Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where Everything is Good And Everyone Knows My Name, Or Should, By Now

Albany's Wine Bar and Bistro located at 200 Lark Street is one of my favorite local places to hang out with friends, relax, enjoy some good food and great wine. It's the kind of place you want to go to unwind after a tough day, or to celebrate with friends. The atmosphere lends itself to both moods. I have to confess I am there at least once a month, and it’s a good thing I don’t live any closer, or I’d be there more often.

The space is the first thing you’ll notice – it’s below street-level and feels a little like walking into a cave – a nice cozy cave with wine bottles all around you. The atmosphere is positively charming and peaceful and relaxing, especially in the winter, when they have the fireplaces going and you’re sitting in a booth covered with throw pillows – it has the feeling of someone’s living room.

After being seated you’re handed a wine list that’s the equivalent of War & Peace, as well as the menu. Since Chef Kevin Everleth took over a few years ago (in late 2007 I believe) the menu has expanded and improved greatly. I understand that the entrée’s in particular are a special treat – but I have to say that when I make a trip to the Wine Bar, it’s all about the wine – this means I start with choosing my wine and then work backwards, usually choosing an appetizer that best suits what’s in my glass. On recent visits I’ve had a splendid Petite Syrah, a refreshing Prosecco, a Syrah from Morocco called “Syrocco”, (the only Moroccan wine on the menu, which yes, is why I ordered it) and many fabulous red Zinfinadels – my red wine of choice lately with the colder weather approaching. I’ve never had a bad glass of wine there, and if I’m ever unsure, I know that the educated staff is always there to help me. Quite remarkable, as most of them seem incredibly young…

After the important choice of wine has been made I can relax and think about food… I rarely miss the opportunity to order the appetizer plate featuring outstanding cheeses, a variety of olives and assorted veggies. The Wine Bar is now also featuring a new plate of 4 spreads I tried on my last visit. It features hummus, baba ganoush, a walnut pesto to die for, and a savory white bean spread. Served with their perfect baguette and olive oil, I convince myself that this is all I need in life… and I wonder– would they let me live there?

I’ve noticed after several recent visits that the menu has changed – always a good sign to see that new, seasonal dishes are being featured – especially for regulars like me, who’ve tried almost all the appetizers and small plates.. the extensive wine list on the other hand, will take some time to get through – which is just fine with me.

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