A House of Good Taste - theHumm July 2019
A House of Good Taste - theHumm July 2019
By Sebastian Weetabix
Like many things related to food (or at least food in our part of the world), the term “restaurant” originated in France. It originally applied to the fare (it was “restorative”), but by the 17th century it had come to mean an establishment where one could eat a meal and pay for it. Eating “out” as a common practice for common folk has its roots in travel and the need for refreshment en route. Those who provided it were, rightly, termed restorers or restaurateurs. Their establishments came to be called restaurants.
Today eating out has become commonplace and restaurants have diversified into many varieties. Some are anything but restorative; but the concept of a place to enjoy good food, drink and companionship in a convivial setting is still alive. For those seeking more than simple sustenance, Boulton House in Carleton Place offers a complete experience and the possibility of simultaneous satisfaction of all basic and derivative desires within the constraints of a public venue. Weetabix qualifies this with the caution that some behaviour, even if social, might not be appropriate. This is a family newspaper and Boulton House is family-friendly.
Comfort, excellent food and a visually pleasing setting combined with a varied and interesting sound track and good company create the circumstances for an altogether satisfying experience. Service is competent, friendly and attentive. Weetabix, acting on a tip from the Editor, was a recent patron of Boulton House and reflects here on some of the components of the experience and how they interact. Just as a single discord can disrupt the enjoyment of a piece of music, a truly satisfying dining experience requires much more than good food for its enjoyment. Noted in passing is that if you are inclined to take some matters into your own hands, Boulton House does offer take-out and catering services. But while there are sometimes advantages to DIY, the whole package demands a combination of skills and actions that needs coordination and bears some examination.
Start with the basic setting. Boulton House was originally built as part of a mill structure on the Mississippi River in the early 19th century. This resulted in a waterfront location that provides visual amenities and (weather permitting) the soothing background sounds of running water. Convenience of location in downtown Carleton Place is further enhanced by easy and ample parking. The interior has been finished with attention to comfort and visual amenities. The décor includes original art that strongly reflects the tastes of the owner. Weetabix is not an art critic but likes the effect.
So, with a suitable venue and fixturing, an excellent chef (about whom more shortly) and a well-designed menu, what more is needed to ensure success? Quite a lot, actually. Although restaurants are one of the most common forms of small business, they are surprisingly complex and demanding in their operational details. The preparation and presentation of food and beverage items are just the final steps in a process that requires multiple skills and a high level of coordination and management. Miss a stroke anywhere along the path to the client’s palate and the whole game is lost; make even a trivial error and there can be immediate and severe consequences. The establishment is constantly judged on its performance and there is little allowance for mistakes in any area. It is show time all the time and praise and criticism are reliably asymmetric in their weight.
On top of all this, set-up costs are significant and margins are thin. However, there is a formula for success in the restaurant business and it is “meticulous and consistent execution”. Without it, no amount of culinary brilliance or public relations can deliver on the performance expectations needed to build and sustain a high-quality restaurant. Boulton House has managed a smooth start-up and, in a very short time, has become a “destination” restaurant.
Although, as noted earlier, all members of a restaurant team are essential to “the show”, two functions are generally agreed to define an establishment. The obvious one is the chef — after all, the food does matter! The visible one is the host or front-of-house. Nick Dompierre, Executive Chef of Boulton House, is a fully qualified Red Seal™ chef with experience in a number of prominent Ottawa restaurants including Salt, Bekta and L’Atelier. Hardly the shy and retiring type (at 22 he competed on the TV show Chopped Canada), his main work is behind the scenes and appears on your plate. Evidence of his versatility and skill is on the menu which is clearly and accurately set out. It runs to five pages of temptations to overindulge. Each listed item sets out ingredients — some unusual or unexpected. The range of offerings speaks to his abilities, and execution delivers on the promises. In general, gnocchi are more often offered than properly executed, but here they live up to their top billing and promise.
Weetabix recommends going with friends who are comfortable with sharing tasting samples since portions are ample and it is simply not reasonable for one person to order multiple dishes; in fact it might be risking serious overindulgence. Of course, one can return for further exploration. And note that Boulton House has a well stocked bar in addition to a carefully composed wine list… which brings us to the front-of-house and Chris Vachon. Chris is another industry veteran who is both the face and manager of the establishment. Not only that, he is a talented mixologist capable of producing interesting variations on traditional cocktails as well as a selection of signature cocktails suggested on the menu. Chris and Nick met about ten years ago and have formed a working partnership that finds its expression in Boulton House — not their first rodeo, but one that promises to deliver lasting pleasure to its patrons. When asked to describe “the mission” of Boulton House, Chris’s answer was: “two young guys who won’t rest on their laurels and want to try to give everybody a good experience.” Weetabix is pleased to report that they are succeeding in all ways. Boulton House delivers on its promises and meets high standards in all respects.
By — Paul Joyce
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A House of Good Taste - theHumm July 2019
By Sebastian Weetabix
Like many things related to food (or at least food in our part of the world), the term “restaurant” originated in France. It originally applied to the fare (it was “restorative”), but by the 17th century it had come to mean an establishment where one could eat a meal and pay for it. Eating “out” as a common practice for common folk has its roots in travel and the need for refreshment en route. Those who provided it were, rightly, termed restorers or restaurateurs. Their establishments came......
The Arresting Art of Fred Fowler - theHumm July 2019
By Sally Hansen
Art… and Soul
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