Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Vine Wine Bar Review, Merrick NY

The Vine Wine Bar
2259 Merrick Road
Merrick, New York 11566
(516) 812-7883

It's finally Friday! After a long day of work, like most, we wanted to unwind and forget about our week by becoming aquainted with a glass of wine.  In the mood for a new scene, with old friends, we wandered to: The Vine Wine Bar in Merrick for wine tasting on the south shore of Long Island!    
Our group of six quickly glanced around the quaint space, and found comfort in the lounge portion of the restaurant.  A small rectangular section composed of a booth sectional, ottomans, and small end tables put us in a dark cozy corner.  We situated ourselves accordingly, suggesting table rearrangements to the staff, in order to accommodate our anticipation for more space when our drinks and food arrived. Our corner did help us forget that we were right off of Merrick road since we were unable to see the street view.
This time around, we wanted to climb the vine, because of the fun wine tasting menu that the restaurant offers.  The menu is heavy duty, primarily filled with pages of various wines and cocktails, so feel free to skip the gym that night, and just do a few reps with this book!  Before we could "take flight," in wine tasting, we needed something yummy to pick on. 
The food, while not extensive but expensive, has the perfect picking options from olives to cheese plates to salads to panini's.  It seems that you could certainly get your munch on while getting your buzz on as well.

Here comes another *DnA tip!*  Go out in groups! The great thing about going out in groups is more food to munch on and more options to share.  (It doesn't hurt to go with your siblings also because then you won't feel guilty about eating their food).

We decided to dip into the white bean and atichoke dips while also indulging in some cheese platers.... Afterall, why else do people drink wine?

We each tried a wine flight which is equivalent to 2 glasses of wine.  Our flights descended to the table in fashion with a great presentation.  Four filled mini wine glasses sat perfectly on their wine board which contained a receipt showing your wine choices.  The waitress instructed us to drink starting at  the handle of the board and go down  the line. 

 I realize that I am not at a winery, but when wine-tasting, I'd be lying if I said that I wasnt waiting for such an explanation: "You'll taste top notes of sweet berry with a base note of tobacco."  They are not pretentious, as stated on their website however, they are also not too informative when it comes to the wine (which is the main focus of this restaurant).  Our flights took off and so did the fun conversation.  There was definitely a great vibe which went hand in hand with putting a local twist on wine tasting in your area.  While chatting, we had run out of room on our mini tables when our appetizers arrived.  The staff does their best to work with larger groups, but overall there just isnt enough space!  The dips were average featuring quite a hit of garlic in the white bean, and a mild sour cream consistency in the artichoke dip. The cheese platters were generous including our choice of three cheeses, an assortment of crackers, and a cute bunch of grapes.  Our appetizers lasted us halfway through our flights, but we all needed some more grub!

Round two:  Panini's and Grilled Cheese Time! For $10-$16 buckeroos, we had the mozzarella, tomato, peppers and artichoke heart panini with a balsamic dressing and Dino made his own grill cheese with a weird combination of cheddar, mozzarella and pecorino Romano cheeses.  

Again, the food is nothing special and quite frankly over-priced for half a panini with no sides in sight!  They came with just some garnish and grapes.  A chip, side salad, or slaw might help.  This place isn't for you if you are looking to fill up on food.  Fill up on wine instead!

With curiosity and a little room for dessert, we were memorized by the martini flight, and the chocolate fondue.  The mini martinis featured for $24 that night included: passion fruit, coconut, banana, and a white chocolate martini. Our expectations were high from the colorful, appealing presentation, and we all shared some sips! Overall, very tasty minus the coconut martini.....I'd say it was more of a milky tasting beverage than a grown up martini.  

The fondue was more of a fon-Don't.  For $18 bucks go buy a bag of

ghirardelli chocolate chips, melt them and add butter: A componet missing from this fondue which changed what should be a silky dessert to a lumpy one.  Be sure to use your dippers sparingly as there aren't many to go around!  I'm sorry but three huge strawberries (slice them) and five mini rice krispis, doesnt exactly scream a sharing dessert to me.

Fun was had and the wine was great, but the pricey menu will lead us to most likely eat before we come to try another wine tasting experience at the Vine.  It's different, fun and an excuse to go out on a Friday, but this vine seems to think that it is growing in New York City.  I can get a glass of wine for $12 there as well, but that doesn't mean I want to...especially in a local spot.  However we all loved the vibe, so we will most likely be back for another flight and some cheese =)

DnA Approved!
Dino & Amanda

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

David Burke Kitchen at James Hotel, NYC

23 Grand Street
Soho New York City

There’s just something about Burke that keeps us craving more!  We trekked from his townhouse on the upper east side down to his kitchen in Soho because he can not disappoint our taste buds!  I’d happily travel from one part of the city to try all of his restaurants.  That of course is what led us to David Burke Kitchen at the James Hotel.  While the day was rainy, we were depending on Burke to give us the food energy we needed to keep up with our busy New York City day of museum hopping.
            Upon our arrival, I immediately fell in love.  Deep breath, the restaurant is EVERYTHING that I want my kitchen to look like and more.  From a large bar, wooden benches, and picnic napkins to a stationery bread bar in the middle of the room, I was in a trance.  Could it possibly get better?  Would it also be love at first bite?  Let’s see....

