Saturday, May 3, 2008

Restaurant Review and Tasting Notes: Cakes & Ale, Austrian Wines at Java Monkey 5/1/08

Last Thursday night, hubby and I worked late and decided to treat ourselves at Cakes & Ale, the latest upscale restaurant to open in downtown Decatur. We arrived at about 6:30 and were promptly seated. The small crowd, which grew as the evening went on, consisted of one family with small children, business people there for drinks and snacks after work, and other couples. A table of retirement-age women celebrating a birthday next to us seemed to know half the other people who were there.

The concept for Cakes & Ale is simple: freshly made, seasonal foods sourced from local growers. We started with the "Mixed garden lettuces," which were pretty much drenched in a green goddess-like dressing. I had been craving french fries and had already turned them down once that day, so I ordered the "Cakes & Ale Burger with fries." The burger was tender, cooked medium, and spiced nicely. It had grilled onions, some sort of cheese, gourmet mustard, and a white sauce on the bottom half of the bun that might have been horseradish mayonnaise. It was very good. The fries were a little disappointing: cut to be straw-like and overly salted. Hubby had the "Baked halibut with spring vegetables and salsa verde." The fish itself was a little plain, but when everything was combined, it was very good. He drank the Groth Chardonnay, which we both originally read as "Goth Chardonnay," and which was nice and oaky, but not to the extent that a lot of California Chards are. I had the Rioja at the suggestion of the server, and it went well with the burger.

Overall, it was a good experience, but I don't think we'll make this part of the usual rotation. As Hubby noted, they've got the "Small plates, big price" thing going, so we would likely save it for a special occasion. We do want to go back and try the dessert that is not on the online menu but was on the printed one: chocolate brownie with mint ice cream. Yum!

Atmosphere: Nice - modern industrial but light & airy (in the space where Viet Chateau was)
Food: Very Good
Wine list: Short but with a nice variety, obviously sourced to pair with the food
Wait staff: Friendly and knowledgeable
Desserts: Look good
Vegetarian friendly? Has a couple of options
Kid friendly? No kid's menu
Would I go back? Yes, but likely will save for a special occasion

After dinner, we walked up the hill to Java Monkey for the Austrian wine tasting. Austria isn't a country that I typically seek wines from unless I have something that would go well with a Gruner Veltliner. This might have been a tasting better suited for when it's 90 degrees outside because the wines tended to be light and somewhat insipid.

Burgenland Trocken Pinot Gris, 2006, Burgenland
It's a Pinot Gris, but with more body than one would find in an Italian Pinot Grigio. A little spicy at first, it is crisp, light, dry, and even a little oaky. Overall, not a bad way to start. It would be a good back porch wine.

Brundlmayer "Kamptaler Terrassen" Gruner Veltliner, 2005, Kamptal Kremstal
Like most Gruner Veltliners, this one had a floral nose, but the palate was so dry as to be almost metallic.

Wieninger Rose de Pinot, 2005, Vienna
The wine itself wasn't very good (I dumped it), but it had "Wiener Wine" at the bottom of the label, which provided us with much amusement, especially after Jess told us that it has "hours of maceration." It was smoky on the nose, astringent on the palate, and had a flavor that the table described as "barnyard funk."

Gfanger Blaufrankisch, 2006, Mittelburgenland
So you see why I didn't blog about this one right afterward -- the wine and place spellings just got harder and harder as the night went on. This one had raisins and fennel on the nose and was somewhat bland and acidic.

Sattler St. Laurent, 2006, Neusiedlersee-Huggeland
The St. Laurent grape is Pinot Noir's French cousin. This one had flavors of sour cherry and a slight finish of tomato.

Pockl Zwiegelt, 2006, Burgenland
This one was light and fruity with a light finish. Probably the best one of the evening.

It's always fun to taste things from a country that's not known for wine, but I think I'll stick with the Italians for now.

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