Written by: Greg Elwell
Stylish Eats reviews are brought to you by Steven Giles Clothing, the menswear store for those with discerning taste. Style extends well beyond the confines of clothing, so Steven Giles is teaming up with I Ate Oklahoma to bring you reviews of eateries with a refined palate across the state.
“I never like when a restaurant closes,” my friend Karlie said, upon hearing of yet another local restaurant shutting down.
While I mostly agree, the last few meals at Café Cuvée in the Ambassador Hotel in Midtown have convinced me that there are silver linings even to those dark clouds.
For instance, I was a big fan of The Viceroy, which used to be on the ground floor of the Ambassador. I didn’t eat there frequently, because I run a website about food for a living and I have to eat lots of other places and the pay is hahaaaaaa. But when I did, I loved it.
So, to be fair, I went in to Café Cuvée with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. But then I found out that Kurt Fleischfresser’s team was handling the new restaurant and I suddenly got very interested.
French cuisine is painted all over Fleischfresser’s culinary history, from Montrachet through The Coach House. Cuvée is, in a sense, a return to form.
Much as I wrote about The Viceroy years ago, I am equally intrigued by Café Cuvée’s ability to stay focused on being a restaurant in the midst of a hotel.
Maybe in larger cities, hotel restaurants still stand out as paragons of flavor, style, and elegance, but Oklahoma City’s hotel-restaurant scene has not had the same prestige. The dishes at many hotel restaurants might be expensive, but they fall short of being essential.
Locally, we’re lucky to have spots like Flint in the Colcord Hotel and Park Ave. Grill inside the Skirvin Hilton, but it’s a hard sell to get non-guests to eat at most restaurants in hotels. That is the fate I think befell The Viceroy and it’s a fate I’m hoping Café Cuvée can avoid.
I’m not sure at what age it become normal to love country pate, but I am very that age right now.
Country pate ($8) consists of a plate with big slices of country pate, lovely little toast points, caper berries, and Cumberland sauce. The goal, I assume, is to smear the pate on a piece of toast, top with a caper berry, and drizzle with sauce. And let me tell you, I scored that goal again and again and again.
Country pate is almost like meatloaf, but all the meat is pork and the texture is a blend of sturdy and creamy. It’s extremely fatty, but that’s why we’re eating French food: to indulge. It’s incredible decadent, which should distract you from the fact that country pate is kind of a cold lunch loaf that you as a kid would likely have made a barf face when served.
Cumberland sauce is this delightful British condiment that is usually purple, likely from all the red currants and port wine, and has a lovely tartness that really plays well with the ultra-rich pate. Ditto for the caper berries, which have that funky, briny taste I love.
I’m a sucker for a soup du jour ($5 cup, $9 bowl), especially when it’s something like vichyssoise—a chilled potato soup. The one I got was vichyssoise violet (aka purple potato soup) and it had a cilantro oil on top. The presentation was lovely, but the flavors of the oil were so overpowering I couldn’t really taste the potato. I ended up not eating much of it, though that was probably because my moules frites ($16) arrived shortly after.
Moules frites are mussels and fries, which is a dish I am deeply excited about every time I see it. The mussels were meatier than most I’ve had, and while I missed the more delicate, chewy mussels I’ve had elsewhere, these big guys were full of flavor—especially when dipped in that gorgeous wine broth they were steamed in.
Food is funny. The things we think of as “fancy” or “high class” are peasant food elsewhere and vice versa.
Take frisee aux lardons ($12), which is a salad made with frisee. You know that fuzzy looking lettuce that comes in your bag of salad sometimes? That’s frisee. It’s a type of chicory and it has a nice bite to it. Lardons are pretty much fried cubes of bacon.
So it’s a warm salad, topped with crispy/chewy bacon, dressed with sherry, and topped with a poached egg. And if that doesn’t sound wonderful to you, I think you might be in the wrong place.
Or maybe not, because there’s still the bistro burger ($12) that needs your attention. Cooked to your temp of choice (I prefer medium, bordering on medium rare, because I’m like the Andre Agassi of eating food) the beef is topped with a Stilton bleu cheese, more of those fried lardons, and a few pieces of arugula for a pop of bitterness. This thing hits every flavor zone. It might not be the burger you think of most often, but it’s a burger you’re sure to remember.
Speaking of remembering, you should remember to make reservations for brunch. The crab cake benedict ($17) I had was rich as all get out and topped with gorgeous poached eggs where the white is set and the yolk can run for days. It’s like magic. Delicious magic. Do yourself a favor, though—get some hot sauce. I promise you, the added pop of heat cuts through some of that luscious richness and prepares your palate for the next bite.
