The word “crémaillère” is a French term for the hook that holds a pot above the fire in a hearth.
In the past, the construction of new homes would be capped off by the hanging of the crémaillère, an event that would bring together neighbors, friends and family to celebrate the event.
Today, housewarming parties in France are similarly dubbed “crémaillères.”
The name seems fitting then for La Crémaillère Restaurant in Bedford, an eatery that has been something of an institution in these parts for more than 40 years.
Seated along the side of curvy Bedford-Banksville Road near the Connecticut border, surrounded by gorgeous estates home to both A-listers and the elite, the French country restaurant takes up residence in a 1750 white clapboard farmhouse called the Window Brush House.
The eatery was recently named one of the most romantic restaurants in America by online restaurant reservation site OpenTable — and with good reason. When visiting the restaurant on a recent Saturday evening, shades of pink could be found on everything from the tablecloths to the fresh, blush-colored floral arrangements that are situated throughout the cozy interior.
After a short wait on our drink menu, we ordered — a glass of Riesling for me and a mocktail for my (pregnant) friend. Though it was apparent her request was an unusual one for our server, the drink she was served (pink, of course) proved to be the perfect combination of sweet and tangy.
We started with a flaky, somewhat chewy half-loaf of bread, which was shortly followed by creamy potato leek potage and Scottish smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres. Thin slices of salmon (which, I can’t help but notice, perfectly match the restaurant’s motif) were topped with capers, thinly chopped onions and chives and served with a small plate of blini. The salty seafood was balanced nicely by the blini, which proved to be one of my favorite dishes during our meal, and I couldn’t stop myself from asking our server for an extra plate of the light, doughy side.
For our entrées, my guest opted for the vol-au-vent, which featured a flaky puff pastry covered with lobster sauce and topped with a smattering of seafood options, such as baby scallops, baby shrimp, crawfish and crawfish fumé.
After hearing others sing its praises, I chose the sliced filet of beef, which was served with a tower of gratin potatoes and tender haricots verts. I ordered the beef cooked medium-rare, and it was cooked so perfectly that I felt compelled to share this with my friend.
Though our waiter suggested the much-talked-about soufflé maison for dessert, we declined. Unfortunately, liquor and raw eggs are likely the first two entries on any pregnant woman’s can’t-indulge list.
Instead, we chose iced raspberries, which we covered in a warm white chocolate sauce. The fusion of flavors and temperatures was a delightful way to end our experience at La Crémaillère.
The restaurant enforces a “smart and polished” dress code. Jackets are suggested for men and there is a strict ban on shorts or sandals. I wore a favorite summer dress and flats and admit to feeling more than slightly underdressed. Every patron I saw in the crowded dining area was dressed to the nines, with many women donning sparkling, beaded dresses and men wearing suits and ties.
Still, the restaurant somehow managed to feel completely comfortable and it was not hard to gather that for many, La Crémaillère is more than just a place to dine on a Saturday night. It’s something of a second home.
“We’ve been coming here for decades,” a glamorous female diner told me during my visit. “They’re like family to us.”
You’ll be “hooked.”
For more, visit cremaillere.com.