Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lucia's Wine Bar

It had been a while since I had visited Lucia's in Uptown, so I figured that her recognition in the James Beard Semis for Outstanding Restaurant was a compelling enough reason to reacquaint myself with this charming eateries. Lucia's covers the gastronomic spectrum through her bakery/take-out biz, her wine bar and her full service restaurant. She's got you covered no matter what experience you are looking for, and she does this all while utilizing only the freshest, seasonal ingredients.
My trip last week was spur of the moment, so I decided to try my luck at the wine bar. We managed to get a nice corner table after enjoying only a few sips of my Bell's Amber. The menu was eclectic as always (I was a little bummed it was different from the one they had posted online), and since I am notorious for wavering between dishes, I decided to go with a non-traditional melange of sorts in order to sample the variety of expertise Lucia brings to her business. I started with a split pea and ham soup. I haven't always been open-minded about food in the past, and normally the words "pea soup" forced me to put on a stupid face. I'm glad I finally came around. The ham in the soup was smoky and rich and the peas offered a nice earthy contrast. The textures were quite nice, and I always appreciate a simple, well executed soup on a cold night.

My next dish was a plate of french sausage with a nice grainy mustard and some crisp apples. The sausages were really nice with perfect marbling and a nice meaty finish. Its rich savory flavor offered the perfect contrast to the crisp, sweet and tart apples. This classic pairing was supported by a really excellent grainy mustard with a pungent and spicy finish. It's the perfect sort of dish to enjoy on a nice fall day at the lake with a good bottle of wine and the perfect companion (I'll have file that away for late September).

My bi-polar disorder (for food) really kicked in when Jess and I decided the split an order of spicy chicken tacos with charred salsa, sour cream and cilantro for our final dish. A few accompanying lime wedges kept things bright and the cilantro added a nice element of freshness - it's almost cruel to enjoy these flavors when it's below freezing. The real hero of the dish was the juicy marinated chicken that was gracious enough to lend its bold juices to soak the perfectly warmed La Perla tortillas. A nice robust salsa added a depth of flavor, and elevated these tacos to a close runner-up to my favorites at Cafe 28.

I love Lucia's for many reasons. Maybe it's their ever-changing menu bursting with imagination and fresh flavors. Maybe it's their thoughtful beer and wine lists. Maybe it's the always warm and friendly service, but when it comes down to it, I love going there because of the sense of escapism you enjoy when you relax over a nice simple meal with good company. It's as if all your troubles have punched out for the night, and during times like these, that's priceless.

Happy Eating,


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