Last year Scott and I took the kids to the one restaurant in the greater Boston area that serves Belgian food. We did this as a surprise to them as we broke the news that we'd be spending the summer in Brussels.
Kids had frites. We had moules. We had Duvel and Leffe beer. Kids had bread and cheese. We dined on something like a potato dauphinois, a Belgian meat stew and a really memorable salad of endive and vinaigrette. The kids had bread. And cheese. And all but Colby dined of some of Belgian's finest chocolate for dessert. The meal was darn good and it was a treat to have what felt like an authentic Bruxellian dinner. And so.....
The owners of the Publick House, David Ciccolo and Ailish Gilligan, have in fact, done so well that they are extending their Belgian manifesto with Publick House Provisions, a gourmet grocer just doors down from the Publick House in Brookline.
As I've read in the Brookline Tab and elsewhere, my expectations of this joint were to find the following: a large selection of hand-picked, specialty foods to be available to complement their selection of high-quality craft beer. To quote:
"Specializing in local and imported artisan cheeses and Belgian chocolates, Publick House Provisions will offer everything from sauces, marinades, oils, vinegars, honeys and preserves to organic milk, fresh local breads, meats, pates, hot sauces and spices."
I was delighted to read about this forthcoming adventure. Brookline is so overdue for a gourmet grocer that I even wrote the owners a letter commending them on their entrepreneurial smarts, wishing them good luck and loads of business.
And so I happened into this Publick House Provisions one sunny day when I thought I should not be at work but better to walk the streets of Brookline.
And I found really none of the above. What I did find was a very surly, bald, bearded fellow who could barely give me the time of day (I was the lone customer in the store). I found loads of empty shelves, apparently waiting for the forthcoming Belgian specialty beers and ales. I found a very prosaic collection of hot sauces, chips, pastas, tomato sauces and condiments. Really the only legitimate Belgian foodstuff would be the limited amount of hard cheeses in a very small refrigerated case, and a very boring array of supposed Belgian chocolates that appeared to be made with more wax than cocoa.
When I asked my grumpy friend behind the counter what was the what, he mustered up enough effort to say, "waiting on the liquor license...then we'll get beer." And since I'm a glutton for punishment (and sort of a Chatty Cathy), I was happy to forgo his frowning silence and tried again get a little dialogue going.
I asked about other Belgian foodstuffs and the connection with the Belgian menu served at the Publick House....
and he replied, "Belgian food isn't really that good...it's not more than chocolate and beer."
Mmkay. So, my sweet shiny pate man, with that hard sell, what on earth would ever compel to return to your fine establishment?
Frankly, I prefer to visit my peeps at Wine Gallery for the chat and the Belgian six-pack any day.