Dining

Life Is a Cabaret

Blue Heron celebrates its tenth anniversary by bringing Moulin Rouge to Sunderland.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007
Mary Nelen Photo
You never know who might show up at the Blue Heron's "Moulin Rouge" event.

What good is sitting alone in your room? Theme dinners are capturing niche audiences around the Valley. During the last game of the World Series, Northampton’s Del Raye hosted a harvest supper pairing regional wines with local cheese, produce and fish. While on televisions coast to coast the Red Sox won the Series, a vintner held forth on regional wines to a rapt audience of foodies.

Moulin Rouge was one of the first cabarets in Paris. It began a movement that spawned such entertainers as Josephine Baker and Brazilian drag performer João Francisco dos Santos (aka Madame Satã). Moulin Rouge is also the theme for the Blue Heron’s $125-per-person celebration this Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. Billed as “The 10-Year Anniversary Celebration and Louis Jadot Wine Dinner” or simply the “Moulin Rouge Wine Dinner,” the event is influenced by the Paris cabarets. Because of the dramatic proportions of the restaurant, located in the old Sunderland town hall at 112 North Main Street, proprietors Barbara White and Chef Deborah Snow choose to celebrate with big drama that includes food, music, dancing and performances that defy gravity.

“We want this to be in the tradition of a supper club,” says Chef Snow. “This is the perfect environment for that. It should be like those old movies—supper clubs and couples dressed up. We didn’t do that in our generation, but our parents did.”

The building’s three floors of lofty ceilings and seductive decor lend themselves to the kind of partying seen only in black and white films of rococo elegance. Friday’s film at Blue Heron (in theory) would open with a wide shot of the restaurant’s Great Room crowded with swells and their dates who dance to the dulcet tones of chanteuse Jennifer Isaacs and a local act calling itself Cidade. Cut to closeups of acrobats from the Nimble Arts Circus Troupe as they toss and catch one another at various locations around the restaurant.

Since its inception 10 years ago at the Book Mill in Montague and its later move to Sunderland, the restaurant has maintained a loyal clientele with a seasonal menu with complex combinations of local ingredients while providing catering services, private parties and cooking classes. The duo is outdoing itself with this extravaganza.

“It seems expensive,” says White, the silver-haired front-of-house representative of the establishment. “But this is a celebration. Why not live it up a little?”

A seven-course meal paired with French wine will begin with an amusebouche (teaser) of brandade (a kind of salt cod mousse with garlic, olive oil and potato) with roasted olive tapenade, fennel marmalade and crouton. A decade of dedication will continue with lobster, scallops, duck, pancetta, greens, root vegetables, an artisan cheese course and other forms of decadence such as a dessert of port-braised pear with crème fraiche and chocolate truffles accompanied by a glass of Delaforce His Eminence Choice 10 Year Old Tawny port.

To experience Blue Heron without spending the kind of money that can buy two bottles of absinthe and a carton of Gaulois, drive up to Sunderland on Thursday or Sunday night this week when the anniversary celebration continues with a $20 special for dinner and live music in the lounge. Come hear the music play. Life is a cabaret.

Friday night’s private celebration is almost sold out. For reservations, call 413-665-2102.

marynelen@gmail.com

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