The bistronomie movement has grown to the point where it is hard to define. Generally, it signifies a restaurant that applies fine-dining techniques to comforting bistro dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients. Bistronomie originated in France during the 1990s as part of a movement to make high-end food more accessible, but back in that era, Bruno Chemel dismissed the ideology in pursuit of Michelin stars.
Bistronomie by Baumé will launch with a six-course pescataraian menu priced at $168 with an optional wagyu beef supplement. Wines are offered by the glass, and there are two wine pairings priced at $90 and $110. There are still premium bottles available, and the restaurant will still rely on the Chemels as its two main employees.
While the pandemic played a role in Baumé's transition, Bruno Chemel said he had been pondering remaking the restaurant for years.
Baumé experimented with new offerings during the pandemic. The restaurant launched a $15 sandwich under the brand of B Deux Go (that project is being sidelined for now), and Chemel said he served food to go for the first time. He surprisingly enjoyed the process.
Five years ago, Chemel said he would have replied to the idea of to-go food by saying, "I hate that, to put my food in plastic containers or cardboard containers? No."
Chemel said that over the past 12 years, Baume has attracted mainly international customers who have demanded increasingly high-end experiences with hard-to-find ingredients and rare wines from throughout the world. Chemel said he enjoyed working with these valuable ingredients for years, however, when he tried to make tweaks like making the dining room more relaxed, customers complained. Chemel eventually found that the luxury-focused restaurant he was running no longer matched his personality.
"You don't realize that your prices go up and up. Because everything you buy is expensive ... you don't realize that you're running a 'special' restaurant and that's not really me," Chemel said. In 2021, dinner at Baumé started at $298 per person before a mandatory wine pairing that could reach $13,800.
Chemel notes that Bistronomie by Baumé will still focus on technical, high-quality food in a more casual environment. Noting that he wanted to preserve Baumé's legacy in his new restaurant, Chemel said, "We are still fine-dining food in a more bistro style and ambience."
Bistronomie by Baumé, 201 California Ave., Palo Alto; 650-328-8899 (text only). Reservations required.
Sisters go from backyard to business with Wood Oven Pizza
Raised in Argentina, sisters Cecilia Lee and Elizabeth Wong grew up in a country filled with high-quality pizza. Inspired by making wood-fired pizzas at home, Lee and Wong recently opened Wood Oven Pizza in downtown Palo Alto.
After attending the University of Pennsylvania, Lee and Wong eventually settled in the Bay Area. Lee built a career teaching in the Fremont Union High School District, and Wong is a local developer.
Wong had a wood-fired oven constructed at her home, and friends and family enjoyed her homemade pizza. Motivated by Argentinian and European chefs who dedicate themselves to perfecting a specific dish, Wong decided to turn her hobby into a business. She imported a wood-fired oven from Italy and installed it at one of her properties on Ramona Street. Wong then enlisted the retired Lee, who once operated a pizza restaurant in Sunnyvale, to manage the business.
"It's fun, we're old of age but doing something that we like," Lee said.
Lee describes Wood Oven Pizza's style as "a combination of American and Italian Neapolitan." The menu has two sections: white pies with creamy white bechamel sauce and red pies topped with tomato sauce. All of the pizzas are formed on a base of bubbly dough made with a recipe from Italy. The restaurant prides itself on simplicity and high-quality ingredients. Lee is enthusiastic about the menu's two pesto options, one of which is topped with mushrooms, spinach, soft ricotta and Parmigiano cheeses.
Customers can add red onions, olives, jalapenos or garlic to any pizza for no extra charge and receive a discount if ordering additional pizzas to take home. Wine, beer and sodas accompany the pizza offerings.
Lee recognizes that the pizzas, almost all of which cost $29, are premium products. She wants customers to feel that they have paid an appropriate price for carefully sourced ingredients and attentive service. "I just want my customers to feel the way I wanted to feel after I went to a restaurant," Lee said .
Wood Oven Pizza, 532 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-494-4241. Open 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.) Closed Mondays.
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