Monday, January 31, 2011

Spasso: Bring your winter coat. And hat. And gloves.

Last weekend, with AC in town, she and I and KS and SL met up for a girls' dinner at Spasso in the West Village. They were graciously accommodating to our lateness and the fact that our party trickled in, having no problem with us being seated and ordering before our full party had arrived. It's a sad state of the restaurant industry that that kind of simple unfussiness is truly refreshing.

In any case, we were seated at a window table near an exterior door, and even though the door remained closed throughout the night, I'd estimate that the temperature at this particular table was approximately 58 degrees. Granted, it was 20 degrees outside, but the combination of the glass walls and the air seeping around the door meant that the four of us remained with coats and scarves, and in some cases hats, on for the entire evening. It's not necessarily Spasso's fault that it was so miserably cold in there, but it truly did make the experience somewhat unpleasant.

On to the food. Spasso's menu is typical of the times-- divided up into a half-dozen or more little sections, it's designed to encourage over-ordering and food sharing. Indeed, the first thing the waiter does when he introduces himself and beings to describe the menu is direct you to the housemade stracciatella, which is ideal "for the table." Now, I may be unusually curmudgeonly, but I really hate both a) having to endure an "explanation" of the menu while we're a;; clearly very, very capable of reading and deciphering the menu in front of us, and b) being upsold before we've even been at the table for five minutes. I bet you the stracciatella upsell is incredibly effective, and while I have no doubt it's delicious, it's also listed on the menu and we can order it if we want.

Anyway, rant over. How was the food? There was the traditional rustic bread in a paper bag accompanied by a pool of olive oil to start.

Par for the course

And then AC and KS shared two of the smaller plates, the puntarelle salad and the polenta. The puntarelle, which the waiter described as warm, was actually a cold vegetable salad in bagna cauda with a few anchovies lying on top (in fairness, after the plate arrived the waiter returned to apologize for misinforming us and offered to replace the dish if desired). According to KS, it was tasty but incredibly small.

Shimmery fish

AC was disappointed with the polenta. Apparently she was expecting firm polenta cakes (the rest of us were expecting the softer preparation that arrived), so she wasn't a huge fan. But KS and SL enjoyed it the rich, cheesy, and creamy dish.

So rich

SL ordered the fluke, another small but beautifully prepared dish. She devoured the fish and accompanying vegetables enthusiastically.

Fish obscured

Desserts, in contrast, were hearty portions. Their version of an apple tart involved flaky crust and layered apples, all set in a pool of caramel and topped with a dollop of cream.

American as apple... tart?

When the chocolate-caramel tart arrived, I had a moment of deja vu. Hadn't I seen that before? Indeed, I had, in the online pages of Saveur-- it was a dessert I had considered making for my family's Thanksgiving. Seriously, check out the link and then compare to the photo below-- there is absolutely no question that it's the same dessert. And while it was delicious, it struck me as a home cook's interpretation of a fancy restaurant dessert. The crust was just a little too thick and ungainly, the caramel just a little to thin and oozy...nonetheless, I'm splitting hairs. You like caramel and chocolate? You'll like this.

Seriously, exactly the same

So now for the awarding of spatulas. I hesitate at this point. Spasso is new, and any new restaurant deserves a few months to truly get things down pat. The food was clearly high quality and well-prepared, but the portions are tiny for the dear prices charged. Their dessert program needs to step up its game. It was freakin' freezing in the dining room. But the service, while occasionally uninformed, is friendly and-- perhaps more importantly-- laid back. For all its classic West Village pretensions, once you get inside, Spasso has the feel of a neighborhood joint. And I think the city needs more of those.

551 Hudson Street, at Perry Street

Friday, January 28, 2011

Free olives and lots of wine at Stuzzicheria

One of the greatest aspects of my current job is that I have coworkers! Delightful, wonderful coworkers. And AS, one such coworker, just left the bakery to return to his former consulting position... similar to my own situation a few years ago. Anyway, we met up for celebratory/goodbye/thank-you drinks after work on Friday, ducking out of the frigid cold into Stuzzicheria near the bakery in Tribeca.

Stuzzicheria is the downtown outpost of Bar Stuzzichini in the Flatiron district. Apparently, it was happy hour, so though it meant we couldn't sit at an actual table-- relegated instead to backless stools at the bar-- we did get some benefits out of the deal. First, drinks: AS got an enormous mug of Bitburger, and I had a quartino of Fiano D'Avellino. All the wine here comes in quartinos, which means it's a bit more expensive than a regular glass, but you get more. The classic trade-off.

