Is it Financier or Financier? That is, should we pronounce the name of Financier Bistro & Bar in Winter Park fih-nan-see-AY or fih-nan-SEER? The former is the French word for a classic almond cake that is shaped sort of like a gold bar. The latter is, um, a French word with an American pronunciation that means someone who manages money (and may be of various shapes).
Actually, it can be either or both, according to the restaurant’s website. The name was chosen as a double entendre (doo-bluh ahn-TAHN-druh) for a patisserie that opened in 2002 in Manhattan’s Financial District (usual pronunciation) and is now permanently closed.
I took refuge at the Park Avenue cafe, which was previously home to Rustic Table, Park Station and, coincidentally, a place called Frenchy’s, on a recent evening when my original destination proved too crowded. I took a small table on the sidewalk and felt like I was once again sitting at a cafe in Paris. The host even seemed insulted when I tried to order a glass of wine from him instead of waiting for my actual server, so it felt even more authentic.
I ordered an appetizer of ratatouille, which proved to be a more elaborate presentation than the usual stewed vegetables. Here, the zucchini and yellow squash – no eggplant, excuse me, aubergine, which I’ve always considered the raison de ratatouille – were thinly sliced and preciously alternated and shaped to look like an ornate flower. A sauce of mushroom and tomato cream was dappled around the petals and a pistou, fashioned with arugula instead of the usual basil, was splattered about the plate. It was actually a lovely appetizer.
For my entree I chose croque monsieur, the classic inside-out ham and cheese sandwich. It featured a few thin slices of deli ham on the inside and gruyere cheese and béchamel on the toasted outside. There was a bit too much bread for the ham, but I liked the crustiness of the cheese. It was served with a stack of slender, crispy fries (quite good) and some vinaigretted greens.
My friendly server made up for the haughty host. The few tables outside have an ever changing view of the Park Avenue parade; inside is a bar/lunch counter and pastry display case, a row of banquettes beneath a faux bibliotheque, and several freestanding tables, all covered with white cloths.
Prices, like everywhere else these days, are a bit higher than they really should be. But even so, you don’t have to be a – how you say? – financier to eat here.