Popular in Europe, the “pichet” is beginning to catch on here


The word “pichet” is surfacing in American restaurants, more in Chicago and New York than in greater Detroit at present, although it appears in this month’s review of Tallulah, the new wine-bar restaurant in Birmingham.

The pichet, or pitcher, is actually a really sensible concept from Europe that, until now, had not really caught on here — for a couple of reasons.

For one, it’s simpler and more profitable for restaurants to sell wine by the bottle. Bring the bottle, pull the cork, and pour. The pichet, however, creates more work for servers and a need for more shelf space.

But for customers and wine pricing, it’s terrific. It delivers a smaller amount of wine than a full bottle and more choice of less expensive wine.

Traditionally in France’s smaller restaurants, different-sized glass and earthenware pitchers are used to sell bulk house wines, invariably inexpensive reds. These are not refined, fine-dining wines, but rather mostly the day-to-day beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône sold mainly to the lunch crowd in brasseries and cafés, and poured from large-format bottles, small barrels, or tanks purchased in bulk by the restaurant.

The brasseries usually offer two or three lunch items and a little pitcher of wine, sometimes in the price of the meal, sometimes not. They tend to be neighborhood places with small kitchens where the bank clerk, the bus driver, and the fashion model mingle on a lunch break because the food is good.

The pichet is certainly used and available at dinner also, but is more commonly found at lunch. It comes in three sizes: “un quart” or a quarter liter, which gives about two small glasses, enough for one person; a “demi,” or half liter, which is enough for a couple to share; and the less-used full liter.

The traditional lunch in France is about two hours — although the purists bemoan its slow fade due to the encroaching fast-food industry — and it’s usually three courses: a light first course, a main course of a meat and a starch, followed by either salad and cheese, or dessert — or both.

Weekday lunch is the lesser meal of the day, and therefore the more casual. The big meal is likely to be the dinner at home, and that’s when the better wines, by the bottle, come out.

But it’s the pricing of the pichet that makes so much sense. A quarter-size might be as little as four or five euros, and a liter 15 or 20 euros. Even at the current exchange rate of about $1.35, that’s a good price for wine with a meal. There’s no reason why it could not be used here, and it would be an attractive incentive to customers in these tight times to offer a nice wine for two at dinner for $15, $20, or $25.

Tallulah has a nice, modern glass pitcher, and offers several wines, including a good Côtes du Rhône, in what is roughly a “demi” pichet for about $20, though several are more expensive.

It’s sensible, and it would be great to see more restaurants try it.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Local Pie Makers Offer Variety of Fillings

Area bakers offer alternative fillings for holiday pastry.

A Taste of Paris

Cannelle Patisserie chef Matt Knio’s baked goods are turning up in restaurants and markets across metro Detroit

The Big Dipper

Garden Fresh Gourmet is a shining star in the metro Detroit Food scene

A Zen Monk on Her Vegetarian Diet

Myungju Hillary talks spirituality, a plant-based diet, and more

These Businesses Are Planting Purpose in Metro Detroit — Through Food

Hour Detroit’s food issue explores sustainable restaurants, organizations, and more
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Top Docs List 2018
  2. Memories of Miya
    Citizen Yoga founder, Kacee Must Leeb reflects on her sister’s suicide, its impact on her...
  3. Introducing the Piekie
    These cookie-shaped pies win big on-screen and off
  4. The Sixth Man
    A youth basketball coach teaches lessons on and off the court
  5. Seeking Support
    Like many metro areas across the U.S., finding a therapist in and around Detroit can prove to be...
  6. Therapy in the Digital Age
    New innovations that revolutionize traditional approaches to counseling
  7. Food Recipe: Chili
    Michael Keys, of Red Crown in Grosse Pointe Park, shares his favorite chili recipe
  8. Author's Cuisine
    At M Cantina in Dearborn, Junior Merino is creating a new kind of Mexican cuisine that is...
  9. Mending Migraines
    Nausea, excruciating head pain, sensitivity to light and noise: The oppressiveness of the list of...
  10. Seeing Clearly
    The co-founders behind Genusee on making eyewear with a mission