So I forgot to take a picture of my wine. Oops?

So back to the happy hour part. Each diner at the bar gets one free stuzzichini-- a type of Italian bar snack or appetizer-- with the order of a drink. Both of us went for the Castelvetrano olives. This was a surprisingly generous dish of plump, green olives, and they turned out to be some of the best olives I've ever encountered. Not greasy, but plump, almost buttery, and supremely delicious, they were incredibly tasty and incredibly, well, free.

They almost look like grapes, no?

Though the service was nonexistent-- the bartender, for the most part, talked on his phone and ignored patrons, making it impossible to get his attention--Stuzzicheria was enough of a good deal that I'd go back for another round of happy hour food and drinks.

305 Church Street at Walker

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The classic chocolate cupcake from Billy's

I'm slowly making my way through the menu at Billy's, once again, and I'm reminded every day how freakin' delicious this stuff is. And I'm not just saying that because I'm employed there. I mean, take the classic chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. Light, fluffy, cocoa-inflected cake, with an appealing darker, almost coffee-like undertone at the exposed lip of the cake. Sugary, pure frosting, dotted liberally with sprinkles for visual and textural contrast. It's baked-good perfection: simple, uncomplicated, and thoroughly, seriously delicious. It may be humble (and bordering on homely, once I squished it beyond recognition in my purse on the way home), but it's a straight-shot throwback to childhood. In the best way possible.

Kinda dented. Oops.

So light and tender!

Billy's Bakery
184 Ninth Avenue and 75 Franklin Street

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blossom Du Jour truly brings the "shrewd"

Last week, I was in Chelsea on my way to watch the (AWFUL, TRAGIC) Pats game and found myself in need of a take-out salad. I happened across Blossom Du Jour, the takeout branch of Blossom, one of the best-known vegetarian/vegan outposts in New York City. I'd been to Blossom a year or two ago and not really enjoyed it, but for some reason I had higher hopes for Blossom Du Jour. Why does my brain do things like that? I don't know.

The space itself is kind of odd-- mostly empty, not much seating, but not much else, either. There's one very small, sleek fridge built into the wall, which holds the take-out salads and sandwiches. There wasn't a huge variety-- four salads on offer-- and since they were all pre-made, what you got was what you got. I grabbed a "Two-Tone Beet" salad, described as "marinated red and yellow beets, peppers, field greens, citrus dressing." It felt very, very light in my hand, even with the included enclosed container of dressing, which should have tipped me off to something, but it didn't. I paid my $8 and change and left.

When I got a chance to eat the salad a bit later in the evening, it was... well... okay. There were about a dozen pieces of field greens and three little dishes of shredded vegetables. the "marinated" red and yellow beets didn't have much discernible flavor beyond "wet," and it's notable that there weren't any peppers-- they seemed to have been replaced by equally "marinated" (wet) carrots, which honestly was all the better for me because I'm not a huge pepper fan. I realized only mid-consumption that this was a raw salad, so nothing was cooked, meaning the only real flavor came from the mildly tangy dressing. And given that most of the room in the container was taken up by the empty space around the plastic dishes, after finishing off the salad in approximately six bites, I was hungry about three minutes later.

There is really not much in this small, small salad

So, while there wasn't really anything WRONG with the salad per se, overall it was pretty flavorless and unnecessarily small for an outrageous $8+ dollars. I felt, honestly, ripped off. And while I appreciate that it's great for vegans to have another eating outlet in the city, Blossom Du Jour is really not a place I'd recommend or visit again myself. I should have paid more attention to the tagline: "Shrewd Fast Food." When the restaurant advertises itself as tricky and/or cunning, you're bound to leave with a (proverbial) bad taste in your mouth.

Blossom Du Jour
174 Ninth Avenue, between 20th and 21st Streets

Monday, January 24, 2011

Klee saves the day

Last week, the lovely DA and I made plans to convene at the Little Cheese Pub in Chelsea. I was really excited-- it was a new place, and the menu looked delicious. I got there first and took a seat at one of their ingenious swing-out seats at a communal table. I procured a menu and began to peruse... when I was unpleasantly accosted by a notice screaming "We do not currently serve alcohol." Ummm... really? According to the website, there was an extensive beer and wine list, and perhaps not surprisingly, that's why I'd chosen the LCP for our drinks date. Apparently, they'd gotten their liquor license but didn't have the necessary piece of paper yet-- so BYOB it was. Now, this is all perfectly fine, but don't you think they should have posted that fact... somewhere? Anywhere aside from buried in the middle of the menu? Like, maybe, online? Or at the door? Anyway, when DA arrived, I informed him of the sad situation, and we headed back out into the frigid night in search of, well, booze.

