During this time of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re obviously not traveling or eating out. Several restaurants have pivoted to takeout and delivery-only menus. One of my favorite San Diego restaurants, Wine Vault & Bistro, is offering takeout for the first time ever , while staying true to its tasting menu and wine pairing format.
Even during times of crisis, Wine Vault still has a loyal customer following, as evidenced by the fact that their menu items and wines keep selling out faster than you can get into the store to buy them. I’m proud to support this family-run restaurant, and hope to continue doing so throughout this pandemic.
Update: Wine Vault has recently added the option to order a wine flight with your meal, instead of purchasing an entire bottle of each wine paired with each course. As someone who lives alone, I love this new feature. It saves me from buying multiple bottles for one dinner and not being able to finish all the bottles before they spoil (which I just can’t do on my own).
To-go menu with wine pairings
Potato leek bisque
Of course, because this is a to-go tasting menu, it falls to me to heat up and plate each course. Potato leek bisque is one of my favorite flavor combinations in a soup, and happens to be one of chef Gregory Chavez’s (the chef at Wine Vault) favorite dishes to eat and to cook. The herby aroma of leeks and onions fills the air even before I heat up the soup.
You know that comforting smell of onions sizzling in butter and garlic on the stove? That’s what this soup tastes like. That aroma, in liquid potato form. At first bite, the soup tastes like liquid, buttery onion, cooked for hours over low heat to develop complex flavors, with herbaceous onion notes from the leeks.
The house-cured salmon adds a touch of saltiness that finishes the dish and rounds out the flavors. I serve the soup (to myself) with a slice of bread baked by a friend of mine.
The potato leek bisque is paired with a Dashwood sauvignon blanc, which plays nicely with the white wine notes in the soup. By itself, the sauvignon blanc is bright, with notes of lime and passion fruit. Tart and tropical, it cuts through the richness of the dense potato leek soup while somehow also bringing out the buttery, complex notes of the leeks. The rich butteriness of the soup smooths out the tart edges of the wine.
Once again, because of the great pairings created by Wine Vault, I enjoy both individually but enjoy them much more together.
Triple mushroom “lasagna”
I regret to say that I waited too long to order, and their ever-popular lasagna sold out quickly. This lasagna sounds so intriguing. Three kinds of mushrooms, two kinds of cheeses, and pasta sheets replaced by sauteed kale. Like my favorite version of comfort food (with some sneaky vegetables thrown in!).
This dish is paired with a selection of few grenaches and pinot noirs. Note to self: Next time, order sooner.
Sticky bread pudding
If you can’t have bread pudding served in a ramekin straight out of the oven, this is the next best thing. Candied pecans sit atop a tall cube of bread pudding, adding an element of crunch and a subtle carbon flavor that counteracts the sugar. A very generous helping of sticky, glistening bourbon caramel surrounds the bread pudding like a moat. The bread pudding is soft, dense but spongy, allowing the bourbon caramel to impart most of the flavor to the dessert.
The restaurant suggested adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to the bread pudding and pouring some Hidalgo PX sherry over the top. I didn’t have any sherry, but I did add vanilla ice cream. It felt almost like being at a restaurant… almost.
Restaurants and the COVID-19 pandemic
While we’re all quarantined and sheltering in place, I’m writing about local restaurants that are changing their game plan and adapting quickly to the situation, offering takeout and delivery while trying to keep their workers and their businesses afloat.