In early November, my wife Cindy and I took our nephew Luke Schmith and his inamorata, Missi Smith, to Les Folies Brasserie in Annapolis. You can click here to see the restaurant’s complete listing in our Food & Drink Business Directory. We have been going there for nearly a decade. For Luke and Missi, this was their first visit.
Brasserie is the French word for brewery. The literal translation of the restaurant’s name is something like The Follies Brewery. But in reality, it’s a restaurant serving wine, beer, and other spirits, along with classic French dishes. It might just as likely have been called a bistro here in the U.S. In France, they tend to make a distinction between the two. Here’s an article — Definition of Brasserie, Bistro, Café, and Salon de Thé — with a lot more information on the topic.
About a year ago, I briefly covered Les Folies Brasserie in another piece (see Repetition worthwhile). Unfortunately, this time was not to be one of our better visits. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t disastrous or anything. Just not up to their usual standards, with various hiccoughs along the way. Most places will have an off night now and then.
The host escorted us to a banquette. The ladies sat on the bench, with Luke and I opposite. We quickly got water and menus. And then we waited an unusually long time for our waitress to show up. When she did, Cindy and I recognized her from previous visits, as she had served us before. She said she was stretched a bit thin, as she had been assigned more tables than she was comfortable with.
She took our drink orders, which soon arrived. Then she pointed-out the daily specials in the menu and took our orders. While we waited, I had to twice ask for both bread and their WiFi password.
Cindy and Missi both ordered mussels baked with garlic butter and bread crumbs. Each got more than a dozen mussels. Both liked them a lot. Luke, I think, got baked onion soup (but I forgot to write it down, and he’s not sure what he had).
I asked for the snails baked and served in the shell with garlic butter. When you have a dish like this, it is a good idea to have lots of bread available — you don’t want that garlic butter to go to waste.
To remove the snails from the shells, there were escargot tongs and an escargot fork. The spring-loaded tongs were, of course, made famous in one of the best-known and funniest dining scenes in cinema history, from Pretty Woman (click here to view it on YouTube). Here’s another YouTube video that shows the proper way to eat escargots (along with how they’re made):
Our orders were as follows:
- Cindy — veal cutlets, cooked medium, in mushroom cream sauce.
- Missi — butterflied sirloin steak, cooked medium, with mesclun salad and French fries.
- Luke — Roasted rack of lamb, medium rare, with rosemary/lamb juice
- Me — Flank steak, medium, with green-peppercorn cream sauce, and French fries
Here is where we hit a couple of problems. Missi’s steak came well-done, as you can see from the photo, and mine came just about raw, and not at all warm. Missi kept hers. It took me a few minutes to flag down the waitress and I sent mine back. The waitress was very apologetic. I got a new dish a little bit later. It was about as done as Missi’s steak, but at least it was hot.
For our sweet course, the other three folks all went for crème brulée. It was a lovely presentation, and I’m pretty sure all of them ate every bit of it.
I went for an apple tart, served with a pistachio ice cream. Both items on the plate were tasty. As pretty as the tart was, though, I preferred the ice cream.
Les Folies Brasserie conclusion
Despite the annoying waits for our server and bread, and the under- and over-cooked meats, we’ll go back. This place is part of a dying breed. Small, white-table cloth French restaurants used to be scattered all over the DC-MD-VA area. Decades ago, a place almost had to be French to be considered a special meal.
Among the now closed French dining spots: in Virginia, Chez Froggy in Crystal City, La Guinguette in Merrifield, Mediterranee Restaurant (first in Arlington, then Great Falls), along with Chez Andree and La Bergerie in Alexandria; in Maryland, there was Jean-Michel in North Bethesda. Many of the chefs at thes smaller suburban restaurants had their starts in the bigger, fancier, more expensive restaurants in downtown D.C., now all closed: Le Lion D’Or, Maison Blanche, and Jean Louis Palladin (big-name chef Éric Ripert of Le Bernardin once worked there). I enjoyed dining at all of the spots I listed, but for Jean Louis Palladin.
Today new French restaurants are still opening, but my impression is there are far fewer of them around. But I still like to get a taste of certain dishes from time-to-time:
- duck a l’orange
- mignonettes of beef with béarnaise sauce
- mussels in saffron cream sauce
- seafood crêpes
- steak au poivre
We now visit Les Folies Brasserie and La Côte d’Or Café in Arlington, VA (run by Chef Jacques Imperato, formerly of Mediterranee) for these sorts of dishes. ♦