This year the wine dinner featuring Celia and her wines was being held at a tiny establishment on Downing Street in New York City's West Village called Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen. The Blue Ribbon family of restaurants was new to the four of us so our expectations weren't predetermined.
We arrived downtown a little early to meet for drinks across the street at Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar. A teeny, tiny little place with great ambiance and neighborhood feel, this establishment was originally opened as a holding place for guests waiting for their reservations across the street. It's grown to have a following all it's own.
After a glass of libations we scooted over to the bakery for dinner. My first impression walking in was how small the restaurant seemed (and pretty empty at 6:30pm). But we were warmly greeted immediately with a glass of 2010 Keever Saugivnon Blanc and within minutes escorted downstairs to a private section of the restaurant near the namesake, 135 year old brick oven. My spirits rose instantly! Quaint and intimate, this felt like a wonderful space to focus on great wines and hopefully, good food.
Unlike other wine dinners we've been to, tonight's had staggered seating times. We weren't sure how this would play out. Pleasantly surprised, it gave the evening a sense of relaxation with the kitchen being able to prepare and serve the courses at their pace as opposed to having to serve dozens of plates at the same time, usually to the detriment of the food. When we arrived there were two tables of the eight or so filled.
Settled in and ready to go, our first course appeared. And please forgive me, half the time I was so excited with the evening and chatting with great friends that I forgot to take pictures before we'd all torn into the dishes. If they don't look beautifully plated, it's my fault for not capturing them ahead of the flying forks!
To help explain, from the web site: http://menuinprogress.com/2008/11/uncommon-cuts-bavette-steak.html:
One huge advantage of purchasing meat from an independent, full-service butcher or local beef producer is the availability of less common cuts. We are lucky to have a couple of excellent sources in Siesel's Old Fashioned Meat & Deli and Brandt Beef. Brandt sells their beef at our local farmers market, and lately our favorite offering of theirs is Bavette Steak. Also known as "flap", it is a small cut from the bottom part of the sirloin that has a character much like flank or skirt steak. Given a quick, hot sear and then sliced across the grain, it has an intense meaty flavor and a surprisingly delicate texture. So, the next time you are in the mood for a steak, don't settle for that tired old chunk of filet from the supermarket - look around and I'm sure you'll be able to find more interesting options.
This dish was out of control fantastic. There's nothing like perfectly prepared steak, right? Right up to the point in time you serve it with fresh farm egg that is. Absolutely decadent and melt-in-your-mouth tender. What a great, great dish. Paired so nicely with the young Keever Cab, there was nothing left but memories within minutes of this being served.
The second course up was Beef Marrow and Oxtail Marmalade with toasted Challa Bread and accompanied by a 2008 Kelly Fleming Cabernet.
Oh my, what new heaven is this?!? Scooping out the marrow, spreading it across the toast points with the marmalade all on top was ethereal, to say the least. I loved, loved, love this course. It was not filling from a portion perspective but boy did it satisfy.
Next up on the menu was the Braised Beef Tongue and Veal Cheek served with perigourdine style grits. Yes, I needed it explained to me that perigourdine means basically, "with truffle".
Definition From Epicurious:
So we're on a roll now when out comes...Brandt Family Reserve Prime Strip with wild mushrooms (morels, in this case) and foie gras. Served with the 2009 Corra Cabernet.
And there's no doubt that Corra is my favorite when it comes to this line up of unique, small producer wines. The terrior of the three vineyards making up this 100% Cabernet wine must be some marriage made in heaven. Showing was I consider the best of California, this is wine that's big and fruity but elegant and drinkable. I appreciate that it has a softer side that can be paired with food or just consummed by itself. What a great way to finish up...happy to linger over the last drops in my glass.
Finally, to wrap up our meal, I appreciated no sicky-sweet dessert that I just won't enjoy. Instead this well thought out menu concluded with Misty Mountain Camembert with fig compote, bread and 1999 Casa de Santa Eufemia Port. This course was fine - not fabulous ending to an overall spectacular meal.
I can't wait to go back and try just ordering off the menu at this lovely little Village restaurant to see if the magic holds up on any random Tuesday night. Until then...cheers!