Friday, April 1, 2011

The perfect night of wining and dining.

Last night we decided to shake up our weekly happy hour schedule and go to Cellar on Greene instead of our usual place.  It was an excellent decision.  None of the four of us had ever been there before, and we were very pleasantly surprised.

Cellar on Greene is a tiny place, so I would recommend going early.  We got there around 6 p.m., and ended up sitting at the bar, rather than wait for a table.  There are four high-top tables by the windows, a long communal table that seats 12-15, a coffee-type table with couches instead of chairs, a table in a semi-private room, and the bar, which seats 10-12 maybe?  It's a very intimate atmosphere, and the decorations are mostly shelves and shelves of wine.  You see, Cellar on Greene is primarily a wine store.  They just happen to also serve dinner.

We had originally decided to go on a Thursday night because they have a pretty good special: 2 pizzas and a bottle of wine for $25.  There were four of us, so we were going to get 4 pizzas and 2 bottles and be good to go.  Except that we made the mistake of looking at the menu. And then we spent roughly 20 minutes trying to figure out how much it would cost us to order one of everything.

We ended up getting 2 pizzas & a bottle, and then 2 of the 3-course dinner options (also an excellent deal at only $19 each).  Oh...and a couple of appetizers and a few extra desserts.  And lots more wine.

Let's start with the wine.  The wine list is a little bit daunting, so we really relied on our absolutely fabulous bartender for recommendations.  First we picked a bottle off of the list of choices that go with the pizza special.  We settled on a cabernet from Navarro Vineyards in California.  R, however, decided to go his own way and ordered a glass of the Patricia Green Reserve 2009 Pinot Noir from Oregon.  He ordered it based on the bartender's suggestion, and it really paid off.  It was delicious.  At one point, R also ordered a flight of wines.  He chose the "Big Cali Reds."  The group consensus was that the Michael David Petit Petit was the best.  Probably because it tasted very similar to bacon dipped in syrup.  When it came time for dessert, L & I ordered glasses of Zin 91 Old Vine Red Zinfandel.  It was my first experience with a red zin, and I 'm here to tell you that it was amazing.  It also went perfectly with my chosen dessert.  R opted to order a glass of the La Spinetta Biancospino Moscato.  Personally, I have no idea how anyone drinks Moscato.  I tried some of R's and actually asked the bartender if she knew of a dentist who was still open because I felt like my teeth were going to fall out.  Just way too sweet for me.

Now onto the really good stuff.  The food.

We had originally planned to just sit at the bar and have a drink while we waited for a table.  We ended up just staying at the bar because we were hungry, and none of the people at the tables looked like they were leaving.  We decided to order a couple of appetizers.  We started with the Truffle-Parmesan Raw Fries.  They were served with balsamic ketchup.  The raw fries were good, but the ketchup was out of this world.  I would like to find a way to incorporate this ketchup into all three of my daily meals.

A really good mix of crunchy and slightly less so.  Plus the ketchup.
We also ordered the Seared RareYellowfin Tuna Nachos.  Pepper jack cheese, cilantro sour cream, and green tomato salsa.  And, of course, the tortilla chips.  I'm not sure how these chips were cooked, but they had kind of a char-grilled taste to them.  They were outstanding.  And let's not forget the tuna.  It was PERFECT.  Beautifully seared, really tasty, and perfectly complemented by everything else.  

They tasted even better than they looked.  Order these when you go.
Shrimp Ceviche.  The wontons were pretty good too.
We ended up also ordering two of the 3-course dinners.  For the first course, we had the Smoked Salmon & House-Cured Salmon and the Shrimp Ceviche.  In truth, I didn't eat much of either of these because I can't eat shrimp, and salmon is just one of those foods that I've never liked.  The shrimp looked great, and M, L, and R assured me that it was good.  I think the general consensus was that the salmon was the better of the two, but the cilantro chimichurri with the shrimp was spectacular.  
As I've already stated, I really don't like salmon.  But I did try a little bit of the dish we ordered.  The horseradish cream and the broccoli cous cous were outstanding.  The addition of microgreens from the local City Roots farm was a nice touch.  It's always nice to see local ingredients showcased.  M & L really liked the salmon, so if you're a salmon fan, I'd recommend this one too.

Cous cous usually weirds me out, but the addition of broccoli and peppers here was a great touch.
Look at how much those greens brighten the plate.
So the whole reason that we went to Cellar on Greene was for the pizza special.  We ended up ordering two pizzas: the Duck Pesto and the Wild Mushroom.  I preferred the duck to the mushroom, but L was the exact opposite.  The Wild Mushroom pizza had a couple different kinds of mushrooms, goat cheese, and garlic, and it was topped with more of the City Roots microgreens and a fabulous balsamic reduction.  I felt that the mushroom flavor got a little bit lost under the goat cheese and garlic, but it was still pretty delicious.  There's also a good chance that I got a piece of the pizza with fewer mushrooms than other sections.  I would order it again, if only for the balsamic sauce and the greens.  Putting microgreens on top of a pizza is a brilliant idea.  They definitely added something special to this pizza.

