Wine Bar is ‘barrels’ of fun

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Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Since the release of the Oscar-nominated movie Sideways, about an oenophile obsessed with pinot noir, it seems as though there has been a surge of wine bars opening.

The Barrel Room Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro, a retail wine bar and casual restaurant, is one such destination. Featuring more than 250 bottles for retail purchase, more than 50 wines by the glass and a casual restaurant, The Barrel Room gives food and wine connoisseurs a perfect place to relax and unwind.

This cozy establishment is modern and unpretentious, with black leather couches, an intimate dining area with a dozen tables, a small outdoor patio and a wine bar.

“I visit Napa Valley any chance I get,” said owner Zak Higson. “I want to open people’s eyes to the world of wine and encourage them to try a special label that will knock their socks off.”

The executive chef, Marc Liautard, prepares Mediterranean-inspired fare, creating new specials monthly with wines carefully selected to complement the cuisine. Certified Sommelier Grant Tondro is on site most days to offer food-and-wine-pairing suggestions.

A great starter is a bowl of delicate Avocado Cream Soup garnished with artichoke hearts and Dungeness crabmeat ($7). Pair it with a Grilled Salmon Panini with aged brie, capers and red onion, with a choice of a mixed green salad, french fries, garlic fries, fresh fruit, or a tomato, cucumber and red onion medley ($11). Wine Pairing Suggestion: Sauvignon Blanc.

Tasty appetizers include mozzarella cheese ravioli breaded and fried, served with marinara sauce ($7); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Sangiovese; Garlic-Tossed French Fries ($5); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Brut Champagne; breaded and deep-fried Spanish Manzanilla olives ($8); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Sparkling Wine; or Baked Brie with roasted almonds, served with French baguette and sliced green apples ($8); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Blanc de Noir.

Seafood selections are creative and delicious. The Seared Ahi Tuna is spicy rubbed and seared to perfection on a fresh bed of arugula, topped with a creamy leek sauce ($18); Wine Pairing Suggestion: White Blend.  Another light and healthy choice is the Sea Bass crusted with golden potatoes and topped with beurre blanc sauce ($19); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Riesling.

Pasta dishes include Fettuccini in a Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce with ground black pepper and shaved parmesan ($13); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Pinot Grigio, and Four cheese Pesto Ravioli with artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, and fresh basil, in a delicious pesto sauce topped with roasted pine nuts ($14); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Pinot Gris.

Among the meaty offerings, a standout is the generous serving of herb-crusted Cajun Lamb Chops with buttermilk ranch dipping sauce ($20); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Shiraz. And don’t miss the Filet Mignon wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon, served over whiskey-peppercorn sauce ($22); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Cabernet. If its white meat you prefer, savor the Chicken Breast breaded and stuffed with mozzarella, prosciutto and red onion, topped with a light cream sauce ($18); Wine Pairing Suggestion: Chardonnay.

For dessert, I loved the Lemon Berry Mascarpone Cake filled with blueberries, cranberries and a thick layer of lemon mascarpone cheese, topped with cinnamon streusel baked into the top layer ($8).  For a classic treat, try the Old Fashion Apple Dumpling; a tart, juicy Ida red apple, peeled and cored, sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar, wrapped in a pastry crust, baked to a golden brown and drizzled with an apple cinnamon glaze. Served ala mode.

With so many choices, the only downside to this place is deciding what to eat – and drink.

The Barrel Room, Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro
16765 Bernardo Center Drive
Rancho Bernardo

Maria Desiderata Montana is an award-winning food and wine journalist, editor, and published author based in San Diego. She gained an appreciation of European cuisine from her parents who were born and raised in Calabria, Italy. Visit her website at www.sandiegofoodfinds.com.


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