Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Long live Verjus!

When I got into Hidden Kitchen last spring, I was blown away. Not only were the atmosphere and assembled dinner guests lovely, lively and fun (let’s face it, both things a crapshoot in the “private supper club” genre) but Braden’s cooking was to die for. And Laura, pairing the wines and serving the desserts, was equally impressive.

So when I heard they were opening a wine bar this fall, and then when friends told me they were going and I read early reviews, I was, in a word, jalouse.

Then I got a reality check from the dynamic duo. And my admiration for and belief in what they’re doing skyrocketed.

In the last month, a water heater cracked open and leaked. Carpenters stole money and left a bathroom unfinished. The city denied our license, then forced us to wait two additional weeks to serve wine. A neighbor threatened to call the police on us. French police visited twice, both times looking for free drinks. We broke off the door of a moving truck on the narrow driveway of a parking ramp. Our new carpenter covered two thirds of the outdoor tables of nearby restaurants in plaster dust during lunchtime service as he sawed down a wall. Our plumber turned the water off to all the buildings surrounding us as everyone was showering for work. And we had our laptop stolen.

This after everyone in their universe, wisely told them:

When the idea to open a restaurant was just a tiny flickering candle in the back of a very dark room, the advice we got from our parents, restaurant owners and dog walkers in the park was unanimous. DON'T DO IT! This was followed by a litany of reasons. France is anti-owner. The high cost of opening a company is only slightly less than the extremely high cost of closing a company. The euro is going to fail. France doesn't support small businesses. It's hard to hire anyone. It's impossible to fire anyone. You will lose all your friends. You will go broke. Your life will be over.

Well, thank goodness they didn’t listen. They followed their dreams. They listened to their hearts, their guts, and they took a risk. Forget the amazing food and support of local farmers. Ignore the appreciation they have for what they do an their belief in treating everyone—vendors, neighbors, clients, staff—with respect. That they, two American expats, with passion, talent and moxie, decided to plunge head first into French bureaucracy and defy all odds and expectations and succeed with elegance and panache and temptation to spare, well, it sort of makes me want to go back to Paris and see just what is possible when you put your mind (and heart) to it... (n'est-ce pas?)


  1. Hello I'm adam I like your blog. Your blog looks elegant. Was I allowed to exchange links or links with your friends. I wish I could be your blog friend
    if bulek Confirm yes to my blog

  2. It's funny because I went in expecting to get the hidden kitchen wow and didn't :( I did from the bar menu but not my meal in the restaurant. Good just be road bumps but I'm kicking myself for not having gone to HK while they were still "open"!!

  3. I can't wait to try Verjus, but what's even more thought-provoking are all the reasons listed above as to why small businesses struggle in France. It makes me wonder what France will look like in the next 25 years -- how the small, independent baker, butcher, and fromager will survive...

  4. We've eaten at the wine bar a few times now and been wowed. But I'm a sucker for pork belly and fried chicken! The fact that they have actually made it to the serving food stage is amazing with all the trials and tribulations they've faced. Laura and Braden are crazy to have opened Verjus. But I like their kind of crazy!

  5. I'm sad that I didn't get a chance to visit their Apt when I was in Paris. I did pass them onto my best friend and she was able to go. She had the best time and thought the food was excellent. I hope they succeed.