The Restaurant Week

In 1992, a small number of enterprising restaurants in New York City coordinated efforts to create the first of what would become “Restaurant Week.” These pioneer restaurants offered a lunch-only $19.92 prix fixe menu from Monday through Friday of the one week, and its great success has since altered the promotional schedules of restaurants throughout the world. From the entire country of Brazil to the city of Bangalore in India and almost everywhere else, diners can find opportunities to choose from specially priced menus for a limited time each year.

Each town’s, city’s, county’s, region’s and country’s Restaurant Week promotions are different. Some events last for only a few days, others are many days or only week days and may occur more than once a year. Prix fixe prices vary, also. There are Restaurant Week events that coordinate with area festivals or have  programs such as cocktail competitions, beer tastings or cooking exhibitions. The size and shape of the Restaurant Weeks are as varied as the places where they occur.

The original format for Restaurant Week may have changed as it expanded around the world, but in NYC the 3-course Prix Fixe remains the only available special menu even as the number of weeks it’s offered has increased.

With homage to the original NYC promotion, SoVT Restaurant Week offers a Prix Fixe 3-course menu at many fine dining restaurants in the southernmost Vermont counties of Bennington and Windham. The twice-yearly event is scheduled when it may be less crowded by seasonal tourism but still a beautiful area to visit. Many of the restaurants are part of some of the most remarkable New England inns while others are located in historic rural towns and small cities. A full list of participating restaurants can be found at the website http://www.sovtrestaurantweek.com

The Sprint 2014 SoVT Restaurant Week promotion features 3-course lunches for $20.14 and 3-course dinners for $30.14 between April 25th and May 4th.

The Spring 2014 SoVT Restaurant Week promotion features 3-course lunches for $20.14 and 3-course dinners for $30.14 from April 25th to May 4th.

Visit and “Like” our Facebook page for updates on all the information you need to plan your meals at the SoVT Restaurant Week!

www.facebook.com/SoVTRestaurantWeek

A Napkin is Very Intimate

It sits on your lap, touches your mouth and greets your greasy fingers with abundant appetite. A linen napkin is soft and pure and willing to embrace and forgive; its whole purpose is to absorb your every gastronomic misdirection, absolve you and hold all evidence on a folded square of fabric then removed.

If you’ve never considered cloth napkins before perhaps now you can; the quality of your dining experience really does depend on them.

Even before you sit at a restaurant table the napkin influences the impression you have of what is to come. The napkin may be folded like a swan gliding on a plate-lake in one restaurant, a tulip bursting from a water glass vase in the next, or lightly nesting the flatware in a simple fold in yet another.

Image

Glassware, linen and tableware – silverware, candle, salt and pepper, etcetera – are all an indication of the type of meal to come. Casual dining might have paper napkins around a simple fork and knife on a bare table; fine dining could poise soft linen in tall stemware at place settings of 6 or more pieces. In all cases your expectations of the meal begin with the napkin.

Brasserie L’Oustau folds its linen napkins simply to reflect the casual and respectful spirit of the brasserie. We take you to the table where you will settle and easily enjoy your dinner and our hospitality. There is no pretense or posturing about our brasserie experience and the simple napkin fold indicates you are at a comfortable restaurant with good food, service and community.

Image

The simple fold of the linen napkins at Brasserie L’Oustau make it easy for diners to settle themselves and continue on to their biggest challenge: deciding what to order from our extensive menu.

There is one exception to our “keep it simple” paradigm; the bread basket nestles sliced baguettes on linen with an “artichoke” fold. Sometimes we like to shake things up a bit.

http://www.napkinfoldingguide.com

Waiter! There’s a Dog In My Soup!

Many travelers to France would confirm they’ve seen dogs practically eat off the plates in restaurants throughout the country, but dogs in the US are almost never found inside restaurants. Surely Americans care about their dogs as much as the French, but is our anxiety about germs the cause or is there something else that keeps our pooches locked in the car or at home while we are dining out?

Image

Ella was allowed in the restaurant for this photo shoot on a day we were closed. A woman, thinking we were open, entered to have lunch and under her arm was a beautiful long-haired dachshund! It happened that she was visiting from France.

Both countries prohibit animals inside restaurants by law; only service animals can legally enter any restaurant. You might find a hand-bag-sized pooch on a diner’s lap discretely taking bits of food by hand, sometimes large dogs snooze below a table or keep watch at the door, but it is always at the discretion of the restaurant owner who would face fines if discovered by law enforcement. Restaurant owners in France are more lenient to allow dogs at the inside tables, but it is as illegal there as it is in the US.

