September will mark the 60th Anniversary of the founding of Chez François in Washington D.C. I don’t think that my father, François, could have imagined then that we would still be going strong 60 years later. Many of Dad’s loyal patrons followed when we moved the restaurant to Great Falls and become an auberge. I’m amazed at how often guests will stop to tell me their memories of eating with us in Washington D.C. and now in Great Falls. The painting above, gifted to my parents by Washington artist Lily Spandorf shows the sidewalk cafe tables of the original Chez François on Connecticut Avenue in the early 1960s.
The success of our expanded vegetable and herb gardens this season inspires me to share my views on the importance of healthy eating for yourself, and for and with that special someone. This month I will begin a new series entitled To Your Health, sharing my philosophy on healthy cuisine. At home, preparing a repast for your someone special is an act of love, much more significant than presenting candy or flowers. The food is tempting but the energy you put into the preparation and serving of the meal is sexy. If you prepare a romantic meal, make it as wholesome and nourishing as possible. The use of whole pure ingredients will result in a better tasting and more nutritious repast. Knowing you are using the the best ingredients is important and lends to the romantic mood.
As part of our year long, 60th Anniversary celebration I’ve decided to open the restaurant on Monday, June 16 for the first of our special Garden to Table Dinner events. L’Auberge Chez François is typically closed for business on Mondays, but I received so much positive feedback from our patrons when I suggested the idea of hosting these dinners that I’ve decided to open that Monday to hold this event. I hope to make the Garden to Table Dinners monthly events as long as we’re getting fresh produce from the gardens. The special dinner, which requires advance-purchase tickets, will be hosted on the terrace (weather permitting) and will feature produce grown using organic methods, just steps away in our kitchen garden. For your enjoyment, there will be musical accompaniment, and our sommelier has selected unique wines to go with each of the five courses. Vegetable gardening is a particular passion of mine, and I can’t think of a more satisfying process for any chef than starting with seeds and ending up with a meal that delights customers. I hope to see you on the 16th.
We’ve already harvested several bushels of spinach from the gardens here at L’Auberge Chez François, and many of the lettuces and greens we planted in early spring are almost ready for picking. After last year’s success at growing our own organic produce here at the restaurant, I’m doubling the size of the gardens once again. The greens and herbs are coming in nicely, and the tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and peppers will all be planted in the next few weeks.
My father started our on-site herb garden out of necessity, when he first opened L’Auberge in 1976. Finding very fresh herbs such as tarragon and chervil, standards in French cooking, was not always easy. Dad’s only recourse was to grow these essential ingredients himself.
This summer almost all the herbs used at the restaurant will come directly from our gardens. We’ll be growing basil, tarragon, rosemary, chervil, mint and shiso to name a few. We’ll be serving them in our summer cocktails, adding them to salads, and of course flavoring our sauces and main dishes with them. Please come by and take a tour of the gardens and enjoy an herbaceous cocktail on the terrace. Summer is just around the corner, and at L’Auberge Chez François it is going to be absolutely delicious.
I am sad to share that my mother, Marie-Antionette Haeringer, passed away on March 20, at 95 years old. In last month’s newsletter, I wrote about the nightly family dinner I have at the restaurant that always included my mother, brother, and from time to time, other family and friends. I received a great deal of positive emails and comments from readers who enjoyed the story, especially the part about Mom recently refusing to cancel dinner (and her nightly glass of champagne) on account of snow. It was at this customary dinner two weeks ago that mom began to feel ill and was taken to the hospital. Fortunately, her stay at the hospital was short and peaceful. This year, we celebrate 60 years in business and mom was here, working along with my father and eventually us sons, for all of them. How fitting that she was enjoying a good meal and sipping champagne with her family, at the restaurant she helped build, right up until the very end. Thank you to everyone for your condolences.
This year we’re celebrating 60 years since my father first founded the original Chez François restaurant in Washington, D.C. The restaurant has been part of my brothers’ and my lives since we were young children and one of the many traditions that has remained unchanged over the years is our daily family dinner at the restaurant. Each afternoon before the dinner service begins, our family sits down together for an early dinner in the dining room. Over the years, the make-up of the family table has changed, my father passed away in 2010, but the tradition has remained. The family dinner is a chance to talk about the business, as well as catch up before the nightly dinner rush begins. Although our ninety-five-year-old mother, Marie-Antoinette, retired as the restaurant’s bookkeeper years ago, she still comes to the restaurant every day to join my brother Paul and me for the customary meal. Last week when the temperatures were in the single digits and there was snow on the ground, we tried to convince Mom that it was too cold for her to go out. Cancel family dinner? Mon Dieu! She absolutely wouldn’t hear of it and that night we ate together as we have almost nightly for 60 years.
A natural and wondrous relationship exists between love and food; between the heart and palate. Life’s memorable moments are not complete without a festive meal. Romantic celebrations are a tradition at L’Auberge Chez François. The ambiance, the presentation, and anticipation of delightful tastes all merge together to help create the complete romantic experience, you just add the magic. We are honored to host your Valentine’s Day romantic celebration. The Haeringer family and all the staff at L’Auberge Chez François and Jacques’ Brasserie wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.
2014 is a landmark year for L’Auberge Chez François, as we will be celebrating our 60th Anniversary. Our father opened the original Chez François restaurant in downtown Washington D.C. in 1954. His plan to offer “nice ambiance and good honest food at affordable prices” caught on and the restaurant was a success. His devoted clientele followed him when he moved the restaurant to Great Falls, Virginia in 1976 and re-opened it as a country inn like those in his native Alsace. We’re still family run, with my brother Paul in the front of the house and me in the kitchen, and I’m proud that we’ve been part of your families’ celebrations and memories for 60 years. Paul and I, along with the entire staff, wish you all the best in 2014.
We want to wish everyone Happy Holidays from all the staff at L’Auberge Chez François and Jacques’ Brasserie. Every year at this time we are gratified to see so many of our regular customers who celebrate the holidays with us year after year. Thank you for making us part of your holiday traditions.