Restaurant Week Toledo participants offer wine expertise to Valentine’s Day dinersWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Several restaurants participating in this year’s Restaurant Week Toledo can offer patrons suggestions for wine and meal pairings. Many of these venues also offer Valentine’s Day specials.
The third annual Restaurant Week Toledo, presented by Medical Mutual, is set for Feb. 21 to March 2. Participating restaurants are Bar 145, Barr’s Public House, The Blarney Irish Pub, Bobby V’s American Grill, Burger Bar 419, Caper’s Restaurant, Gradkowski’s, ICE Restaurant and Bar, La Scola Italian Grill, Loma Linda, Mancy’s Bluewater Grille, Mancy’s Steaks, Manhattan’s, Maumee Wines and Bistro, The Oliver House (Mutz, Maumee Bay Brew Pub, Rockwell’s and The Café), Plate 21, Poco Piatti, Registry Bistro, Rosie’s Italian Grille, Shorty’s True American Roadhouse, Tea Tree Asian Bistro, TREO, Ventura’s and Zinful.
Each venue will feature a special Restaurant Week menu priced at $10, $20 or $30. (Drinks, taxes and gratuities are not included unless specified.) A portion of the proceeds will benefit local nonprofit Leadership Toledo’s youth programs.
Barr’s Public House
While the restaurant at 3355 Briarfield Blvd., in Maumee, sells more beer than anything, general manager Stephanie Soldner said she tries to stock unique wines in addition to the standard fare.
“We like to have a nice wine list. I try to pick things that are new and different that you can’t find everywhere,” she said.
Barr’s staff can offer pairing suggestions, Soldner added.
“If you have a lighter food or a lighter salad or a lighter fish option, you want to choose a lighter wine because you don’t want the wine to overpower the flavor of the food. Now if you have a heavier food like a steak or something meaty, you want more of a heavier wine,” she said. “The same thing goes with beer as well.”
Chef Lisa LeFevre agreed.
“There are many ways to go wrong with pairing a drink with food and many ways to ruin food or a drink by putting the wrong ones together,” she said. “It can enhance your meal or elevate it, or it can take you down to bitter town.”
The date is still being determined, but a red wine tasting will occur in late February at the eatery, Soldner said. The “Mile High Club,” where patrons can sample different drink flights, is also set to start soon.
For Valentine’s Day, Barr’s Public House, which opened in January 2012, will feature tiered menu options for couples and double-daters at $50, $75 and $100 per couple. The menu will also feature drink options like O’Fallon Cherry Chocolate Beer and blood orange margaritas in addition to wine.
There will be live music from 8-11 p.m. Feb. 14 and a Ladies’ Night, featuring drink and small bite deals, will also take place from 7 p.m. to close.
The Valentine’s menu will feature a scallop special that recently debuted to rave reviews, LeFevre said.
“[The scallops are] from New Bedford, Mass. They’re wild caught. They’re probably two inches in diameter and at least an inch and a half high. They’re gigantic and delicious,” she said.
The restaurant will also feature a dessert special of chocolate-covered strawberries rolled in graham cracker and mint over a deconstructed strawberry cheesecake on Valentine’s Day.
Maumee Wines and Bistro
The bistro and wine shop at 2556 Parkway Plaza, in Maumee, features regular wine tastings. The store has been open since 1974 and the bistro opened last year, said sommelier and former owner Richard Fortney.
“Wine is food, first of all. It’s just in a liquid form. If you have the right food and wine pairing — which I think we’re really good at, we’ve been doing it for a long time — then both the wine and the food are going to be enhanced,” he said.
Balanced wines, featuring good fruit and acid and smooth tannins, are more food friendly, Fortney said.
“I have a lot of clients who will bring me their dinner menu and we can go through it and pick wines to complement. We taste everything before we buy it so we have a really good understanding of what the wine is about.”
The bistro charges an $8 corkage fee if patrons wish to select a bottle from the shop to drink with their meals. The bistro also offers wine at retail price.
“What we would sell for $20 here is going to run for $40 in a restaurant and if you drink it here, it’s going to be $28,” said Chef Bill Kolhoff.
