Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tastings A Wine Experience, Has Great Food and Wines- Review


Tastings is a delightful oasis, a welcoming bistro, with great, reasonably priced food and great wines-over 80, by the glass, and more by bottle. It’s a respite after a day’s work, a spot to look forward to “kicking back” and relaxing. It’s conveniently located, for Lee County shoppers, at the Gulf Cost Town Center, east of I-75 and south of Alico Road. It’s behind Miller’s Ale House, and across from Outback.

It’s where I’d go after work to meet friends, and share delicious food. One man, perhaps a college professor, relaxing on the patio,

said “This is a home away from home-we are never rushed here, unlike at the other restaurants.” Another said “next time I go to the Gulf Coast Town Center, I would not go to the Ale House, Tastings is so much classier, food is much better, it’s relaxing, and prices are just as good.”
Owner Jennifer Wadsworth opened popular Tastings in November, and has had a growing clientele. The night I was there, it had young professionals, college students, and a few older guests. Several couples told me they were “regulars” after just two visits, and came “because they were welcomed there.”

I like the very comfortable chairs where 2-8 people can just “pull up a chair”, talk and not strain to hear each other, as may occur at other dining spots in the Center. One young woman said “It just has a great vibe!” Another said it is “cozy.” It’s a bisto, with stylish warmth of the wood walls, lower lighting, and several tables for light snacks or dining. There’s a whole wall of reasonably priced wine bottles. Best thing is over 80 wines by the glass, or the 1, 3 or 6 oz pour, from the Enomatic wine dispensers. The wines are “known” not obscure, and well selected-wine lovers will easily recognize many of the bottles, and happily purchase a card to select wines they might not otherwise buy on their own. There’s over 120 different bottles to try. Also, there’s weekly wine tastings and beer tastings, too! A happy hour from 4-7 helps, too!.

Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” was playing softly in the background, a very good start, and the rest of the music was relaxing, and well chosen.

Start off with the Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip ($7), a tasty good portion, with triangles of pita bread to scoop up the gooey goodness.

Some of the Attractive Art and Wine Bottles

We ordered a trio of: The Mediterranean Olive Tapenade (6) made with chopped roasted olives, the Red Pepper Hummus (6), and the Roasted Olives (6), and made good use of the bread, so there was nothing left. The food is prepared daily on premises, and the chef has the spicing down right!

The Thai Crab and Avocado Crostini (1) is tasty, with real crab, freshly cut avocado, and the crisp crostini makes for a perfect bite.The Sesame Crusted Tuna (10) with a drizzle of wasabi-ginger sauce is fresh, and a very good grade of tuna. It not only tastes good, and is priced right; it looks great-the chef is an artist!

The Chipotle BBQ Salmon on a cedar plank (11) is another well priced portion, with tender salmon given a slight “kick’ with the BBQ sauce.

I flipped for the complex flavors and roasted olives with the Mediterranean Lamb Chops, a very good price at $14, served in a Calphalon bowl. The chops are tender, and I said, “I’ll come back here, and have a plate of the roasted olives, just for myself, I can’t get enough of their taste!" You won’t leave any of the roasted olive’s oil either-it comes with ample sliced bread to do the job.
There are several pizzas for $8-9 that just hit the spot. We had two pizzas with Mozzarella and Provolone cheeses- the Napa Valley, with fresh spinach, artichoke, Feta and toasted pine nuts over a basil pesto sauce-nice, and then the Speziato Toscano with thinly sliced prosciutto, salami, and cappicola. A real treat is the Filet Mignon Pizza, with a tomato basil sauce, gorgonzola, caramelized onions, and drizzled with a balsamic reduction, for only $13. Hot and fresh-they know how to make and serve pizza. My favore is the Filet Mignon pizza the cheese, onions and bacon is a great marriage of flavors.

The only thing I was not happy with was the Shrimp and Chorizo (10). The shrimp were properly cooked, however the chorizo is too strong, and overpowers the shrimp with every bite. Hopefully, a milder chorizo will accompany the sweetness of the shrimp.

The desserts are pretty, and tasty too. It was toss up between the Amaretto Cheesecake (7) and the Chocolate Marzuis Cake’s (7) sponge cake topped with chocolate ganache and hazelnuts for my favorite. I liked the assorted chocolate Truffles (11), with dark and white chocolates. My companions, favored the Key Lime Dream (7), with key lime ice cream, vanilla cookie layers, and chocolate lattice on the side. These are good sized desserts, tasty, and priced right.

We ordered a tasting tray of four cheeses (15)-the St Andre triple-cream cheese, a Smoked Rambol with its bacon like taste, a Blue - Stilton like, mild and good, and my favorite is the Wensleydale with cranberries, for it’s touch of cranberry tartness and uniqueness. There’s a dozen other cheeses to choose from-Maytag Blue, Humbolt Fog, Jarlsberg, Port Salut and Manchego are some of the cheeses. The fruit is fresh!

One “food maven” said, "This very high quality of food is totally unexpected in a wine bar.” Another said “The food quality and pricing is outstanding.” I agree.

Tastings has live entertainment (call for details), Wine Dinners, Wine Classes, and has a “hidden” room perfect for private parties. This is one of my favorite spots in Lee county-a perfect spot to meet friends, have great food and wine, and stay within the budget.

Tastings 9902 Gulf coast Main Street, Fort Myers, 466-8800.

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