CAMDEN, Maine — Offering carefully and creatively prepared meals with the freshest ingredients is not enough for Ryan and Alyson Flemming.
There are other, equally important elements in creating a restaurant that tourists and locals alike enjoy, the couple believes, and Fromviandoux was conceived with those other components in mind.
“We don’t want to be just a ‘special occasions’ place,” Alyson said, which is why the menu features fine food at affordable prices.
The couple opened the French-inspired restaurant at 20 Washington Street, just off Elm Street, which doubles as U.S. Route 1, on June 5.
The name is an invented word that combines parts of three French words that suggest its fare — “fromage” is the word for cheese, “viande” is for meat, and “doux,” which means soft or sweet, refers to the pastries and desserts.
But to call Fromviandoux a French restaurant is not quite accurate, the Flemmings said. The method of preparing the food relies on French methods, which the couple learned at the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vt., where they met. Food and sauce preparation is done in the traditional French way, Ryan, 33, said.
“Everything’s from scratch,” Alyson, 32, said.
Their experience at the culinary institute left both with a commitment to providing pleasure throughout the entire dining experience. Alyson recalls arriving at school with a particular focus in mind, “on the savory side,” but since the curriculum exposed her to other areas, she found her niche in pastries.
The school also had students learn the “front of the house” part of the business, even having them wait on tables as part of their education. The Flemmings have a very clear idea of what the restaurant should look and feel like, they stressed, with words like “comfortable” and “relaxed” at the top of the list of descriptions.
“We don’t want ‘pretentious,’” Alyson said.
The couple last worked at five fifty-five, an upscale restaurant in Portland. Before living in Portland, they lived in Aspen, Colo.
The menu, which changes regularly, currently features a “fromage” page of cow-, sheep-, goat- and mixed-milk cheeses, with portions designed to be enjoyed as appetizers or shared among a group.
The “charcuterie” section, which features cured meats, includes chicken liver mousse, pork-pistachio pate, duck bacon-wrapped scallop and crispy veal sweetbreads. That part of the menu is organized under “smaller” and “bigger” portions, allowing diners to sample multiple items as part of their main meal.
The “doux” portion features such sweet desserts as ricotta doughnuts, orange-flower milkshake, bruleed chocolate custard and peach crisp.
“I change my dessert menu every month,” Alyson said.
The menu also cites local farms and producers, which reflects another Fromviandoux goal. “We definitely try to stay current and modern and local and sustainable,” Alyson said.
Rather than serve lunch, the restaurant offers what its menu calls a “modern afternoon tea.” For $22 per adult, patrons are served a pot of tea, scones, devonshire cream, lemon curd and orange marmalade tea sandwiches and “petite fours,” a small confectionary served at the end of meal. Champagne cocktails also are available.
Elaine Ely, who manages the front of the restaurant, maintains a large and diverse wine list, specializing in what she said are unusual selections. Wine is sold by the bottle, glass and half-glass — the last to encourage sampling.
So far, Alyson said, the dominant patron feedback is that the restaurant should raise its prices. The price points, she explained, are arrived at in part because portions are smaller than in other restaurants, and because Fromviandoux aims to be a place where people can afford to visit regularly, lingering over a few different plates.
“We just want people to lounge in the dining room as long as they want,” Ryan said.
Care was taken in transforming the building, which last housed Zaddik’s Pizza, to establish that relaxed, lounge-like atmosphere, the couple said. Lumber reclaimed from Ryan’s family’s cottage on Chebeague Island was used on the facing of the bar, which is topped with a rich, dark stone surface. Lighting is warm but subtle, and a couch and two stuffed chairs welcome patrons waiting for a table at the center of the multiple-level dining area, which can seat 50.
Beginning Sunday, Sept. 9, the restaurant will be open five days a week, closing Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tea begins at 2 p.m..
For more information, call 230-7444.