My mother, sister and I had not seen each other for some time. What better way to convene than over a brunch? Even better? Dine as the French and relish the meal, unhurriedly, drawing out our Saturday. A suggestion from my aunt, I booked a table at Barrington Country Bistro, a French-inspired restaurant not ten minutes away from my apartment in a strip mall I had driven past dozens of times without glancing at. Lingering at my place for a bit, trading items left from previous visits, we made our way at a healthy hour, arriving near one o’clock. Having my three-year old niece in tow, we were a bit uneasy as we spotted the crisp white table cloths. “Not to be worried”, the waiter assured us, “people dine here with their children all the time”. Sure enough there was a group of three friends with a toddler two tables away pleasantly sharing a plate piled high of pommes frites, the little boy sipping apple juice from a short beveled glass.
Seated and menu-ed we were questioned for drink choices. “Water, water and water” all echoing each other. Reconsidering our options and taking into account that it was, after all, a weekend afternoon where we would be partaking in French cuisine, we saw it only appropriate that wine should accompany the meal. The waiter brought over a bottle 2009 jané ventura, a blend of xarello-muscat-chardonnay that was similar to a Pinot Gris and we sipped and talked over some fresh bread and a very neat pat of butter. The restaurant offers a daily prix-fixe lunch menu, $22 for three courses which my mother and sister both decided to try. The soup of the day was a ravishing red color. I snuck a taste and was reminded again of how much I love pureed vegetable soups. This red pepper and carrot soup was silky and light, though butter and cream were undoubtedly present, it tasted too good.
Our main courses took quite some time, all on on par with our pace for the day. We had our wine and good company. My niece began to get a little ancy. She told my sister that she had to go to ‘potty’. My sister proceeded to take her. Five minutes later my niece exclaims she needs to go again. This time my mother offers to bring her. Returning to the table my niece declares very loudly to my sister (and, unintentionally, the restaurant) that grandma went potty too. Thankfully, the dishes came soon after that.
From the top: Amish Chicken, Niscoise Salad, Scottish Salmon with Bok Choy
Yes, I am the boring one who ordered a Niscoise Salad, but sometimes I have fervent cravings and the thought of anchovies and potatoes with a nice vinaigrette just got me all riled up and I couldn’t shake it. My sister’s chicken dish was a massive portion and very provincial in its copper pot. Underneath are cippolini onions (side note, but delicious braised in balsamic vinegar), haricot vert, cornichons, olives and roasted potatoes. I grew faintly envious when I tasted the broth that my mom’s salmon was resting in, though to be honest I can’t recall what the flavors were just that I licked my fork and kept eyeing the dish until it was gone. My niece at this point had willingly tasted, and enjoyed, everything as well. She is my favorite three-year old for obvious reasons.
Let us not forget dessert…
Between the delicate lavender crème brûlée and the Cirque du Soleil staged plate of chocolate and graham cracker, I was partial to the crème brûlée. Votes at the table were tied. Overall, I really enjoyed this restaurant. Next visit, I won’t be such a bore. Rillettes are on the docket.