New Year’s resolutions be damned: The first Raclette Night of 2019 fell on a Wednesday just nine days into the new year. Far be it from me to skip any special event at Pistache, let alone one that involves curtains of melted cheese draped over chef-prepared French fare.
One of the most well-loved restaurants in the Palm Beaches, Pistache French Bistro has themed celebrations on lock—there are whimsical night markets, rosé-soaked weekend jazz brunches, and even globally inspired culinary “trips” around the world—but it’s plain to see why Raclette Night tops the list for many locals.
“Raclette, which comes from the French word meaning ‘to scrape,’ is a very traditional style of dining, and we honor that at Pistache,” said Chef Isaac Cerny. “Guests are presented with an authentic half wheel of raclette, and the melted cheese is poured over some of my favorite traditional dishes. It’s the kind of meal that’s intended to be enjoyed with others, so Raclette Night helps create that social atmosphere. It’s one of my favorite events at Pistache.”
During Raclette Night at Pistache, up to three old-fashioned raclette stations are positioned throughout the Parisian-style eatery, providing patrons an interactive tableside dining experience that involves plates of traditional French food smothered in all-you-can-eat cheese scraped fresh from the wheel.
The stations also provide the restaurant with a rather… ripe, eau de raclette; it’s strong, but it comes with the territory. For me, the aroma brought back fond memories of my family’s never-fail New Year’s Eve fondue tradition: Every year, with Dick Clark prattling on in the background, we’d fire up our ancient raclette grill and melt a big pot of gooey cheese to dip bread and meats into as we waited with anticipation for the arrival of a new year. There’s no place like home, but Raclette Night at Pistache comes close.
Cheese lovers can choose between three different entrée options to serve as a bed for the sheets of melted cheese. The Savoyarde ($18) is the simplest: It’s comprised of roasted fingerling potatoes, cornichons and pickled pearl onions. The Mediterranée ($29) is a lighter, Mediterranean-inspired plate with grilled broccolini, zucchini, roasted cherry tomatoes and arugula.
The king of the raclette carrier options, the charcuterie-filled Suisse ($33) is a combination of the other two plus some meaty additions: It consists of roasted fingerling potatoes, cornichons, pickled pearl onions, arugula, prosciutto di Parma (thinly sliced dry-cured ham), Jambon de Paris (slow-cooked pork) and saucisson sec (a thick, dry-cured sausage).
Once you’ve placed your order, a waiter will come by to display the hefty wheel of raclette to your table before it’s loaded into the raclette-melting contraption. (This nifty machine does not, apparently, have an official name; I asked.) Once you’re ready, they’ll turn up the heat and raise the raclette so that it’s suspended a mere inch beneath the machine’s red-hot broiling plate.
Within seconds, the cleanly sliced surface of the halved wheel of cheese begins to simmer and bubble. Have the cheese broiled and bronzed as long as you please, or have it only slightly warmed; the temperature of the dish can be customized to your liking.
The cheese quickly bubbles and releases its irresistible fragrance, and when you can wait no longer, have your waiter remove the raclette from its post. They’ll scrape the melted surface of the cheese wheel into a small skillet which will then be poured over your choice of raclette accompaniment dish; request that the waiter pour as much cheese as you can stand over the top, and you have a dish guaranteed to send you straight to fromage heaven. “Savor” isn’t strong enough a word for what happens once you dig in.
Stomach grumbling? History indicates that Raclette Nights typically take place every other month, at least during the cooler season, but usually, they’re not announced very far in advance. Palm Beach’s proverbial grapevine suggests that the next occurrence is anticipated for March, but Pistache hasn’t yet confirmed a date. Whenever the opportunity may arise, when you catch a whiff of that unmistakably French broiling cheese, don’t stop to check your diet plan: It’s go time.
Pistache French Bistro, West Palm Beach; 101 N. Clematis St.; 561-833-5090; pistachewpb.com
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