Rich date bread and buttery scones, covered in clotted cream and lemon curd. Tiny, adorable sandwiches, made with cucumber and mascarpone cheese, house-cured salmon with creme fraiche, and truffled egg salad and finely diced chives. Miniscule strawberry shortcakes, little chocolate wafers with butterscotch pudding, and a two-bite salted caramel and pistachio truffle. And tea. Lots of tea.
Tantalized yet? The treats above are just some of the delights you can find by strolling into French-inspired eatery Fromviandoux in Camden and settling in for its modern high tea, served from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Its tea service — scone course, sandwich course, petit four course and tea — is an elegant way to spend an afternoon in Camden. And, priced at $22 per person ($12 for children) for three generous servings, it’s also affordable — though the champagne cocktails are extra.
“When I was a little girl my family would always go to tea,” said Alyson Flemming, who with her husband, Ryan, opened Fromviandoux one year ago this Memorial Day weekend, in the former location of pizza joint Zaddik’s. “Now, when my mom and my sisters and I get together we always go to tea, and we’re all over the country now. It’s always been a very special thing for me. We thought that [tea] was a niche that wasn’t really present on the midcoast, so that’s why we do it.”
The Flemmings came to Maine from Colorado a few years ago, first living in Portland and then moving to Camden so they could be near the mountains and the sea. Both have a background in food — Ryan makes all the cured meats, pates and charcuterie served at the restaurant, and Flemming is both a head chef and pastry chef, as well as a cheese expert.
That’s where the name “Fromviandoux” comes from — Ryan Flemming is the “viande” or meat, and Alyson is the “doux,” or sweet. It says so on their business cards.
While the exterior is low-key — just a hanging sign with the restaurant’s name — the interior features soft gray walls, a sleek bar, wing chairs, funky coffee tables and bright splashes of colorful, constantly changing floral arrangements.
Fromviandoux also offers a dinner menu composed of equal parts small and large plates, which change regularly depending on seasonal availability. The French influence is front and center with offerings such as braised escargot with parsley puree and garlic butter, crispy veal sweetbreads with fennel bacon compote, and a well-appointed wine list, as well Ryan Flemming’s array of foie gras, pates, mousses and terrines, all house-made.
There’s also a house burger, a North African grilled merguez (lamb sausage) with warm chickpeas and yogurt, and an array of desserts. There’s the box of chocolate chip pecan cookies with house-made ice cream, the pistachio tea cake with Earl Grey mousse, ricotta doughnuts, or in the winter, a flight of hot chocolate, with or without alcohol, served with a house-made marshmallow and shortbread. There’s Sunday brunch, too.
Alyson Flemming’s favorite part is probably the fromage, however. Cheese aficionados would do well to seek out Fromviandoux, as its carefully curated selection gives meaning to the “from” in “Fromviandoux.” Spanish, English and French selections sit alongside varieties from her home state of Colorado, from Vermont and New York, and from Lakin’s Gorges and York Hill creameries, both right here in Maine. The jams, marmalades and candied nuts to go with them are all made in-house. Flemming is a woman who clearly loves her cheese.
“I made goat cheese for a year while I was in Colorado, and I really just fell in love,” she said. “I hope I can introduce people here to some really great cheeses. It’s something I’m totally passionate about.”
Fromviandoux, located at 20 Washington St. in downtown Camden, serves tea from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays, dinner from 5:30 to close Wednesdays through Sundays, and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are recommended; call 230-7444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.