The shrimp and tomato crepes ($15) are a very savory crepe option (get the crepes suzette if you’re feeling a sweeter dish) and I thought the shrimp was particularly well cooked. The crepes were thin, tender, and still had a little chew to them.
I’m eager to see where Café Cuvée goes next. I know there have been some turnovers in the kitchen, but after tasting so much of the menu, it seems like they’re on a winning track. Honestly, if all they served was that country pate, I’d still come back on the regular.
Stylish Eats are sponsored by Steven Giles Clothing, a high-end men’s fashion store in Classen Curve providing expertly tailored suits, timeless casual wear and everything in between. Visit them online at stevengilesclothing.com to schedule a fitting or stop in at 5850 N. Classen Blvd. to browse their selection in person.
Fiber, the smallest unit of cloth visible, is either a staple fiber (a short measurable length) or a filament fiber (a continuous length). Fibers are natural or can be man-made. Natural fibers are protein (meaning they come from animals) and cellulose (meaning they come from plants). Man-made fibers are regenerated cellulose, today mostly purified wood pulp (rayon and acetate) and non cellulose, a petroleum product (nylon and polyester). Natural protein fibers, wool come from the gathered or shorn hair of animals…alpaca, camel, cashmere, goat vicuna, angora. Silk, on the other hand, is collected from the secretions of the silkworm.
Fibers by themselves are not much use in making fabric. They must be combined into strands then spun into yarn. Yarns may be used singularly or twisted together as plied yarns. Twist in a yarn will influence the fabric hand, absorbency, elasticity, luster and strength. The spinning process first begins with carding…a process that cleans the fiber. Following is combing (cotton), worsted (woolens) processes to straighten fibers to a uniform standard and to cull out the shorter fibers. These processes are labor intensive but create a refined tighter construction for a higher-grade yarn. Finally, the spinning process of which several systems are used (bobbins, spindles, cops, tubes, cheeses,etc.) to determine yarn size and ultimately thread count determining the density and quality of the fabric to be produced. Fabric is formed by non-woven knitting and woven processes including a finishing process necessary to most fabrics before considered the finest of fabrics available to be used in clothing products.
Non-woven knitted fabrics share dozens of common processes, but all share one characteristic to differentiate them from woven…they each have just one set of yarns looping together to create the fabric. Knits are not as strong as a woven, but they have more stretch. The earliest knitting process dates to (A.D.250) a hand process until 1589, when Reverend Henry Lee invented the flat bed knitting machine. Many knitted products are considered heirloom pieces, works of art…timeless styles, Argyle, Intarsia, Fairisle, Shaker, Fisherman and Cable knits. Always everlasting favorites.
Plain woven fabrics, on the other hand, have two sets of yarns interlacing at right angles. Woven on a machine called a loom…warp (a single yarn is called an end), held under tension from the back of the loom to the front. Weft (a single yarn is called a pick), filling yarns carried back and forth across the loom via a shuttle interlacing with the warp. Unlike the many knit variations, weaves are few, three basic weaves.
Plain weaves, the simplest fastest production and as such, most common, used in 80% of all woven fabrics. Particularly shirting’s (Broadcloth, Chambray, Madras, End on End, Linen) and lighter weight clothing fabrics (Crepe, Poplin, Seersucker, wool worsted).
Basket weaves, a simple variation of the plain weave…two or more yarns going the warp length and the weft width rather than one as in the plain weave (Oxford Cloth, Hopsacking and Repps). Repp weaves are most often used for necktie production.
Twill weaves, the second most common of the three weaves, are characterized by pronounced diagonals on the fabric face. Sturdy fabrics originated in Northern Europe for durability and warmth (Covert, Calvary Twill, Denim, Drill cloth, Tweed, Gabardine). For variations in the weave, the direction of the diagonal is changed, creating patterns such as Herringbone, Houndstooth, Shepherd and District checks Glen plaid, common plaid, Windowpane, Tattersall and more.
Plain weave with a Satin finish originated in countries that trade in silk fibers. Woven with a minimum number of staggered interlacing, the face of the fabric has more warp and weft than the back creating a smooth reflective surface (Blazer, Suede cloth, Chino).
Plain weave with miscellaneous Dobby effects refer to fabrics with small woven figures, dots, geometric patterns and floral raised from the surface of the cloth. Woven by an automated Dobby loom today, originally the hand loom relied on a “Dobby boy” who sat on the top of the loom and, by hand raised warp threads to form a pattern.
Plain weaves with a filling pile created by floating extra picks on the surface cut in and out of the loom to form tufts of pile. When cut the pile appears in a row (wale). Fabrics include velvet and corduroy.