Valentine’s Day. Absolutely the worse holiday known to man (and woman). If you’re single, it magnifies your “cheese stands alone” status by a thousand. If you’re in a relationship, affections are held hostage, forcibly released through Hallmark hallelujahs, stuffed animals that you were already too old for 10 years ago and roses picked up at a gas station after realizing that TODAY was Valentine’s Day. Money forced. Love lost. And the reason why Bubba and I decided not to do anything this year.
But that was before I was tempted by a former love of mine…the Wine Vault and Bistro, offering a pre-Valentine (Feb 10th), three-course menu for $20 (paired with a wine flight - $15)*...and practically begging me, "Will you be mine?"
2 (of us) + 4 (seats in front of the fireplace) + 1 (enormous heart constructed from corks) = infinate amounts of pleasure secluded in the most romantic seat in the house.
Roasted pork belly/ herb crushed potatoes/ pickled mushrooms/frisee/ butternut squash puree: I’ve been to Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s Butter in Manhattan and her pork belly’s got nothing on the Bistro. This was the most tender, meaty belly I'd ever eaten - minimal fat and a crispy, caramelized pigskin that scored more than a touchdown. 2007 Gerard Bertrand “Pic Saint Loup” Rhone Red Blend (5 oz. pour)
Seared duck breast/ crispy confit/ wild spinach/ sunchoke puree/ xo sherry/ black trumpets/ broccolini: I like my breasts with some bounce and this was cooked to medium-rare perfection, strapping in its juices with crisp, salty skin. To the side, a cluster of meat pulled from the thigh made me think of ZZ Top's, “She’s got legs…she knows how to use them” because The Vault knew how to kick it when it came to confit. Besides consistently topping themselves on the plate, I always walked away with a bit of culinary knowledge like learning that sunchokes were from the stalk of a sunflower – who knew? 2006 Baxter “Toulouse Vineyard” Pinot Noir (5 oz pour)
Local strawberry tart/ green strawberries/ vanilla cream/ chervil/ meyer lemon: I’d keep walking because this tart was pretty pedestrian (was the pastry store-bought?) - the only throw away dish of the meal. 1998 Doamine Fontanel Rivesaltes Ambre (3 oz. pour)
Cuarante y Tres “Licor 43” Spanish Liquor (1 oz. pour)
The best restaurant in town, as far as I'm concerned. Current and inventive, in both, concept and ingredients – if you haven’t been, you need to go. You won't be disappointed...cross my heart and hope to dine.
*weekly three-course dinners for $20. Find out what they’re serving this week: www.winevaultbistro.com