In the tradition of Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck, Michel Mahe likes to keep multiple irons in the fire. A Cornell grad, the French-accented chef left Ferrisburgh's Starry Night Café to open Black Sheep Bistro in Vergennes. He also designed the initial menu at Montpelier's Black Door Bistro and recently opened The Bearded Frog in Shelburne.
There's nothing cookie-cutter about any of Mahe's eateries — particularly the funky Black Sheep, which was selected three years in a row by Seven Days readers as "best place to have dinner outside Chittenden County — if you're paying." The restaurant is cozy and inviting, from the French art to the accommodating staff. On any given night, the intimate dining rooms are filled with families, friends and, of course, couples. Mahe says eating there with your partner can be like "having a nice little dinner for two at home — with more people."
This way, though, you don't have to whip up a ginger-poached pear and spinach salad with gorgonzola, pine nuts and maple dressing. Or a labor-intensive lobster ravioli appetizer with a tarragon beurre blanc. It's hard to choose from among so many appealing entrées: rack of lamb with savory rosemary demi-glace, or bacon-and-brie-stuffed chicken breast finished in balsamic cream? The complimentary French fries — served family-style, in combination with garlicky mashed potatoes — are crispy and delicious, and they go well with a trio of dipping sauces.
One of the best things about the Black Sheep, besides the tasty food, is that the prices are standardized across the menu. This means hungry diners will never have to forgo the filet because of cost: Currently, all appetizers are $6 and all entrées are $17. The romantic Black Sheep Bistro won't fleece you.
Which leaves plenty of cash left over for . . . a ring? "A lot of people propose here," Mahe says. "So far, nobody has ever said no."