Sep 26, 2006 The Editor Uncategorized
Oddly enough, good continues to come out of Sept. 11, 2001. As Skaneateles is the new home for one of lower Manhattans most charming restaurant couples. Alain and Joelle, natives of France, who ironically were both raised in Africa, have moved up to Skaneateles State Street (route 321 just south of Heart and Hand). Next month they will open Joelle’s French Bistro.
“We didn’t come for the lake or the beautiful homes,” Alain said, “we came for the quality of life.”
From the sidewalk outside the couple’s Manhattan restaurant, The Country Cafe at 69 Thompson Street, one could look up the street and see the Empire State Building and south to the World Trade Center. They had tables on the sidewalk and lived across the street, and unfortunately, witnessed the towers coming down and the aftermath.
The following comment is regarding Alain and Joelle’s Country Caf (c) from a TripAdvisor member on the Trip Advisor Travel review page on the web Oct. 6, 2005:
Five of five stars “A little French A little Moroccan A little Great”
Very inexpensive for its type. A french bistro in the heart of Soho. CousCous to die for. The chef Joelle is phenomenal, the owner Alain is suave, the main hostess AnnaLia is the best. Can I say more?
How did they find Skaneateles?
Sept. 11 changed everything Alain said. A regular customer Tom Paronis, who was from Skaneateles came in and said he could see their restaurant in Skaneateles. Alain and Joelle took a road trip the following week and were smitten agreeing with Paronis.
They found a realtor Sherryl Drake and purchased an old farmhouse, Blue Willow B&B on Route 321 next door to Heart and Hand — the bake shop and country store owned by Jim and Donna Parr. The Parr’s live next door to their shop, which makes them neighbors times two.
“Already they are terrific neighbors,” Jim said.
Jim is a former chef himself and is pumped about additional culinary expertise in their neighborhood. Donna who considers herself more of a baker agrees.
“The minute you meet them you connect,” Donna said.
The feeling is mutual as Alain and Joelle will be featuring some of the Parr’s baked goods at Joelle’s French Bistro.
Jillanne Neeley, a long time Skaneateles resident, who directs the foodservice program at Onondaga Community College, had met the couple before they moved to Skaneateles and had enjoyed several meals in their Country Caf (c). They did not know of her Skaneateles connection. She was delighted to hear of their move.
“Joelle is a wonderful chef,” Neely said, “And they are so charming, what a welcome addition to the area She said her students are excited about meeting them too.
Joelle Mollinger’s background
Joelle was born in French Morocco and is fluent in classic French and Moroccan cuisine, her parents moved back to France where she later opened a restaurant in the early 1990s in Paris next to La Bourse, which is France’s stock exchange. It was called L’Amateurr, which refers to someone who likes something as opposed to doing it purely for business purposes. The name was also in honor of another of her passions – horseracing. She won the prestigious race L’Amateurr driving a silkie (cart pulled by a horse around a track, not the chickens).
Food is Joelle’s passion, as she was educated to be a lawyer. She knew she wanted to work with food, but her mother said get your degree then afterwards you can do what you want. And that she did.
She said the menu will be ingredient driven. She wants to purchase as much locally as possible.
Alain Castel’s background
Alain who operates the front of the house (service) knows a good chef when he sees one, as his father was a famous chef in France, starting at Hotel Martinez overlooking the Riviera. When Alain was 8 years old his family moved to Kenya in the 1940s where his father had the only French restaurant in Narobie, Chez Gaby.
His family moved back to France when his father was in his 60s, but Alain was lucky enough to go and work at the prestige’s Hotel du Cap D’Antibes Eden Roc, a jewel on the Riviera.
“It was world wide renowned,” he said.
Alain eventually made his way to the states. He met Joelle when she visited a restaurant he had in Manhattan, Pigalle, between Park and Lexington at 29th Street. He closed this location when his rent skyrocketed and the two opened Country Caf (c) together.
Alain prefers comfortable and attentive service.
“At lunch keeping it fast and simple, with great specials as a Parisian Bistro would offer, at Dinner a more sophisticated service with flamb (c), decoupage, etc. Bringing back the table service we have forgotten. And in between, the Sundowner Special, sitting on the patio or in the lounge, sipping cocktails while watching the great sunsets we have here in Skaneateles,” Alain said
Joelle’s French Bistro
The two having gone through the notoriously rigorous Skaneateles planning board process and are still smiling.
“I’m glad they are tough,” Alain said. “They have a good thing going here and it is important to make sure things are done right.”
They have been engaged hands on in the renovation with Syracuse artisan and tradesman Bill Church, which they consider to be a labor of love.
“I want Joelle to have a new kitchen,” Alain said of their recent equipment-purchasing spree.
The restaurant will feature a prep kitchen in the cellar with a line kitchen on the first floor where the former farmhouse kitchen stood.
There will be a lounge area and a dining room with an outdoor patio under an apple tree. It will feature 40 seats and be handicap accessible.
Look for many classic French dishes on the menu including Steak au Poivre, Coq au Vin and Bouillabaisse. Joelle uses Alain’s dad’s recipe for the later. Also expect Moroccan dishes, such as cous cous and Tagines.
Joelle said in regards to her cooking, “I like to mix traditional, with the exotic, and here with such great products, the organic vegetables, the wild mushrooms and the variety of fresh herbes, one can only strive to appreciate the carefully cultivated, lovingly raised foods, which only adds such flavors to the dishes.”
“Voilla, et bon Appetit!”
Joelle’s French Bistro
State Street – Route 321
Projected opening End of October
Will feature NY state wines too
Open Wednesday through Sundays
Lunch, Dinner and Brunch