As graduation nears and the uncertainty of the post-collegiate
years creeps into my thoughts, I crave comfort. Like many in
chaotic situations, I look to the idyllic past for an escape from
the impending reality of graduation in … gasp … four weeks. I
cannot think of a more carefree and stable time in my life than my
semester in the south of France. Dinner, made from scratch, arrived
on the table every night at 7:30 p.m. sharp, served by my
charismatic and lovable host grandmother. Comfort food is important
to most people. Right now, comfort food for me is escapist food: a
vicarious culinary return to paradise without ever leaving the city
Hankering for an evening hiatus from reality, I headed to Eve
for dinner with a fellow friend seeking escapist cuisine.
Transporting ourselves from Ann Arbor to France, we arrived at the
cozy restaurant tucked in the Kerrytown Market to find it bustling
with lively diners and others awaiting tables. Very limited bar
seating and virtually no other convenient place to wait should
encourage future diners to make reservations.
Once seated, the ambiance is lovely. Small tables covered in
white linen and adorned with a single white candle lighten up the
brick walls without destroying the intimate atmosphere. With space
at a premium, the tables are placed fairly close together, à
la française, and animated yet hushed discussions abound,
but everyone is concerned only with their own conversations.
Chef and owner Eve Aronoff believes in the French philosophy of
cooking, which she describes on the back of her chic menu to mean
“making almost everything from scratch, following the seasons
and savoring and caring about the food.” Because Eve’s
dishes follow seasonality dictated by produce rather than the
calendar, she is still following her winter menu.
While carefully studying the menu, boasting Asian-inspired
fusion fare, we awaited a bottle of Louis Bernard Côtes du
Rhône 2001. Far from the most coveted bottle on the wine
list, it was one of the “Excursions” (wines under $25
per bottle) and evoked memories of the red wine from the same
region that sat on the dinner table each night in France.
The culinary trip back to France really began with a cutting
board of good crusty bread accompanied by three flavored butters:
garlic and herb, salmon and guava. Each delighted with a very
distinctive taste, which made choosing a favorite impossible.
My entrée, macadamia nut-encrusted salmon, topped with a
citrus sour cream and served with coconut rice and sautéed
seasonal vegetables achieved a delicate complexity that combined
substance and freshness. Salmon’s natural richness was nicely
complemented by the macadamia crust, which contrasted with the
spicy tomato-cilantro salsa in texture and in taste. With a
distinct hint of ginger, the sticky coconut rice sweetly cooled the
heat of the salsa.
Eve’s food is undoubtedly prepared in the French style,
though it does not arrive in minuscule European portions, but
rather in larger American servings. While I had no room for a third
course, I couldn’t resist a peek at the dessert menu.
Overtaken by my red wine haze, I temporarily forgot about the
limitations of my stomach and ordered the apple and dried cherry
cobbler. Delightfully warm, the fruit cobbler was topped with a
scoop of vanilla ice cream and served with a small pitcher of maple
syrup and cream for drizzling on top. A dessert that could have
been too sweet was carefully balanced by the tartness of the
cherries, resulting in a delectable treat and a perfect finish to
the leisurely meal.
Three hours after being seated, the meal unfortunately came to
an end. Without a morsel left on our plates or a drop in our wine
glasses, we had nothing to prove that we had escaped to France for
the night, except the indescribable satisfaction and happiness that
radiated from our faces, stomachs and minds, put to rest by the
comfort of the cuisine from our idealized worry-free pasts. Eve is
a pricey excursion for the student budget — entrées
range from $20 to 30 — but dinner is far less expensive than
a plane ticket to Paris.
Eve is located at 415 N. Fifth Ave. Open for dinner Monday to
Thursday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday to Sunday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and
brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.