Wednesday, February 24, 2010

French Fix

It was my birthday last week. To celebrate, a friend took me to a place we both love, Le Bistro du Beaujolais in Olmstead Falls. We’ve been yearning to get there ever since it reopened at the end of October, after being closed for ten months to rebuild from a terrible fire.

The original 1830 house, designated a historic landmark, has been beautifully and lovingly restored and looks almost exactly as it did before. The two rooms are cozy and homelike, pretty in a simple understated way. Owners George and Claudie D’Arras are as gracious and welcoming as ever. And the menu and wine list are still delightfully, authentically French. We had a wonderful meal and a long leisurely evening that left us feeling as though we’d dined in a bistro on a side street in Lyon, where the couple is from, and not in a restaurant just 30 minutes from Cleveland.

We feasted first on a basket of crusty bread and a charcuterie plate- triangles of dense housemade pâté, two kinds of sausage, one coated in herbs de provence, mesculun greens and cornichon. I am fond of almost everything served here so I knew choosing an entrée would be difficult. Luckily Georges settled the matter by whispering that he had enough coq au vin left in the kitchen for the two of us. The marinated slow cooked dish and true country style comfort food isn’t regularly available so we couldn’t possible say no. And I’m glad we didn’t. Served in a big bowl, the dark meat was incredibly tender and full of complex earthy flavor, and the noodles were studded with pearl onions, mushrooms and carrots and doused with the sauce created by long simmering. We asked him for, and received, a wine recommendation that led us to a fantastic (and really reasonably priced) bottle of Bordeaux Chateau Vergnes Beaulieu 2005, a Cabernet Merlot blend that was smooth and balanced. We went with apple tart for a finish, and what Georges calls a “zip zip” of heavenly Muscat de Rivesaltes 1990. He and Claudie even sang to Happy Birthday to me, in French of course which made it better.

I keep thinking about things I want to eat from Claudie’s menu- mussels steamed in white wine; baked skate in a vermouth reduction; stewed rabbit; and honey roasted duck, so its clear I’ll have to get back soon.

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