Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Old Vine Cafe - 06/11/2009

2937 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Recently a co-worker asked me for a good breakfast place in Orange County and I recommended Old Vine Cafe despite never having been myself. Shortly thereafter I had the opportunity to correct that oversight at a going away party for Aaron, a fellow food blogger. Old Vine Cafe's emphasis on fresh seasonal ingredients makes the restaurant well suited to its home in The CAMP, a sustainable retail center that caters to outdoor enthusiasts and natural food lovers.

Cerveza Cucapa Honey Beer
This was my first experience with honey beer. As one would expect the nose smells strongly of honey and malt but on the palate, the sweetness was balanced by a marked bitterness.

Scaldis Belgian Ale
Old Vine offers the Scaldis "Prestige" on the menu for a whopping $43. Seeing as I decided to forgo my income for the next 10 weeks, I felt the less prestigous version would have to do. The beer pours a clear amber and exudes a powerful aroma of malty sweetness and cinnamon spice. The beer tastes strongly of caramelized sugar with an alcoholic heat on the finish that serves as the only sign of its massive 12% abv.

The restaurant offers 3 4-course tasting menus with wine pairing for a modest $65. Kevin and I decided to split to tasting menus in order to maximize the number of courses tasted. A word of warning, the "tasting pours" are easily full 4 ounce pours at the least.

Seasonal Tasting Menu 01: Panko Crusted Goat Cheese, on a bed of Organic Mixed Greens with a Red Grapefruit Vinaigrette
2008 Bottromagno Gravila, Puglia Italy
The salad was a wonderful way to open the meal. Surprisingly well-executed it included elements of all four basic flavors. The bitter vegetal greens and sweet grapefruit are enriched by the tang of the goat cheese while the panko crumbs add a crunchy textural contrast and light saltiness. The grapefruit serves as a bridge to the wine, drawing out stone fruit and a hint of wet slate from what I'd previously felt was a petrol character.

The Original Tasting Menu 01: Sauteed Sea Scallop on a nest of Crispy Leeks finished with Tarragon Chardonnay Sauce
2007 Macon-Vinzelles Chardonnay, Burgundy France
These scallops had the most succulent lithe texture that compares favorably with the best preparations I've tasted. The tarragon and chardonnay sauce had a tart butteriness that utterly overpowered the natural sweetness of the shellfish. The wine was a full-bodied Burgundian that complimented the sauce quite well.

Seasonal Tasting Menu 02: Hand Made, Lasagnette filled with Bosina Robiola Cheese, Zucchini, Shitake Mushrooms & a Fresh Herb Pesto Cream Sauce
2006 Cantine Rosa Del Golfo Scaliere Negroamaro
I wasn't expecting much from this course but it turned out to be a very lively multi-faceted dish. The Bosina Robiola is a blend cow's and sheep's milk, its mild flavor was superbly accented the herb pesto's alluring herbaceousness and the earthiness of the mushrooms. The wine was a dry red that exhibited flavors of ripe berries balanced by herbal notes and smoke, a darkly rustic wine that paired exceedingly well with the food.

The Original Tasting Menu 02: Handmade Fettuccini Pomodoro garnished with Aged Pecorino Romano Cheese
2005 Icardi Barbera D'Asti, Piedmonte Italy
The fettuccini was enlivened by the bright tart character of fresh tomato and basil, a bit one-dimensional but enjoyable nonetheless. The accompanying wine was a vibrant blend of cherry and raspberry with a core of acidity that matched the tang of the Pomodoro sauce.

Seasonal Tasting Menu 03: Certified All Natural Australian Lamb Chop, Sauteed Mustard Greens, Tortilla Espanola & a Peppercorn Monastrell Demi
2004 Portico del Castillo Monastrell, Yecla Spain
This is one of those cases where the sides made the dish. By itself the lamb was passable but lacked any truly noteworthy qualities. Though the peppery bite of the demi and bright bitter flavor of the greens complemented the meat beautifully. The wine was a big Spanish Red that stood up nicely to the lamb, offering plenty of earth, dark fruit and leather both on the nose and the palate.

The Original Tasting Menu 03: Four Ounces of All Natural Filet Mignon & Crispy Fried Onions with Bleu Des Basque Demi Cream Sauce
2007 Gouguenheim Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina
A fairly typical though unspectacular filet mignon. The intensely smoky tang of the blue cheese sauce and the sweetness of the onion complimented the beef nicely. The Gouguenheim was a nicely balanced Cabernet, marrying ripe plum with hints of spice and tobacco

Seasonal Tasting Menu 04: Pear & Walnut Phyllo Dough Purse drizzled with Pear, Vin Santo Syrup & dusted with Powdered Sugar
2002 Agricoltori del Geografico Vin Santo Del Chianti
I'm a bit disappointed with the way this dessert turned out. I would have liked a light sweet fruit focused dessert or a heavier syrupy affair like baklava. This was a neither here nor there, possessing a blase sweet nuttiness. The accompanying wine had a similar nuttiness that paired easily with the dessert.

The Original Tasting Menu 04: Grandma’s Cheesecake, Wild Berry Puree
N.V. Ferreira Ruby Port
I'm not a huge fan of cheesecake but this was a brilliant example. The lighter lemon topping felt like a better pairing with the sweet buttery crust than the typical filling. The port was a lighter example with sweet ripe fruit and a subtle hint of wood.

The restaurant is a bit rough around the edges but the comfortable atmosphere, earnest service, and simple satisfying food make Old Vine Cafe a good choice breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


Aaron said...

Thanks for treating me out for my last visit to the OC. You guys have been extremely hospitable, considering my West LA roots. Dinner was good, but being the loudest table at the restaurant was the most fun

Sprouted Kitchen said...

just found your blog. I would love to try this restaurant sometime!

Tangbro1 said...

Hey Aaron,

It was a lot of fun. We have to do a dinner series in NY next.

Hi Sprouted Kitchen,

Hope you like what you see. Let me know what you think of the restaurant if you go