La Cremaillere in Bedford

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 celebrated by the hanging of the cremaillere, an event that would bring together neighbors, friends and family. Today, housewarming parties in France are similarly dubbed “crémaillères.”DSC_0010

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 a curvy Bedford-Banksville road near the Greenwich 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 also recently named one of the most romantic restaurants in America by online restaurant reservation site OpenTable – and good with reason. Shades of pink can be found on everything from the tablecloths to fresh, blush-colored floral arrangements that are situated throughout the interior.

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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.

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We start with a flaky, somewhat chewy half-loaf of bread, which is 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) are topped with capers, thinly chopped onions and chives and served with a small plate of blinis. The salty seafood is balanced nicely by the blinis, which prove to be one of my favorite dishes during our meal, and I can’t stop myself from asking our server for an extra serving of the light, doughy side.

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For our entrees, my guest opts for the vol-au-vent, which features a flaky puff pastry covered with lobster sauce and topped with a smattering of seafood options, like baby scallops, baby shrimp, crawfish and crawfish fume.

After hearing others sing of its praises, I choose the sliced filet of beef, which is served with a tower of gratin potatoes and tender haricots verts. I order the beef cooked medium-rare, and it proves cooked so perfectly that I feel compelled to slice the tiny, well-done portions near the meat’s edge and share them with my friend.

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Though our waiter suggests for our dessert the much-talked-about souffle maison, we decline. Unfortunately, liquor and raw eggs are likely the first two entries on any pregnant woman’s list.

Instead, we choose iced raspberries, which we cover in a warm white chocolate sauce. The fusion of flavors and temperatures is a delightful way to end our experience at La Cremaillere.

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But that experience does not come cheap. An evening out for two diners cost us just short of $200- 2 cents to be exact- and that didn’t include our tip. And despite the fact that the farthest parking spot may be a few dozen yards from the front entrance, you’ll still need to valet park.

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 dresses 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.

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Still, the restaurant somehow manages to feel completely comfortable, and it’s not hard to gather that for many, La Cremaillere is more than just a place to grab a meal on a Saturday night. It’s something of a second home.

“We’ve been coming here for decades,” a glamorous female diner tells me during my visit. “They’re like family to us.”

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