The week I went to review Raclettes my mother was visiting to help with the new baby. We both sat down with Sandra Wilkins to see what they had to offer. My mother is a through and through Francophile who even majored in French back in college; she was thrilled to join me on my tasting adventure. I can confidently say she enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than I did. While eating, she and I spoke at length to the head chef, Glenn Fraccica, about the menu. Having cooked many of the same dishes herself over the years, she was thrilled to taste their versions of the French classics she grew up making. I was overjoyed that she was able to come with me, and get another perspective on the plates we shared.
We started our meal off sipping some delicious wine. When the plates came out of the kitchen, one after the other, one was more beautiful than the next. Madeleine Peyroux was being piped in the background of the thoughtfully appointed dining room. The exposed brick walls from long ago mix perfectly with French posters and signs for the metro. The handmade wooden booths and warm leather wing chairs were inviting; we could have sat there all day long. Everything about the restaurant is warm, from the colors to the people. You just want to sit in there forever, finishing bottle after bottle of wine with some good company, and wash it all down with cheese, meat, crepes, and more. Now, onto the food — presented in the order that would make sense, but not in the order that it was eaten (I tend to eat dessert first!).
Charcuterie and Cheese
What could be more French than a charcuterie and cheese plate, paired with some delicious wine? This board was expertly presented by JR Cornelious, the cheese and charcuterie man who has been expertly slicing and serving at Raclettes. Each cheese was a solid representation of the different kinds of cheese you’d expect at a French eatery. You had your classic brie that was wonderfully gooey and buttery.
Next to that was brie’s cousin, camembert, with more earthy flavors and scents to it. Both were at a good room temperature, and spread on the warm bread like butter. There were a couple other cheeses, but my mother devoured them before I had a chance! Also on the board was a delicious prosciutto and capicola, a nod to Sandra’s Italian heritage. As an Italian I loved that, and thought the board was absolutely perfect.
Holy croutons, Batman! Atop this salad sat the fluffiest, most delicious croutons I have ever had in my life. I don’t know how they do it. Usually I brush aside croutons because they’re generally hard and too tough on my sensitive teeth, or greasy as all hell. These were pillow soft, with a slightly crunchy outer layer. These croutons are worth a trip here in and of themselves. The next show-stopping ingredients were the fried onions. At least, I thought they were fried onions. It turns out, they were fried leeks! You may be thinking that, since they’re from the same family (allium), that there’s no big difference here — but let me tell you, that subtle flavor shift from using an onion to a leek was absolutely magnificent. They were also a lot thinner as a result, and gave the presentation a more refined look.
The dressing was a homemade vinaigrette — light, crisp, and a bit tart — exactly what you would want if enjoying a salad on a cool summer night, on the patio, with some cold white wine. The rest of the salad had everything you’d expect, and in good amounts. There were tomatoes, cucumbers, and other veggies throughout. It was a very large portion, and could easily be a filling meal on its own, even if you did not add chicken or other proteins to it.
St. Germaine Tartine
Such a delightful treat. This small dish is refreshing and not too heavy. A perfect dish to have as a snack with some wine at the bar while you unwind during happy hour, or as an appetizer before a large and satisfying meal. The baguette slices are perfectly toasted, then topped with avocado cream cheese, smoked salmon, and dill.
The avocado cream cheese was a game changer. It gave it that little extra je ne sais quoi that regular old cream cheese doesn’t have. There was a generous helping of salmon on each of the three pieces. These can be cut in half and shared, or selfishly devoured singlehandedly. Served with some dill on top and lemon wedges on the side, you can decide how you want to tuck in. I generally opt to douse my fish in lemon, so I was very happy to have the slices on the side so I could prepare the fish the way I like. I had to battle for who got the last bite, as this was a favorite. In the end, I let my mother have the last half (I’m good like that).
Coq Au Vin
Raclettes does a fresh summer spin on this classic French recipe. They use white wine instead of red during the hot, muggy months of the summer. It’s incredible what a seemingly small change can do to a plate. Along with the chicken were mushrooms, potatoes, and lardons. The smoky flavor from the lardons penetrated the dish, giving that smoky flavor and smell to all the vegetables. The small potatoes, which I love to see on a plate because they are adorable, soaked in all of the flavor from the white wine sauce as well as the smoky pork flavor. The chicken was moist and juicy, and the presentation was on point. Each bite was a satisfying blend of all the flavors and aromas.
