Recently, hubby and I enjoyed a wonderful Wine Dinner at our local favorite privately owned and run restaurant Cravings Wine Bar & Grille. I found this wonderful little gem quite by happenstance. A few years back we won a wine tasting for 8 at a charity auction. When after arriving at the wine shop to schedule the tasting, I noticed this restaurant located two doors down. Both were located in a newer development in the city, you know, one of those awkward strip sort of malls that faces inward, with it’s back to the road? It was hard to see easy and to forget. I recalled had driven by it many times, thinking, ‘we should try this place’, but forgetting once I had driven past! The auctioned ‘wine tasting’ was just that, tasting, no food involved. It was just so conveniently convenient for me to be able to make reservations for my little group at this establishment following the tasting. And that is how we found this little treasure of artisan food in the midst of the sea of ‘chain’ restaurants dominating our town.
It was on one of our spontaneous ‘grab a bite’ evenings that we found ourselves sitting at the bar, chatting with the owner and his daughter who were both working the counter that night. They were discussing with another patron the Wine Dinners they host. They invite in a featured vineyard, for which their Executive Chef then pairs food courses with the featured wines. This particular evening featured the wines of Rombauer Vineyard. Does that ring a bell with any foodies? If you have a Joy of Cooking, take a peek at the spine and you’ll find the name “Rombauer”! It was a delightful evening, starting with the ‘menu’ card teasing us and whetting our appetites with the courses to come.
I apologize I don’t have a photograph of the first course, we were distracted meeting our table-mates, a lovely couple from the area. It consisted of 3 samples of artisan cheese, a small puddle of extremely delicious fruity olive oil and matching one of truffle oil, along with three perfectly baked, crunchy, crispy crackers. The second course was delicious. The Burratta was incredibly fresh and creamy, the heirlooms sweet and perfectly ripe. The peppery bite of arugula tamed the richness of the cheese. I loved the addition of Kalamata to the vinaigrette, that saltiness was needed to bloom the cheese on the tongue, and counter balance the arugula.
This second course was followed by a Squash Bisque. Honestly, words cannot begin to do justice to the perfectly balanced, not sweet, but not too savory perfection in that tiny little bowl. The ravioli was delicious, but the bisque was TO DIE FOR! If I didn’t have manners, I would have licked the bowl clean. I. KID. NOT. Oh, the temptation was there, and I was not the only one. The patron across from me agreed it was bowl licking good, as we both nodded in unison!
Thankfully the cleaned bowl was quickly whisked away, so I was saved from THAT embarrassment. Next course they placed in front of us was a luscious lamb ragout over perfectly cooked polenta. The Cabernet pairing was spot-on perfect. The lamb was slightly tangy, with a hint of sweetness and richness that was counter-balanced by the tannin-y earthiness of the wine.
After four ‘out of the ballpark’ hits, I looked forward to how the Chef would present a ‘Mess’. Another home-run! Whipped cream, sweetened by honey; intensely flavor packed blackberry and raspberry coulis; fresh berries and an almond mess that was crunchy, slightly sticky, providing a needed textural crunch to offset the velvety richness of the whipped cream. Genius!
I would like to point out that the slight weeping of the cream is not the fault of the chef. No, it is entirely my fault, as I was so distracted by the enjoyable conversation with my lovely table companions, the tipping of a glass of wine (not by me, thank goodness), and the raffling off of a signed copy of the Joy of Cooking, I forgot to grab a picture! Realizing my lapse, I went to the kitchen and the staff graciously made another for me to photograph. I am always impressed with excellent service and consistent, above average food, which in combination can be difficult to find nowadays. But, to have a kitchen staff be so friendly and accommodating, raises my appreciation and admiration to a whole new level.
As the evening wrapped up, Clyde Gilbert from the Rombauer Vineyards sat down with us to answer any questions we had, and the staff brought around flyers for the next tasting in November. The next event will be the Terlato Family Vineyard, and will feature dishes such as Foir gras mousse, scallop and pain pardu; Game hen confit salad; Game hen breast with butternut panna cotta, Red wine braised short ribs and salted caramel tart. We made our reservations that very night!
As a foodie, I feel incredibly blessed to have such high caliber cooking talent so close to home. This is a family owned establishment that provides 5 star quality food, 5+star service, a nice quiet location with easy highway access and parking, fun little events like this, all for a reasonable price. If you are in the eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities, and you’re looking for some good eats, check out Cravings.