Given the ~20-degree temperature, we needed someplace nearby. Quickly. So on a gametime decision, we decided to check out Klee, which is located around the corner from the LCP and is owned by the same chef, Daniel Angerer. We burst into the quiet, serene dining room and gratefully took seats at the small but entirely adequate bar.

A good 15 minutes of wrangling with the menu for the purposes of the Wine Century Club later, we had a couple drinks and had placed a food order. I had ordered a glass of "Rosso, Gerbino, Di Giovanno" (check Nero D'Avola off my WCC list, thank you very much), which I'd say was just ah-kay. The alcohol burn in this wine was hot and almost overwhelming, although after a bit of time in the glass it opened up and mellowed a bit. DA noted that his glass of Primitivo, the special red of the night, was also decent but not memorable.

My wine (check out the cool coaster!)

DA's wine. Looks eerily similar.

But the food! We had ordered a cheese plate, and after once again struggling to decide among the five cheese options, we went with a Pecorino Tartufo, a Green Hill, and a classic Appenzeller. And while it was a bit pricey at $13, this was a damn good cheese plate. First of all, Klee gives you a truly generous portion of each cheese, particularly the Pecorino and Appenzelelr. There was enough cheese that both of us (or maybe just me?) were reaching cheese overload by the end of the plate. And the cheeses themselves were top quality-- we both loved the Pecorino for its soft texture and assertive truffley bite. The Green Hill was super creamy and mild, and the Appenzeller tasted just like diving into a fondue pot. The dark honey accompaniment was interesting, but the stewed figs were pretty average-- in fact, our only gripe was that the accompaniments could have been a bit better or more creative (and there could have been more-- I mean, three half-figs for two people?).

Left to right, Appenzeller, Pecorino, Green Hill

Raisin bread and toasted rye for the smearin'

We spent almost two hours sipping wine, eating cheese, and just talking. It was, in a word, delightful. And Klee was so peaceful and warm, with laid-back but welcoming service-- I'd definitely come back to try a "real" meal down the line.

Klee Brasserie
200 Ninth Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd Streets

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another ode to the Hello Dolly

Recently, I had the first Hello Dolly of my second stint with Billy's Bakery. Last time, I loved them so, but in my first few weeks at the bakery this time around there was a lot of cupcake and brownie tasting, so I hadn't gotten around to bringing one of these fabulous babes home yet... but then I did. And I remembered.

Why hello, Dolly.

Sure, she may be homely. But darn it, this Dolly is delicious. Graham cracker, pecans, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut are all enrobed in a crackly, sticky-sweet layer of condensed milk. It's incredibly sweet and incredibly satisfying-- texturally interesting with a range of flavors, filling but not cloying. I could eat one of these every day, and the only thing standing between me and doing just that is willpower. And the prospect of buying a whole new wardrobe, several sizes bigger.

Billy's Bakery
184 Ninth Avenue and 75 Franklin Street

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Black Hound FAIL

So again, last week I found myself with a cake I ordered online. Again, don't ask. This time, it was from Black Hound, another bakery in NYC that's known for shipping its cakes. I had high hopes for this checkerboard cake, which was appealingly decorated in buttercream and ganache.


As I cut into it, I found a really visually enticing checkerboard pattern. The cake is really well-crafted, I'll give them that, despite the fact that the chocolate cake crumbs on the sides of the cake spill everywhere when you try to move the confection.


But I knew almost instantly I wouldn't really like the taste. The cake itself wasn't bad, but it was rimmed on all sides with buttercream, both chocolatey (which had a bit of a mocha tang) and vanilla. And I could tell just by looking that this, sadly, was exactly the type of frosting I don't like-- absurdly buttery and greasy, kind of like shoving a stick of butter right in your face. Blech. It's not even really sweet, and with that unpleasant mouthfeel-- just... no. I took one bite and dumped the slice in the trash.

So, I'll say this: If you're a fan of the Cupcake Cafe's cupcakes, you'll like this cake. If you're not (that is, if you have my frosting preferences), you won't. The end.

