Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fairview Lounge

Since I needed to cross the river into Illinois this weekend, I met a fellow foodie friend for lunch. Since it's mostly chain restaurants in Fairview Heights, she came up with a super unique place to eat that's within walking distance from her house.

Unique reason #1: It's in a gas station
Unique reason #2: It's Peruvian cuisine

When I walked in, instead of rows of chips and gum, the inside floor space really is used for tables and chairs as well as a bar in the back, with quite a few taps.
Bar
Since I had some partners in crime to help me, we started with a large order of Yucas Fritas, which came with three different sauces.

Yucas Fritas
We started on those since we had to wait on the empanadas and they were worth the wait. The empanadas were jammed packed with beef, onions, tomatoes, olives, and spices.

Empanada
We also started with an order of Boudin balls, which were densely packed with sausage, rice, and red pepper inside. You can find these listed on the back of the menu with a few Cajun chicken options as well.



The highly recommended chicken kabobs definitely lived up to the hype. The large hunks of chicken were incredibly tender. Almost forgot to get a picture in time!

Chicken kabobs
Since I don't know of any other Peruvian restaurants in the area, I have to admit that I'm really curious and hope to try it again sometime. I might have to make more friends on that side of the river!

Resources:

Fairview Lounge: http://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article20032563.html

Riverbend

Even though we're a year and a few weeks late, I finally got to take Patience to Riverbend so she could enjoy New Orleans-style cuisine for her birthday.

The new location is a lot closer to us so that worked out really well since we had to wait. There is a small bar and plenty of TVs everywhere, so it's a very casual environment with the menu listed on a folded piece of paper. And if you have kids with you, you can play "count the number of fluer de lis" since they are everywhere!

Yet, the simple menu is chock full of all your favorites like gumbo, po-boys, etouffee, hush puppies, and jambalaya. It was very hard to narrow down our choices.

The cocktail list is also New Orleans influenced and Patience tried her first Sazerac...quite boozy!

Sazerac
We started with a cup of chicken & sausage gumbo and crab cakes.

Gumbo
Crab Cakes
I went safe for my first time with a Fried Shrimp Po-Boy, with a side of Red Beans & Rice. The sandwich was so large that it was easily two meals.

Shrimp Po-Boy
Red Beans & Rice
With the waiter's help, Patience chose the Crawfish Margaret Pasta. It had quite a kick and lots of little crawfish throughout. Also, two meals!

Crawfish Margaret Pasta
Since we were celebrating a birthday, we just had to get dessert to go with my singing. Highly recommended, we finished off the night with a House-made Creole Bread Pudding in whiskey sauce. Very heavy and sweet.

Creole Bread Pudding in whiskey sauce
We are definitely going back to try more...

Resources:

Riverbend = http://www.riverbendbar.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Wine Merchant Cheese Class

It has been so long since I went to a Wine Merchant cheese class, that I hadn't gotten to try out the new location yet. I was concerned since I had a hard time finding the parking lot behind the building but all my concerns went to the wayside as soon as I walked inside.

First off, kudos on the huge ramp to the back door.

Second, there are two floors and a separate tasting room that looks like a board room with comfy leather chairs. And then there is STILL room for a tasting area.

Two bathrooms and an elevator. It's that sweet.

Although my favorite part was these giant maps!! (Don't worry, there is still a ton of room for wine on the floor.)

Wine maps!
Since I was there on a Friday night, they had a California bubbles tasting going on... great way to start the weekend!

Now on to the class... I wish I had taken a picture of the board room, I mean tasting room. You feel like a posh executive. It was even better with this wine and cheese list.

Wine and Cheese Pairing list
The first two wines were whites and were plenty high in acid to cut through the richness of the goat cheeses. Both cheese were soft and not too gamey, which you can get with goat cheese. The second pairing was a nicely matched wine and cheese from the Loire Valley, France.

A red wine was definitely needed to be paired up against the Black Truffle cheese from Italy, so a Primitivo  from Puglia, Italy was paired. Both had bold flavors, and that was just the start of the "in-your-face" flavors for the night.

A little bit of an "opposite" pairing was the Cabernet Sauvignon from Yakima Valley AVA in Washington state paired with the Cabot "Clothbound" cheddar from Vermont. This cheese is one of their special edition ones and  had quite a kick to stand up to the Cab.

The most intense pairing was the 2013 Herman Story Syrah, made from grapes all over California so it has a generic Califnoria AVA label. The Amirabella reminded me a lot of Epoisses. Both the wine AND the cheese had that barnyard smell and very funky taste! Woah! But what an explosion of flavors together!

(Why yes, I did purchase some Epoisses using my class discount!)

Then Jason was super nice and gave us a bonus pour of Non Vintage G.D. Vajra Barolo Chinato Vino Aromatizzato paired with dark chocolate almonds. I almost ate the entire box myself.

Resources:

Wine Merchant = http://www.winemerchantltd.com/