Inside Fen's Gourmet Café & Market at WaterSound Beach
December 12, 2011 by Tom McGee
Fen's Gourmet Café & Market is located in an alluring setting at the entrance of WaterSound Beach on Scenic 30A. When you walk through the doors of the modern, immaculate restaurant, you are greeted with a cheery hello from owners Thomas and Noelle Platt, and with a symphony of scents from the succulent meats and pastries on display in the refrigerated glass cases. The aroma of fine coffee floats in the air. The chalkboard overhead describes delights which assure you will not go away hungry from this delightful little place.
Thomas and Noelle had a dream and followed it down to SoWal with their friend, Clyde Blakenship. Thomas and Clyde met while honing their culinary talents at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Atlanta. Thomas and Noelle married recently, then entered another partnership to open the doors of Fen’s in August. Clyde came down for a couple of weeks to help them get started, but fell in love with our unique community and decided to stay permanently.
Noelle and Thomas met at their health club. Prior to entering the deli world, Noelle had an interesting career as a dance instructor, part time nanny, interior designer and assistant to a District Attorney who prosecuted drug cases.
When I first went into Fen’s and saw all of the desserts and pastries on display, I told Noelle I would like one of each, but I restrained myself to a cup of their fresh coffee and a blueberry scone.
While talking with Thomas, I learned the name Fen’s came from his middle name, Fenton, which is an old family name. He explained me that he had been a private chef to a family in Atlanta until entering the Cordon Bleu, where he met Clyde. Platt said his family has vacationed in South Walton for years, so when he and Noelle decided to open a restaurant, they knew this was a place where their fine food and wines would be appreciated.
The restaurant itself is cozy. It has a few tables inside and a few more outside in the tranquil courtyard. Fen’s offers breakfast each morning, starting at 7:00 a.m. on the six days a week the cafe is open. My wife and I joined them for breakfast, where we found the scrambled eggs fluffy, the bacon as crispy as we both requested, and the wheatberry bread a hearty complement.
Thomas, Noelle and Clyde give themselves a break on Tuesday. Thomas sees their establishment as a high-end deli, from which families can select a variety of specially prepared foods to take home while they relax at our beautiful beaches. Of course folks are welcome to eat on location. Thomas says, “We plan to install a large family style table where guests can eat high-end food in a casual atmosphere”.
Clyde and I reminisce about retiring from our respective legal careers. Clyde practiced law for thirty-five years and was the City Attorney in Huntsville, Alabama in the late eighties and early nineties. We both remember Bud Kramer, the District Attorney who established the first Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville, which has been emulated all over the country.
But Clyde is now busier than ever making delicious desserts and pastries and overseeing the wine selection at Fen’s.
Clyde confides in me, “I not only prepare desserts and pastries and select wines, I taste them regularly.”
Being a native New Orleanian, I grew up learning to judge restaurants by their bread pudding. I watched Noelle pour a white chocolate sauce on top of a dinner plate-sized bread pudding with great anticipation. When Clyde adorned it with fresh blueberries, I knew that I had to taste a piece and was well-rewarded with a sensationally light--for bread pudding--dessert that stimulated all my NOLA-trained endorphins.
This is Friday and there will be a wine tasting at 5:00 p.m., and on each subsequent Friday. So for now I’d better get out of the way of this delightful couple, Thomas and Noelle, and their friend Clyde so they can prepare for their guests.
If you crave good food and wine in a friendly surrounding, or to take home, I suggest you treat yourself to a visit to Fen’s. You will make new friends that will cheer you up with their enthusiasm and your tummy will thank you.