            Our clocks were apparently set to the early bird special which made us the first patrons to dine...Ekkk guess that reservation wasn’t 100% necessary, but in their defense all of you responsible people were working on a Friday early afternoon.  On second thought, seriously, leave your desk right now and indulge in the magical 3 course pre-fix for $24.07 because it will be worth it.  Yes, you read correctly, 3 courses in New York City for under $25.  Have you left work yet?  Need more convincing? You typical stubborn New Yorkers, okay here goes:


 Our smiley and persuasive waiter greeted us with cold water and giant homemade popovers!!

We love popovers!

 Before he even asked, I needed to put in our “jar” order to start our meal because I was quite intrigued.  Due to the fact that this was the first Friday of lent, we had to alter our plans and go meat free for the day.  As a result, it was no to the chicken liver/pistachio jar, and yes please to the tomato/eggplant/ricotta jar.  Just as described this little jar arrived layered evenly with each ingredient.  O.M.J (oh my jar) the crostini combined with a spoonful of each layer sent my palate into shock.  It was charming in its presentation and plentiful in its flavor.

We scraped that jar clean just as we were deciding on our three courses. 

            Now the prefix will not allow you to order just anything, so as delicious as the black sea bass in a tomato miso vinaigrette with bok choy in tomato & ginger olive oil may sound good (which was pushed several times by the waiter), don’t be swayed!  Follow the rabbit symbol, and hop your way to the included portion of the prix fix menu.  I was drawn to the tuna tartare tacos with whipped avocado, followed by the salmon with parsnip puree, brussel sprouts, and bacon (sigh).  I had to take a deep breath before asking for no bacon.  Dino decided on lobster soup with lobster dumplings and also the salmon.

F.Y.I - Dino and I usually have strict rules:
#1 NO SALMON- it’s easy to cook and hardly ever tastes spectacular
#2 never order the same entrees

We broke two of our rules during this lunch, primarily due to our limited options being surrounded by beef and chicken.  This and the cavatelli were our only choices. For dessert, we put our heads together and chose the ten layer red velvet cake and the warm apple tart.  I know that this is a lot of food for 12 p.m but it’s already been decided on so go with it.

      Dino’s guess as to what was on this flaming burner in a glass pot in the bread station being apple cider was incorrect, in fact it was his first course!  As his lovely lobster dumplings arrives, the waiter made a pit stop at the bread station to get the lobster soup.  

My tiny tuna tacos were visually adorable and I enjoyed very small bites to make them last as long as I could.  The freshness of the tuna with the fresh lime juice really elevated the flavor of this simple taco and polished the dish for me.

 It’s entree time, the light crowd keep the food flying out a little too fast, leaving little time to breathe and digest, but the service was tip top. Our salmon looked delicious and was perfectly cooked, but the stars of the plate were the parsnip puree and believe it or not the brussel sprouts!  I actually found myself searching for more, when does that happen?  I don’t know what he did to make brussels edible but holy delicious.   I felt like I was a judge on the show Chopped, you know the contestants  always seem to create a puree and a parsnip puree seemed like something they would immediately present.  As tasty as the dish was, I couldn’t help but think how much more amazing it would be with bacon!  There are no points deducted as it was Burke’s intention to include that fantastic ingredient however we did question our religion for a moment/ wonder why we foolishly went to his restaurant knowing we would have to play vegetarians for the day.

 Our finale concluded with a disappointing duo of desserts.  My warm apple tart was more like a burnt, deflated pillsbury biscuit with a few thinly sliced apples.  As far as the red velvet 10 layer cake was concerned, I think they may be more successful trying to stick to one layer.  Perhaps a new dessert concept wouldn’t hurt.  The color of this red velvet was extremely dark and the cheesy plate scribble did not work for us.
While Dino used the restroom, I took a moment to be sly and get the check before he got back. I’m a lucky lady whose fella always pays, but I wanted to treat him for a change!  The waiter on the other hand seemed a pinch confused as he stated, “really?”  YES a girl can treat her boy to a meal too, hmfph!
            Burke, we’ll be back for certain, probably for brunch and definitely not on a Friday during lent.   We are making plans for a possible Burke in the Box visit soon, so watch out for a review in a next few weeks.  Keep up the beauty and amazing decor because it certainly works for us and tons of other mouths. 

