April 01, 2006

We're not obsessed, we're just DRAWN that way! - Nibblers Eatery & Wine Bar (Pleasant Hill)

Friday finds us nibbling again. Tito's visiting from the east coast and we want to expose him to our new favorite restaurant (never mind the fact we're driving to Plymouth tonight...)

We're dining with Tito, so it's as much about the wine as the food. (My undergraduate wine education was primarily independent study. Tito's the professor-of-record for the graduate level courses to date). Two bottles of wine, plus or minus (who are we kidding... plus) a couple of glasses on the side - followed by a two hour drive east. Yeah, we could have planned this better. But hey, we're starting a weekend away we would rather not do (save promoting the square dance festival) mellow and relaxed.

The Wine Courses:

We started with a bottle from our collection– Stevenot Winery's 2003 Gabriel Pinot Noir. We fell in love with Stevenot wines when we stopped there on a trip through Murphys in the Sierra Foothills a few years ago, and weÂ’re especially fond of their Gabriel series. The 2003 is their first Pinot, and while we probably should have decanted it for a bit before we dove in, the young-berry flavor worked well with the small plate selections we chose.

After much deliberation, Tito selected a 2001 Mara "Vino di Ripasso" from Cesari Winery in Venice. Oh. My. Gawd. Red velvet in a bottle, full and rich with none of those nasty tannins. Perfect as we moved on to the second round of selections, where the underlying theme was... cheese. Since I was going to do some of the driving to Plymouth, the Mara marked the end of my wine adventure for the evening, but I saved half a glass to enjoy with my dessert. Yum!

John and Tito shared another couple of liquid libations, including JohnÂ’s favorite Don PX. But since I didn't sample, I'’ll leave them to choose to comment on these. On to the food...

The Food Courses:

After my last experience, the salmon sashimi was an absolute must, but I managed to limit myself to one serving. Yes, your heroine can occasionally exercise restraint. Especially when there are many wonderful things on the menu to try...

Among the best of our two dozen or so other selections were (in no particular order, just note that the dishes featuring mushrooms and cheeses played very nicely in the same sandbox with the Mara):

Costolette of organic lamb with fresh rosemary & root vegetable brovada - Lamb's not normally my first choice, but the guys didn't get my portion of this plate...

The Black Pepper Spiedini of flatiron beef with a rosemary pesto over fried spinach - I said fried spinach. Crispy, green, slightly salty. Brilliant. They call it a signature accompaniment. For as long as I dine at Nibblers, we'll be ordering whatever is paired with the fried spinach. Tuna/marshmallow/raisin salad over fried spinach? Hold the salad and count me in!

Fruilian rolled strudel filled with leeks, pecans, fiddleheads & grated Montasio - Let me just say that I will eat anything Daniel wraps in pastry. Even tuna/marshmallows/raisins. Thankfully his creativity hovers on the border of sublime, not ridiculous.

One of the specials of the night, sauteed wild mushrooms with blue cheese - paired with the Mara wine, this went to 11. which prompted us to order...

The pizzetta with wild mushrooms, caramelized cippolini onions and Shaft blue cheese - who the hell needs therapy? Bad day? Bring me rich earthy mushrooms, decadent cheese and red wine. Hold the prozac.

And for dessert? A quintet of some of the most wonderful, heavenly cheeses your heroine has ever encountered. Which thanks to my budding skills as a food blogger (read: I asked Daniel to write them down for me) I can actually list for you here. (It only took me 30 minutes to locate the list amongst stacks of food magazines and restaurant menus):

White Stilton with Lemon
Sotto Carene di Tartufo
Gorgonzola Picante

Wrinkled Paranelia

Tete de Moine

They were all amazing. They all made wonderful music when combined with my last few sips of the Mara. But the Tete de Moine went *beyond* 11 and demanded a moment of silence. There are some experiences that just defy verbal documentation, and this was one of them. Move over goat, this is my new favorite cheese.

Despite the fact that we had a two-hour drive ahead of us, we lingered after dinner -- spending time with Daniel (Tracy was in Vegas on business) just feels like coming home. So we hit the road for our weekend adventure later than we might have liked, but relaxed, contented and plenty sober enough to drive. Beats arriving in Plymouth with high blood pressure from battling traffic any day.

So in an attempt to prove to my readers that we DO eat out elsewhere, I'm going to stop waxing poetic about Nibblers in every other discussion here. Know that we're still dining with Daniel & Tracy at every opportunity. That we're sharing our newfound love with our friends. And that if you're ever in the area, we highly recommend you stop in for a glass of wine and a small plate. Tell them John and I sent you...

Nibblers Eatery & Wine Bar
1922 Oak Park Blvd, Pleasant Hill