Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Overflowing Praise for Fountain

She had me with the invitation. It arrived by mail, rolled up like a scroll with a cork in the center and tied with raffia bow in a rectangular box lined with orange tissue paper and a toss of roasted coffee beans. I was impressed by the creative effort, curious about the meaning of these pieces and parts, and eager to know more. So I instantly RSVP’d yes to the grand opening event for Fountain, a European-inspired café and gastro-lounge (proprietor Iris Wheeler’s descriptive tag for her new venture). After spending a couple of hours at the Moreland Hills spot last Wednesday night, I came to understand that the package I’d received was full of cues and clues revealing what this place is all about, the imaginative thinking behind it, and the extra effort they’re putting into everything.

Fountain — and there are two actual ones, a classic version on the patio and the other, a modernist cascading wall of water — is coffee shop and lunch stop by day, a wine bar serving small and shareable plates and desserts until late (midnight Monday to Wednesday, 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday). When I first heard about the concept, it made no sense. I couldn’t visualize such a multi-purpose kind of a place. There’s a reason for that: we don’t have anything else like it around here. Now that I’ve had a look and met the vivacious German-born Iris, the idea makes perfect, lovely sense. What ties the various functions together is her vision of a sophisticated gathering place with a morning, noon and night selection of refined, high quality food and drink.

The front of the big room, where you step up to counter to order a pot of French press, a fruit smoothie, a scoop of gelato, or something from the pastry case, is flooded with natural light. But a few steps further in and things get pleasantly dark — damask drapes frame the windows; the walls are a deep warm terra cotta, and the lighting is low. Beyond a long wooden bar, the space opens up and is furnished with comfortable couches and chairs, not restaurant tables, arranged in small groups. Each seating area represents a specific European country — black and white photos of famous landmarks let you know whether you’re sitting in Austria, Spain, Italy or the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg). There are some nooks and private corners perfect for tête-a-têting and even an area to dance when the DJ’s in the house.

Donna Chriszt, an accomplished chef and fine dining veteran, is in the driver’s seat when it comes to the kitchen. She’ll be curing salmon, making her own rillettes and terrines, and beefing up sandwiches and salads with house made spreads, dressings, and condiments. Sweet and savory crepes will be a specialty. I tasted some absolutely wonderful things during the party that are on her menu — patés, shrimp with a chorizo dipping sauce, truffled egg custard, and vegetables in aspic, along with some of the cheeses and charcuterie that will be available on platters and boards.

Attention to detail is in evidence everywhere. The menu books include a magnifying glass and a light. Bartenders have a handheld aerator for filling a glass with red wine. George, the pro who poured for the husband and I, was as smooth and charming (and knowledgeable) as they come. The lists of imported beers and wines are large and eclectic with short but quite helpful descriptions of flavor attached to each selection. I sipped on a splendid dry Riesling-Selbach-Oster Weissburgunder Trocken (2008).

Writing this has me eager to get back, bring friends, taste more and spend some leisurely time soaking up the chic civilized ambiance.


Bite Buff said...

Sounds lovely!

SBK said...

Went there for lunch. Food was awesome and we loooooved the patio. Beautiful and comfortable - we ended up hanging out for almost 3 hours!! It was great.

Brewer's Daughter said...

I've stopped in for cafe au lait and crossaints on my way to work, and I love it! Next up, I'll be tackling that very interesting European beer list!

David said...


Anonymous said...

Love it... the food, the service, the owners! A great place for almost any kind of gathering you can imagine. Relaxed, comfortable and so unique. They have the menu's on their website too.

Linda said...

What a special spot ! Had lunch at Fountain last week & loved the entire experience - the food, the surroundings, the service & chatting with Iris, the charming & very gracious owner. Am looking forward to going back to this delightful place, this coming week.
Try it - you won't be disappointed !

david emerson said...

I've eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner (I drive by the restaurant all the time) at Fountain. I enjoy the place so much because I find the menu unique and can satisfy any craving of mine- the prices are what ever I want- from a cup of coffee to a breakfast parfait to salad to dinner with wines by the glass.

I recommend Fountain to any/all.

David Emerson

Anonymous said...

It's artfully decorated in the Old World style but there's nothing on the lounge menu that translates into what I would call a dinner entree, with perhaps a salad -- and it's overpriced -