Black Hound
Order online

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cana: A wine bar in an Escher painting

Cana Wine Bar recently opened in the Limelight Marketplace, everyone's favorite church-turned-nightclub-turned-upscale-trinket-marketplace. I've written about the bizarro world inside the Limelight before, but what better way to enhance the experience of being inside an Escher painting than to drink some wine? No better way, that's what. (Huh?) Anyway, after work last week, I suggested my old friend AS and I meet up at the newly-debuted Cana for a tipple and a nibble. And so we did.

Cana is situated on one of the Limelight's many landings, and rather than having its own enclosed space, it's kind of just out there on the platform. There are tables lined up against the internal railings overlooking the marketplace's ground floor, and there's a small bar tucked under the overhang of the next floor above us.

The menu is both pretty substantial and relatively reasonably priced (N.B.: Don't go by what's up on the website; the actual menu, particularly the wines by the glass, differs considerably). AS chose a glass of Pinot Noir; I went with a glass of Montepulciano, which was rich and ruby-toned and delicious. And for all those counting, I am now up to EIGHTY-ONE varietals on my Wine Century Club quest! Nineteen wines to go...


And pinot

I also ordered a dish of their cocktail olives, which goes for a very reasonable $5. A large plate of chile-spiked olives is surprisingly accompanied by a plate of "crostini," thick slices of warm white toast with shards of parmesan bruleed on top sporting humorously long skewers, for some reason. (Do people often have trouble picking up pieces of toast with their hands?) The olives were salty and succulent, and the toast was a nice extra gesture-- and warm and tasty, to boot.

Olives! And toast!

Our overall experience with Cana was quite positive. It's not exactly your cozy, intimate, candlelit neighborhood wine bar, but it's actually a really nice place to grab a drink, albeit in a frenetic, blindingly white, and techno-pumping atmosphere. If you happen to find yourself in the somewhat in-between neighborhood of 6th Avenue and the low 20s, stop on in and have a drink. At the very least, it'll give you some liquid courage to tackle the rest of the marketplace.

Cana Wine Bar
Inside the Limelight Marketplace
656 Avenue of the Americas, between 20th and 21st Street

Friday, January 14, 2011

Back to the Billy's classics

The other day, after spending much of my day wrist-deep in frosting, I just craved a cupcake, darn it. And even though I usually go for the more exotic offerings at Billy's-- the red velvet, the carrot-- for some reason I just wanted a classic vanilla-vanilla cupcake. And so a classic cupcake I got.

It got a little squished in transit, but it's still so cute, no?

Man, what makes cupcakes so good? Probably the fact that it's just pure butter and sugar, but still. This classic yellow cake was incredibly light, almost ethereal, and the crown of vanilla frosting was generous and lip-smackingly sweet. I gobbled this cupcake in a few bites and could have eaten about three more (but didn't!). Gotta love it.

Lots of frosting there

Billy's Bakery
184 Ninth Avenue and 75 Franklin Street

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What's up with Ciro?

I just passed by Ciro, the Italian joint on the corner of Eighth Ave and 49th, and found all the windows papered over. The place has been there forever-- many years, at least-- and I've only been there once, for various reasons I'll leave off this blog. But back to the situation: Not only is there paper on the windows, but there's a sign on the door proclaiming "We are closed for vacation and will re-open next week." Eh? In my book, usually a vacation doesn't necessitate window-papers (and which week is "next" week, anyway?), so either we're looking at a gut reno (possible) or a new resto a'comin' (probable). Stay tuned...

Check that paper

What games are you up to, "Management"?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Expensive but spectacular food at Lincoln

As you may have noticed, I do my fair share of dining out, and cheap bastard/points junkie that I am, I try to make as many reservations as I can through Opentable. Because Opentable means Opentable points, and Opentable points mean Opentable dining cheques (yes, with a que, not a ck). They're basically free money to spend like cash at any restaurant that takes Opentable reservations. So with a $50 dining cheque to my name, I decided to make a last-minute, midweek reservation at an absurdly expensive restaurant and blow it all on myself. Because really, how often do you get to do that?

Well, if you're thinking absurdly expensive restaurant that takes Opentable reservations, look no further than Lincoln, the new Jonathan Benno outpost at Lincoln Center. It's been acclaimed for its architecture, but reviews on the food have been mixed. So what did I find?

In short, a beautiful dining room, showstopping food, and tepid service. (And, um, high prices. Did I mention that?) The room is sleek and mostly glass, offering expansive views of the Lincoln center courtyard, 65th Street, and the open kitchen, depending on where you look.

