The only thing discernably wrong with the food and wine at NYC City Winery is that it has a lot to compete with in-house. Most think of it as a music venue with wine and food as extras.
The plates whizzing past us in the pre-performance dinner hours were heavy on appetizers and flatbreads. Not that there is anything wrong with those.
In fact the smashed red beets with tahini and garlic was truly a standout as appetizers go.
The seared sea scallops had the perfect touch of just right cooking length, sparing you the rubber that poorly prepared scallops involve.
But it was the entrees of Pan Fried Chicken and Flat Iron Steak that were the real knockouts food-wise.
The charred green onion, aioli and roasted garlic on the steak made it an especially tasty dish.
We had the good fortune of having wines paired by the house.
These were all tap wines: a chardonnay-roussane ’12 with grapes from North Coast California; a VanDam Zin ’12 of Lodi, California origins; and a Hyland Vineyards Pinot Noir ’12, with grapes from Williamette Valley, Oregon.
These no bottle, no label, no cork and low sulfite tap wines have in common that the first word you think of is “fresh” when drinking them.
Whether New Yorkers or tourists to this music mecca realize it or not, the food and wine are heavy hitters on par with the talent on the stage.
It’s good news that head winemaker David Lecomte shares that in early 2014 NYC City Winery will start offering multi-course meals with wine pairings as a standalone offering. Yes, the music is great and the intimate venue makes it better.
Definitely though, this is an outing worth going to just for the food and wine.
This January unveiling of wine pairing dinners is actually a year in coming. Executive Chef Jeff Haskell first joined NYC City Winery about a year ago and since then has been tweaking the menu to add much bolder flavors with an eye to elevating the quality of the cuisine. This means that now you’ll find menu items like Whiskey Hill Braised Rabbit with Oriecchiette Pasta. 2014 is also a year Haskell is targeting for more locavore sourcing.
In other words, “City Winery” is becoming a bit of a misnomer because it is steadily evolving to a foodie stop with more touches of haute cuisine. Plans aside, it certainly is tasty already. Those who think music venues just don’t have great food already need to rethink that.
Haskell says, “This is the first winery I’ve worked with and it’s definitely a more interesting place to develop a menu because you have great wine with which to pair the food.”
The food menu at City Winery changes with the season.
The wine menu, and especially the wines on tap, change more frequently because the nature of being a winery that draws from many vineyards allows Head Winemaker Lecomte a lot of room to experiment. Lecomte says, “Because we are a winery in the city we can select the best vineyards from around the country and create wines that are an expression of the locations that are driving the wines. That we can select what we want is our greatest strength…There are no limitations and especially now that we have greater skills in handling the logistical challenges that such complexity involves.”
Lecomte reports that while they bottle 12-15 wines each year they actually have 30 or so lots of wine in process of aging that they are blending. This includes off-the-beaten path ice wines, sparkling wines and more.
City Winery is the only winery within New York City’s confines. Denizens of New York City who frequent Summer Stage might not realize that they have already had City Winery wine. Those and other performance venues are places where they are contracted to sell their keg wines.
En toto, before, during and after the meal we sampled seven wines and they all were excellent. The only caution is to avoid the Riesling dessert wines with dessert unless you thrill at near diabetic coma. Have the dessert wine alone, its certainly sweet enough.
City Winery New York
155 Varick Street
New York City, New York 10013
For more information visit the City Winery website or call 212 608 0555.
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Photos: Peter Kachergis unless otherwise indicated