Two Upstate Bistros

Planning to spend the whole summer celebrating our wedding anniversary was such a good idea in so many ways! Not only did we travel and discover new places, but we also enjoyed a variety of taste experiences worth noting. In mid-July we took off toward the west on route 20 for three days in the Finger Lakes. After having lunch beside the lake in pretty Cazenovia, we arrived at our destination: Skaneateles (pronounced, believe it or not, “skinny atlas”)! We’ll remember the clear waters of the lake, shopping and walking down the streets of the cute town, and visiting the surrounding vineyards. One of our best memories of all, however, is the meal we had at Joelle’s French Bistro.

Located in a charming farmhouse north of town on State Street, the bistro is run by two former residents of New York City who chose to ditch the rat race for a calmer life upstate. The Moroccan-born Joelle and her French husband have created a lovely ambience with cuisine to match. Our first decision was whether to eat out on the patio or inside. A kind of compromise was reached: to peruse the menu out back and then to move in for dinner. Then the most difficult choices began …what to have from a list of delicious-sounding appetizers and entrées. The offerings of the first course were varied and many were oh, so tempting: frogs legs, onion soup, a warm goat-cheese croquette. Finally, my husband picked the country pâté and I went for the beef carpaccio which turned out to be a huge serving of deliciously raw beef, the best I’ve ever had. The only other diners inside that night were two couples at a neighboring table who had ordered another one of my favorites: escargots à la bourguignonne. When we told them how great the aroma was from their appetizer, they insisted that we use our bread to try the leftover sauce. Outstanding! There were the typical elements…butter, garlic, and parsley, but the chef had added some fresh basil which brightened the sauce, giving it a slight anise taste. Next time we’re there I’ll definitely have the snails. For my main dish I had originally ordered the veal tagine, but had to settle for chicken since they were out of veal. While my entrée was good, my husband’s vegetable couscous was really delicious and, as we like to say, a true test of the kitchen. All of that topped off with champagne and crème brûlée for dessert—what could be better?

Interestingly enough, we no longer have to leave the Capital District to get a really good meal. A strip mall in our town recently saw the opening of The Epicurean Bistro and Wine Bar, a branch of a restaurant in Troy. After reading a stellar review in the newspaper, we headed over there one evening in August. For a first course, I must admit that I was quite attracted to the salade au crottin de chèvre, a warm goat cheese salad. Yet, after our experience at Joelle’s, there was no way I was going to pass up the escargots that night, especially when Pastis butter was the basis for the sauce. Although the sauce for the snails at The Epicurean was good, it didn’t quite measure up to the one in Skaneateles. Husband, who has hardly ever encountered a dish of entrails that he could pass up, had to have the special that night: pan-fried brains. (I kid you not!) His evaluation: they could have been more crispy and the sauce was a tad too garlicky for his taste. For his main course, my husband continued his peculiar ways, having the calf’s liver, which he really enjoyed and even I have to admit it wasn’t bad. I went for the more conventional steak/frites, which compared favorably to the dish I'd had at Tree in Manhattan. It was especially fun speaking French with the Parisian-born chef Dominique Brialy. Bon appétit, everyone!


Lisa M. Nolan said...

OMG. You made everything sound so good. The next time we dine out (ha, when will that be?), I am definitely going to you for a recommendation. Great blog!

Mme Boisvert said...

Thanks so much, Lisa. Glad you're enjoying living vicariously through the blog! :)

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