A Backyard Bistro: Celebrating Summer with a Homemade Rooftop Meal

Reading Elaine Sciolino’s piece on Paris bistros made me long to hop a flight across the Atlantic. Sciolino’s description of her favorite gems got me lost in the reverie, longing for fresh scenery and yearning for new experiences. Little did I know that our usual “Saturday date night” would surpass my earlier daydreams.

The setting: The official start to summer was spent on our friends’ beautiful rooftop of a historical Old Town townhouse. It was so relaxing that both my husband and I felt we were miles away from our daily lives.

The food: Blown away. If I only knew the chef was this good, I would have tried to score an invitation much, much sooner. We had traditional Cassis cocktail and smoked fish canapés to start. First course was a salmon carpaccio with unpasteurized salmon roe and a watercress soup. Our host revealed that he had befriended the owner of a local Russian gourmet shop, who shared her behind the counter goods with him.


Main course: snapper with roasted tomatoes and baby potatoes—so simple but the ingredients were flavorful and fresh.


And it didn’t stop there. The cheese course was really eye opening: a “stinky” munster that was served with cumin powder. Truly a great combo that I highly recommend. But what put it over the top was the 1996 Saint Emilion Grand Cru.


The service: In this case it was more the company we were there for—conversation was lively and fun. Considering our host was born and raised in France—a country that treats the service industry as a career—service was on par with three Michelin stars. (And I had a tour of the kitchen.)

Sciolino uses this measurement to judge her restaurants:

“My idea of a perfect bistro is a place where the dishes are traditional, the ingredients seasonal, the service attentive, the price acceptable and my relationship with the chef close enough that I can visit the kitchen when the meal is over.”

I can easily say that my meal on Saturday fit all those categories and more—I was transported to France without ever stepping on a plane.