I like to mix things up when I eat, so I’ll put a small piece of chicken, a piece of potato, and a lardon on my fork, then stir it in the sauce to make sure everything is coated. I recommend this method of eating — especially with a dish like this. Each item has its own personality and flavor, but much like a band that plays together often, the end result is much richer than a single solo act.
A French staple for sure, and one of the heartiest dishes I tried (tied with the coq au vin), this meaty and satisfying dish is served in a bowl that seems to hide just how much can fit inside it. I thought that it would be a decent sized portion, but leave me enough room for other items. Do not be fooled — this is chock full of delicious and expertly cooked beef, mashed potatoes, and the most savory sauce. You will not be able to have a crepe after if you eat all of this.
This was my favorite of the dinner dishes. The meat was so soft and tender, you barely needed to bite through it before it fell apart in your mouth. The potatoes were a stick-to-your-ribs style, with delightful skins and chunks left in them. A sprig of thyme was sticking up out of the mashed potatoes, and complemented the dish wonderfully. Thyme is such an underrated and underused herb, so I was glad to see it on display. Large pieces of onions floated around the meat and sauce, as well as carrots, and a nice bunch of perfectly cooked green beans sat atop it all. This was so rich, so flavorful, and the aroma was to die for. In the summer it was fantastic, but I can only imagine how much better it would be on a cold, snowy day, in a warm sweater, breathing in the steam like a warm cup of cocoa.
If you have paid attention to my food reviews, you will remember I am not very fond of vegetables. There are some that have stolen my heart, but for the most part, it’s just a side dish that you need to eat to have a balanced diet. This dish has reminded me that any vegetable can be tasty, as long as it is cooked right. So many people cook their veggies wrong, and it can turn you off of a vegetable forever.
This dish, filled with squash, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, and a variety of other greens, was expertly cooked. They all retained a touch of crunch, while being cooked all the way through. They were not piles of mush, falling apart on your fork and in your mouth. They were able to be pierced with the cutlery and then chewed. Not too hard, not too soft — but just right. This is a magical experience when you come across it. Veggies have a very short window of being cooked this way — a minute more or less in either direction will render them useless and bordering on inedible. There was a beautiful, creamy pile of risotto on top of the veggies. There was a touch of spice than ran through this tomato-based sauce which gave it a slight punch.
This is a vegan dish — delightful to see a restaurant offering up a vegan option that is tasty, and authentic. They even use a vegetable-based broth for their risotto, so everyone can enjoy this dish. And if you prefer to have a bulkier, more substantial dish, you can add shrimp or scallops and make it a seafood experience.
I could not wait for the dessert course when this came out, and I would be a liar if I said it was not the FIRST item I tried on the table. With the fresh whipped cream starting to melt from the heat of the crepe, how could you blame me? The texture of the crepe was soft, thin, and absolutely perfect. Not too thick and doughy, and not burnt or overcooked. The crepe was perfectly folded, and beautifully presented; the inside cooked fruit layer was excellent.
Sometimes you are presented with crepes stuffed to the gills with fillings, which is not how I like to have my crepes. Too much filling tends to take away from the thin, beautiful crepe, and that is honestly the star of the show here. The fruit accompanies it perfectly and was made especially for the locals — the Loganberry flavor is tailor-made for Buffalo. You could tell the fruit on the inside was freshly cooked down from all of the seeds in it — and I mean that in a good way. The fresh berries on top provided the complimentary mouthfeel to the inside.
The fresh, cold berries, paired with the warm fruit reduction, was the yin yang flavor and texture combo many desserts lack. It was not some jam spread out on a crepe, it was drizzled with a homemade fruit reduction/syrup. The simplest desserts tend to be the best — and there is nothing more simple, elegant, and French than a beautifully thin crepe with fresh berries.
I highly recommend you come down to Raclettes before the summer is over, to enjoy a beautiful meal al fresco with some chilled white wine. Whether you are getting an array of appetizers, from mussels, to fromages, to crepes, or tuck into a big, hearty summer version of the Coq Au Vin, you will not regret it. One of the prettiest patios in town, too. Get your summer on while you still can!
Photos by AlanAdetolArts, L.L.C. – Birdcage Studios – Buffalo, N.Y. 14213 –firstname.lastname@example.org
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