Thursday, February 22, 2018
Restaurants

Restaurant review: French cafe Flying With Jerome soars at breakfast, lunchtime

CLEARWATER

On Thursday, Jérome Dulas' little French cafe turns 1. About a dozen Times readers have written in to say Flying With Jerome is worth a review: amazing French toast, classic French croissants and pastries, french fries done the right way (blanched, fried at a lower temperature, then quickly fried at a higher temp). I'm not sure why I dawdled in heading over. Perhaps it was the name. I'm not aviophobic, but I wasn't sure why I needed to get airborne with this guy.

Turns out, the flying is a metaphor of sorts. Dulas says it's a reference to the range of options: bakery items, breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner on the weekends: "You can fly with different tastes." But also it is clearly a reference to his own traveling jones. From southwest France near Bordeaux and a cooking school graduate, he ended up in the air force as a pastry chef, then spent time in Denver and back in France as well as Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Turks and Caicos, Sicily, Portugal and Guadeloupe as a pastry chef for Club Med. He shored up in Florida because he liked the climate. As good a reason as any.

The space is pleasant but unglamorous, the central draw a come-hither pastry case at the front that begs for fingerprints and even a nose print or two. Eclairs and individual apple tarts, napoleons and opera cakes — it's a greatest-hits lineup of French pastries made exactingly, all lovely to look at. He uses organic eggs and unbromated, unbleached flour, his fruit, chocolate and other ingredients are carefully sourced.

There is table service, fairly casual but friendly, although you're going to need to sneak over to ogle the pastry case, whether at breakfast or dinner. Dinner seemed the least appealing of meals, the dining room underpopulated and the food somehow not as nailed down as at breakfast or lunch. So let's focus on those.

French onion soup ($2.75, $5.50) features a rich but not salty broth redolent of thyme, a sprinkling of croutons and cheese (it's not a cap of molten cheese, more strings throughout), an excellent accompaniment to a sandwich. Dulas makes his own ciabatta and cheese bread, the former shown off to great effect in a sandwich slathered with bright pesto, plush mozzarella, wisps of prosciutto and nicely ripe tomato ($10.25), and the latter rocking it in an assemblage of blue cheese, Parmesan, raisins, walnuts and a pouf of mixed greens ($10.99).

Individual quiches — ham and cheese, goat cheese and mushroom, served with fries, salad or fruit; $8.50 — and savory crepes are textbook. Crepes are not the buckwheat flour seen often in Breton-style savory crepes, but they have that wonderful crispy edge and stretchy interior, with filling options like mushroom, cheese and ham ($8.99) or smoked salmon and cream sauce ($10.95). Crepes come with either fries or salad, and while salad is the more logical choice (that's some carbo-loading with crepe batter and spuds), then you'd miss out on the chance for some seriously good fries.

At breakfast or brunch, eggs take center stage, the showstopper at brunch being the eggs feuillete ($12.50), flaky leaves of puff pastry cradling poached eggs, bacon and asparagus, the whole thing ladled just so with velvety hollandaise. Not sure why there's a sidecar of mashed potatoes, but I'll roll with it. A great dish. And the brioche used for the French toast ($9) is dreamy: puffy, eggy, yeasty and slightly sweet, the four wedges arriving with a bit of house-made jam and a fruit salad, nearly obviating the need for any syrup.

On one visit, I brought back a passel of pastries to the office and podmates set upon them like wolverines, top swoons going for the pistachio-cherry tart and the hazelnut eclair (pastries $3-$4). These may be Dulas' crowning achievements, although even without a pilot's license this Frenchman has found his cruising altitude at breakfast and lunchtime.

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

     
         
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