Truth be told, Bouquet surprised us all. When I first reviewed it in April 2010, I found the lo-fi vibe of this 42-seat bistro charming, the good heartland cuisine from Chef/Owner Stephen Williams promising, but the service inconsistent. By the time we returned in the fall, things had clearly changed.
We were met by the quietly confident and knowledgeable Nicole Mersmann, a one-woman legion of service who warmly greeted every customer at the door, sold the menu as if she had created it herself, and navigated Bouquet’s wine portfolio with the acumen of a certified sommelier (when asked, she humbly downgrades her wine proficiency to “a love”)—all while dispensing expert table service with Zen master poise. The relative modesty works in tandem with the rustic elegance of the room (windows framed in bronze silk, exposed brick, warm woods) and the low-frills presentation of the 30-year-old chef’s seasonal dishes, which on one night may be a rabbit ragout nesting on a drift of wilted mustard greens and parsnip puree, gilded with pickled cherries and crisp bacon; or on another, bison tri-tip with red wine braised onions and mushrooms, and a crown of pineapple chutney. Williams has designed a compelling and affordable wine list, nabbing a 2010 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. It works as a mission statement with his small plates—farmhouse cheeses suited up with house-made conserves, parmesan crusted scallops, and artisanal pizzas—or to prime the pump for one of his intoxicating desserts, like the warm brownie with fennel ice cream. We raise our glass to changes like these.
519 Main St., Covington
First year on the list
Photograph by Ryan Kurtz
Originally published in the March 2011 issue.