Being a child of the 1970s, any combination of foods that seems unusual reminds me of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial.
The ads featured one person walking down the street eating a chocolate bar and another walking down the street eating peanut butter out of a jar. When they accidentally collide, they create a taste sensation.
This is how I felt when I ordered lunch the other day at Portland Patisserie and Grand Cafe on Market Street in Portland. I looked down at my order and said aloud, “Hey, you got French onion soup on my baguette” and visa versa.
And just like in the commercials, I took a bite and smiled.
I had ordered the French onion soup melt on a baguette ($7.50) so I knew what to expect, somewhat. I’ve seen French onion soup melts at other places recently, but usually it’s more like a grilled cheese sandwich, with cheese and onion pressed between two slices of sandwich bread.
But when I opened this sandwich, it looked like someone had ladled a heaping spoonful of onion soup with lots of caramelized onion and melted Gruyere cheese onto the bread.
It was a wet sandwich, but the wonderful crusty baguette held the moisture nicely. My sandwich also came with a little cup of onion soup broth, so I could dunk the sandwich for even more moist flavor.
The cheese was creamy, not chewy, so I avoided those messy moments when you have a two-foot string of cheese hanging from your mouth.
The menu at Portland Patisserie is filled with French influences – the owners also run Petite Jacqueline and Five Fifty-Five in Portland.
The lunch menu features lots of crepes, including one with duck confit, Gruyere cheese and caramelized onion and stone fruit, for $10. Other savory options include lobster, mornay sauce and asparagus ($14) and smoked salmon, capers and goat cheese ($10). The sweet crepes range from cinnamon and brown butter ($4) to one with espresso and mascarpone cheese ($6.25). You can also build your own crepe.
The eatery also offers cheese plates, with up to three kinds of cheese, at $4 per cheese. The plate comes with a baguette and compote.
Portland Patisserie is open for breakfast, so the menu includes various Danish and croissants. The pastry case is fun just to look at. The day I visited there was a very pretty blueberry and white chocolate mousse, plus all sort of tarts and cakes.
I tried a chausson aux pommes, a little hand-held apple pie, for $3.75. The pastry crust was exceptional, flaky and buttery, but firm. I could have used a little more filling.
The eatery is located in a handsome Victorian building, and the space has huge windows and high ceilings for a very airy feeling.
There are lots of tables, gold metal with matching chairs. And since it’s an order at the counter place, the feel is casual and the service is quick. The day I went, the counter was very well staffed, and I got my order in about five minutes.
It was a sunny day, so I chose to eat my sandwich on a sidewalk bench. But I decided not to walk down the street with it, lest I bump into someone eating peanut butter out of a jar.
46 Market St., Portland | portlandpatisserie.com | 207-553-2555
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Sunday
WAIT: About five minutes
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: No