Bistro du Glace and Patisserie, Deep River
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Part of bistro cooking's cozy appeal is familiarity, and du Glace obliges with a menu that presents very few surprises. Onion soup is one, prepared in the old Normandy style, a velvety, rich, white cream soup with half a dozen heady flavor nuances running through it. Not the cheese-topped onion soup we know so well, but a seductive alternative.
Chicory salad with lardons is one of my favorite salads. My tablemates liked du Glace's version, but I thought the dressing of warm bacon fat and vinegar was too lavishly applied along with a plethora of chunky, country bacon so the salad became almost a meal in itself.
My favorite appetizer, one I rarely order because it usually disappoints, was a lovely plate of frog legs Provençale. Tender and sweet white meat, slipping easily off the bone, with a whisper of garlic, in a gossamer sauce: We are truly in France-or gourmet heaven.
The simplest dish we tried was flounder meunière, innocent of bacon or breading or sauce, just sautéed in butter and served with celery root purée and mashed potatoes. Unexciting but fresh and a safe bet for those who prefer plain food.
The aforementioned duck sausage turned up in Cassoulet du Glace, along with white beans and duck meat, herbs and spices, slow-roasted to harmonize the flavors-a fine example of a famous dish. Grilled duck breast was served medium-rare in thick juicy slices alongside a mound of rice topped with a duck leg cooked confit-style and presented whole.
But even in this rich crowd, that old standby coq au vin was a winner. When I make coq au vin, I start by cutting up a chicken. The chef at du Glace tucks half a chicken intact into a casserole to simmer, along with small white onions, in a glorious dark wine sauce until the meat is almost fork-tender and the flavors are well and truly married.
After satisfying our hunger for the robust pleasures of bistro food, should we give dessert a pass? Don't be silly, we're in a pâtisserie. Only four desserts are offered. Each was better than the last. A pristine, very creamy crème caramel, a warm apple tart consisting of paper-thin slices of apple atop a flaky crust, a dark chocolate mousse bombe with a white chocolate heart, and a pear and frangipane tart so buttery-crusted, so heady with almond flavor, so addictive, it was a good thing the pastry shop was closed. Who knows what sweet mischief I'd get into there.
Behind all this edible temptation are two chefs, Bill and Jackie von Ahnen, who met in culinary school, worked in Manhattan, at the famed Chanticléer on Nantucket, at the Copper Beech Inn in Ivoryton and then, together with partner Doug Holt, opened du Glace in Deep River a year ago. They're not French but they might as well be. To a quiet little Connecticut River town they have brought a true taste of The City of Light.
Bistro du Glace and Pâtisserie
156 Main St., Deep River (860/526-2200)
Dinner Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday 5 to 9, Friday and Saturday till 10. The pâtisserie is open Tuesday through Sunday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wheelchair access. Major credit cards. Price range: appetizers $4 to $11, entrées $17 to $26, desserts $5 to $6.