Stylish Eats with Yoanna House: Bistro Aix Bastille Day

July 13, 2016 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

In a new series of articles for print, Yoanna House debuts her Stylish Eats column for Metro Jacksonville highlighting menu changes at Bistro Aix just in time for Bastille Day. We arrive just in time for the arrival of new Executive Pastry Chef Michael Bump, new offerings by Executive Chef Christopher Cohen and some fun new bar items from Blair Reddington. For many years, Aix has been a great favorite of the urban core, and it is ready to move forward after its acquisition by Forking Amazing Restaurants. Check out the details after the jump.

Yoanna House, host of Fashion Gone Local and Stylish Minutes.

One of the things that is great about the local culinary scene is that there is constantly an exploration of new menus and new scenes within the foodie establishments.

You don't really have to travel to be stimulated with fresh ideas because the locals really do make an attempt to keep up with current trends. One such update is the new menu offerings in San Marco for Bastille Day.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Bastille Day, its a French National Holiday that celebrates the beginning of the French Revolution.  The Bastille was a notorious prison where pretty much anyone on the wrong side of the old Aristocracy was locked up. On July 14th, Parisian crowds stormed the Bastille, setting its prisoners free. By doing so, they strengthened the passion of the French Revolution and it has become their National Celebration (much like our 4th of July) to the present day.

The restaurant celebrating it is Bistro Aix which is undergoing its own quiet revolution with the arrival of Executive Chef Christopher Cohen, a Boston Native, and the introduction of Pastry Chef Michael Bump.

Christopher Cohen has come to really relish the Floridian Lifestyle.  In taking over the menu at Aix, he has kept the traditional menu items that long time regulars savored from Aix's establishing Chef Thomas Grey, but taking the presentation into a far more contemporary direction.

He has made it a mission to strengthen the connections to traditional cooking techniques and extremely high quality (and locally sourced when possible) ingredients, while introducing simple dishes whose highlight is based on the quality of ingredients and preparation.

Cohen is a relentlessly hard worker, in the kitchen both lunch and dinner shifts. We arrived in between the two shifts and got to chat with this very impressive, passionate chef.  We were very pleased to note that Cohen feels that the strength of his menu lies in making sure that the basics are done right. And by 'right', we mean the laborious, no corners cut, old fashioned basics that prove whether or not a continental chef really knows what they are doing.  Properly reduced and textured base stocks made from scratch. Slow roasts that rely on traditional techniques and cook times to maximize flavor potentials. Properly aged and hand processed meats and sauces. The kind of work that sometimes takes days of preparation before it can be presented on a plate to diners.

Cohen feels like he has that complex series of processes nailed down into the culture of Aix and his concentration now is on contemporary presentation architecture and plating.

We had the opportunity to sample some of the dishes that are about to be unveiled, in advance of their debut on Bastille Day,

One in particular stood out, Seared Sea Scallops with Crab Corn Chowder and Confit Pork Belly.  It will be appearing on their dinner menu beginning on the 14th.

We happened to stop in on the very day that this announcement went out:

July, 2016 — Jacksonville, Fla. — Forking Amazing Restaurants, a Jacksonville-based restaurant group comprising Ovinté, Bistro Aix and Il Desco, has hired Michael Bump as its first Executive Pastry Chef.
Bump now oversees the pastry program for each restaurant in the group’s portfolio. His responsibilities include menu development, management of other pastry chefs and dessert catering.
Matt Mannick, President of Forking Amazing Restaurants, noted Bump’s creativity and precision as two of his most impressive qualities.
“As a restaurant group, we pride ourselves on the quality of our concepts, customer service and cuisine. Michael will elevate all three,” said Mannick. “Michael’s curiosity for creative flavor combinations and commitment to mastering new techniques is evident in his work. We look forward to introducing him to our guests and launching his new dessert menus later this summer.”
Bump is a graduate of the Western Culinary Institute (now the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts) in Portland, Ore. He has more than 15 years of pastry chef experience, including two years working directly with James Beard Award-winning chefs Michael Smith and Debbie Gold at 40 Sardines in Leawood, Kan., and one year as the pastry chef at Michael Smith’s eponymous restaurant in Kansas City, Mo. Most recently, Bump spent eight years as the pastry chef at Restaurant Orsay.

