Crisp and golden outside, pillowy soft within, a properly made beignet is a taste of deep-fried heaven. But short of a trip to Paris or New Orleans, these puffy little wonders -- served fresh and warm, beneath a drift of powdered sugar -- have been as hard to find here as truffles on a treelawn.
But no more -- thanks to Petite de Vie, a Paris-style market stand tucked inside a glass pavilion at Westlake's Crocker Park (186 Crocker Park Boulevard, 440-899-5015). It's the offspring of coffee expert D.D. Meakin, a California entrepreneur with a taste for authentic French street fare, and Matt Mars, owner of Vermilion's upscale Chez François.
In addition to specialty-roast coffees, French baguettes, imported chocolates, and those fabulous, greaseless beignets (three for $2.25), the market is a kind of field test for a full-fledged bistro that Meakin and Mars hope to open near Trader Joe's. No date has been set for that venture, but in the meantime, Meakin is preparing a second street-food stand named Boulevard Dogs, featuring gourmet hot dogs and French-style pommes frites.
Market hours vary, but generally run from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Juiced . . . Our Crocker Park trip also introduced us to Liquid Planet (224 Crocker Park Boulevard, 440-835-8006), a handsome, "quick-casual" eatery featuring toasty sandwiches, well-appointed rice bowls, and a vast collection of fruit and veggie smoothies. While service could have been swifter, we had no complaints about the food, including the Sun Kiss Swirl, a vibrant blend of freshly squeezed apple, carrot, and orange juices, spiked with fresh ginger ($3.75). The Westlake location marks the third operation for local restaurateur Mick Cochrane; his other holdings include the Warehouse District's Waterstreet Grill and the original Liquid Planet, at 11002 Clifton Boulevard in Lakewood.
Cheese stands alone . . . Industry vet Matt Fish (Johnny Mango, Fat Fish Blue) will open a new Lakewood restaurant called Melt (14718 Detroit Avenue, in the former White Door Saloon) on Friday, September 22. Starring 30 different variations on the theme of grilled cheese, Melt's menu also will include fresh-cut fries, homemade soups and salads, and a fully stocked bar offering nearly 100 bottled beers. Look for lunch and dinner service each Monday through Saturday, and an all-day brunch on Sundays. -- Cicora