Blame it on the local health ordinances. Or if you prefer, give credit to the local health ordinances. Although a clean and well-trained dog might be welcome in most places, an untrained dog can cause too many safety and hygiene problems in areas that are crowded with customers and their food, and at times even a well-trained dog can become unruly in a busy and noisy place. More restaurants in France are starting to prohibit dogs inside perhaps for the same reasons as in the States; a serious problem is more likely to occur or a customer to complain when a dog is involved.

In France and many areas of the US dogs are legally allowed at outdoor dining tables if the restaurant owner agrees to it and only if the tables are accessible without passing inside. Brasserie L’Oustau is fortunate to be in an area of Vermont where we can welcome dogs to all our outdoor tables, provide them with a bit of shade and a dish of water, and send them on their way with a home-made organic Bon-Bones™ treat! So be sure to bring your “Fifi” or “Olivier” when you come to enjoy a thoroughly French meal on the terrace at Brasserie L’Oustau.

http://www.bringfido.com/restaurant/state/vermont/
http://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/pet-travel/pet-friendly-restaurants.htm
http://suite101.com/article/with-a-dog-in-france–travel-hotels-restaurants–sightseeing-a263216

Where Cocktails Come From, and Where They Go

It’s Springtime and we’ve introduced a new cocktail menu. To say our customers appreciate it would be too formal and too mild; let’s just say that people are drinking it up!

What makes this cocktail menu so successful is that it reflects the trend in cocktails. An urban trend realized in rural Vermont.

The reason cocktail trends originate in cities is a simple one. Change comes from the young, the young mostly live and play in the city and the city has more restaurants and bars than, well, anything except ATMs. Most importantly, young urbanites won’t drink a cocktail just because it’s new; it has to be good and it has to fit within their generation’s larger trends of fashion, lifestyle and personal expression. It has to be fresh and unique and edgy, just like they are.

The Fellini Bellini, served on Mother’s Day 2012.

When it was time to update the Brasserie L’Oustau cocktail menu from cold-weather potions to more sprightly spirits for warmer months, we requested recommendations from as many reliable sources as we could find – servers, bartenders, managers, friends, journals and professional publications from far and wide. We discovered that pear and peach are this year’s cutting edge flavors so we included the Bella Pear Martini and Fellini Bellini. If someone likes a cocktail with lemon or lime, we have the newly inspired Ipanema Caipiroska and Leblon Caipirinha. After all, we like to add a little crispness to the warm summer breezes at Brasserie L’Oustau.

The cocktails do more than reflect the weather and trends of the day; they need to coordinate with the menu. In May, when the New England weather more consistently turned from winter to warmer, it was time to redesign the lunch and dinner menus and we incorporated ingredients that would be in season and welcome during the Spring and Summer. The lighter, sweeter, more aromatic dishes of Spring replaced the heavier comfort foods from colder months. It was a perfect time to bring the cocktails into the light as well with fruit purees, acidic touches and carbonation.

Our outdoor tables are a perfect place to dine during the warmer months, and we look forward to the pastels and bubbles of our seasonal cocktails adding a touch of celebration to the fresh Vermont breezes, warming sunlight and seasonal menus.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060808021709AAJq6P3

Hospitality Isn’t A Simple Act

Trying to explain hospitality isn’t easy and I’ve been stubbornly working for many days to discover this. I could look up “hospitality” in the dictionary or talk to a professor in the Cornell University hospitality program, but one answer wouldn’t be enough and the other would be too much for this arena. But hospitality is one of the most important considerations to Brasserie L’Oustau’s operations; providing a high level of hospitality is what makes the difference between acceptable and exceptional service, between a satisfied customer and one who will return again and again.

The goal of hospitality at Brasserie L’Oustau is to make you feel as though you’re a member of a special club, respected as soon as you walk in, and by the time you leave we want you to feel thoroughly cared for and satisfied with everything about your meal. We want you to return so we will know more about you to provide better service, such as who is your preferred server, if you have menu favorites or allergies and what table you would enjoy most.

When Michel Boyer opened Brasserie L’Oustau de Provence in early 2012 he brought more than a new restaurant to Southern Vermont; he introduced diners to a level of hospitality developed during decades of hotel and restaurant management around the world, most recently at Brasserie 8 ½ in New York. For nine years previous he was General Manager for food services at the New York headquarters for the United Nations. He proved his ability to understand and respect many different cultural hospitality paradigms and how to provide them through rigorous employee training and supervision.