Service, however, wasn't as sleek as the views. My waiter rushed me in ordering, despite the fact that I had a very early reservation in a nearly empty restaurant, and didn't seem thrilled at my salad order; nor was he happy to see the dining cheque at the end (regardless of my 32% tip on the pre-tax total...and the fact that the cheque is apparently just like cash--??). Fortunately, much of my interaction was with a runner/water-filler/quasi-waiter (I couldn't quite figure his role out), who was friendly and personable and all-around awesome.

But what you really care about is the food, right? Right. As soon as I sat down, I was offered a couple of pieces of flatbread in a creative holding contraption-- think sideways desktop file holder--and a dish of chile breadsticks. Both were rather forgettable, but they whet my palate for the voluptuous and lip-smacking glass of Erbaluce I ordered, which is incidentally one of my favorite wines and one you rarely see on by-the-glass menus.

Some crunchy carbs to ease you into the meal

Erbaluce-- it's a pretty color, to boot

And just as I was about to be disappointed with the mediocre bread offerings, I was offered a choice of three REAL breads: a sesame slice, a white rustic slice, and sundried tomato focaccia. Is there even a thought process there? Focaccia, please! They offered a small dish of white-bean paste, which was smooth and mild, and a small tub of floral olive oil, which was some of the most vibrant and flavorful olive oil I've ever tasted. The focaccia itself was outstanding, among the best bread offerings I've had: super-oily in the best way possible, with an incredibly stretchy interior, a few bits of sun dried tomato for flavor, and coarse salt scattered across the top. Ohhhhghghghgh drool.

Om nom nom nom nom nom

Oh, and then they brought over the day's assaggi, which is their equivalent of an amuse-bouche. This was a tiny fried pasta parcel filled with pureed squash, kind of like an empanada. It was fresh-from-the-fryer hot, subtly sweet, and entirely addictive.

Despite appearances, not a Totino's Pizza Roll

Yes, there is focaccia salt on my thumb

Finally, the main course: the Insalata Verde Mista. This was a pile of delicate mixed greens atop a few well-roasted vegetables: a roasted red and yellow pepper, a sliver of tender eggplant, an artichoke heart, and a tiny bit of fennel. All vegetables were spiced and oiled and given as much flavor as is possible to lend to garden vegetables.

The veggies are hidden, but they're there

But who are we kidding, this whole deal is but a lead-up to the dessert course. There are several appealing options on the Lincoln dessert menu, and while I pondered the Tiramisu (described as "tiramisu meets creme brulee"--hmmm...) as well as the chocolate-lover's Zuccotto, when it came time to decide I went straight for the Crostata di Mele. Out of left field, I know; it's not something I'd usually order, but by gosh, I wanted an apple tart.

And it was a fabulous choice, if I do say so myself. This delight consisted of a butter-cake-like base covered with caramel-cooked apples, all topped with the perfect buttery crumb topping. The cake sat on a smear of pastry cream and was matched perfectly with a quenelle of mascarpone gelato, cool and sweet without competing with the apples' flavor. A bite that included gelato, butter cake, stewed apple, crumb topping, and pastry cream was a big bite indeed-- but as close to pastry perfection as I've had in a long while. And it's worth noting that the portion was huge, definitely enough for two to share (or, you know, for one of me).

Best. Apple. Tart. EVER.

Finally, the sated diner is left with a plate of mignardises. There was some sort of caramel cream cookie sandwich (not my favorite); a take on the Milano, with butter cookies sandwiching semisweet chocolate (surprisingly also not as good as hoped); a sesame biscotto (exactly as you'd expect it to taste); a gianduja chocolate (a grown-up take on the Reese's peanut butter cup, with a hazelnut butter base crowned with chocolate and topped with a candied hazelnut); and finally, the breakout star of the collection, a pistachio-marzipan confection that was nutty, chewy, and berry-inflected all at once.

That homely green thing was the best

Phew. There was a lot of food, and nearly all of it was quite good or better. But you know what the best part of the evening may have been? Just sitting there, watching Jonathan Benno in his open kitchen, witnessing the cooks moving smoothly, listening to the controlled hubbub, and basically being privy to the action of a high-quality restaurant. I know I'm a bit of a fine dining groupie, but I loved it.

My meal-- appetizer, glass of wine, dessert, came to $43 pre-tax. Yes, that's ridiculous, although with all the extras they throw your way, you get quite a bit of food. And if you happen to have a $50 dining check to fritter away somewhere, Lincoln is pretty much the perfect place to do it. You'll get a four Offset Spatula meal and a front-row seat to the action in the kitchen.

