Our House Bistro was tiny, wooden, and cozy. It was warm in the way a small house, its fireplace blazing softly, might be. It had the welcoming atmosphere of a place that had been there for decades, comfortable in its own existence. It didn’t feel like it was just opened last May. It may have helped that the owners, Matthew Pearsall and Maggie Barch, have been cooking for years. Their catering company, The Spice of Life, is not only number one in Vermont, but also specializes in the same sort of, “twisted comfort food,” that Our House is steadily becoming known for.
Still, the little restaurant was almost empty. It was early. Out of the eight or so tables, only one was occupied. Four people sat around their tall round table in their tall wood chairs. In front of them sat glistening glasses of maroon wine and plates of colorful food— red and green salads, crusty golden sandwiches, and creamy, creamy yellow ravioli. My mouth watered.
Amber and I were led to our table quickly by a friendly waitress who smiled. The table was big enough for more than just the two of us; we each had an entire booth to lounge on. The waitress left, and when she came back she was holding two sparkling glasses of ice water, and one big jar of it for refilling. After handing us menus, she left once again.
We were spellbound, staring at the menus. Visually, there wasn’t anything particularly special about them—there were no bright, impeccably arranged photographs of food, but the descriptions sounded voluptuous. We were silent, running our eyes down the choices. I imagined the grilled cheese— inches of gooey white Vermont cheddar enveloped by crunchy golden brown bread, dipped into startlingly red homemade tomato soup. I pictured the Caesar salad— crisp, juicy green lettuce coated in everything cheesy and garlicky and wonderful. I wondered what the butternut squash ravioli could possibly taste like.
In the end, I decided on the Twisted Macaroni and Cheese. A friend had personally recommended it and, as far as comfort food goes, nothing can ever beat a steaming bowl of mac n’ cheese. Amber chose a plain hamburger, medium rare, with fries. And with that, our food was ordered and we were waiting. We took the time to really look at our surroundings.
Another couple had made their way into the restaurant, but it was still largely empty. On the walls, shelves, and tables were black and white photographs of babies, weddings, family reunions, and first days of school. Their faces smiled and laughed from Fifty-Years-Ago. Across from us was a small but, we were told, quite popular bar, its wall filled with assortments of wines, gins, vodkas, and rums. If only we were 21.
Our food came about fifteen minutes later. Mine was in a little black skillet, probably the same one it was made in. Amber’s burger was on a plate, but her French fries were wrapped in newspaper, just like in Angela’s Ashes, the grease already starting to soak through. We started eating, ravenously.
The noodles were cavatappi. They were longish, squiggly, fun, and coated in the pale, pale off-yellow cheese sauce. Most of the yellow was from the butter, which pooled in shiny gold puddles wherever they would fit. I’m not a butter person, but it looked delicious, if terrifyingly artery clogging. I quickly speared a noodle with my fork, and as I brought it up to me, gloopy, shiny strings of cheese followed. I spun the cheese—it had to have been mostly mozzarella—around and around. I must have spun it fifty thousand times before the final thread of cheese broke and my noodle was covered. There was no doubt; this cheese was real.
As Sean Michael Gallagher, a kitchen manager, said, Our House Bistro doesn’t use tons of crazy ingredients; they use high quality, simple ones, and then they use them right. “We put a lot of love in everything,” he added. All of this together, he said, separates Our House from other local restaurants. It is also what scored them a glowing review in Seven Days. Gallagher said that that review was the best compliment the restaurant could have hoped for.
I tried not to think of the calories as I ate. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t help shoving in the warm comfort food. I grabbed noodle after noodle with my silver fork, spun the cheese around like never ending spaghetti, and gobbled it up. At the same time, it wasn’t the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. Not according to my taste buds, at least. I’m one of those people who buy the sharpest cheddar in the store, and then eat half the brick in one sitting. (I can’t let myself buy cheese too often). So, perhaps it was just that the cheese was very mild, but I thought that, somehow, it actually didn’t taste cheesy enough. It looked cheesier than I would have thought possible, but the warm butter almost overtook it. But, I can’t complain. All in all, it was delicious, addictive, and I adored the long stringiness of the cheese.
It has to be said, though, that the price was up there. The macaroni and cheese was twelve dollars, which is far more than I, as a fairly broke college student, want to spend on any sort of meal. I had a lot of fun eating out with Amber, and I enjoyed the food, but I don’t see myself coming back any time soon— at least not while I’m paying.
As we got up to leave the tiny restaurant, I noticed for the first time that it was completely full. All around me, people sat at their tables, eating, waiting, and laughing. As we walked out, a couple was waiting, ready to take our spot.