Michel is keenly aware that the essence of hospitality is respect, both internally and outwardly to all customers. Our core staff members bring talent, enthusiasm and commitment to their positions and treat one another and their jobs with respect. These things bolster the positive attitude of all employees and set the foundation for any personal and professional interaction throughout the day. The culmination of this attitude occurs when we serve our customers with care and attentive respect.

A top hospitality employee has many characteristics which cannot be taught: warmth, optimism, curiosity, honesty, empathy, respect, diplomacy, sincerity, ambition, responsibility and accountability. We are able to hire talented and committed staff following rigorous interviews, screening and intuition. Michel’s intuitive abilities have been developed after years of extensive observing and evaluating the potential in many candidates. Being very selective assures that our customers have a consistent fine dining experience, and only people who complement the team and our service paradigm can do that.

Hospitality is the ancient practice of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm,  friendly and generous way. Brasserie L’Oustau hospitality makes those ancient practices real for today’s guests.

http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/00437

Cork and Cap Conundrum

Screw-cap bottled wines were once reserved for rotgut quality, gallon jug sizes and cheap prices. The better wines would all use a cork stopper. But in the 1970s a few bottlers began to introduce a higher quality wine with screw caps arguing the barrier against oxidation was more complete with metal than cork, and “tainted” wines (where the flavor of the cork passes into the wine) would be eliminated. As true as all that might be, the tradition of the cork stuck along with the flourish of it being pulled from the bottle.

The characteristics of cork itself – air and water tight, pliable and inexpensive – all contributed to making cork the preferred bottled wine stopper for hundreds of years. It is naturally lightweight, rot resistant, fire resistant, termite resistant, soft and buoyant – the perfect barrier between the wine and that which would damage it: air.

One downside to cork is that if it dries out completely it will shrink and become brittle, ergo corked wines should be kept on their sides and the corks wet if they are to be stored for a long time. Stoppers have recently been developed using synthetic materials which would reduce this problem, but the long-term affects of these materials on the wine itself isn’t yet known.

As wine production demands have increased and bottling techniques improved – and perhaps because it simply takes many decades to change some traditions – more and more people are beginning to appreciate the benefits of an easy-to-use and consistent airtight seal.  At Brasserie L’Oustau, it is with the same respect that our servers twist a cap on a bottle of fine wine or pull a cork, it’s just a little less difficult.

http://home.howstuffworks.com/question550.htm
http://wine.about.com/od/storingwines/a/Screwcaps.htm
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26966-2004Oct12.html
http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/29/great-wines-cork-lifestyle-wine_0129_wines_cork_screw_cap.html
http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/Hogue-Cellars-Releases-Results-of-Wine-Closure-Study-Switches-to-Screw-Caps_22059
http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Packaging/Largest-wine-producer-in-the-US-adopts-screw-tops

Staying On Course with Comment Cards

Blogs and review sites are a wonderful way to find restaurants by reading notes from people who have actually eaten at them. However, they’re the worst ways for a restaurateur to discover that a customer has been unhappy with their experience. It’s too late for the restaurant to correct a problem immediately and directly with the customer, and the review might make potential customers less inclined to go to the restaurant at all.

Image

Michel personally reads all comment cards at Brasserie L’Oustau.

Like many fine restaurants, Brasserie L’Oustau offers all customers an opportunity to leave ratings and comments about their experience with us, either by name and information or anonymously. Our comment card is included in the bill folder at the end of the meal where there will be a pen as well. There are 9 rating scores, a few specific questions and an opportunity for personal comments which might take no more than a few minutes to complete.

All comment cards are important and taken very seriously; the praises help us know what we’re doing right, and the suggestions can lead us to make further improvements. It isn’t important for us to know who left the comment (although we appreciate that information) but it is important that we continuously get direct customer feedback; customer expectations are constantly evolving and we will stay ahead of the curve only as long as our customers keep us informed. Thankfully, well over half of our comment cards are returned with notes for all variety of reasons, and each is helping us make Brasserie L’Oustau a better restaurant for everyone.

With decades of experience in the hospitality industry, Michel Boyer opened the doors to Brasserie L’Oustau with the power of knowledge and self-confidence. The comment cards help keep our doors open to everyone expecting the finest dining experience. We thank all our customers who have or will complete a comment card at Brasserie L’Oustau, and we look forward to your return.

Image