The bistro is offering a Valentine’s Day menu at $65 per person. It features six courses and includes options like salmon and dill mousse, chocolate mousse cake and balsamic-lacquered lamb rib chops.
“It’s just a menu that’s meant to have some nice contrasts and flavors,” Kolhoff said. “We don’t rush you through it. We’re not trying to turn tables. So you’re welcome to come in and take your time. The seafood course doesn’t come out until the appetizer course is completely cleared so you can have a little time to sit back and enjoy the wine.”
Middle Grounds Market
Middle Grounds Market opened in The Oliver House, 27 Broadway St., in August. It features wine and beer from all over the world in addition to food items. The market also hosts weekly beer and wine tastings from 5-7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, said Neal Kovacik, general manager of The Oliver House. For a corkage fee, patrons can buy wine from the shop and take it into The Oliver House’s other restaurants.
“We felt [a market] just went very well with everything else we do in here. It really complemented what we do,” Kovacik said. “People come in for lunch and dinner and come peruse the market.”
“We’d like to be known as the best place in Toledo for good beer, whether it’s our beer or beer from Belgium.”
In about two months, Middle Grounds is set to debut a wine lounge where people can play chess, eat tapas and relax, Kovacik added.
“It’s going to be a unique extension and a very comfortable spot. We’re excited about that,” he said.
At 5-7:30 p.m. Valentine’s Day, there is a chocolate wine tasting for $15 and a chocolate beer tasting for $10.
The restaurant at 5703 Main St., in Sylvania, typically features a wine and cheese tasting from 6-8:30 p.m. every Thursday for $15. On Valentine’s Day, instead of a tasting a special menu will be featured, said Kaetlyn Obey, general manager and banquet services director for TREO.
The restaurant will feature champagne specials and, when making reservations, customers can request roses from Beautiful Blooms By Jen to be placed at the table, Obey added.
TREO features romantic touches like dimmer lights and rose petals on the tables on Valentine’s, she said, adding that it’s a popular spot for the holiday.
“We’re always completely sold out. Reservations are definitely necessary,” she said.
The regular Thursday wine and cheese tasting has also proven to be popular, Obey said. A sommelier also recently joined the staff and can help customers make selections.
Nowadays, more customers are ordering wine by the bottle instead of by the glass, she said.
Obey added, “Wine knowledge and wine demand has definitely increased. I think people are finding it’s part of the meal instead just an alcoholic beverage.”
Zinful, at 7541 Dutch Road, in Waterville, features more than 170 wines, including more than 70 sold by the glass, as well as a rotating local, seasonal and international beer selection. The knowledgeable staff can help guests choose the perfect pairing, said owner Joyce Franzblau.
Zinful offers weekly themed wine tastings from 6-9 p.m. Wednesdays.
“I want people to be able to relax and enjoy wine more,” Franzblau said. “People are very intimidated by wine and feel they should know a lot about it in order to enjoy it. I believe people will experience it more positively if they are less nervous and able to sample things and find something they enjoy. They don’t have to worry about the price or where it comes from. That’s why it can be more overwhelming. That’s why we have so many wines — so we can help you hone in on what you enjoy. People assume wine has to be expensive, but there are some terrific wines at a good value if you know what you are looking for.”
Zinful also offers a wine pairing dinner the last Wednesday of the month and occasional wine classes. The eatery also features a walk-in humidor for cigars.
Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor of Restaurant Week Toledo.
For more information, visit the web site www.restaurantweektoledo.com.
Tags: Bar 145, Barr’s Public House, Bobby V’s American Grill, Burger Bar 419, Caper’s Restaurant, Gradkowski’s, ICE Restaurant and Bar, La Scola Italian Grill, Leadership Toledo, Loma Linda, Mancy’s Bluewater Grille, Mancy’s Steaks, Manhattan’s, Maumee Bay Brew Pub, Maumee Wines and Bistro, Medical Mutual, Plate 21, Poco Piatti, Registry Bistro, Restaurant Week Toledo, Rockwell’s and The Café), Rosie’s Italian Grille, Shorty’s True American Roadhouse, Tea Tree Asian Bistro, The Blarney Irish Pub, The Oliver House (Mutz, Treo, Valentine's Day, Ventura’s, Zinful.