“Toulouse Petit sounds like a French Restaurant – like something out of Louisiana” said my mother.
“Yeah, I think it sort of is” said I.
“Why are we going to a Creole place when we’re about as far away from New Orleans as you can get?”
“I don’t know – they have a half-off breakfast happy hour and I hear it is really good” said I.
…and they did…and it was.
Beginning our first ‘real’ day in Seattle I fought of the cobwebs from the long day before and while the others slept I made my way to the hotel gym for a long run – one that was precisely what the doctor ordered and much to my surprise by the time I returned to the hotel room my mother, aunt, and sister were showered and ready to go – a first in my travel experiences but a welcomed sight that led to a quick shower before jumping in the car and turning the GPS south – our destination spurring the conversation above largely because I’d been talking about how much I was looking forward to croissants from Nouveau and Besalu the day before but a destination that I decided on because after a day like the one before it I simply needed something more substantial than pastries; besides, we still had a whole trip ahead of us.
With the streets largely empty as we had clearly slept through rush hour our navigation would lead us largely without stop to the doors of Toulouse Petit where even though it was Wednesday we found ourselves greeted by a full house just after nine. Greeted by a petite blonde (there is definitely a ‘theme’ in regard to the female servers at Toulouse Petit that I certainly did not object to) and told that it would be perhaps fifteen minutes before a table was ready we stood back and waited for only five before our name was called and we were led through the bustling and heavy wooded space to a four-top juxtaposing the well stocked bar.
Seated and comfortable with menus in hand from the hostess we would spend the next five minutes browsing over the immense menu before another young lady in a t-shirt and well fitted jeans would greet us to ask if we would like coffee or a drink from the bar and with three of us opting for coffee – a fantastic nutty roast from Fonte served via French Press that would get me quite excited for the coffee of Seattle – plus one tall orange juice we were left again with our decisions…a particularly laborious choice as no less than fifteen selections on the $8 morning happy hour sounded “can’t miss” to myself, but a choice made a bit easier when I was informed that their oft raved Pork Cheek Hash was sold out and with orders placed we sat discussing the days plans as we sipped our coffee (or in my case drank it quite fast only to realize refills were not a part of the deal.)
With the kitchen large, spotless, and surprisingly tranquil given the rapidity of service it would be only ten minutes after ordering that small plates would be passed out and our appetizer would arrive – a classic I couldn’t possibly leave without ordering in the form of Beignets with powdered sugar and chicory anglaise. Served as a quintet and immediately claiming the extra for myself these two-bite fried pieces of dough would prove to be an admirable take on the Café du Monde classic and though not as light as the beignets down south certainly not “dense” or “oily” either. Good on their own but with a sidecar of nutty yet slightly bitter sauce at the side the beignets were definitely a nice start but in the end they would also prove the least impressive item of the morning.
Moving on to our main courses, delivered as a quartet and filling the table to capacity, each selection would arrive piping hot and elegantly presented and with three savories and a sweet plus one additional side I knew right away there would be plenty of plate passing and sharing to be done. Beginning first with the savories, my mother’s selection would be the most “standard” of the quartet, a dish from the Toulouse Benedict section of the menu featuring Snake River Farms Kurubota Ham and house made lemon hollandaise over a pair of poached eggs, toasted English muffins, and a side of breakfast potatoes. First noting that this was a large plate of food for a mere $8 what really impressed me was not so much the portion but the quality – the ham supple, tender, and not watery in the least while the yard eggs were creamy, and the potatoes and muffins were crisp on the exterior and tender within while the light citrus of the creamy hollandaise took center stage without overwhelming at all. A great Benedict by any definition, but nowhere near as impressive as that ordered by my sister.
For Erika, the Toulouse Benedict with Rustic Duck and Pistachio Terrine would arrive quite similar to the plate my mother selected but taking out the tasty yet expected ham and replacing it with a pan seared slice of meaty duck terrine imbued with foie gras and thick chunks of pistachio both on the interior and acting as a crust I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this would prove to be one of the very best breakfast savories I have ever tasted. Served atop the same English Muffins as the other Benedict yet with the Hollandaise even more subdued by the gaminess of the terrine I’ll note that for someone who rarely has plate envy this was a case where although my dish was good, this one was stellar.
With aunt going the sweet route the final savory of the morning would be my dish, another duck preparation but this time lacking the sauce and instead pairing Duck Confit Hash with potatoes, parsnips, turnips, thyme, and two poached eggs. Beginning first with the hash itself, the compilation of crispy root vegetables was beautifully prepared and mixed with greens and a light vinaigrette plus spices the flavors were fresh, mild, and crisp providing a nice backdrop to the crackling skin and tender flesh of the savory duck. Moving on to the eggs I will note that although tasty they were slightly overcooked, particularly when compared to those on the Benedicts and although a small quibble it was certainly noteworthy considering how well the others had turned out.
With my plate smaller than the others by some degree it turned out somewhat fortuitous that my carbohydrate loving side had additionally opted for a $3 side dish of Creole Buttermilk Biscuits with butter and strawberry jam to go along with my hash and although not the standard large fluffy biscuits one would expect in Southern cooking, I actually found these more dense and buttery versions to be quite tasty, particularly with the thick jam and when used to sop up the yolk and vinaigrette left on my plate after finishing the hash.
Moving on to the “dessert” portion of breakfast, my aunt’s choice of Bananas Foster Pancakes with candied pecans and pecan butter plus a $2 side of vanilla ice cream would take me right back to my visit to NOLA in more ways than one as the fluffy pancakes were absolutely soaked in boozy rich caramelized syrup while the candied pecans and rich pecan butter added a nice smoky note to the presentation plus a bit of crunch. Served almost too hot to eat (yet unfortunately not on fire like true Bananas Foster) it was at my bidding that she added the ice cream – a rich vanilla bean that harkened back to my visit to Camellia Grill when I devoured a Pecan Waffle plus a slice of fried pecan pie topped with ice cream only hours before flying home.
Described loquaciously as being built “around notions larger and more expansive than any particular theme or region: unique and lusty cuisine that requires discipline and skill to prepare; texturally rich and intricate décor that can only have been designed and created by individuals who approach their craft with focus and commitment; and the general desire to deliver the various possibilities of dining, drinking and adult escapism to others in a way that is positive safe, friendly, values-driven… and which leaves everyone better off for having had the experience” all I will say is that no matter what theme or region they claim to be targeting (or not targeting as it were,) Toulouse Petite does a pretty excellent job of replicating many of the flavors I experienced in New Orleans even if it is 2,600 miles away and all at a price that really cannot be beat for the setting and the quality.