HYDE PARK — The decor at the new bakery in Hyde Park Village is as inviting as a mug of hot cocoa and twice-baked croissant.
"It feels like a French flea market,'' says Carole Binkowski, co-owner of Amelie's … a French Bakery & Café.
The shop, in the former Restaurant BT space, features cozy seatings around decoupaged tables and creative chandeliers made from cast-offs collected from Habitat for Humanity. Bible study groups and book clubs are welcome to convene at big round tables. Students can curl up with a laptop and a salted caramel brownie in front of a fireplace. Gymgoers might share an eclair at a mosaic patio table out front.
"We want this to be the neighborhood hangout, almost like you're part owner,'' said Carole's husband, Todd, noting that the original Amelie's in Charlotte, N.C., is open 24 hours a day in a historic arts district.
The Hyde Park bakery is set to open Saturday, and owners boast of tasty brioche and baguettes and "the best espresso you've ever had," Carole said.
"Most everything is made by hand, with European butter and very fine chocolate,'' said Todd, a small-business consultant. "We're starting with pastries, breads, muffins and tarts, and we'll add soups, salads and sandwiches over the next month."
The Binkowski family, including Plant High students Robert and Laura, and third-grader Michael, moved to Hyde Park in August 2009. Right off, they knew what was missing.
"We said, 'Hyde Park Village needs an Amelie's,' " said Carole.
In December, pastry chef Amanda Schade, 23, moved from Charlotte to Tampa to run the kitchen. "These are old-world French recipes adapted by the founder of Amelie's," said Schade as she formed ganache squares that become hot chocolate when dissolved in steamed milk.
Amelie's … a French Bakery & Café, at 1633 W Snow Ave., opens daily at 6 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, midnight on Friday and Saturday. Visit ameliesbakery.com or call (813) 254-5257.
Brazilian steak house serves it big and bold
Waiters, dressed as Brazilian "gaucho" cowboys, bring an endless array of skewered grilled beef, lamb, pork, chicken and sausage to tables at Texas de Brazil. Diners, then, can flip a disc — the green side means bring it on; the red side indicates they're stuffed.
The traditional Brazilian steak house, known for high-end churrascaria, opened Wednesday, serving all-you-can-eat dinners for a fixed price of $42.99, including a 50-item salad bar.
Garlic mashed potatoes, Brazilian cheese bread, and sweet fried bananas accompany dinner.
Diners don't have be carnivores. To fill a plate from the vast salad area costs $24.99. Among the offerings: lobster bisque, antipasto, seared tuna, sushi, rare cheeses, tabouli and couscous. Desserts and hand-rolled cigars are ordered a la carte.
If the concept sounds familiar, it's because the restaurant just west of Dale Mabry Highway and opposite International Plaza, is a mere five blocks from Boizao Steakhouse, with a similar menu. Now through March 31, a grand opening special includes two dinners, two desserts, two nonalcoholic drinks and a bottle of champagne or wine for $79, plus tax and tip.
Texas de Brazil, 4112 Boy Scout Blvd., serves dinner Monday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Fridays, 5 to 10:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 to 10:30 p.m. and Sundays, 4 to 10 p.m. Go online to texasdebrazil.com, call (813) 871-1400 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Gallery showcases variety of art forms
Four months ago, Kimberly Sparkes opened a gallery to showcase the work of local artists. Paintings, pottery, stained glass, sculpture, jewelry and more sell for $15 to $4,000 at Artistry With Sparkes, tucked into Hyde Park Village.
Featured artists include Samantha Churchill, Curtis Miles and Virginia Spalter. The vivid ceramic masks sculpted by Lee Arden Oken, co-owner of nearby City Street Sweets, are also displayed.
Sparkes hasn't overlooked the literary arts. Poet Circle brings out spoken word performances and live music at 7 p.m. every second Saturday. There is no charge to attend.
Artistry with Sparkes, 1625 W Snow Circle, is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Call (813) 251-4040.
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