Monday, 27 February 2012

I can almost see the end...

It's February now. Almost March. We've been building the bar for nearly two months. Well, to be truthful, most of the first month was spent waiting for that (expletive) building permit.

We have walls, a bar, a back bar, banquettes, almost all the trim, electrical roughed in, plumbing roughed in, a new radiator, a removed radiator, re-plastered crown moulding, primer on the ceiling (worst. job. ever.),  primer on almost all of the crown, chairs & stools purchased, the zinc for our bar top, paint samples, stain samples, light fixtures purchased, our mechanical drawing and guides for the HVAC, 25 percent of our equipment purchased, 70 percent of the liquor licence application completed, and I've started interviewing for staff.

Can we finish this thing in a month?

My posts have not been regular, mostly because I feel like I'm drowning and sometimes I get scared and feel as though I can't face this challenge of building and executing a dream. It's a very surreal experience... it's strange. I'm not a builder and I can't help do any of the construction, but everyday I see something new in that space it starts to look more and more like Le Petit Bar, and I become more and more aware of how much work there is ahead of me. Sometimes I feel like I'm not getting anything done at all (this has to do with the not-being-able-to-contribute-to-the-building), and sometimes the energy spent thinking and planning the logistics of opening and operating a wine bar makes me feel as tired as if I had been doing the hard labour for eight hours. Well done, Tom and Gabe! After spending a weekend priming the space I can really appreciate how hard the work you do is. Let me rephrase that - I already did appreciate your work (you guys are fast... and really good), but I can physically feel it in my body today, and it really hurts. How did you drywall the ceiling and tape and mud it without breaking your necks?

There is a pile of things that need to be considered, questions that need to be answered, problems that need solutions, and, I'm sure, a whack of complications I haven't even thought about yet. These elements are sort of piled up on top of each other right now, waiting for element one to be sorted out before element two can be tackled, but two depends on the element before element one, but also on the element after element three... and so on... if I'm making any sense.

I know we'll get it all done. And I think you'll really like it once it's finished. I really hope you do!

Oh! Please check out this review of Midfield Wine Bar and Tavern in Toronto. My good friend Christopher Wilton (a wine agent with The Small Winemakers Collection) pointed me to this place. I'm hoping to visit Midfield this weekend. Sounds like they've really nailed the wine bar concept. 

And now, the most recent pics of Le Petit Bar:

The only booth in the joint. Located in the back corner. We think it'll be a favourite with customers

The bar is really starting to come together.

It feels more and more like Le Petit Bar every day

Roland tucks a time capsule I made into the back bar. It will be sealed in there, buried for, I hope, a good long while

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


 Here's a sneak peak at Le Petit Bar. Things are really happening now.

The temporary Le Petit Bar sign

You can see our bar and the back-bar coming together.

Back-bar cabinetry. Floor to ceiling. It will run right into the back corner of the bar. Imagine how great it will look with the library ladder!
Tom behind the bar
Gabe Robinson and Tom Reader are working exceptionally hard on this project for us. They are on it! If you want someone to build or renovate anything I totally recommend you contact Gabe Robinson Contracting.
This is the view from the small kitchen/prep area. You can barely see Gabe (left) and Tom (centre) in this shot.

Picturing myself behind the bar, serving delicious glasses of wine.

The above photos are of the plaster repair Tom did for us. This beam is a gorgeous feature of the space, and was a very welcomed surprise when we removed the drop ceiling. Can you see the white naked plaster on the right of the beam? Before this repair this part of the beam was a complete mess - the plaster and wood had started to fall apart, the rotting wood beam poking through the crumbling plaster. Tom spent hours re-plastering this beam and then made a tool to recreate the moulding. It looks great in these photos, and it looks even better now. Really amazing!

We have lots to do still - paneling, banquettes, tables, all before we can stain, paint and decorate. And I'm about to start experimenting with my own bitters for cocktails, writing the first draft of the wine list, and, of course, more and more recipe testing. Lots more to come...

Le Petit Bar Seeks Extraodinary Staff

We are accepting resumes. By e-mail only.

Le Petit Bar is hiring

We are looking for passionate, professional and charismatic individuals to staff our wine & charcuterie bar. All staff will be expected to bartend, wait tables and prep/assemble plates.

As an ideal candidate you are genuinely interested in wine and food. You appreciate all things gastronomic, especially the experience of dining out. You are creative, friendly and approachable, a proven team-player, and can demonstrate your ability to take initiative. You are serious about starting or maintaining your career in hospitality, and you want to learn.

