Last night we ate at Passerelle Bistro, and it was the perfect place to spend a cozy, rainy November evening. Downtown streets were emptier than usual. It was peaceful and calm. We huddled under our umbrella and made our way along the fall leaf speckled sidewalk and down the steps to Passerelle, right by the Liberty Bridge at Falls Park.
As we settled into our seats at the bar, my husband commented on how the place reminded him of a dinner in an old detective movie: tile floors, wooden tables. I have to say I agree. I dig it.
This was my second time visiting Chef de Cuisine, Teryi Youngblood, and on this visit, I had the opportunity to also meet her sidekick, Sous Chef Drew Erickson. Since the crowd was a light when we first arrived we had some time to chat with the chefs. Chef Drew and Teryi both have made their way up the ranks of Table 301 via Soby’s. Youngblood’s first cooking job was at Bistro Europa as a prep cook. (Her dad always said she should either be an engineer or a cook, to balance her left and right brain.) She paid her dues working in the kitchens of Soby’s and Soby’s on the Side whipping up the famous White Chocolate Banana Cream Pies. She made around 1,011 during her tour, if you want to be exact, and she has proven she can actually even make the pies blindfolded. Oh the tom foolery that goes on in a kitchen! She may be a whiz at making pies, but her love and talent for french cuisine landed Chef the gift of her own restaurant with Table 301.
Chef Drew started working in the Soby’s kitchen at 16 years old. He didn’t know the first thing about working a prep line, but through hard work and determination he earned the respect of Table 301’s top chefs. Chef Teryi says he’s quite the prodigy. When Passerelle opened, she couldn’t think of a better candidate to stand at her side. They are a fun duo to watch when the orders start rolling in. Chef Drew’s feet hardly ever leave the ground. He practically skates from place to place tossing, and grilling, assembling and plating. It’s mesmerizing.
I asked Chef Teryi about her own Thanksgiving traditions. She gathers with her family and friends and joins in on the cooking, though her mom handles most of it, still. They fry up turkeys (though Chef would rather roast one), make traditional cornbread dressing (just like my mom!), and Teryi prepares dessert.
I highly recommend eating at the bar facing into the kitchen at Passerelle. It’s an awesome experience to see chefs prepare your food.
David, our waiter/bartender, served up two of Passerelle’s signature drinks. A tall stemless champagne glass arrived with French 75, a drink containing Van Gogh gin, cointreau, lime, sugar and champagne. It was really a wonderful drink. We were also served an Orange Blossom, which contained lots of orange and grapefruit juice, amaretto di saronna, gin, soda and bitters, but it was a little too fruity for me… sort of like an orange juice and ginger ale, really.
Our first course was a bowl of Mussels Passerelle swimming in a sauce of French red espellette pepper, saffron and tomatoes, with a side of grilled baguette. The mussels were awesome, but the sauce was pure heaven. We sopped it up with our bread and immediately began cursing. (My husband says you can tell we are enjoying our meal when the expletives start flowing. There was also much moaning.) The staff told us that people seriously take the juice home with them to eat with Triscuits the next day. That tickled me.
Next to came out were two rectangles of baked goat cheese and blueberry lavender jam encased in crispy, light pastry shell. They were sitting on a bed of petite lettuce, and candied walnuts (which are lucky to make it to the plate since staff snack on them relentlessly from the time they are cooled).
Then chef prepared us a sampling of her Smoked Salmon-Potato Croquettes. Chef hot smokes salmon, boils potatoes and adds butter for these lovely smooth bites in a crunchy Panco shell. They are served with Caper relish, and horseradish crème fraîche.
David brought me a glass of Chateu Blaignan Bourdeau (2009). I told him I wanted a dark, deep, meaty wine. Wa-la. (Or as a reader pointed out, voila. Hahahaha!)
The salads at Passerelle are really lovely and refreshing. We tried the Frisee Salad. A salad of celery and artichoke hearts with pequillo pepper, hazelnuts, bacon lardons, and a tarragon vinegarette.
And we also tried the Arugala and Radiccio salad with golden beats, orange segments, goat cheese, spiced pecans, and apple cider vinaigrette.
I had lunch at Passerelle a while back and sat and chatted with Chef Teryi for a while. She’s an Easley girl, a grad of Wren High, who’s always been a Francofile at heart. The concept behind this restaurant is comfort, country French, a bistro. And she picked out everything from the countertops (which she says look like someone spilled wine on them) and benches to the glasswear. Even down to the minor details. This restaurant is every inch hers. She wanted people to walk into her place and feel comfortable and happy. I think she hit the mark.
I’ve got to get back to the meal or this is going to be the longest post ever!
Duck. I had told her at our lunch meeting that I absolutely love duck. And the duck at Passerelle might be the best duck I have ever put in my face. It’s simpy prepared. It just sits beside a celeriac (a root veggie) gratin which is topped with long fingers of ginger carrots and is surrounded by a brined green peppercorn sauce. They also brine the bird for 2 days before it’s cooked. I ordered mine medium (you get the full flavor of the duck this way) and it was absolutely fantastic and cooked to perfection. The outer fat layer was only slightly crisp on the outside. Perfect.
My husband had the shrimp and polenta which could rival any shrimp and grits in town. We greedily kept passing our plates back and forth, finishing off every last bite.
Creme Caramel: think a French version of Flan, witha fig and almond financier and chantilly cream on to and a rich, smooth, not overly sweet… almost dark chocolate Flourless Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut crunch, raspberry sauce and chantilly cream.
When I first visited Passerelle with a friend for lunch, I wasn’t impressed with the decor. The food was good, but the fancy French fare I was expecting. I kept hearing about this French place that everyone loved, but when I tried it, I didn’t get it. I thought “this isn’t French food!”. But it was all along. Chef wasn’t out to create a menu of the finest French Cuisine. She was out to serve up a taste of French Countryside. A taste of home. And from the time you walk into the place, it really feels like you have walked into someone’s kitchen and pulled up a chair at their table. It’s nice, but also comfortable and the food that lands on your plate will warm your heart and soul. Now, I get it, and it’s a really wonderful experience. We’ll definitely be back again and again.