A Tale of Two Dinners

My birthday was this past weekend, and I am now 31.  As you may recall, last year’s birthday celebration involved a lot of free things and the construction of a croquembouche, the latter of which kicked off a year of baking adventures with new A2 friends.  While we did go for a few free things, the main plan for the day was a fancy dinner, the destination of which was unknown to me until Friday, when an errant emailer let it slip that we were going to Eve, and then would be meeting friends for drinks after.

It is at this point that I should fill you in on a few extenuating circumstances.  First, on Friday night we ate all the food and drank all the drinks – specifically wine and fondue at Shana’s, followed by a round of drinks at Eve, followed by another round at Alley Bar, followed by the sort of drunken falling over antics more befitting nearly-21 than nearly-31.  Needless to say, the idea of eating and drinking to excess made me a little queasy.  It’s been almost a week, and it still makes me a little queasy.

Second, Eve is closing – well, has closed at this point.  Sunday night was going to be their last night of service ever, which meant all manner of potential hitches: stuff missing from the menu, poor service because they were too busy, etc.  Both were the case when we were in for drinks on Friday.  Shane had made his reservation before they announced the closure, wanting to treat me to a nice dinner at one of A2’s fanciest restaurants.

With these things in mind, I asked Shane if he would mind terribly if we went elsewhere for dinner? Specifically possibly maybe Vinology, where we had a really excellent meal over the summer.  Except! Vinology wasn’t taking reservations because of Restaurant Week, and when we called at 6pm, there was a two hour wait for a table for two.  So we carried on with the original plan.

Except that we arrived late for our reservation (6pm, not 6:30).  And we were seated at a two top where we would’ve been more intimate dining companions with our neighbors than with each other.  Every time the door opened, Shane was treated to a gust of very cold air.  The server greeted us with the offer of a cocktail, but the warning that they’d had an open house that afternoon and sold off most of their bar.  They had one of thirty bottles available from the lower end of the wine list – the rest were sold out.  The bread came out without the wonderful butters promised by nearly every reviewer on Yelp, and at that point we decided to throw in the towel.

So we left, with me nearly in tears, feeling so guilty for being disappointed and wanting to go elsewhere when Shane had tried to make the evening so nice.  Shane asked what I thought we should do, and I asked if we could try Vinology?  He dropped me off, and I went in prepared to cry if it would get us a table.

Except that they’d had a cancellation, and so had a table for two available immediately!  I gushed to the host that he’d just made our evening, and we were tucked away in a cozy booth with gauze curtains separating us from our neighbors.  My stress and guilt melted away with Shane’s obvious enthusiasm for the menu: ample options for sharing and indulging in both wine and food, plus dessert on the house in honor of my birthday.  Over the course of the next two hours, we shared:

  • a sweet and savory salad of beets prepared with sherry vinegar and goat cheese
  • a plate of olives and assorted pickled vegetables, half of which I took home for later snacking
  • a half portion of the scallops – so one perfect buttery porcini-dusted scallop each, along with boursin whipped potatoes, mushroom ragout, french beans, and an  impossibly delicate vinaigrette
  • a half portion of grilled sirloin with a coffee-pepperberry rub, creamed swiss chard, and adequate sweet potato ravioli in a ginger soy butter sauce
  • a half portion of the same wonderful venison we enjoyed in june

We each enjoyed a wine flight with our meals, the result of which was a veritable wall of wine across our little table:

Wall of wine
For Shane, the Big Red, featuring a small pour each of Garnacha, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I had the Fruit Bomb: Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and a Shiraz that ranks among the best wines I’ve ever tried. We finished the meal with “Captain Crunch” ice cream, which tastes even better than you could possibly imagine:

Captain Crunch Ice Cream

While our meal wasn’t prepared by a former Top Chef contestant (or her staff), I’m confident when I say that this was one of the best meals we’ve enjoyed together.  Thank you, Vinology, for redeeming what could have been a very disappointing birthday evening, and thank you, Shane, for the treat, your company, and your patience and love.

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0602 Dinner at Vinology

Dinner at Vinology

Shane’s off to DC tomorrow, returning Monday night, and after he gets back, we’ll have houseguests for the better part of a week.  I was in a terrible mood, so to combat that and also get some quality time in together, he suggested that we go on a date.  We decided to check out Vinology’s happy hour specials: half price wine by the glass, $3 draft beer, $6 fancy flatbread, or 3 sliders for $5.

We both really like wine, but for a variety of reasons rarely drink it at home.  As you might have noticed, Shane likes beer, and likes to explore pairing beer with food, so depending on what we’re eating, he’s likely to have something from his collection ready to go.  I often want a glass of wine with dinner, but only a glass, so I’m unlikely to open a bottle just for me because it means that I’ll either drink more than I want, or it will sit in the fridge for a few days, by which time it’s lost a good bit of flavor.

I felt that Vinology’s menu made selecting a wine really accessible for a relative amateur – they use icons to indicate whether a wine is big, bubbly, luscious, crisp, etc in addition to sorting by type – so if you have an idea of what you like, you should be able to find at least a couple of appealing selections by the glass or by the bottle.  Our server was very knowledgeable, and helped us both choose wines we loved – I wish I could remember exactly what I drank, but I know that one was a Garnacha from Catalunya, and the other was very earthy, with more than a hint of tobacco.

Vinology’s dinner menu is arranged around the different wine tasting profiles, which made it easy to find a select an entree that paired well with both of our wines.  Another appealing thing about the menu is that you can get a half portions of many – if not most – entrees – which, in my experience, is usually more than enough food for me.   Most of the half portions come in between $10-20, so tonight we split a half portion of the roasted venison (with spaetzle, braised cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, omg!) and the happy hour flatbread (sausage and pepperoni, but changes every day) for $22 total – a very reasonable price for a delicious dinner that totally filled us up.

I had been on the fence about going out tonight – bad mood, spending money, etc – but I’m awfully glad we did.  I’m also excited to have found another affordable AND delicious happy hour option.