8) and—my favorite—sliced radishes and arugula, the bread spread thickly with flavorful homemade butter ($6.50).
Among the baked treats, a soft white roll with dried cherries and raisinshas justthe right balance between sweet and tart ($3.25), scones ($3.50) are made well, and for a decadent breakfast treat the little mini-Bundt cakes ($3.50) are full of dark chocolate flavor. The café also offers fresh seasonal soups and salads (potato sage soup is very popular), yogurt with granola and other goodies.
One thing I don't love: the design of thebakery's service area, where one has to squish into a minuscule space. When more than five people are in line, you spill out into the dining area and are practically on top of other patrons. The farmhouse offers more than enough space to accommodate a more functional service area. Oh well, give me another epi with jam and a cappuccino and all will be forgiven.