A fiery night at l'etoile

By Eleni Collins - December 6, 2007

It began as a brainstorm in Stop & Shop and ended with chocolate mousse and crème brulée on a frigid night in cozy l'etoile restaurant in Edgartown.

"I saw the fire chief [Peter Shemeth] in Stop & Shop," said l'etoile chef and co-owner Michael Brisson. They both agreed it was a good idea, and the plans were set. The "Empyting Out the Fridge" buffet at l'etoile last Friday, Nov. 30, was a way for the restaurant to say thanks for a great season, and thank you to the Edgartown Fire Department.

"It's not a benefit for the firemen, but they will benefit from it," said a busy Mr. Brisson, taking a quick break from moving to the kitchen, then dining room, bar, and back. "They'll wind up with some of the proceeds. Next year, it will be more of a benefit."

Michael Brisson
The brain behind the "Emptying Out the Fridge" buffet is chef and co-owner Michael Brisson. Photos by Ralph Stewart. Click photo for larger version.

Members of the Edgartown Fire Department and their spouses and children were invited to the "totally casual" buffet at half price, which was $42 for the general public.

Robert Young, on-duty that night and a member of the department for over six years, enjoyed all the food, but, he said, "the lamb chop was really good."

Lisa Lawson, also an on-duty firefighter that night who has been with the department for four years, dined with Mr. Young.

Next to them was Scott Ellis, assistant chief, and his wife, Donna Swift. "He's one of the big guys," said Ms. Lawson of Mr. Ellis.

Across the room sat chief Shemeth, his wife Nancy, and their friend Larry Thomas. Mr. Shemeth, who has been with the department for over 30 years, was thrilled with this event. Mr. Thomas, a retired department chief, was a fireman for 47 years.

"The money we raise over the year goes towards association funds," said Mr. Shemeth. "For Christmas stockings, Halloween glow rings for kids, and the scholarship fund. Hopefully this will become a yearly event."

Two-year department member Jake Sylvia sat with his wife Annie as she recalled his family's history with the fire department.

Plates were piled high with a large assortment of food, from seafood fritters to short ribs. Click photo for larger version.

"His grandfather was the chief, Albert Sylvia, and his [Jake's] first fire was here, at l'etoile," said Ms. Sylvia, pointing to a spot on the wood floor. "A transformer blew on Main Street and the department came here after hearing there was a fire in the basement."

Among stories and catching up, the families enjoyed a delicious smorgasbord of food, from butternut squash to seafood crepes and spring rolls. Anything Mr. Brisson found in the refrigerator and freezer were fair game for the dinner, which was the restaurant's last night of the year.

"Normally, I'd try to freeze the food and use it throughout the winter for family. Or, I'd give it to the council on aging. I'll actually still do that this year too," said Mr. Brisson. "But, I cooked the ribs especially for the firemen; the seafood crepes I just made. I enjoyed changing the different components. Like, the Israeli couscous used to go with the Cornish game hen for the bar menu, and tonight it's with the lamb."

The food was abundant: there were Caesar and spinach salads, lamb stew and chicken potpie, noodle soup, turkey shepherd's pie that Mr. Brisson concocted for the evening, short ribs, and shrimp and scallop fritters. The grand finale was chocolate mousse and crème brulée.

The heartiness of the food blended perfectly with the neighborly feel of the restaurant through the evening. According to Mr. Brisson, this will become a yearly event, and it is one that should not be missed.