Bonnie Fishman was a new graduate of Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in London, returning home to Michigan. On the plane, she made a list of the qualities that her dream restaurant would have: It would be a patisserie — a pastry shop — in a neighborhood location, have some seating and would include a catering business.
From that dream, Bonnie’s Patisserie had 25 successful years in a homey setting on Northwestern Highway in Southfield.
Now Fishman has moved her business to Telegraph Road just south of Maple, a site she considers ideal. In the transition, the little patisserie turned into a “kitchen” where you can eat in for lunch or take out dinner or just stop by for cappuccino and a piece of one of the memorable pastries.
The space is as colorful and as welcoming as a patchwork quilt; the open kitchen is tiled with squares of bold colors, hand-painted in San Miguel, Mexico, in yellow, blue, green and maroon. One wall is painted a deep red; another is yellow. In the front of the restaurant are unusual gift items, such as a plate from France with two frogs swimming in a yellow pool, one becoming three-dimensional as its head pokes upward.
There are tables and counter space for 20. But because the business is designed to be primarily take-out, you order at the refrigerated display cases by pointing to what you’d like, and pay by the pound. (There’s a menu, but it’s just a starting point.)
This is a place where carnivores, vegetarians and vegans can dine in harmony. Of course, everything is made from scratch. You can watch the whole process from a seat at the counter that was designed for Fishman’s Monday and Wednesday evening cooking classes.
We enjoyed a splendid chicken piccata one night, lush with artichokes in a lemony sauce. The turkey cacciatore was just as good, big chunks of braised turkey breast with bright red bell peppers, onions and mushrooms in a wine sauce.
Also featured: lasagna (both vegetarian and meat), salmon glazed with apricot sauce, macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes layered with Boursin cheese, Thai sesame noodles, frittata with spinach, meat loaf, brisket, sandwiches and salads. Pasta dishes include one with roasted corn and scallops. Two soups are available daily.
Although the emphasis is on taste, Fishman’s philosophy is to cook healthy. She doesn’t skimp on the cream and butter when needed, nor does she use it if it’s not. The veal meatballs, for example, are made with egg whites instead of whole eggs. Even without knowing that, these meatballs are special — hearty, well-seasoned, yet remarkably light.
Fishman says that preparing interesting vegetables is a priority, pointing out a bright green rapini ragout. We loved the wild rice salad with pecans, chunks of Granny Smith apples and big dried cherries. Another popular salad is made of green peas with wilted spinach and shallots. Streusel topping imparts just a little extra sweetness to a pudding made of roasted, mashed sweet potatoes. There’s always a selection of grilled vegetables, simply prepared with olive oil, salt and pepper; ours included sweet potatoes, eggplant, onions and asparagus.
Desserts are a point of pride. The brownies are the best ever, dark and fudgy, with a variety of toppings. There are spectacular cheesecakes — one that we tried was coated with caramel. Another, “three chocolate cheesecake,” has a coating of hard, candy-like chocolate over layers of chocolate and white-chocolate cheesecake. The apple pie is about 2 inches thick, solid fruit. In a German poppy-seed cake, the cake layers are as light as can be, speckled with poppy seeds; between them is custard, just faintly sweet; the whole is frosted with whipped cream and garnished with strawberries.
For what occasions should you turn to Bonnie’s Kitchen? Lunch on a workday. Catering for a meeting at the office. Before a movie at the Maple. On the way home when the thought of cooking is overwhelming. When you have 12 people coming for dinner — or just one.
Open daily except Sunday. Closes at 7 p.m., 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].