Tuesday, January 1, 2013

We Sent 2012 Away in Finest Way: Dinner at Pistou

I'm not the type to splurge. I need to economize, save money. I've vowed to try to redouble those efforts in 2013.

But, as a last hurrah, I decided to treat husband Jeff to a four course dinner at a restaurant called Pistou in Burlington, Vermont. The place had been recommended to me, but I still had little idea what I was getting into.
Logo for the great Pistou restaurant,
Burlington, Vermont

The place is expensive, by my standards, anyway. But I took the chance. The food had better be good. Jeff deserves the best. Don't blow it for me, Pistou, I thought.

Thank goodness everything went way beyond expectations, and gave us a nice sendoff to 2012.

I'm so used to and disappointed and overwhelmed by American restaurants, no matter what ethnic cuisine they offer. There seems to be some law that U.S. restaurants must offer diners an enormous pile of food that's about the size of a leaf pile under a 100 year old maple tree after foliage season ends.

This is apparently called "value." The food might be mediocre, but there sure is a lot of it, so quit your bitchin' you fat diner you!

Pistou's portions weren't big at all. Satisfying, yes, but they didn't need five gallon pails for each serving. Normal sized plated did fine. The restaurant went for flavor over filling us up at the pig trough.

The New Years menu at Pistou was a four course affair that opened with oyster in a cream sauce, then scallop in another sauce, then ribeye in yet another sauce, and for dessert, goat cheese of all things, in guess what? A sauce!

Well, OK some of the sauces were actually purees, but why get technical?

You didn't know what Pistou would serve you until you actually entered the restaurant and they informed you with a small list that accompanied the huge wine list they put in front of you.

Wine lists are daunting, so it was with great relief that they gave us the option of letting them choose what wine they would serve with each course.

You could see into the kitchen from where Jeff and I were sitting and I was stunned at who was cooking. Children, really. They were young men, a bit scruffy, probably in their early 20s. They looked like a trio I'd meet at some college frat party.

But there were no fraternity hijinks in the kitchen, no sir!  These guys were serious. And knew what they were doing. While many 20 year guys can't boil water, they deftly mixed ingredients in a way that beautiful aromas wafted into the dining room. 

This was promising.

Then the first course came out. Oysters.  I hate oysters.

Somehow with the puree they were in, I actually liked them. I don't like the slimy texture of Oyster. But with the other ingredients,  I found myself not gagging over oysters. A first!

And since Pistou is such a nice restaurant, with such nice staff and nice fellow customers, it was a relief not to cause a scene like that.

Next, the scallop dish came out. Just a single, large Maine scallop, sitting atop another complex, delicious puree. 

The puree was delicious, the scallop was prepared perfectly. But when you combined the puree with the scallop, it became the best bit of seafood I've ever had.

Next came the ribeye, again served with a puree. Same delicious experience.

They told the ingredients they used in these dishes,   but I can't remember them all. And I thought it would be gauche to whip out my reporter's notebook a pen and tape recorder and conduct wide ranging, noisy and demanding interviews in the middle of the dining room.

The wine they chose for us was, to my palette, so-so when sipped as independent units.  But when you had some with the course it was paired with, it was perfect.

 The takeaway: Pistou put Jeff and me in exactly the right mood to say goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013.

The downside to this whole experience: There's no way I can make anything a tenth as good in my kitchen as I had at Pistou.

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