I don’t seek out quiche, but I like it when I have it. The savory pie deserves a place in the Friday Food Fight ring.
Quiche dates to the medieval era in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, which borders Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. The word “quiche” derives from the German “kuchen,” which is the word for both cake and pie. What — they can’t tell the difference?.
In the 17th Century, quiche made its way to the French court of Louis XIV, who would remove one of his voluminous wigs and dig in. And because the king was into it, his French subjects got into it, too — quiche and wigs.
During WWII, the Germans occupied the Alsace-Lorraine region, and the German soldiers dug quiche too. It was the subsequent Teutonic influence that added cheese to the original recipe of eggs, cream, bacon and whatever else might be laying around.
Somewhat to my surprise, it wasn’t all that easy to find breakfast/lunch restaurants that serve quiche. But I managed. Our two combatants are: Neighborhood Joe in northeast St. Pete and Craft Kafe downtown.
Joe, you had me at Coltrane.
The legendary saxophonist’s 1963 version of the ballad “They Say It’s Wonderful” wafted through the urban/industrial space at 9:30 on Tuesday morning. As a tone-setter, it was indeed wonderful.
Neighborhood Joe is a boho coffee shop in an easy-to-miss strip mall on MLK Street at 26th Avenue. It’s been open seven years, but I’d never heard of it nor noticed it until I embarked on this FFF.
The space is larger than you’d expect, given its humble exterior. Basic tables, generously spaced, are accompanied by aluminum chairs. A counter is stationed on one side. Two women sat outside at a two-top. I wanted to stick my head out the door and say, “C’mon in. There’s AC … and jazz!”
We placed our order with Thomas, the owner, who appeared to be the only worker. He told us that the food is made in-house and that he uses cheese but no meat products.
I ordered two quiches: Mediterranean and Broccoli (both $8.25), with a 16-ounce coffee ($3).
The Broccoli quiche was a whole lot prettier — a solid wedge showing plenty of green and two ripe strawberry halves adding more color.
The Mediterranean had melted cheese dripping down the sides, and looked kinda gooey. Not as appetizing as its firmer cousin. The strawberries looked out of place.
Texture and Taste
I started with the Mediterranean and immediately realized I should’ve ordered one of the two or three other quiches offered. It was very feta-forward, with a tang I didn’t care for. The other dominant flavor came from the black olives, and I’m not a fan of those either. Further, this wedge had a gloppy texture that seemed to me quite un-quiche-like. I think it’s only fair, based on my poor selection, to exempt the Mediterranean from this competition.
The Broccoli quiche was an altogether different story. It had spot-on firmness, the cheese was melted just so, and the crust was sturdy and provided a contrast in flavor and consistency. Best of all, the broccoli — which can be pushy and obnoxious — melded elegantly with the rest of the ingredients.
Set in a prime location at Central Avenue and 2nd Street, this popular eatery had about a dozen folks queued up at 9:30 on Thursday. The indoor kiosk area was loaded with an assortment of baked goods and breakfast items, including five different quiches.
Behind the counter, three guys hustled out orders — all of the food is gluten-free — and it looked for all the world as if they were having fun.
I opted for the Broccoli Cheddar Quiche ($6.75). Bonnie chose a blueberry muffin ($3.75) and we each got a small regular coffee ($2.75).
Most customers sit outside in a spacious courtyard. It was a cloudy morning, so I broke my cardinal rule against eating al fresco in the summer and grabbed a table there, not far from Central.
The order landed on our table just as my butt hit the seat. The presentation was as basic as it gets: a slab of quiche — which looked overly brown on top — and a knife and fork wrapped in a paper napkin. (No strawberries.) Serving the coffee in a hefty light-blue mug was a nice touch.
Texture and Taste
The quiche was eggier, fluffier and and not as moist as that of Neighborhood Joe. About halfway in, the broccoli went MIA. The crust was on the dry side. The cheddar, a bit sharp, shone through. In all, the flavors integrated well.
I suspect that this slice of quiche may have sat on a shelf behind glass for just a smidge too long.
And the Winner of the Quiche Contest Is …
Both restaurant’s served worthy versions, but Joe’s quiche was moister and more balanced, plus the broccoli made a stronger impression.
I enjoyed the atmosphere at both places. Craft Kafe was lively and energetic, and I expect that lounging in the courtyard with a coffee and scone (or quiche) in spring time would be sublime. (As it stood, I was a tad clammy when we left yesterday, but avoided a full sweat.)
Neighborhood Joe was mellower and more intimate. Hearing John Coltrane in the air when I walked in — well, that more or less cinched it.