Young ladies behind the counter immediately asked me if I needed help. I had not even had time to adjust my eyes to the indoor lighting. A case of fast attentive service or just misjudgment in timing? No harm done. The place is indeed well lighted, a clean well lighted place indeed. The music, background classical, was well selected for a sunny and comfortable Saturday morning.
After a few seconds , I asked one of the young ladies: Do you have bagels this morning? With very little sadness she – like a coached artisan - replied: “so sorry , we do not”. The answer did not bother me, as I had already begun to realize this was a different kind of place. A bagel breakfast did not fit in.
It was not my first time at PQ, not even my third or forth. I had been there many times, and I no longer kept count. I was just too intent on traditional bagels that I had forgotten about my past experiences at PQ.
So let me quickly tell you about it. This is a place where you are greeted by communal tables, a place where families can breakfast and dine with sleepy children slowly who come back to life only after their second sip of handmade hot chocolate and a few messy bites into freshly baked baguettes smeared with noisette, a not overly sweet one, butter and french inspired marmalades.
At this particular PQ, the walls sported minimal accoutrements. My attention was caught by an interesting arrangement of slightly rusty, definitely aged metal tractor seats, which were laid out in a three by three grid formation, something that you might expect to see in dust bowl era farm photography. I could not take my eyes off of that impromptu artistic assembly. It really made me fantasize. I almost could here the chickens again of my childhood.
The open kitchen, well, it was really not that open. The kitchen was semi-enclosed by stained glass french windows. You could get a glimpse of the busy bees inside, diligently preparing dishes left and right. It was there, beyond those faux window dressings, that that the freshly baked french rolls I had ordered, were slowing baking for a second time, tanning and building their fragrant crusts. Once in a while you could see somebody peek out, or drop a set of fruity plates, no bell ringing. Just good food waiting to be served to their deserving owners. Also at PQ, do not expect to catch a glipse of Alice or Flo through those openings: they don't work there.
My waitress, as well as the on duty manager, took extra care in informing me many times that my order would be out soon and that they greatly appreciated my patience. The fresh french rolls at PQ were really fresh, "fresh" in the sense that they were indeed just baked for just-in-time consumption. As a result, you might have to wait a few extra minutes. It was not a problem for me for I understood that you just can't make ovens go faster. And folks, they were worth the wait.
Moral: When not in NYC, do not ask for bagels. Open up folks, sometimes countryside - correction old country - inspired places do exist, right here in the middle of our beloved suburbia.