Experience is an asset but not a requirement if you possess the right attitude and interest in our project. Must be Smart Serve certified.

Anticipated opening is spring 2012.

Cover letters and resumes accepted by e-mail only. Please send as Word doc attachments to Shannon at

Friday, 3 February 2012

Goodbye, Paris.

Clos Montmartre
I am home in Peterborough, and I've left a little piece of my heart in Paris.

The most rewarding thing about experiencing Paris was participating in its unique gastronomical culture. It's very alive in Paris as you might imagine, and far more laid back than you might expect.

Slicing ham at Le Garde Robe

I feel inspired, rejuvenated and a sense of affirmation. I think we can make Le Petit Bar feel like a little Parisian local... and I hope it becomes your corner zinc.

On our last day, we walked and walked and walked in search of a bar called Le Rubis.

Le Rubis

When you walk through the door at Le Rubis you immediately feel like you've entered a Parisian institution. It's clear this bar has been operating for ages, and is the favourite hangout of many locals. Again, it's a tiny place, with a beautiful zinc bar and multiple wines by the glass. It serves comfort food and charcuterie, and is like no bar or restaurant I've ever been to.

When we entered Le Rubis and I asked for a table for two we were sent upstairs, to the second floor "dining room". You access upstairs by stepping behind the bar, opening a very narrow door and following a tight, winding, wooden staircase to the second level. We were greeted  at the top of the stairs by a woman in a tiny kitchen with a man who appears to be the primary cook. The women, it becomes clear, serves and helps assemble the plates. She points us to a room that may be 12'x12' and rammed full of tables. Twenty-four seats, 12 tables of two, and less than an inch between each table. They are arranged in three rows, with 16 seats running parallel to each other in two rows of eight tables, and eight more seats (four tables) perpendicular to those 16, capping off the arrangement. A chalkboard lists the day's lunch options. I choose saucisse-lentilles, and it's a great choice. One nicely browned sausage served beside a heaping serving of puy-lentils braised in a rich stock with some carrot and onion, finished with a generous dollop of butter. It is very simple comfort food, and it's served to us shortly after we order it, along with a carafe of vin blanc - we think it may have been Muscadet.

I really couldn't take many photos in this place. We were elbow to elbow (literally) with our neighbours and it just felt too intimate for me to start snapping away. The place cleared out as we finished our lunch and I whipped out the camera to photograph my dessert, tarte tatin.

Tarte Tatin - Le Rubis

This place was the real deal - the service staff did not speak English and I am sure we were the only non-Parisians in the place. Visiting Le Rubis confirmed for me that a French bar a vins really is a local bar. It's not the American version of a wine bar - super chi-chi with high-end wines and delicate food.

Wine is a delicious drink. It, unfortunately, carries with it a strange stigma in our culture. It, for some ridiculous reason, it's often attached to snobbery or status. In France the bars a vins are like the local pub, but instead of five beers on tap you have five whites and five reds by the glass. Instead of, what we recognizes as, pub-grub you are served simple and hearty charcuterie. You go to the bar a vins to shoot the shit with your neighbours and friends, and your primary drink of choice is wine. We don't have a spot like this in Peterborough, yet. 

A glass at Baron Rouge

At Le Petit Bar you can expect a cozy and comfortable place to sit and relax. You can expect simple and filling charcuterie, intended to be shared with your friends. You can expect to sit relatively close to other patrons, and perhaps make a new friend each time you visit. You can expect ten wines by the glass, some cheap and cheerful, some elegant, some unique and interesting, and some meant for you to splurge on.

Visiting Paris confirmed for me what we are trying to do at Le Petit Bar. It also made me relax and think about how important it is to enjoy everyday, as corny as that may sound. You don't get a cup of coffee to go in Paris, and walk down the street gulping it before you get to your next destination. You set on a terrace, even in January, and people-watch while sipping your cafe. You take a coffee break. You spend a few hours after work over a glass or two of wine, unwinding before worrying about what you're going to eat for dinner (perhaps this is easier to do if you don't have a family!), and then you take your time when you finally sit down to dinner at 9 pm. It's a lifestyle that is a little foreign to us, and in some ways does seem impractical to my North American sensibilities, but it's also so very civilized!

Baguette - Marche Bastille
You can probably tell from my posts that Paris was a great experience. I've brought home with me fresh ideas, new energy, revitalized confidence and a few bottles of wine.

I've also made a realization about why why Parisians are so slim. It's quite simple, actually - you can't eat if you're too big to fit between the tables and into the dining room. You have to be slim by necessity, or you aren't eating anything anywhere.

(that's me)