Sunday, February 1, 2009

Warming up at City Winery

On Saturday night, AV and I hopped on a downtown E train to make our way to City Winery, the new winemaking megaplex right near the Spring Street stop in west Soho. Unfortunately, the conductor of our train informed us after the doors had closed at the West 4th stop that our train was now running on the V line (hmm, some might say that would have been a good PSA to make BEFORE the doors had closed so we had some choice in the matter). So we tumbled out into the frigid night air at Broadway Lafayette and made a cold but determined sprint across Soho, bursting through the large wooden doors at City Winery aching for something to warm us up.

Fortunately, City Winery was up to the challenge. The space itself is absolutely gorgeous (and enormous)-- lots of exposed wood, high ceilings, tons of space between the tables, nice lighting, and a stage with a stately grand piano at one end of the room. Downstairs, you could see the ageing room, chock full of barrels of make-your-own-wine (something you, too, can have--for a mere $5,000 per barrel, not including the barrel or the grapes, of course), alongside a small but crisp-looking conference room. Overall, I was very impressed with the space.

The tabletop set-up. Lots of wood.

But more importantly-- there was the wine itself. Our waiter, who was an incredible character, guided us through the wine-choosing process; I ended up with a South African Sauvignon Blanc, and AV had himself a glass of Bonny Doon Shiraz. Both wines were delicious, and it's worth noting that the pours were incredibly generous (probably amounting to two glasses' worth at each pop). The glassware, as expected, was also quite nice.

And then there was the food. The menu has a nicely edited selection of wine-complementing bites, from mediterranean snacks (hummus, baba ghanouj) to flatbreads (as our waiter explained, "they're what our chef chooses to call pizzas") to a huge selection of Murray's cheese and charcouterie. We were a bit overwhelmed, but in the end I'm confident we made the right choices.

First, we decided to share a dish of the mixed olives with herbs. This was a substantial selection of glistening olives in a bit of olive oil and rosemary. They were delightful and olive-y, and I appreciate the volume, especially at the price ($6).

Nature's M&Ms

Then, AV went with one of the flatbreads, with tomato sauce, pepperoni, and percorino cheese. The crust was good-- chewy and flat, as promised. AV could have done with a bit more sauce (or probably a bit more cheese, as the sprinkling of pecorino was quite sparse), but otherwise, it was a good pizza.

Quote-unquote "flatbread"

I went with a plate of caramelized brussels sprouts with whole grain mustard. These were well-cooked and tasty, and I'll say that the choice of whole-grain mustard as the flavoring was interesting. I'm used to brussels sprouts that are flavored with garlic, so it was a refreshing change.

Little cabbages, with mustardy flecks

Finally, I chose a plate of roasted cauliflower. This was outstanding-- there was a hit of lemon in the cauliflower that was both unexpected and exquisite. Our waiter chimed in that that cauliflower has saved him "many a late night." Agreed. Make your way to City Winery and try this cauliflower; it will change your perception of cruciferous vegetables forever.

Beautiful little bunches of nutrition and love

We inquired about a dessert menu but they didn't have one (apparently they just opened for dinner that week, so they're still getting their act together), so we wrapped things up and took off. I'm very glad we did what it took to get out to City Winery, despite the best efforts of our subway conductor; as AV concluded, it's a "One Stop Shop" for your wine, cheese, and meats. You can have a full evening there-- go for a bit of dinner, have a couple drinks at the bar, or listen to the live music that seems to be a frequent occurrance there. It may not be on the beaten path, but it's a four-Offset Spatula destination, so lace up your boots, hit the streets, get out there and give it a try.

City Winery
155 Varick Street, between Spring and Vandam
(212) 608-0555

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