by Corin Hirsch
On Pistou's Facebook page, the Main Street restaurant says that it's "closed for winter vacation." Nuh-uh — don't believe it.
Pistou may be closed for a week, yes, but it's hardly a vacation. On the other side of those enormous windows, a lot is going on — namely, changes that may make the corner eatery more of a mecca for wine geeks.
That's because the restaurant has two new partners, Jason Zuliani (of the nearby Dedalus wine shop) and his wife, Emilie Paquette. (Former partner Maji Chien has left to pursue other interests.) As Zuliani and chef Max Mackinnon got to know each other over the past year or so, they had ongoing conversations about how a menu might respond to wine, and vice-versa.
"We've talked about what we want to do with food and wine, and this is an opportunity to do that," says Zuliani, who was the wine director for the New England Culinary Institute prior to co-owning Dedalus, where he'll continue to work. "It's really going to come into focus."
While Zuliani is finessing a list that will render grapes even more front-and-center than they are now, Mackinnon is reimagining the menu to render it more flexible for pairing with the "99 percent French" wines that Zuliani is curating. "We don't want people to necessarily think about appetizers and entreés," says Mackinnon, whose French-inflected, James Beard-nominated approach (thankfully) won't change. "This will be a place you can come to share a bunch of plates. It will be a little more freeform," and will likely include some bar snacks, too.
Orienting a wine list toward a menu is nothing new, of course. But a glimpse at the wines — with a section devoted to the elusive bottles of the Rhône's Domaine Gramenon, for instance — suggests that it will encourage diners to do more than absently order whatever to wash down their seared scallops.
Pistou will also have a "killer" beer program, says Zuliani, while its cocktails — contrary to current bar trends — will fade to the background.
Paquette will manage the front of the house, where, also this week, the seating is getting rearranged, the colors refreshed, and the on-site market phased out. (Sadly, though, lunch is not part of the new equation, much to the chagrin of this South Champlain Street neighbor. Just wanted to put that out there.)
Pistou reopens on January 16. We'll be interested to see what's pouring.