Ripe tomatoes were the perfect addition here.
I LOVED the duck pizza.  Pesto has never been something I would have thought to put on a pizza, but it was some of the best pesto I've ever tasted.  The combination of caramelized onions, fresh tomatoes, and braised duck was outstanding.  Add in a little gorgonzola and you have the perfect pizza.  I would very seriously order this every time I go to Cellar on Greene, if only the rest of the menu didn't look quite so amazing.  Even L, who doesn't particularly care for duck, thought this was good. 

For our second course in the actual dinners, we had the seared sea scallops and the cajun blackened duck breast.  The scallops were good, but not really anything out of the ordinary.  The garlic cream, and the broccoli and tomatoes were delicious.  I have discovered that I am definitely not a fan of polenta.  I'd never had it before, and it really just reminds me too much of grits to be able to eat it. 

The garlic cream was a nice touch and complement to the scallops.
I think that part of the reason the scallops didn't really impress us was because the duck was so good.  The green beans were crunchy, but not overly so, the mashed potatoes were creamy, and the andouille gravy was spectacular.  It had a little kick of spice that was nicely offset by the caramelized onions and the juicy and tender duck.  But the gravy.  Oh my.  If there was a way that I could eat this and the balsamic ketchup every day, I would.  If you end up going to Cellar on Greene and ordering the dinner option, this would absolutely be the one that I would recommend.  

I think I'm going to try to convince my family that we should have this for Thanksgiving this year. Doesn't it look like it could be someone's plate of Thanksgiving dinner?  I think so.
Not my favorite, but I liked the presentation.
The only drawback to the entire evening, was that it took forever for the duck to be served.  We weren't sure what happened, but once again our fabulous bartender came through for us.  As an offer of apology, she got us an appetizer of beef tartare.  I had never had tartare before, and I don't think I'll be having it again.  It was just....bizarre.  Texturally it was not what I expected.  Flavor-wise, while I very much enjoy rare beef, raw might be a little too much for me.  R & M really liked it, but it was definitely not for me.

This is definitely the dessert for chocolate lovers.
Thankfully, there were some pretty spectacular desserts to follow.  Two of the desserts were part of the 3-course dinner option, and then we ordered two more.  Mostly because we couldn't decide on what we wanted and because everything looked so good.  M ordered the "Undercooked" Chocolate.  Basically it's a half-cooked chocolate cake.  Nice and cake-like on the top, but soft and gooey, like a chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven on the inside.  Add some powdered sugar and a little bit of whipped cream, and it was delicious.  A little too sweet for me, but still pretty good.

I also love that the cheesecake was round. 
I opted for the turtle cheesecake.  Turtle cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts in the world.  This one had so much caramel, it quite literally exploded in my mouth with every bite.  It was everything a cheesecake should be: creamy with a great crust.  Add in some chocolate and a ton of caramel and it was probably the best I've had in a long time.  And the strawberry as a garnish on the side was delicious.  Strawberries are one of the few fruits I really like, and I especially like them on my desserts.  And, one of the best parts?  The cheesecake was round, which really helped to avoid the "too much crust, not enough cheesecake" phenomenon.

The raspberry sauce was fabulous.
L opted to get the key lime pie.  Key lime pie is one of my favorite summer desserts.  It's usually light and refreshing, and exactly how I want to end a meal on a hot day.  This pie wasn't anything out of the ordinary, until you got a little bit of the raspberry sauce.  Clearly Cellar on Greene should be known for its sauces as well as its wine selection.

Last, but not least, our resident rebel, R, opted to veto anything sweet and instead ordered the cheese plate.  I realize that it's very European to have cheese after a meal, but I would much prefer to have something sweet.  Strong cheese just is not my thing.  The bleu cheese was incredibly strong.  It really needed something to temper it, but for me, neither the accompanying strawberry jam nor the honey helped it here.  The goat cheese was better, but it still is not what I look for after a wonderful meal.   R, however, really liked it.
Yep.  Cheese and crackers for dessert.  Not so much.

Overall, we had a fantastic time at Cellar on Greene.  We had such a good time, that we were actually planning a return trip before we had even gotten through our appetizers.  The staff was super friendly--like I said earlier, our bartender was amazing.  She recommended food and wine choices throughout the course of the night, and never steered us wrong.  The wine selection was incredible, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere of the restaurant was intimate, but not stuffy.  The piped in music was definitely not what we expected, as it was quite a large selection of indie rock.  I am so excited to go back to Cellar on Greene, and not just for a meal either.  I'll definitely be hitting up one of their themed wine tasting events as soon as I can.  Seriously y'all.  Do yourselves a favor and get to Cellar on Greene as fast as you can.

Final Rating

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  1. Such a fantastic post! Love your blog :)

  2. Thanks! It's nice to know people actually enjoy it :)