Peddler’s Bistro

September 13, 2012

Peddler’s Bistro would be hard to find if you didn’t go searching. It is located at the end of a dead-end road with a small sign that simply says, “Peddler’s.” The building itself is so overrun with wisteria it looks like Sleeping Beauty’s castle before the prince arrives. When you duck under the overhang of vines to enter, you discover it isn’t like any restaurant you have visited.

The interior is dark and intriguing, with grapevines wound with white Christmas lights. Shelves are filled with wine bottles, cookbooks and pottery. The menu is only written on a large chalkboard near the door.Everything about Peddler’s is intimate and comfortable and it’s almost like you’ve entered someone’s home for dinner. Which, in some ways, you have.

The staff consists of Alain Hasson, a French-born and -trained chef, in the kitchen and his wife, Beth, in the dining room. Unlike us, most other diners seemed to be regulars. Even though we were first-timers, Beth made us feel welcome in an unobtrusive way.

The bread that arrived first was soft and fresh with a crispy exterior and nice crumb. The olive-oil dipping sauce was incredibly flavorful, with bits of herbs and grated cheese in a balance to make you want more.

From the appetizer menu, the escargots ($15.75 for six) were tender and bathed in butter with just the right amount of garlic to suit them perfectly. For the warm-crusted chevre on organic greens ($14.75), the greens were gently and perfectly dressed so that every bite contained the flavor of the subtle homemade vinaigrette. The chevre was coated with a light layer of bread crumbs and fried in butter, which, of course, was delicious. But the price tag seemed a bit high for the actual dish. That became a theme of our dinner.

I ordered the sole meuniere entrée ($29). The simple beauty of a nice fresh piece of sole, sautéed in brown butter, liberally sprayed with lemon juice and topped with a sprinkling of parsley, made me understand how this dish could have transformed Julia Child’s life when she ate it for her first meal in Paris. It really is wonderful and chef Hasson did it right.

My husband ordered the duck a l’Orange ($29.75), which he was a bit disappointed with. He ordered it extra crispy and it was somewhat crisp, but not nearly what he hoped for. The serving size was half of a duck. The meat was tender, but the Grand Marnier reduction sauce was a bit too thick. Both the texture and flavor of the sauce seemed over-reduced.

Both dinners had a side of roasted potatoes, green beans and baby carrots that were unremarkable. The same cannot be said of the presentation of the dinners. Entrees are cooked in a heavy metal skillet and then served in the same pan. It’s fun, but those hot pans make sharing a lot harder.

We decided to splurge on two desserts, and both were impressive. The words “berry tart” bring to mind a small delicate tart, but what arrived instead was an enormous rustic tart with a lovely crust folded over a combination of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, topped with vanilla ice cream ($12.75).

But the biggest wow factor of the night was the tender crepe filled with vanilla ice cream served in a skillet with bananas Martinique ($15.75). The second it came out of the kitchen with big flames swaying over the top of the pan, it commanded the attention of the entire dining room. I suspect that it always does. It was a huge, boozy, and a bit overwhelming dessert.

It was a memorable, but expensive dinner. The coffee we enjoyed with our dessert was a fitting metaphor for the whole meal. It was very good coffee, but I’m not sure it was worth $4 a cup. On the subject of price, it’s important to know Peddler’s does not take any credit cards except American Express. So if you go, bring cash, and lots of it.


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