Toward the Light

Ravenna's neighborhood bakery has higher aspirations.

SUNFLOUR HAS A countrified feel: finicky regulars, pastoral paintings, an abundance of bright copper kettles whose brightness made me long for warm woolen mittens. Our server began by manfully swatting away several flies that seemed to think they had reservations as he seated us. The voice of someone across the dining room carrying on about Montel Williams, women who love too much, and "Could I have a triple espresso on ice, please?" echoed through the place while a baby screamed in the corner. Add to this Sunflour's specialty baked goods and brunches and the review writes itself. Right? Not so fast: Sunflour also wants to be a sophisticated dinner spot, like a sunflower stubbornly, gradually leaning toward the light. The fresh sheet was a veritable Don Juan, name-dropping French cheeses and purring terms of endearment to describe the featured wines. We ordered the cheese plate ($11) and the Cascade Cliffs 2001 petite sirah ($6.50/glass). The tart, full-bodied wine was an excellent springboard for the cheeses; the winner was a mild double-cream brie, a mellow mouthful on each thin slice of baguette. Soon enough, my friend, who perpetually orders salmon, was tucking into the Alaskan sockeye special ($17), while I, unwisely, followed the rich French cheeses with rich mushroom ravioli in cream sauce ($13). Salmon Boy declared this specimen flavorful if slightly dry. Both plates had a last-gasp-of-summer vibe: a festive pile of seasonal vegetables (read: squash) beside the fish, superfluous Roma tomatoes in a pasta sauce already brimming with spinach and large chunks of portobello. Cheese and cream sauce in one meal? OK, but ordering cr譥 brl饠($5) thereafter is suicide. I lusted to crack the hard sugar shell, ࠬa Am鬩e, but after two bites, I could barely lift my spoon. Meanwhile, Salmon Boy gobbled up a slice of house-made, Normandy-style apple pie ($3.75) while I, cursing the day human hands first squeezed an udder, longed for a breath of fresh air. As SUVs and buses barreled down Northeast 65th Street, it occurred to me that Ravenna has few stars in its culinary sky. Out of context, Sunflour was strangedelusions of fine-dining grandeur in a Kountry Kitchen settingbut, once outside, everything made sense. Queen Anne, Wallingford, Green Lakethese are places people go for fancy dinners. Ravenna barely crosses your mind. Nothing about Sunflour is memorable enough to be classic, but the place isn't totally forgettable, either. In a neighborhood like Ravenna, a touch of class may be all it takes to succeed.

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