DnA Approved!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Aperitif - Rockville Centre, NY

242 Sunrise Highway
Rockville Centre, NY

Peak-a-boo! We still see you =) Sorry we've been M.I.E(Missing in Eating). I'm not blaming writers block or laziness, the truth is that time flies and blogging has been put on the back burner due to everyday life. I don't have to tell you that we have still been steadily eating in order to achieve our newest goal. The mission, which we have eagerly accepted, is to find the perfect go to spot, where the owners know your name, and the food never disappoints. Yes, Dino & Amanda are desperately seeking to become regulars somewhere delicious. While we haven't had any luck yet, we will keep eating until we find the place where "Everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came." It shouldn't be that difficult to find, after all we do live in NY, one of the most scrumptious cities in the world. On second thought, that could be our very problem!

This weeks trial regular spot =
Aperitif Bistro Wine Bar, in Rockville Centre for some local French cuisine!

When we arrived at the restaurant (it was Valentine's Day!), we were warmly greeted and asked if we would like our coats checked. We were then seated in a cozy booth on the bar side of the restaurant, where we were able to observe that we were definitely on the younger side of the spectrum. While the age range of patrons seemed older, the place was packed and loud! The energy started to diminish when our less than excited waiter strolled by and asked if we were ready to order.....Order? Sorry, I didn't catch your name, get my menu, or even decide on a drink yet pal. While this may not have been the best start, around the corner appeared "baguette boy." In that moment, I was willing to start over. That magical, warm, lightly toasted, partially sliced 3 times beautiful baguette had made everything better again. Oops, my mind has wandered...sorry but the bread was amazing, and it gave us just the energy we needed to decide on a drink. We'll have two glasses of white wine to toast our happiness and our third Valentine's Day together (Feel free to insert aww's.)

The wine was generously poured and tasty which helped assist us in what we would like to eat. The menu is big and each choice sounds yummy so you will probably want to eat everything like we did. There's a tapas section with a selection of small plates, and everything from beets & goat cheese to tuna tartare flat breads to baby lamb chops, you will have difficulty deciding. A little advice-take your time, enjoy the wine & bread and let it all soak in before making any rash decisions.

Dino's starvation prompted us to order the prosciutto flat bread & the risotto fritters to start. For our main courses, he'll have the Sole Amandine, and I could not resist the beef bourgouignon. The second I saw it on the menu, Julia Childs popped into my brain! My brain then continued to wander and I thought about the movie "Julie & Julia." Just then, another waiter who seemed far more attentive than ours, walked by and he looked just like Stanley Tucci. That was all I needed to confirm my order, bring on the beef!

Our appetizers appeared quickly, and we dove right in!

The risotto fritters with mushroom and fontina cheese were the perfect bite size treat. The only problem was that there were only three mini fritters. Were they trying to cause a fight on V-Day? Luckily we love each other, so we decided to split the third. * DnA tip to restaurants* Always bring food in even numbers. Nobody wants to be the 3rd wheel, not even a risotto fritter. We literally licked the plate clean, so I guess that we enjoyed it. This dish had the perfect balance of crunch to risotto fluffiness and the mushroom sauce won my heart.

On the other hand, the prosciutto flat bread left us wanting less. While visually mouthwatering, with a waterfall of gruyere cheese melting everywhere, there was just t.m.c.o (Too many caramelized onions!) It took away from any other component that this flat bread had to offer. It was even difficult to taste the prosciutto, plus we even love onions! Good attempt, but this flat bread fell flat for DnA. We will be sure to check out the other flat bread options.

Before our plates were cleared, the entrees had arrived... so let's take a minute to tip our hats to the great overall service. Our water glasses remained full throughout the meal, and even the manager of the restaurant pitched in and poured us a refill which we found to be a nice touch.

Dino's Sole Amandine entree were filets of sole sautéed in lemon butter sauce, served with julienne vegetables and basmati rice. The flavor of the lemon butter sauce was pretty tasty as it played into the vegetables and rice. However, the sautéing seemed to have made the skin of the sole become a rubbery mushy texture. He pretty much peeled off the layer of skin and just went for the fish. I would not recommend this dish. It fell flat, nothing exciting to brag about. If you are in the mood for fish, try the bronzini or the always safe pistachio crusted salmon.

My highly anticipated beef bourguignon appeared, and I was excited to gobble up this hearty plate. For those who don't know, this dish is a beef stew with carrots, onions and mushrooms in a red wine sauce, accompanied in this case with mashed potatoes. The beef was extremely flavorful and tender, but there was not enough sauce to support the stew! Perhaps my bowl was not hydrated with that red wine goodness and I found that disappointing. My portion was also missing carrots and mushrooms, which are great parts of the stew. Instead of getting what I expected, there were a few unwelcome components in my dish, including a whole bay leaf, and a piece of an uncooked potato found under the little scoop of mashed potatoes. Tasty, but disappointing.

We opted not to leave room for dessert with our disappointing entrees, but we do have high hopes for Aperitif. We would definitely go back for drinks and small plates because they have such a great variety of dishes which all sound tasty, with prices that are very reasonable for a 'French Bistro'. While we left feeling a little cold breeze which came from the door opening & closing and from our unfriendly waiter, I do think we will return. But will we become regulars? Not likely.

On to the next! But for now, Aperitif is:
DnA Approved.

Food and love.