I can’t decide whether I’m proud or embarrassed that we so infrequently frequent restaurants. It’s not that we’re saving money by eating in. Every time I open my bulging fridge or admire my racks of wine, I am reminded of just how many times we could have gone out for dinner for the cost of all this.
It’s that we cook for a living, and there are always so many good things to try—so many tempting leftovers—there’s little reason to go out. It’s a value thing too. With a little effort and know-how, we mostly eat restaurant-quality food at home. The kids roll their eyes when David and I speculate the restaurant price for one of my appetizers or one of his wine picks.
Nevertheless, we still dine out. But rather than do what normal people do—enjoy a cocktail and nibble before heading out to dinner—we go out for appetizers and drinks and then come home for dinner! Which is how we ended up at Bolete in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania the other night.
I knew the restaurant by reputation. I had visited their website, practically memorized their menu, and knew Chef Lee Chizmar and wife, Erin Shea’s farm-to-table philosophy. It was past time for a visit and so Three Many Cooks and significant others planned a fun outing—a matinee, drinks and appetizers at Bolete, followed by an osso bucco dinner at home.
I knew Bolete’s Bar wasn’t huge and six of us at 6:30 on a Friday night might overwhelm, so I called ahead. The woman on the other end took my information and pleasantly responded. “We’ll call back if we can’t accommodate.” As we emerged from the theatre, there was a message from Bolete. Damn, I thought, they can’t pull it off. Instead it was, “We’d love to have you—see you at 6:30.”
We arrive at the bustling restaurant and find the bar full. No worries. They guide us to their dining room, seating us at their best table, perfectly aware we are not here for a full meal.
We each order one of their fun artisan cocktails and a perfectly executed appetizer, but since we were in the dining room, they also brought us a basket of their signature warm House-Made Thyme and Sea Salt Rolls. The drinks and appetizers were flawless, but it was the rolls we were taken with. Light as a cotton puff, egg-rich like a brioche but weightless, fragrant, warm. In an odd way, these dinner rolls stole the show. I think it was because they felt like a gift. We got them because they seated us in the dining room and gave us a big table and treated us like home guests. Even though we were there “just for a drink.” Their website spoke of “unconditional hospitality.” I got it.