The December 11 bread class is full.We will have a new bread class towards the end of January.
The December 11 bread class is full.We will have a new bread class towards the end of January.
Anne used to give me a hard time about the bread classes. She would say “do not complain to me about being tired after having the bread class”. The bread class usually meant working a much longer day. A couple days after the class I would be dragging my feet.
Once in a while I might whine about being tired. She was always right. It was true.
The thing is, I love doing the bread class. I enjoy teaching people the simple act of making good quality bread. I love when people’s eyes light up as the loaf is lifted from the oven.
I will have another class on December 11 at 2:30pm. Two spots are still open,
ANNE AND HER FAMILY ARE EXTREMELY ARTISTIC. Her father was a florist for many years with his own shop in Temple City, California. The night before our wedding he insisted on staying awake into the early morning hours to personally handcraft all the corsages and flowers for our tables. I have always appreciated his contemporary flair and style.
Anne’s brother Paul is a musician and has been singing and writing songs since his early teens. Her sisters are very artistic and creative as well.
Anne has always had a natural ability for creating warm and comfortable spaces. Her style is rustic and European and she has always enjoyed creating fun displays. Until recently, our home was the canvas for her art, but with the opening of Fleur, she now has a bigger and more public space to show off her creative talents.
The basic space is rustic, and combines hardwood floors with old school concrete. The walls are painted the same signature easy-green that has been Fiore’s trademark since the day it opened. We give Anne’s sister Clare and husband Ray the credit for picking the color. They brought it to us a few nights before the opening, declaring that our white walls desperately needed color. Without hesitation the four of us began painting into the early evening light, and immediately knew that the color was just right.
The overhead lights in Fleur are classic restaurant fixtures. Although not original to the space, I found them in an antique shop on Altadena Avenue in neighboring Pasadena. It turned out that the same shop owner had also sold us the aluminum counter that hosts our cash register in Fiore. I tried to negotiate with him for the fixtures, but he wouldn’t budge. Although forced to succumb to his price, I felt better when I learned a similar fixture was priced much higher at different shop just down the road.
The long table that anchors the room was moved from Fiore where it lived briefly after the Café first opened. I wrote about this table in our first book and customers still ask me if it’s for sale.
The furniture and merchandise selection for sale at Fleur is all Anne. She finds stuff everywhere and has a knack for sourcing items, while remaining thrifty and frugal. She intuitively knows an item’s worth and refuses to pay a penny more.
Anne is strongly influenced by unique vintage and antique finds. Magazines are stacked all over the coffee table and overflow into baskets on the floor. She also gets some of her inspiration from photographs of antiques found in different parts of the world.
A few months have passed since Fleur’s opening, and Anne continues to bring in new and different inventory into the shop. Each item is unique and can stand on its own, but when it’s staged in Fleur it seems like the pieces dance harmoniously together.
At least I think so. I have always associated quality with age. Things were built better in the old days. They lasted longer. The materials were superior. Things just had more substance to them. Maybe I have this weird attraction to old stuff because of some unresolved issue from a past life. I don’t know. All I know is the older the better.
Yesterday, Anne and I purchased a buffet to be used as a counter for our pastries. It’s old and worn and really cool. It needs a bit of work. A newbie or someone who loves brand new things will probably be put off by something like this, but for us it makes us happy.
Perfecto and I placed it in the restaurant today. It’s the first piece of furniture to arrive. It fits squarely in the middle of the restaurant, exactly were it’s meant to be. Cluttered around it are a painting ladder, folding tables and a dining room table with upholstered chairs that we are using for our meals while we work in the restaurant. It’s a little large and takes up too much space for what we have planned, but for now it’s perfect for the afternoon sit down.
We plan to top the buffet with a piece of marble. I found a tile shop around the corner that sells “remnants”. I asked the girl if these were mistakes and she and the guy next to her said no they are “remnants”. Well, after walking the lot and looking at crate after crate of pieces of marble in very strange shapes and sizes, I knew what they were “mistakes”
I have a good feeling that I can get a really good price on a “remnant that will fit nicely on the buffet. I also need one to go under the espresso machine.
Tomorrow I paint the wood work outside. Today Patrick and I and a good friend Mark painted the wood work inside. Bravo.
