It’s not very often I venture up to Bethesda, but I happened to last week, and I stopped at Annie’s Bistro Francais for dinner on my way out of town. All this month, the cozy French restaurant is donating 10 percent of its proceeds to Pink Jams, as part of Take a Bite Out of Breast Cancer.
After a lovely dinner of roasted chicken, salmon, salad, French bread, fresh vegetables and wine, I chatted with Carole Robert, the owner of Annie’s, who told me exactly why she’s helping Pink Jams: She’s been diagnosed with breast cancer three times, in ’94, ’96, and 2004, and she wants to give back.
Carole was 29 when she was first diagnosed, a new mother of a little girl. That first time was the hardest for her. “It was devastating, and I was very scared,” she told me from behind the small bar. “I thought I was not going to make it. But you have to fight. I’m the lucky one; I’m still here. That’s why I don’t complain.”
She’s telling the truth about not complaining. When I spoke to her, she had just fallen down the stairs and broken her arm. Regardless, she was hard at work in the restaurant, cooking up a storm, her arm wrapped up, awaiting surgery on her elbow. “I’m a tough cookie,” she smiles. “I’m alive. This is a family business, we have to help each other.”
Open for just over a year, the restaurant is a labor of family love: Carol runs it with her husband, Mark; her daughters help in the kitchen and at the bar. After close, they all do the dishes together. It’s named after Carol’s mom, Annie, who passed away in a car accident years ago. “It was my dream to open a restaurant and name it after her,” she said. “Everything I am is because of her.”
The menu is different each day, as Carol is very farm-to-table oriented with her ingredients, and only buys what is fresh. “After I first got diagnosed with cancer, food was something I looked into,” she says. “I firmly believe that all the pesticides that they put in our food creates cancers. I prefer my food being fresh. It’s very important to us.”
They don’t serve anything prefabricated, and the family works only with local farms in Virginia, Baltimore, Chesapeake Beach, Winchester, and elsewhere nearby. The menus are always French country. “It’s all home-style, feel-good food,” she says.
When I visited for dinner, she was serving lamb shank, rabbit, pork shank, salmon, and chicken soup. The weekend prior she made a stew out of cabbage and three different meats, slow cooked. Her soups are perfect for winter, and she can whip up any kind. Her French onion, I’ve heard, is to die for.
Stop by and visit Carol and her family at Annie’s Bistro before the end of October and 10 percent of your meal will go to Pink Jams’ efforts for breast cancer. They’re open for lunch and dinner every weekend except Sundays.
Can’t make it to Annie’s? Check out the full list of participating Take a Bite restaurants here.
Bethesda, MD 20814