Saturday, February 27, 2010
Occasional Dinners in Park Slope: Now For Something Different
Restaurant Name: Cafe du Charme
Restaurant Location: 668 President Street
This tiny little Euro-cafe on quiet President Street in Park Slope serves up coffee, pastries, and conversation during the day. But at night, just once per a week, the owner pulls all the little tables together and covers them with linens and candlelight. He turns to the stove and prepares a home-cooked meal for 6 or 7 lucky people who all come together in the communal space and share an evening with strangers.
We live just up the block from Cafe du Charme and pop in pretty regularly during daytime operating hours. When we heard the owner, Christian, was starting up his occasional dinners, we decided to check it out.
The atmosphere and space are great for this purpose. The cafe is truly tiny and so it works well as a private dining space. We felt that we had been invited into a friend's home. In addition to us, there were five other diners, all of them strangers. Of course, there are pros and cons, to communal dining with people you've not met before. But the interest provided by meeting new people usually outweighs potential awkwardness. The conversation was interesting and lively and punctuated throughout with plates of steaming, hearty food.
The cuisine offered up for dinner was strongly Swiss-German in its orientation. We started with lovely warm bowls of soup (puree of celery root with apples and cinnamon) - filling but not heavy. The main course was a roast of beef slowly braised in red wine until tender and silky. It was served with stewed red cabbage and rich, buttery mashed potatoes. Dessert was a milk chocolate mousse with strawberries. At one point during dinner, the owner commented that he does not view himself as a chef. And, indeed, rather than fussed-over, carefully arranged offerings, the food was more in the style of an accomplished home cook - hearty, generous, and satisfying.
So, if you are interested in something a bit out of the ordinary - grab a bottle of wine and go have dinner in a cafe occasionally transformed into a welcoming kitchen for a few intrepid strangers.