As a consequence we were privileged to hang out with Michael and sample a few of the pastries, being assured the entire time that there will be a pretty exciting and new line of them coming up shortly. Here are a few of the items that will probably remain:

Apple Tart Tartin and a flawless vanilla bean ice cream---made fresh in house.

The creme brûlée reflects the restaurants much vaunted connection to the flavor palettes of Provence:  Lavender is its keynote, and it infuses the Creme Brûlée with memorable taste.

The creme brûlée being prepared by hand to order

The final presentation.  omg. Yum.

Macarons made with hazelnut flour, rather than the traditional almond, They were as richly flavored as you could want without the cloying sweetness that can ruin a macaron.

We made our way to the bar and caught up with Blair Reddington the bar manager.

The new cocktails reflect properly kitsch names for a Bastille Day menu (although we thought it would be more appropriate if at least one of them contained musket balls, a pitch fork and some kind of cherry liquor oozing down to the bottom) You can see the recipe ingredients at the bottom for a reference point.

The drinks were stupendously drinkable----not always a quality of hand crafted cocktails, one might note. And Blair has really created the perfect upscale environment for handcrafted mixology.  There are the premium bitters (see photo) the hand made tinctures, the laboriously assembled once off ingredients, the mortar and pestle. In short: everything three witches short of a Shakespearean supernatural tragedy---vitally necessary to the modern day libation alchemist.

La Selection. A nice whiskey drink on a solid block of craft ice.

Come on, you can admit it. Looks awfully tasty, doesn't it?  We can tell you from experience, it is!

The Champs Elysee. (although really it should be called the L'Arc de Triomph, because that is exactly what it is.)

And of course there is always the francophilic wine selection, should you want to take your Bastille Daying to its logical conclusion.

We won't tell you the outcome of drinking these gorgeous cocktails in the mid afternoon.  Mainly because we don't remember.  Suffice it to say that however things may have turned out, drinking them was viscerally pleasurable.  (And sorry about all the dishes and stemware, Blair.)

Yoanna says: "The thing I think is important is to keep an open mind about a menu even if you are going to a long time favorite establishment, Im the type of person that tends to always order the same thing from a place, and its a good idea to expand your adventures to unfamiliar item."

If you haven't been to Bistro Aix in a while, its past time to check out the place.  The menu has taken a dynamic direction while preserving the traditional techniques that have made it into such an enduring institution on the dining scene.

About Forking Amazing Restaurants:
Forking Amazing Restaurants is an independent restaurant group based in Jacksonville, Florida, which comprises Ovinté, Bistro Aix, Il Desco, and the Cowford Chophouse (currently under construction). To learn more about the FAR group, visit

text by Yoanna House and Stephen Dare
photos by Stephen Dare

About Yoanna House:
Yoanna is a fashion expert appearing on local and national news offering the latest fashion trends and style tips. She has been a spokeswoman for Careline Cosmetics, Sephora, Levi's, and Macy's. Yoanna has made host appearances for E!, Fashion Police, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Allure, Glamour Magazine, NBC's LX TV and NY Edition. Fluent in Spanish, she has appeared on TELEMUNDO providing style tips, and has appeared on the Tyra Banks Show as a feature correspondent, and trend reporter.

Locally, Yoanna was a talent manager for Jacksonville Fashion Week and can be seen monthly on "First Coast Living" on NBC 12 and ABC 25 as a beauty and fashion expert. She is also the brand ambassador for O.P.I Nail Care. Yoanna House, winner of America's Next Top Model, makes fashion accessible to the 904 with her new television destination Fashion Gone Local. During her downtime Yoanna finds her passion on being a student pilot, an avid Pilates and Gyrotonic enthusiast and spending time with her cherished ones.

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photo by Toni Smailagic