We are signing the lease tomorrow. Anne and I are both excited and nervous at the same time. It is quite an adventure. I’ve been in the business my whole life, but I have always been a Robin to a corporate Batman. There is something in my character that made me play the role of the sidekick. I did the dirty work. I solved the nasty problems. I smoothed out chaotic operations and I built really good teams. I accepted my role with grace. Sometimes too much grace.
Tomorrow we begin work on a project that is all ours. It’s our vision and our dream to create a European style cafe with the charm and character of something you would find along the Seine in Paris.
Anne has the artistic vision. I have the food vision. Together we plan to meld our imaginations into something really creative and unique.
We will keep you posted with stories, recipes and pictures.
Tomorrow is a day of bleach, comet, oven cleaner degreaser, mops and buckets. The boys and I will spend the day cleaning the kitchen. Wish us luck.
We plan to name the restaurant
Fiore Market Cafe
Here are a few pictures from the last couple of days. Ciao.
I want this bicicletta
Anne and I wanted to find a way to talk about the local business owners, artists and creatives who have inspired us over the years. We have always been influenced by people who make things. Whether its food or art or tattoos or anything. We love things that are homemade. Our trips to Italy introduced us to a culture that has handcrafted everything for centuries.
It’s exciting to see so many individuals starting businesses based on their dreams in which they are producing a handcrafted product or service. Our new blog is called Unheard Stories: Creatives Sharing Their Inspiration. Every month we feature two creatives. We ask them to share their inspiration through a variety of questions. Please take a look at unheardstories.org.
I found this bit I wrote a few months before we signed the lease for Fiore Market Cafe. It’s funny to read now almost 7 years later. The size of the kitchen remains the same, but it’s so different from what I imagined.
Today I negotiate a lease for a very small cafe. The kitchen reminds me of an old European kitchen. The kitchen is designed with the stove, grills and ovens in the center of the room.I imagine it’s the kind of kitchen Jacques Pepin cooked in when he was a kid getting started in Lyon. The previous tenant left white frilly curtains hanging across the three windows painting an even clearer picture of a French kitchen.
Adjacent to the stoves I will set old heavy, wood table. I plan to search high and low to find an old used one that has lots of miles on it. I want a table that has an indentation where the bakers kneaded the dough, a dip in the wood that took years and thousands of loaves to carve out. I want a table that’s so heavy that it doesn’t budge when I push my weight into the own dough.
A heavy wood table speaks to me. It’s weight equals substance. It will be the core of the kitchen where dough will be kneaded, fresh vegetables cut, cupcakes made, tart shell rolled out and then formed in tin pans. Espresso cups will be stacked in the back for the first stop of the day. The few worker’s we’ll have will pull up a milk crate or a stool from out front and sip an espresso while the sun climbs just outside the window.
The espresso machine will sit on the stainless steel table near the north facing window. The espresso machine will never be turned off. It will hiss and hum all day long. When a guest knocks on the backdoor whether it’s a vendor, or someone looking for directions, or a new customer they will be offered an espresso and maybe a muffin if there’s one just coming out of the oven.
There’s not much to say about the small dining room. It will look great when Anne gets through with it. She has an eye for this kinda stuff. She’ll stack her antiques with platters of homemade sweets. One of her specialties is a rich chocolate vegan cupcake that looks and tastes like any made of butter and eggs.
Out front there is a nice terrace with space for huge potted plants and an alcove where I’ll build a small raised garden bed. It’s just two steps from the kitchen. We’ll plant herbs and tomatoes and maybe one zucchini plant so I can have squash blossoms all summer long. I especially like to stuff them with cheese and grill them in real good olive oil.
We’re a long way off from this fantasy, but I’ve painted it well with lots of color and texture and flavor, but just in my head.
I will know in a few days if I can take a brush to the canvas.
Above is a picture of a lemon from the tree in our yard. I took this picture with the hipstamatic app on the I Phone. We will make the best lemonade in town. It will be sweet and lightly carbonated to quench the greatest thirst.
A song of the day:
Santa Fe by Samantha Crain I heard her on NPR this morning. Terrific stuff. Enjoy.
It’s hot in LA, but that’s ok. Soon enough we’ll be bitchin about the cool weather and we’ll have to wear sweaters. Let’s enjoy what we got today.