A celebration fine as wine

Festivities: Tersiguel's in Ellicott City uncorks the flavor of Beaujolais Nouveau Thursday.

Small business

Howard Business

November 17, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Here in the United States, most people don't pay much attention to the laws that are on the books in France.

But there's one French law that is sure to mean a lot to the people who will be eating and drinking at Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant in Ellicott City Thursday.

The law, which dates to 1951, stipulates that bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau wine may be made available for consumption on the third Thursday of November.

This year, more than 65 million cases will be released around the world.

Beaujolais Nouveau is fermented from Gamay grapes that are grown in southeast France's Beaujolais area and harvested weeks earlier.

Unlike some wines, which improve with age, Beaujolais Nouveau is best when young. It is a light, fruity wine, and its annual release has evolved into a worldwide celebration.

Some of that celebrating will take place at Tersiguel's in Ellicott City. To mark the wine's release date, Fernand Tersiguel is preparing a lavish lunch and dinner that will take its cues from the wine.

The festivities will begin mid-morning, when about 15 cases of the wine will arrive by limousine from a nearby warehouse, he said.

Lunch will be a buffet-style event, featuring several salads, plus a fish, beef bourguignon, desserts and cheese.

The ticket price includes a glass "or three" of the new wine, for the 100 or so attendees, Tersiguel said.

The lunch is also an important fund-raiser. The entire ticket price will be donated to the National Family Resiliency Center Inc., formerly the Children of Separation and Divorce, a Howard County-based nonprofit organization that provides support for parents and children, especially during times of separation and divorce.

"We like what they do, they're a need-based organization," said Ken Lurie, the restaurant's general manager.

After lunch, the restaurant staff will get ready for the dinner crowd - a capacity crowd of 165 who paid for a six-course dinner and entertainment by cancan girls.

The meal will begin with a plate of appetizers that might include pates, sausages and salads, and then move on to a country soup made with lentils, bacon and red wine, Tersiguel said.

After a green salad, diners will choose from entrees that might include a salmon cooked in red wine, a roast pork or beef bourguignon.

The meal will be followed with a cheese course and desserts, which will include pears poached in red wine.

Tersiguel said Beaujolais wine will be used in much of the cooking, but not the Beaujolais Nouveau - it will arrive only minutes before the eating commences.

Of course, he hasn't tasted the wine yet, but he expects it to be excellent.

"Every year is the best year," Tersiguel said.

Tersiguel began hosting Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations in 1983 at his earlier Main Street restaurant, Chez Fernand.

In 1984, the event was canceled when a fire destroyed Chez Fernand right before the big day, but the following year the tradition resumed at Tersiguel's new Chez Fernand restaurant in Baltimore.

In 1990, Tersiguel's opened in Ellicott City, and the restaurant has been hosting the Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations every November since then.

Every year, the restaurant is filled to capacity for the event, Tersiguel said.

About 25 percent of the registrations are made a year in advance by customers on the way out the door.

"They'll say, `This is so great we want to do it again next year,' " Lurie said. So it's never too soon to sign up for next year's Beaujolais Nouveau party.

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