Ode: The Moules-Frîtes at Bistro Vendôme
It used to be a Sunday night special — a giant bowl of mussels swimming in creamy white wine sauce served with a cone of sticky, crispy French fries gooped up in some sort of honey gastrique and a half-baguette for dipping — all for ten bucks. Simone and I would walk into town for it after a weekend of playgrounds and reading books together in the kids’ section at the Tattered Cover, ordering one for each of us.
Bistro Vendôme served its last pot of moules on Larimer Square last week, but I have no doubt we’ll find them again at their new location in Park Hill. In honor of the big move, this is my ode.
Chef Jen’s take on the French staple is everything you want it to be — meaty mussels in their shells basking in a warm, rich, buttery broth. We would eat them in the traditional French way, spearing the first one with a fork before using its shell like an organic pinscher to pluck out and eat the rest of the mussels, one by one, placing their empty carapaces around the rim of the bowl, out of the way of the rest of the party.
Every so often, we’d take a break from our labors to dredge a slice of baguette through the bath, the crust softening in the stew, dribbles of warm liquid escaping down our fingers as we hurried the bread to our mouths. We’d do the same with the fries, careful not to lose too much of that honey glaze in the bowl. It was always a messy dinner, all drippy and sticky and steamy, and we’d go through a couple of cloth napkins each before we were done.
If I felt self-indulgent on a Sunday evening, I’d treat myself to a Stella or a glass of white wine — the acidic chill breaking through the warm and cloying blanket of comfort flavors. More than once, we demolished our bowls so quickly, we placed a third order to share.
Simone and I killed several deep pots of mussels in southern France when she was a teenager, and though the ambiance was stellar, we knew we could get the same thing — just as delicious, just as authentic — a short walk from home.
It’ll take me a little longer to find my way to Bistro’s new digs — and a car ride rather than a nice stroll — but I’m sure the moules et frîtes will be just as delicious in their new environment. Park Hill, you’re in for a treat.