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.
Andie Reid says
Phillip prices almost every meal I make when we first sit down at table. “I’d pay $21 for that in a restaurant.” or “That was a $16 entree, I’d say.” Funny others do it, too. Can’t wait to try the rolls. Thanks!
Barbara | Vino Luci Style says
Your story could be my story…I typically prefer having friends over for a meal than going out. I attribute years of single parenting to a now innate frugality combined with the love of entertaining my friends that sees that happening more often than not.
But I love a local restaurant near me. I love their food but it’s so much more. The hug from the manager, the server that remembers your name and the same consideration at a bar table as we would have at a dining table. If they weren’t called YaYa’s, I would call them Cheers!
Dinners & Dreams says
I feel the same way sometimes. I often end up spending more on a homemade meal than I would have at a restaurant. Good ingredients are expensive but nothing beats a homemade meal so you should be rather proud!
These rolls were better than any roll I have ever had in my entire life. They completely eclipsed the drinks and even the atmosphere of Bolete – which were both outstanding. I can’t wait to get back there for dinner. And more rolls 😉
Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says
Now that’s a restaurant I want to visit! We do love Bethelehem, and thanks to you guys for showing it to us. For some reason, we always end up at the Brewery *looks at Maggy and her wing obsession*, but we must get out and try more of what Bethelehem has to offer.
Patty G says
A lovely article. Thanks for the nudge. I’ve had the restaurant saved in my phone as a reminder to go and to to try the highly recommended cauliflower soup. Now I will definitely be going for the duck confit hash on a Sunday morning soon.
Also want to thank you for the mac n cheese in “Perfect One Dish Dinners”. It was the first time I ever made a dish to give to someone without having tried the recipe first. Made a triple batch the first time for three families. Everyone raved and said it was the BEST. So easy to make! I delivered dishes oven ready with the little bowl of parsley crumbs on top ready to sprinkle. You’re right – people do question the cottage cheese – until they taste.
So glad you loved my favorite restaurant. My husband and I have been going there since it opened and what a find it is! The feeling they leave you with is that of your oldest friends. You can’t wait to be with them again and they are just as excited to see you when you return. Let me know if you have gone back for a full meal!
Fav drink: Not Your Grandmother’s Greyhound
Fav Dessert: Butterscotch Pudding