Thursday, May 08, 2008

In praise of Jean-Robert...

A quick post for the Vine's Greater Cincinnati readership.

Over the last couple of weeks, the Sweet Partner in Crime and I have had a couple of especially celebratory eveningsThe good times of my birthday weekend at Natural Bridge were a bit delayed -- since my actual birthday fell a few days earlier. The SPinC took me for my birthday to Bistro JeanRo, one of the outstanding projects of local restaurateur Jean-Robert de Cavel.

The evening at the Bistro was a tremendous success, from the birthday champagne toast at the start of the evening, through an absolutely tremendous duck in blood orange sauce for me and seared trout for the SPinC, finishing with the sumptuous chocolate mousse.

Tonight, we headed to Chalk Food+Wine, a "casual fine dining" establishment in neighboring Covington which, on a drier weather evening would have been walkable. It's just next door to the Greenup Cafe, another of his restaurants that's one of our favorite brunch spots.

We were celebrating the letter received last night informing the SPinC that she'd been promoted to full professor. (I'll be making a celebratory dinner...more on that later...) We'd actually planned to go there in March, but got socked in by a freak snowstorm and had to cancel our reservation. The meal was worth the wait.

A quail egg "breakfasty" appetizer was followed by a Cornish game hen and pan cooked skate. We eschewed dessert, settling for a couple of glasses of wine and some dark chocolate on our front porch as we listened to the rain.

I mention these establishments not just because they produce exceptionally good food, but in the spirit of the Naked Vine -- the selections are extremely reasonable in price. I've seen food of similar quality at triple the price I've seen here. The same goes for the wine list. Both places offer high end wines, but the bulk of both wine lists are very reasonable. While it's good to know that there are top shelf bottles available, the casual vibe of both places is enhanced by the knowledge that you can order a quality bottle of wine for a reasonable price that pairs exceptionally well with the excellent food.

I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Chalk's sommelier, Bryant, this evening. He was extremely knowledgeable and approachable, and he's clearly put some thought into providing good pairings at a number of price points. They're planning to open up a retail wine operation at Chalk, so folks can take home what they get with dinner -- an excellent opportunity.

So, merci, Jean-Robert. This neighbor of yours in Newport certainly appreciates your efforts.

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