Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dinner at Home

No, not at my home this time, but at the restaurant called Home in Manhattan's West Village. Opened by David Page and Barbara Shinn in 1993, this place functions as an example of their food, wine, and environmental philosophy: local, sustainable, delicious.

These people do not just pay lip service to buzzwords like "organic," and "locally grown." They thoughtfully put them into practice at their restaurant and their winery, Shinn Estate Vineyards in Long Island's North Fork. You probably know by now that Lenn Thompson is a great resource for learning about Long Island wines. He recently posted a link to his interview with David Page on his blog Lenndevours, where you can read in more detail about Page's and Shinn's philosophy and practice. This is not crystal wearing hippie stuff - this is an intelligent way to approach the problem of interacting healthily with the earth while growing food and making wine, acting responsibly. This is something that we all could be thinking about, and here is a great example of how.

Anyway...how was the restaurant? BrooklynLady and I went with our friends NorthCarolinaGuy and Gal last week. One visit does not make or break a place, but this was a pretty good start. We had no reservation and when the host lead us to a table outside in the backyard, I was worried about the temperature. Normally I wouldn't care but BrooklynLady is almost 8 months pregnant and I didn't want her to be uncomfortable. As soon as I mentioned this the host whisked us inside to a table that he said had been reserved by other people. Fair or unfair, we felt cared for before we even got a menu, and this is good.

If you used the link above to look at the menus, you know that Home serves local fish, meat, and fowl, and offers only New York wines, with a bottle or two from Massachusetts and Virginia thrown in for good measure. I had a glass of 2004 Castello di Borghese Dry Riesling while we perused the menu. I had this wine last summer and loved it, but this time I found it to be a little sweeter than I wanted. It had nice green apple aromas, and sweet apple and citrus flavors. But the sweetness was not balanced with enough of a mineral feeling, enough acidity.

Maybe I liked it less this time because I watched the waiter pour me the dregs of an open bottle, about a half a glass, and then top that off with wine from a newly opened bottle. I understand that restaurants don't throw out wine, but I think that you shouldn't mix bottles of wine like that - its just bad form. And if you do, make sure that the customer does not see you doing it.

I started with a special appetizer salad of watercress with shreds of duck confit, shitake mushrooms, and pickled red onions. Delicious! Earthy, salty, vinegary, and peppery flavors in harmony. NorthcarolinaGuy had this too and when we were done our plates looked like they had been through the dishwasher. BrooklynLady's macaroni and cheese appetizer was also yummy, real comfort food. Home is known for this dish, apparently. Crusty on top, some herbs, some oven roasted tomatoes, plenty of rich melted local cheddar...how can you argue with that?

I did not taste NorthCarolinaGal's entree of cinnamon cured duck breast, but it sure smelled and looked beautiful. She said it was very good (and her plate was clean when she was done). I liked my spice crusted pork chop very much, although there wasn't much spice to it, mostly crust. Don't get me wrong - it tasted great and had a nice texture, but I couldn't taste individual spices. Had it not been called "spice crusted" I might have thought it was some sort of bread crumb mixture. It was served raw in the middle like a steak, which as local pork, I can live with. Ask for it well done if you don't eat raw pork. BrooklynLady and NorthcarolinaGuy both ordered roast hen, which was simple and tasty with its own juices, some herbs, and turnips and other winter vegetables.

I did a strange thing when ordering wine with dinner. Why did I not order Shinn Estate wine? I have no excuse, really. Their Merlot wine is well known as one of the North Fork's best wines. Eric Asimov has mentioned it several times, it generally gets excellent reviews. The 2004 Shinn Estate was sitting their on the wine list, but I felt like I should try something else. We loved the wine we got, but I wonder if the best way to experience Home is to include Shinn Estate wines in your meal...next time.

We had the 2002 Macari Reserve Merlot, $42 (restaurant price). This wine was deep dark inky purple and smelled of chocolate and spices when first poured. It got a little muskier and plummier with air time. Flavors mirrored the smells - dark fruit, some spice, a little bit of barnyard and musk - a real winter kind of wine. It was powerful but also light on its feet, not at all overpowering. And at a reasonable 13.5% alcohol, it went well with food. I have to say - I continue to be impressed with Long Island wines, particularly reds made with Bordeaux varietals.

Desserts were excellent. Butterscotch pudding (when was the last time you had that?) was creamy and indulgent, and chocolate banana bread pudding was a fiesta of warm banana-chocolate bready goodness. We had a scoop of home made Calvados ice cream too because it sounded to good to be true, but was great. Espressos arrived before dessert which was like the glass of Riesling issue, a sloppy and easily avoidable mistake. Not to be too picky, but hey - you pay more than $100 for two people at places like this and its fair to expect them to get it right.

All in all, I would definitely recommend Home based on my first visit. It's not the best restaurant in the West Village, but it's not trying to be. It serves local food prepared simply and deliciously with excellent local wine. It does so in a lovely and log-cabin-elegant setting, and at reasonable prices. I will return for sure, and next time I will order Shinn Estate wine!


Lenn Thompson | LENNDEVOURS.com said...

Thanks for the shout out and I enjoyed reading your review.

That pudding is RIDICULOUSLY good...we had it when we were there over a year ago.

One thing: I've heard SOME chefs say that when something is "spice rubbed" that you SHOULDN'T be able to pick out any individual spices. Some chefs try to balance the spices in a way that none sticks out. But, if the overall sense was less than spicy, perhaps it was just underspiced.

When we were there, we didn't even drink Long Island wine! We tried a decent pinot noir from Atwater Estate in the Finger Lakes. If you ever see Atwater's riesling anywhere...snag it. Always stellar.

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks for your comments Lenn! I hear you on the spice rub. I probably should have said "underspiced." Maybe the spices were just a bit old or something because there wasn't a general sense of spice or warmth. This is nit-picking though, because the food was definitely good - worth a return visit. Strange that you didn't have LI Wine...

Anonymous said...

I had lunch at Home many years ago, and am glad to hear that it is still going strong. Really glad to hear that they are still promoting local wines as well. I own and oprerate a small winery in Massachusetts called The Neighborhood Cellar and we are very enthusiastic about the future of local wines.

Brooklynguy said...

hi ANP,
thanks for stopping by. I just checked out your site and it looks great. lots of luck. Why so much California wine in the blend, though?