Apr 012016

I mentioned at the past couple of wine education events that we were thinking about doing a social event at a local restaurant. We have been trying restaurants in the Worcester area with this in mind. Glen and Mary suggested a restaurant called the Metro Bistrot at 176 Main Street, Southbridge, MA. From our home it took about 35 minutes to drive there during rush hour traffic. Coming home it took about 25 minutes. Below I detail the experience we had with Glen and Mary there last night.

The Metro Bistrot is nondescript from the outside, but upon entering the establishment, we immediately began admiring the metal sculptures and colorful impressionist art like small children. The dining room is quaint, cozy and inviting with pale blue walls and vintage French café music softly playing in the background. At the back of the room behind a wooden countertop bar, there is a teeny tiny open kitchen. I felt as if I we entered a portal and were transported to a Parisian Bistro.

We found Mary and Glen in one of the three dining areas at a table next to a stretch of windows framing a large metal sculpture. Even before being seated ourselves, I noticed that Mary and Glen’s wine had been poured into a decanter shaped like a chemist’s volumetric flask and I thought to myself, professional wine service from a BYOB restaurant? The chairs were padded and comfortable and the tables were steady and had adequate space for four people. Rikki leaned over to me and said, “I like this place already”.

With sophistication and grace our server opened our bottle of wine then took our order.

Glen asked the server if the cassoulet was gluten free. Soon, Jay Livernois “the cook” appeared with the large cassoulet tin in hand. It was gorgeous with creamy beans and tender nubs of meat. Oh, and yes was gluten free.

Now for the food. Rikki and I started by splitting an order of escargots. They were cooked with parsley and garlic butter and presented in their shells – very traditional. The plate was accompanied with tiny spoon shaped tongs and pick forks. They were uncommonly tender and assertively flavored things of beauty. I sopped up the butter with a slice of crusty artisanal bread.

For my main, I ordered the boudin noir (blood sausage), since I have never seen it on a restaurant menu in the Worcester area. It was unforgettable, deep and dark, succulent and meltingly soft served with onions and mushrooms in a syrupy reduction. Rikki gave me a taste of her filet medallions with foie gras. The meat was an excellent cut, cooked to perfection, tender, tasty and devoid of any fat. The foie gras was buttery, melted on my tongue, and of superior quality.

For dessert, Rikki and I split the bananes au chèvre—bananas baked in goat cheese with vanilla ice cream. An unlikely combination that proved to be fresh, unctuous and not too sweet.

After dinner, Marie-Paule Marthe co-owner of the bistro and Jay’s wife came to our table to say hello. She was born and raised in France. One side of her family are cheese makers and the others are vintners from Bordeaux. Many of the dishes at the bistro are her family’s recipes. In France, she was an actress and teacher. She treated our table to two songs performed in French. Confidently and effortlessly, she sang in a lovely voice with her hands gesturing at just the right moments and her head gently tilting back and forth. She made eye contact with everyone at the table and had our undivided attention and we listened. It turns out she can sing in 8 different languages.

The proprietor Jay Livernois then joined us. Humbly saying, “I am not a chef, I am a cook.” He was born in Southbridge and received his training in Italy, France, and other countries. He is passionate about food and the proper preparation of traditional dishes. He offered us complementary Calvados Napoléon digestif from his private stash. Of course we accepted. Rikki leaned over to me and said, “This is my new favorite restaurant.”

We talked for a while about a number of topics. Jay was telling about a recent trend of really bad bistro food. Some restaurants use mass-produced frozen food that is reheated just before serving. Also, there is a movement where some chefs are trying to update the tried-and-true classics with cost cutting techniques such as cutting duck fat with cheap canola oil or substituting overly salty bacon fat.

“Want it your way? Go next door to subway.” Jay takes pride in his food. He told us a couple of stories that we found quite entertaining. One customer asked for cheese before the meal. Jay would not serve him the cheese because “it should be eaten at the end of the meal”. One customer said, you have oysters Marsala and you have chicken, take the Marsala sauce and put it on the chicken, I want chicken Marsala. Jay said, “No, that’s not on the menu. Go next door to Subway.”

We also talked about his service staff. Jay has a rule that the staff must eat the food at the restaurant which he provides free of charge. How else can the service staff offer advice and describe the dishes?
We discussed the possibility of having a wine dinner at the bistro. For $40 inclusive of tax and tip, Jay can offer us a 5 – 7 course gourmet dinner. The courses would include soup, fish, poultry, meat, cheese, and dessert. Jay gets raw milk cheese from a small local farm in Douglas. I found it amusing, he’s allergic to raw milk, but will eat the cheese knowing the consequences because he enjoys the taste so much.

When Jay creates the menu, he will also give me some pairing suggestions and I will acquire the wine. Our wine budget will be $30. The dates we are looking at are the evening of Saturday, May 21st, or the afternoon of Sunday, May 15th. If we go with Saturday evening, there is a limit of 20 people. If we go with Sunday afternoon, we can accommodate up to 40 people.

For those that are traveling a long distance, the Sturbridge Hotel and Conference Center is a 5 minute walk to the restaurant.

We hope you can join us. Use this link to vote for your preferred day: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JCRGGRC