There's much to be thankful for as the holidays approach for Georges and Claudie d'Arras, owners of Le Bistro du Beaujolais (8134 Columbia Rd., 440-235-8883, lebistrodubeaujolais.com), including 11 years in business, customers from around the country, and the addition of a granddaughter to their family. During the last week of October, they also began a brand new tradition based on a classic dish.
Every Wednesday night, Le Bistro du Beaujolais will be offering two shared tables of six the chance to dine on raclette, with a reservation at $40 a seat. "The patrons are just starting to come," says Georges. "So far, every Wednesday we had more customers for it."
The idea for the evening originated during a Facebook interaction with customers, who became increasingly interested in the dish after a discussion on a similar dish from southern France.
"We used to do once or twice a year a raclette on Sunday with friends at home or at the restaurant," Georges explains. "When I spoke about it to my wife, Chef Claudie, she said, 'Yes, why not?'"
Raclette is a cheese primarily used for melting, and also refers to the French dish derived from heating the cheese and then scraping the melting cheese onto a plate. The warm cheese is paired with various accoutrements. D'Arras refers to raclette as an Alpine specialty because of its Swiss origins.
Initially, a hearty spread prepared by farmers and peasants, the version served at Le Bistro du Beaujolais' is a decadent way to enjoy a festive meal that many may not have had the chance to experience first-hand in Northeast Ohio. Theirs will pair the delectable raclette cheese with ham, potatoes, cornichons, cocktail onions and a side salad. Georges, the house sommelier and French wine expert, will undoubtedly have a perfect pairing for the evening.
Georges was educated at culinary schools in both Saint-Nazaire and Grenoble, graduating in the late 1970s. He acts as a charming liaison to French wine, food and culture at the bistro where his wife Claudie is head chef. She earned a degree from Chambéry Culinary School, located within the region known for raclette.
The dining experience here is as authentic as can be had on this side of the Atlantic, with many customers coming in not only for the menu and ambiance, but to brush up on their conversational French as well. The name for the bistro came to the couple, both purveyors of art, during a trip to an art market in Lyon. After getting separated from one another and reuniting, they both had a painting they wanted the other to see.
"It was the exact same painting representing the front of an old French bistro from Lyon called Le Bistro du Beajolais," Georges recalls. "But what was really special about this painting was written just under the name of the restaurant: 'Les caves de l'ami Georges,' which means, 'The wine cellar of our friend Georges.'"
Each anniversary is celebrated by hosting a Beaujolais Nouveau party at the restaurant, housed in an historic 1830s colonial in Olmsted Falls. The party is planned around the annual release of the fruity, young red wine produced in a region north of Lyon known for its Gamay grape varietal. After the wine is fermented, it is released for sale on the third Thursday of November.
On Thursday, Nov. 17, attendees at the party not only will get their first sip of this year's Beaujolais Nouveau, but also a French buffet-style dinner including a spread of soup, salad, quiche, charcuterie, entrees, dessert and cheese. There are a limited number of seats for the popular event.