Lincoln Ristorante
142 W. 65th Street, between Amsterdam and Broadway

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shake Shack's Gianduja custard is as delectable as expected

So, yes, it's cold out, but has that ever stopped me from eating ice cream? No ma'am. So last Tuesday, off I went to the local Shake Shack to try one of the several enticing flavors on the January custard calendar, one of my personal favorites, Gianduja.

First off, there was no line (YESSSS). Second, the cashier was classic Danny Meyer: smiley, friendly, helpful, eager to please (YESSSS). Third, she gave me a sample of the Gianduja that was entirely swoonworthy. And so, minutes later, I had a small cup of half-Gianduja, half-vanilla.

Sample. Yum.

It was the perfect combo. The plain vanilla flavor contrasted perfectly with the rich, hazelnutty, chocolatey Gianduja, which could certainly give Nutella a run for its money. I gobbled it down while sitting obliviously at the communal table, surrounded by people housing burgers and fries. It was pretty much perfect.

The perfect combo

Shake Shack
Locations around the city

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mail-order frozen cake? A follow-up

So I told you about the mail-order caramel cake from Caroline's Cakes. And I told you that, apparently, you can thaw it and refreeze it many times to just steal a slice or two whenever you want. And I believe I also told you that I was skeptical.

Well, last weekend I tried the first re-thaw. I pulled the cake, with slice missing from my initial forays the week before, out of the freezer and left it on the counter for a few hours. I had wrapped it loosely in plastic wrap and put it in its tin, anticipating that the whole thing would taste like freezer once it thawed for the second time.

I crept in after dinner to steal another slice, and once again I was blown away. It was exactly the same as the first time-- same crumbly, dry-ish but still tasty vanilla cake, same heavenly, outrageous frosting. Even the exposed interior of the cake didn't suffer; unlike a cake with a cut side exposed to air, this didn't develop off-flavors or a different texture. It was truly remarkable.

Of course, this was only the first repeat freeze-and-thaw; I'm still skeptical that this cake can withstand months of repeated temperature changes without a decline in quality. But we'll see. Given the success thus far, it's safe to say that I'll be testing this puppy for weeks to come.

Caroline's Cakes
Available for shipping

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wine and cheese and cupcakes (?) at Wine 30

Thanks to the glories of winter break, my friend SC is back in town, and I was able to glory in her presence early this week with a wine and food fest at Wine 30. We escaped the blustery cold in the warm, dimly lit, and pleasantly chatter-filled room in Murray Hill and were quickly plied with wine-- for the lady, a glass of pinot noir; for me, a glass of a delicious Super Tuscan that surprised me with its lusciousness.


We also ordered some food, of course, to have something to do between sips. SC ordered two small plates: first a beets/walnuts/goat cheese crostini, which provided two hearty toast planks for $6. She augmented the crostini with a butternut squash salad (butter lettuce, pickled red onions, roasted pumpkin seeds, balsamic, $9). Upon SC's proclamation that the salad was delicious, the table next to us ordered it as well.

Pretty crostini

Homely but delicious

My choice was a cheese. After a bit of debate with the server, I chose the "kunik," a goat's cheese that's described on the menu as "buttery, unctuous, silky, tangy, musky." The first bite was almost overwhelmingly funky, but the accompaniments-- walnut-raisin bread, apricot marmalade, slivers of dried fig-- tamed down the funk to make the cheese simply pleasantly creamy. I wouldn't necessarily order this cheese again, but it was interesting to try once.

Lots of accompanying bread

Wedge o' cheese

SC closed out the meal with one of their special desserts: red velvet cupcakes. There were four tiny mini cupcakes to an order, and while I can't comment on the presentation of the frosting, SC said the cupcakes themselves were quite good. As a nondenominational cupcake supporter, I was glad on her behalf.

Little dollops

And so we ate our food and drank our wine, and we were not hurried in the slightest when presented with our bill. While Wine 30 is certainly not cheap, it errs just on the side of not-a-ripoff. Prices are just a dollar or two higher than they should be, and portions are just an ounce or two smaller than they should be, but it's not egregious enough to prevent a return a visit. And in fact, the food was delicious, the wine tasty, the atmosphere welcoming, and the company superb. What more could you ask for in a wine bar?

Wine 30
41 E. 30th Street, between Madison and Park Avenue South